Oh, come on referee!
When submitting a bid, you are likely to be asked to supply details of referees. The purpose is to get an independent confirmation of your ability to deliver the service which is being tendered.
References might be PASS/FAIL, which means that if your references are good enough you move through to the next stage of the evaluation or if they are not up to scratch then you bid fails at that point. Or references might be scored and weighted, and form part of the overall score assigned to each bid. Either way, you want to make sure that the referees you supply give you the maximum chance of winning the bid.
Don’t leave your references to chance. Take control. Here are some important considerations when it comes to filling out the “reference” section of your bid:
- Who will approach the referee?
Make sure you read the instructions carefully. Most times, you will be asked to supply details of referees and the commissioner will then contact those people as part of the evaluation process. However, for some bids you will be asked to obtain the references yourself and submit them as part of your bid. Obviously, this means you have to plan ahead and make sure you have got the references back in time for the submission deadline.
- Choose the right referees for the tender
The person who might give you the most glowing reference might not be the right referee for the particular tender. Use referees that know your products or services as they relate to the service being tendered; ideally they will have bought a similar service from – similar in scope and volume – within the past 3 years. Usually you will be asked for 3 referees. Pick the three who have the most experience of receiving services from you that are most like the ones in the specification for this tender.
It might be that you are already working for the commissioner for this tender under another contract – it is usually ok to include them as a referee, but ask the commissioner first, just to be sure.
If you are a new company you might not have many suitable referees. In these circumstances it is usually ok to use referees who can describe services you have provided when you operated as a different company so long as you were delivering services relevant to the tender, but try to include at least one reference for the current business.
Above all, make sure you explain to the commissioner why you have chosen these referees and how they demonstrate your ability to meet the specification for this tender.
- Prepare your referee
Make sure you get permission to use referees before including them in your response. Check that they are the right person within an organisation to provide a reference and get the correct contact details and job title for them. Brief them on the highlights of the request so they can target their comments to the specification when they are asked to provide a reference.
Above all, make sure they are going to be around at the right time for the commissioner to get hold of them. You do not want your bid to fail because your referees were on holiday and didn’t reply in time!
It is never too soon to start building your network of potential referees. Make sure you cultivate relationships with your current customers in case you need to use them as referees in the future. Your job when choosing referees is to make it as easy as possible for the commissioner to hear from some else how great you will be at supplying the service they want to buy – the right person saying the right thing at just the right time.