Clarification Questions in Tendering

7 tips for submitting clarification questions

“When there are zero clarifications – then compliments go to the Procurement Team!”

Clarification questions are just as important as the tender document itself. When downloading and digesting tender documentation, you will likely come across a part of it that doesn’t make sense.

It’s not uncommon – you’ll likely end up writing a clarification question for every three tenders you write!

You may come across part of a tender document that contradicts itself entirely. Or, it might miss the key aspects in order for you to answer technical questions within your bid. Either way, you are able to clarify any conflicting details by asking a clarification question to the buyer.

Bidder’s may ask clarification questions for different aspects of the bid that need clarification, such as:

  • If there are unclear or minor errors such as arithmetic mistakes that don’t add up.
  • Clarification on quality performance, conditions of contracts or particular terms.
  • If TUPE applies.
  • Terms and conditions.
  • Asking if they’re eligible to apply based on circumstances not covered in the tender documents.
  • Pointing out any errors or omissions in the tender documents.

This is where you have to be proactive and ask the buyer what they actually mean.

It’s better to ask a clarification question than to make an incorrect assumption and risk making the wrong assumption. 

How do I submit clarification questions?

If you want to ask a clarification question to the buyer, you don’t have to call them up to ask. You can post a clarification message electronically via the online portal where it’s being managed or by email.

Remember this message is viewed by ALL of the other suppliers that are tendering for the opportunity. This allows the process to be as transparent as it can be! It’s likely that you’re not the only one who’s wondering what a certain part of the specification means.

7 top tips for submitting clarification questions


1. Read the tender documents in full

You must make sure that you have read all the tender documents thoroughly in full, so nothing is missed. You might look a little silly asking a clarification question if the answer is outlined in the specification.

2. Ask the question as soon as possible

Make sure you ask any clarification questions you have as soon as possible. This enables plenty of time for the buyer to respond and allows you to get on with writing your response. If it’s something significant you don’t want to wait around before asking. The sooner you ask, the sooner you can carry on with writing a successful tender response.

3. Be professional

When asking clarification questions, it’s important that you go about it in a professional manner. Keep it civil, you don’t want to come across as overly aggressive.

4. Keep it clear and concise

Try and phrase your question as clearly and concisely as possible as you don’t want to confuse the buyer. You should avoid vague questions and use examples to make it more comprehendible. It’s best to keep it so you are addressing one issue per question to keep it simple. If you ask four questions interweaved into one, the buyer might not answer them all.

If you are asking multiple questions that are linked, clearly format them by numbers or bullet points. This will clearly signpost the buyer to all the issues raised and they can easily check they’ve answered them all.

5. Be anonymous

We would advise you not to sign your name or organisational details at the end of your clarification questions. Sometimes the buyer may publish your whole question (including your signatory mark) for all of the other suppliers to see.

This may give others the advantage when they know which competitors are going for the job. They have the opportunity to research your organisation and subliminally talk down companies like yours by using their comparative advantages.

If Company A finds out that Company B is tendering for this work, they may use this to their advantage. It isn’t unheard of for companies to call up pretending to be a customer to find out their competitors’ prices.

6. Pay attention to the timeframe

For public sector contracts and some private opportunities – you’ll be given a timeframe within which you can ask clarification questions. This will be noted in the specification documents along with other dates such as site visits and the submission deadline.

For example, the tender submission deadline is 29th June, but the clarification deadline is the 22nd June. This allows the buyer one week before the opportunity closes to respond to any questions posed.

Sometimes there’s something significant that necessitates a change to the tender requirements. If this is the case, then usually the deadline of the tender will be extended. In our experience, there are never sighs of frustration when deadlines are extended, only sweet sighs of pure joy!

7. Check your question hasn’t already been asked

Before submitting a clarification question, you should check the forum to see if another business has asked it already. Again, you might look a bit silly asking a question that has already been asked.

When asking a clarification question, make sure you:

  • Have read and digested the tender documents in full so nothing is missed.
  • Maintain the utmost professionalism when asking the question.
  • Make the question as clear as practically possible.
  • Remember that these questions are seen by everyone, including your competitors.

Never assume when it comes to digesting the relevant tender documents. If you assume, you make an ass out of you, me and everyone that is involved with the tendering process. But mostly just you!

For a more detailed insight, watch our free clarifications masterclass.

Need support?

If you need a hand deciphering tender documents or the clarification questions process – we can help!

Our sister company, Hudson Succeed, offers four tender support and tender writing packages. Our Bid Writing Team have over 60 years of collective bid writing experience and boast an 87% success rate. When it comes to clarification questions, we’ve seen our fair share!

Tender Writing

For submitting a tender response, we recommend our Tender Writing service. Once you’ve found the right tender for your business, send it our way. One of our Bid Writers will write and submit the bid on your behalf. They’ll take care of any clarification questions, making necessary amendments if needed and provide a full Tender Writing breakdown.

Tender Mentor

If you have already written your response but need a fresh pair of eyes to proof, Tender Mentor can help. Our Bid Writers will look over your response, notifying you of any spelling or grammatical mistakes. They’ll ensure you’ve answered all the requirements from the specification before you submit.

Tender Improvement

Our Tender Improvement programme can help if you’ve already been tendering for work but aren’t seeing results. During the course of the programme, our Bid Writers will assess your previous submissions and supporting documents. They’ll then give you feedback and guidance on how to improve increasing your chances of success.

Tender Ready

Our Tender Ready programme is designed for those who have never tendered before. This programme works with you to ensure you have everything you need to tender successfully. This includes an organisation-wide bid library and subscription to one Discover tender portals.

Where to find the right tendering opportunities for your business

Finding the right tendering opportunity for your business can take a large part out of your day. There are thousands of websites posting hundreds of live tenders daily. Searching for the right one can turn into a full-time job!

Our 11 sector-specific Discover portals saves you time when searching for the right tender. If you’re relying on inaccurate CPV codes, you could be missing out on countless opportunities. Our Opportunity Trackers manually scour and upload live tenders from thousands of websites daily. You’re able to filter the results via keyword, budget, location and more – streamlining the process.

Hudson Discover houses 11 sector-specific tendering portals:

A subscription to one of our portals includes:

  • An on-hand Account Manager to answer any of your tendering or clarification questions or queries.
  • Discounted support from Hudson Succeed.
  • A free 20-minute phone call of bid consultancy every month with one of our Bid Experts.
  • A daily email bulletin containing all the live tenders that have been upload that day, straight to your inbox.

If that wasn’t enough, you can upgrade any portal with our Discover Elite service. These time-saving packages help you identify tenders, even when you’re busy. Discover Elite boasts two new upgraded options; The Ultimate Time Saver and Become a Pre-Bid Master package.

Both packages offer your business:

  • An annual subscription to a maximum of two Hudson tender portals of your choice.
  • A dedicated Account Manager.
  • Weekly phone calls to discuss viable tendering opportunities.
  • Award and pre-market engagement notices monitored on your behalf.
  • Buyer portal management including registration, password management, downloading documents and assessing viability based on your bid or no-bid

Get in touch for more information about how we can grow your business