Having led and witnessed so many sourcing processes over the past decade-and-a-half, I think I’ve heard every possible bidding supplier complaint. The funny part is that there are complaints at both ends of the spectrum.
I’ve seen suppliers complain about more casual bidding processes, suspecting that another bidder was given preferential treatment because there were separate discussions held with each bidder. I’ve also seen suppliers complain about strict bid processes that prohibited one-on-one, personal meetings with bidders because they consider themselves more of a “collaborative” supplier as opposed to a “transactional” supplier.
The bottom line is this: any time a supplier loses (which will be any time that you have two or more suppliers bidding), someone is going to be unhappy. Your job is to make your stakeholders and your organization happy within ethical boundaries, not every bidding supplier.
So as long as you conduct your sourcing process ethically, stick to what you said you would do, and disclose what you said you would disclose, you can feel satisfied that you’ve done your duty to satisfy your customer. Unless you’re in government procurement where suppliers are taxpayers and, therefore, your customers in some perverted way and are “entitled” to be treated like fine china.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about relations with losing suppliers. A healthy and honest debriefing can help all parites walk away if not happy, at least at peace.
That being said, a poor debriefing can pour salt in the suppliers’ wounds and make you look bad. I would define a poor debriefing as one where you are very secretive and refuse to share who the successful supplier was and what advantage they had.
You don’t have to be specific like “Supplier A offered a price that was $13,002.87 lower than yours.” But simply saying “We selected Supplier A based on a lower price” sufficiently protects Supplier A’s confidential pricing while providing fair insight to the losing bidder.
NOTE: It’s better to discuss these things in terms of the advantages of the winning supplier rather than the disadvantages of the losing supplier. Criticism invites arguments.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many purchasing professionals make themselves look bad by failing to follow these simple guidelines. I hope this short little rant helps you prevent yourself from being one of them.
So what do suppliers want?
They want what they expect. And you can shape what they expect with a well-written RFP that explains what the process is, why it is that way (ideally mentioning the benefit to suppliers), and what the losing bidder will learn (and not learn) at the conclusion of the process.
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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