Part 2: Questions to Ask and During a Debrief

Office workers gathered around a meeting table

A proposal debrief call is an opportunity for you, the bidder, to obtain feedback from the client about the quality and effectiveness of your proposal. In Part 1 of this blog series, we covered why it’s important to almost always request a debrief and then who should request it, when and how. While requesting and scheduling the debrief is the first step and most important step, you want to spend the most time thinking and strategizing—determining what information you are looking for and crafting the right questions to ask during the call.

In this blog, we’ll give you some suggestions for questions to ask, but first, here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are on your debrief call.

laptops on a round table

Tip #1: Be Mindful of the Time

A half hour or even an hour may seem like a long time but it can go by very quickly once the conversation gets rolling. When preparing for your debrief call, be sure to keep in mind the allotted time and, subsequently, which questions you feel are the most important for you to ask. Try not to derail the conversation or get too far into the details of one question; manage the conversation so you have sufficient time to receive all the information and feedback you are looking for.

Tip #2: Don’t Argue

During the call, you may hear some criticism regarding your proposal that you may not entirely agree with. However, this is not the time to argue. If you strongly disagree with their assessment or if they say that you were disqualified for missing information that you did in fact include, then know their protest policy and have an internal discussion about whether protesting the award is worthwhile. Otherwise, while on the call, take all feedback as an opportunity to improve your proposals and make them stronger in the future.

Tip #3: Pay Attention to Your Tone

It’s hard not to go into a debrief call feeling a bit defeated, but never let this come out in your tone. Keep your air of confidence and maintain an appreciative and respectful tone. While you may not have won this round, another opportunity will arise to work with this client in the future. To continue building rapport with this client and to ensure that they will keep you in mind for future opportunities, always be respectful during the call.

Tip #4: Know What Information You Want

Are you looking for information about the pricing of other vendors? Do you want to know how many vendors submitted a proposal? Whatever it may be, identify what information you are specifically looking to gain from the debrief call. That focus will help you to identify the questions you should ask, especially if you are crunched for time, and will help keep the conversation on track. 

Below are some questions you may want to consider asking, and rephrasing to make your own, based on the information you are looking for from the call.
cofee, papers and a tablet on a table

Debrief Questions to Ask

To solicit feedback regarding your sales process:

  1. What did we do well in our early sales effort?
  2. What could we have done better in our early sales effort (i.e., what should we do differently next time)?
  3. What message did our cover letter send?

To solicit feedback regarding your proposal:

  1. What were the strengths and weaknesses of our proposal?
  2. How did our proposal compare to the winning proposal?
  3. Was there any aspect of our proposal that was unclear or confusing?
  4. Were there any areas where we could have provided more information?
  5. Were there any surprises or unexpected factors in the decision-making process?
  6. Were there any requirements that we missed?
  7. Is there anything that we can improve upon in future proposals?
  8. If our price had been the same as the winner, would our proposal have represented the best value?

To solicit information regarding the winner and other vendors:

  1. What criteria were used to evaluate the proposals? (Note: Only ask this question if evaluation criteria were not listed in the RFP.)
  2. What was the most important factor in the decision-making process?
  3. What was the winner’s score?
  4. Did the winner have the lowest price?
  5. Did the winner have a higher score on the technical evaluation factors?

To maintain the client relationship:

  1. Will this opportunity arise again? And, if so, when?
  2. Did our proposed solution meet the objectives of your statement of work?
  3. Were our features, benefits, and proofs clearly matched to your organization’s needs?
  4. Did we accurately represent your objectives in our executive summary?
  5. How can we continue to engage with you in the future? 
  6. Will you include us on your list of bidders to notify when new opportunities come out?