Vendor Information: Decision to Respond to a Solicitation
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The Province of B.C. buys a wide range of goods, services and construction from vendors, which could be both organizations and individuals. A competitive process is often used to select a specific vendor to provide what the Province needs.
Responding to a competitive process can be time and resource-consuming with no guarantee of a successful outcome. Vendors have limited resources and time, and therefore need to carefully consider which opportunities are worthwhile to pursue. When a possible competitive solicitation is identified (either on BC Bid or through direct contact with a public sector buyer), the guidance below may assist in making this decision.
Does this opportunity fit with your business?
Read the general description the purchasing organization has posted to determine whether the goods, services or construction being requested fits what your organization offers. If it does, carefully read the solicitation document (e.g. the Invitation to Quote, Request for Proposals) and any associated appendices and other documents. Attend the proponents’ or bidders’ meeting, if one is scheduled.
Pay particular attention to the evaluation criteria provided in the solicitation. Areas that are heavily weighted or that have minimum scores are particularly important to the buyer. If you have extensive experience or offerings in these areas, you may have an advantage in the competition.
Asking questions - is more information needed?
Once you have read all the available material, develop a list of questions to help understand the solicitation requirements better. Submit questions as per the instructions in the solicitation document, including within any deadlines that may be identified. Refer to Asking Questions for more information about this process.
Can all mandatory requirements be met?
Mandatory requirements are those elements that must be present in a submission for it to be eligible for consideration; missing any mandatory requirement means that the submission will be rejected without further evaluation. For most solicitations, mandatory requirements are worded as something vendors must have as of the closing of the solicitation, or that proposals must include (the word “must” is usually defined as meaning a mandatory requirement).
Review all of the mandatory requirements and determine with absolute certainty that all are or could be met. Ask questions if any mandatory requirement isn’t clear.
If any of the mandatory requirements cannot be met, do not respond to the solicitation. Refer to Mandatory Requirements for more information.
Are resources available in your organization to complete the work?
Some opportunities may fit perfectly into what your organization offers, but your current workload is such that adding more would be difficult or impossible. If capacity is a possible issue, consider what would be required to add this opportunity to your current commitments. For example, will additional staff be required, and how quickly could they be hired and trained? Are your current facilities and/or equipment sufficient for this scope of work, or will renovations, refits or additional space/equipment be required? Are sub-contractors needed to meet the requirements, and if so, who might they be? How much time is available between awarding the contract and expected deliverables, and can any capacity issues be resolved within that timeframe?
You should not respond to any opportunity where capacity is an issue that cannot be resolved.
Who is available to write the submission?
Responding to a competitive process requires analyzing what is being sought, determining the best way to respond to those requirements, and writing clear, concise and accurate responses. Input may be needed from a variety of sources, with one or more individuals having responsibility to gather this information and write the submission. Some organizations may have individuals (staff or contractors) dedicated to this function, whereas others assign the solicitation to whoever may be available.
Identify who will have primary responsibility for information gathering, analysis, and writing the submission. Ensure that they have sufficient time for these activities before the solicitation closes. The chance of success in a competitive process can be significantly impacted by the availability and skills of those tasked with writing the submission.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Once the requirements and evaluation process are understood, identify your strengths and weaknesses specific to the solicitation. Strengths are your experiences and abilities that easily meet or exceed the stated requirements. Weaknesses are those areas where your past experience or current situation barely meets or falls short of what is expected.
For price-based solicitations – where the award is made to the lowest price – all specifications must be met; your decision to respond should focus on whether or not you can meet them all. Refer to Price-Based Solicitations for more information.
Scored solicitations – where the award is made to the highest scoring submission – should include benchmarks identifying what would meet the Province’s expectations. Ask questions if this information is missing. Compare your abilities to these benchmarks to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Refer to Weighted Requirements for more information.
Are there any conflicts of interest?
Determine whether or not you or your organization may be in a conflict of interest – either actual or having the appearance of or the potential for a conflict of interest – before deciding whether or not to participate in a competitive solicitation. More information can be found in the Conflict of Interest page.
Who is the competition?
Most vendors know who else might be interested in the same opportunity. Knowledge of your competitors may come from past experience, internet searches, or conversations with peers, among other sources.
Once the likely competition has been identified, assess how they are likely to measure up to the requirements stated in the solicitation. Do not assume that a competitor who is currently providing the goods or services (if this applies) is automatically going to be successful; the award will be made in accordance to the process described in the solicitation document.
Using what you know of the likely competition, roughly rank how they may compare to your organization based on the requirements stated in the solicitation. Remember that this ranking will be based on your current knowledge of the competition, which may or may not be accurate.
If competing on a price-based solicitation – where the award will be made to the lowest price that meets all specifications – this assessment should be based on what is known about each competitor’s typical price points (those generally offering lower pricing rank higher than those who typically are more expensive). Determine how feasible it is to offer a price lower than those at the top of the list.
Alternatively, if the award will be made to the highest scoring submission, the ranked order will be based on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the competition specific to the requirements stated in the solicitation, thus including factors other than price.
Refer to Types of Solicitations and Other Opportunities for more information on price-based and scored competitive opportunities.
Would you sign the contract?
Most solicitations will include a contract format with all or some of the clauses that will be included in the final contract between the Province and the successful vendor. Read those clauses to determine if any cause you or your organization concerns. Refer to Contract Formats in Solicitations for more information on how these clauses affect the solicitation process.
Participate or not?
Once the assessment is complete, the decision to submit a response usually depends on your:
- Ability to meet the requirements;
- Availability of a skilled resource(s) to write the submission;
- Capacity to deliver; and
- Estimation of how you compare to your likely competition.
There may be occasions where you decide that the likelihood of success is too low to justify the time spent participating in the competition, even if the required goods, services or construction are a good fit. In other cases, the analysis may demonstrate a strong likelihood of success, making the effort well worth the potential benefits if successful.
If deciding to participate, remember that success often depends on the competition. Even a well-written submission from a very qualified vendor may not be successful if a competitor provides a submission that meets the stated requirements better. Alternatively, if one or more of the competitors are too busy to take on additional work or don’t have the resources to write their response, it may be that fewer vendors participate, which increases the chance of success for those that do.