Win or Lose – You can benefit from both with a lessons learned review
Losing a bid can be difficult, but there's a lot to learn from post-award tender debrief guidelines. Here are some tips to get you started.

Win or lose – it is critical to receive feedback after the award of a bid. The feedback you receive forms the basis of your unique lessons-learned review, a critical process for ensuring your bids continuously improve. In most cases, you’ll need to reach out to procurement teams to schedule a meeting post award, and you may even need to reach out a couple of times. It’s okay to keep asking, remember a squeaky door gets oiled so just keep squeaking.

Feedback sessions are an opportunity for you to understand which elements of your bid scored well and which didn’t. It’s important to note that this meeting will not be the time for you to debate or defend your bid. It can be hard but be ready to embrace the feedback with open arms. We’ve shared some tips to help you get started.

What approach should you take during the meeting?

You have done your best in sending a proposal tailored to the request for Tender. You’ve done all the explaining and now need to focus on the room for improvement with future tenders. A successful feedback meeting is an outcome of staying neutral and responding with open questions. Your goal is to listen to the feedback with the aim of implementing those suggestions and reviews into your next bid.

What are some helpful tips for a feedback meeting?

  • This meeting is a potential sales opportunity, so prepare as you would any other presentation.
  • If you were given written feedback, use that material to structure your meeting points and discussion.
  • Simply note down and acknowledge all feedback, including adverse remarks. This is not a time for arguments.
  • Seek clarification if you see any discrepancies or inconsistencies. It’s ok to keep asking questions until you genuinely understand the feedback.
  • Document the feedback and share with the bid team.
  • Remember to thank the customer with a brief email after the feedback meeting.

Some questions to help you get started with the conversation

  • How well did you feel we understood the requirements of the contract?
  • Was our operational strategy and service offer suitable? In what ways?
  • What did we do well in our bid and strategy offer?
  • What could we have done better in our bid and strategy offer (i.e., what should we do differently next time)?
  • How would you rate the value of our offering relative to the price?
  • What were the strengths of our offering?
  • What were the weaknesses of our offering?
  • Were the submissions ranked? If so, what was our ranking compared with our competitors?
  • What were the areas that caused us to win or lose? Which benefits most impacted the buying decision?

    For example:
    Features and functionality
    Technical solution
    Management plan
    Contract issues
  • Did you consider our response easy to read and evaluate? Did you perceive it as professionally produced?
  • What would you encourage us to review and change in future bids?
  • What would you encourage us to continue doing/offering in future bids?
  • Aside from price, what else mattered to you in the delivery of this contract? Do you feel we identified and addressed that properly in our bid?
  • Were there parts of our bid that were confusing?
  • What do we need to do/change/address to be strongly considered for [insert upcoming bid]?

Lessons collected vs lessons learned

Lessons collected and lessons learned are two different processes with separate outcomes. While collecting the feedback is the first step, it is certainly not the end of your journey toward improvement. It is imperative that organisations have a structured plan in place that maps out and tracks feedback and most importantly, is referred to in your next bid. Your opportunities to improve come from both wins and losses. Applying lessons learned is only possible with a robust plan that is communicated to the bid team and relevant stakeholders. Ensure that you have the resources or personnel allocated to this task prior to obtaining feedback so that you are able to work on those opportunities in an organised manner.

The purpose of lessons learned

A lessons-learned review is not meant to target or highlight individuals who did not perform well. It provides a detailed insight on the commitment to the opportunity, information flow, decision points, and resources of your complete bid process. You are bidding as a team, and your process defines your ability to win or lose. Use the review as a guide in your upcoming tenders and make a database of lessons learned that can be applied to all future bid and proposal projects.

Common pitfalls

  • Not applying lessons learnt
  • Not getting feedback when you win
  • Not properly recording the feedback received
  • Not communicating feedback to the whole bid team
  • Using feedback sessions as a negotiation opportunity – the time for that has passed
  • Asking only closed questions (questions that end in yes/no answers)

Win or lose – there’s a benefit to both

Losing a bid is difficult, but getting quality feedback ensures the loss still benefits you. Don’t lose hope, it’s rare to win them all. And if you have just experienced a loss, then you’re one step closer to a win.


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