Did you recognize it? The quote comes from Gottfried Keller’s Green Henry. But how do we get from the Swiss Goethe to a — somewhat pompous — “bidding strategy”?
Absence makes …
Bidders in award procedures decide not only on their bid, but also on their behavior before submitting the bid. A sometimes uninformed, sometimes tactically motivated approach is to ask questions. One or two bidders even shower the contracting authority with questions, comments and instructions. Figuratively speaking, he announces himself loudly, stands puffing in the middle of the room and waves his arms. Here, the sales strategy of showing presence is extended into the bidding process. Such bidders are precisely not silent. They are not gods, but approachable people of flesh and blood.
… the heart grow fonder.
It’s different for bidders who come out of nowhere. Regardless of whether they were previously invited or bid in response to a public announcement, whether their participation in the procedure was foreseeable for other reasons or comes as a complete surprise: their first word is the bid, whether it is indicative or final. They speak — only — through their offer.
Beyond the sayings
But what are the most tangible advantages that these silent gods can claim? It depends above all on the procedure, the industry and the applicant environment.
Public procurement procedures
In public procurement procedures, bidder questions are to be anonymized and — like the answers — communicated to all interested parties. But this tendency can also be observed in the purchasing of private companies, which is becoming more and more formalized. The questioner therefore never works only in his own interest. He uncovers ambiguities and gaps in the service description — for the benefit of all interested parties. He destroys supplementary or change request potential — to the detriment of his company. Under certain circumstances, his questions reveal considerable special knowledge or simply peculiarities of his company — and the competition already knows who is involved. The silent god can only remain silent about this. We do not see him, we know nothing about him. He does not betray himself, he does not communicate anything to us.
For outsiders seeking to enter the market, it may be advisable to remain silent. If neither the incumbents nor the contracting authority have the outsider on their radar, but the specifications of the RFP are met, “bidding out of the blue” can be an effective tool. The bidding environment has not received any warning signals; it is not adjusting to anything special, especially in terms of price.
Market leadership strategy
Even for the market leader it may be appropriate to remain silent. In the best case (for him), he has acted true to the motto “The contract is won before it is awarded”, not through illegal influence or preemption, but by way of legal market cultivation and market penetration. In that case, however, he no longer has to flush anyone out by asking questions.
Playing God in silence doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t always make sense. But every bidder should know this possibility and check it for himself in each individual case.
*This legal tip is no substitute for legal advice in individual cases. By its very nature, it is incomplete, it does not relate to your case, and it also represents a snapshot, as the legal basis and case law change over time. It cannot and does not cover all conceivable constellations, serves maintenance and initial orientation purposes and is intended to motivate you to clarify legal issues at an early stage, but not to discourage you from doing so.