Vendor Information: Proponents’ / Bidders’ Meetings

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What is the purpose of a proponents’ or bidders’ meeting in a competitive solicitation? What value is there in attending these meetings?

Some, but not all, competitive processes will include a meeting for interested vendors to hear more about the process and opportunity. There are two types of meetings that vendors may experience in the competitive process: bidders’ meetings and proponents’ meetings.

If the competition is price-based – meaning that the award will be made to the vendor who meets all requirements and offers the lowest price (see Price-Based Solicitations for more information) – the meeting is usually referred to as a bidders’ meeting. 

If the competition is scored – where the award is made to the vendor who meets all mandatory requirements and scores highest (see Weighted Requirements) – the meeting is usually called a proponents’ meeting.

 

Meeting Purpose

Both of these types of meetings are intended to provide an opportunity for all interested vendors to have a face-to-face discussion with the government buyer to better understand what is needed and what to include in submissions. The meeting is an opportunity to ask questions, gather additional information, express concerns, and see who might be your competition.

 

Who Should Go?

If a meeting is offered on an opportunity that your company is interested in pursuing, someone from your organization should attend. You should send one or more people who have sufficient knowledge of the solicitation and your operations to understand the information presented, to ask questions as needed, and to use the information presented for your submission.

 

Mandatory Meetings

If a proponents’/bidders’ meeting is identified as a part of the competition, the solicitation will state whether it is optional or mandatory for vendors to attend. 

If the meeting is mandatory, only those vendors that send a representative will be eligible to participate in the competition. Any vendor who does not attend a mandatory meeting should not submit a response to the competition, as it will be rejected for missing a mandatory requirement. 

If a solicitation includes a mandatory meeting that you cannot attend (e.g. the meeting occurred before you knew about it, or the timing or location doesn’t work for you), you can ask the government contact named for the solicitation any of the following questions:

  • Can the meeting time and date can be changed? Suggest alternative dates.
  • Can another meeting be scheduled for those who were unable to attend the one originally scheduled?
  • Can vendors phone into the meeting rather than attend in person? 
  • Can the mandatory attendance at the meeting be changed to an optional meeting?

The Province may not be able to change anything about the mandatory meeting, but you won’t know that unless you ask. If a change to the mandatory meeting is made, this change would apply to all vendors, not just the one who asked the question.

Refer to Mandatory Requirements for more information.

 

Optional Meetings

Many bidder or proponent meetings are optional rather than mandatory (as described in the section above), and attendance makes no difference to vendors’ eligibility to participate in the solicitation. However, you should attend, if at all possible, as timely access to any new information provided likely will be helpful for writing your submission.

 

Meeting Format

The meeting format will be determined by the government office that issued the solicitation. However, most meetings will allow vendors to ask questions during and in advance of the meeting (this is recommended if the question is complex or you want to remain anonymous). 

Usually, more than one government representative will attend so that as many ad hoc vendor questions as possible can be answered during the meeting. If the answer isn’t immediately known, usually the question will be deferred and answered later as an addendum to the solicitation.

Refer to Asking Questions for more information on what questions you may want to ask.

 

Record of the Meeting

Proponents’/bidders’ meetings usually include a written record of what was discussed. This record may be minutes of the meeting, or a verbatim transcript of everything that was said. Most solicitations will issue the meeting record as an addendum that will be made available to all interested or eligible vendors.

 

More information on Proponents’ meetings can be found in section 6 of Responding to Government RFPs: A Proponent Guide to the Revised Request for Proposals (RFP) Corporate Template for the Government of British Columbia.

 

Other Kinds of Meetings that Might be a Part of a Specialized Solicitation Process

Except for the bidders’/proponents’ meetings discussed above that would occur before the closing date of a particular solicitation, solicitations will not allow for a private meeting between a vendor proponent and the Province, except in the limited circumstances described below. 

Some solicitations include shortlist processes, which might include a form of meeting such as interviews, demonstrations, and team presentations (for example). If the shortlist process includes one of these types of meetings between the Province and the shortlisted vendors, these meetings are usually scheduled individually and would generally not include other vendors. Special process rules would specify the strict conditions that would apply to such meetings and all shortlisted vendors to address fairness considerations. 

Solicitations such as the Negotiated Request for Proposals (NRFPs) and Joint Solutions Request for Proposals (JSRFPs) are processes that are sometimes used for complex acquisitions. These highly specialized solicitation documents would also include special process rules, if some form of meeting were allowed, that would carefully govern the conduct of any private meetings, including, for example, what information, if any, would be shared with all interested or eligible vendors from these meetings. Refer to Award to Highest Score for more information about NRFPs and JSRFPs.

 

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