I regularly get involved in helping with tender evaluation and downselection decisions, attending interviews and supplier presentations and moderating the evaluation scores from the customer team.
Tender evaluation processes need to be managed against a consistent set of scoring criteria, and have to be applied in the same way to every bidder. These are basic rules of fairness that you would expect in any competitive process, and in my experience customer teams go to great lengths to keep to them.
However, one of the areas that receives little attention is the importance of the sequence of the evaluation of bids. This can have a major impact on the scores that different bidders receive.
The reason for this is a psychological effect called primacy and recency. When we process information, for example when evaluating a tender, we tend to remember things more easily if they are presented to us earlier in the sequence than if they are presented later. This is called the Primacy effect.
In a similar way, we also tend to remember information that is presented later in the sequence than if they are presented in the middle. This is called the Recency effect, and reflects the fact that we find it easier to remember the most recent event than one that happened longer ago.
You can try this for yourself using this simple experiment. Read the following list of objects once, then look away and try to write them down.
Hat, Chimney, Cow, Monitor, Pavement, Duvet, Fingernail, Clock, Potplant, Football, Sherbet
Chances are that you found it much easier to remember objects at the start of the list, or at the end, than you did for objects in the middle.
Primacy and recency effects are important in tender evaluation because they are universal (everyone is subject to them) and enduring (so, they apply whether the evaluation process lasts an hour or a week). They mean that the evaluation team will tend to remember details of the first and last bidders proposals more easily than the proposals that they saw in between. As a result, all other things being equal, a bidder who is seen first or last is likely to be scored higher than those in between.
The bidders who are in the middle of the deck will consistently find that their scores sag below those of their competitors. This is the Saggy Middle that you need to avoid (if you are a bidder) and mitigate (if you are a procurement professional).
In practice, of course, there are many other factors that affect the scoring, not least of which is the quality of the bids themselves! However, there are a few things that you can do to mitigate the effects of primacy and recency effects.
What are your top tips for keeping top of mind in the bid evaluation process?
For a bit more information on primacy and recency, you can see this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_position_effect#Primacy_effect.