Increasingly, the public and the private sector are requesting bid and tender submissions be made online. It’s very rare for you to now have to submit paper copies of bids (though not completely unheard of). Certainly, in the public sector, most bids are now submitted electronically, and by October 2018 all public sector contracting bodies will be required to use some form of e-communication system.

So, if you’re not used to submitting bids electronically now, you soon will be. As with any bid, there are a few things you need to take into account. The first, and most important, is time. Unfortunately, there isn’t one, single e-platform, so you’ll find that different organisations will use different e-platforms to meet their requirements. Each one requires a slightly different approach. Now would be a good time to familiarise yourself with the platforms used by your clients, to avoid making any mistakes when the bid deadline is looming.

The other thing to take into account is to leave yourself enough time to upload your bid response documents. Starting a bid upload with 5 minutes to spare isn’t sensible, because the unexpected can and does happen. It’s your responsibility to make sure your bid is submitted on time, and it is very rare for these platforms to be out of action. As an evaluator, we can also access the audit log on the platform, so we know if you really were logged on when you tell us that the platform wasn’t accepting you bid (yes, people do try to claim the platform doesn’t work, when they weren’t even attempting to log in to the system).

Some platforms have strict character counts, and won’t let you format your responses, so again that is worth double checking before you start working on your bid.

If in doubt, it is always worth double checking, but please don’t leave it until just before the bid closing deadline to check. That is when disaster strikes and all that hard work and effort is wasted.

To make sure you don’t waste your time, talk to us about how to maximise your usage e-procurement platforms.


Have you been asked to participate in an interview as part of a procurement process? It’s really important to understand the purpose of that interview, as that can determine how you approach it. Typically there are 3 types of interview:

  1. The interview attracts a % of the overall score for the procurement. This type of interview can be challenging. The questions should be clear in advance of the interview, to give you the opportunity to prepare. You need to be careful not to contradict what you have said in your written submission, but also be prepared for questions arising from your interview or presentation. It’s also important to know how the evaluators’ plan to assess the interview, there is a danger that these can be subjective.
  2. Clarification interview. There won’t be a separate score for this process, but it is likely that if you can’t successfully and succinctly clarify points you have made in your response document, you could find that your initial scores have been reduced as a result. It is very unlikely that your scores will increase however!
  3. Site visit. If the evaluators wish to visit your premises as part of the evaluation process, it is essential that everything you have said in your tender submission can be validated at the site visit. That covers everything from the approach to your building, to the point at which the evaluators leave. So, if you have described a process as part of your security protocol for signing into your premises, did you follow it? If you have stated that you deliver a service in a certain way, can you evidence it during the site visit? More importantly, will your staff reinforce what you say, or will they contradict what you’ve said because your response isn’t actually how it happens on a daily basis?

If you have interviews or site visits that are part of your bidding process and you want to make sure they are as successful as possible, then do get in touch.

Winning Tenders

Our next one day training course takes place on 9th May and is essential for any business considering bidding for public sector tender opportunities, either nationally or locally, or for those businesses who want to increase the number of tenders they win.

The workshop will assist you to develop your skills, knowledge and expertise, thereby increasing your chances of writing successful tenders.

The topics covered in this one day seminar include:

  • Background to Public Sector Procurement
  • Terminology
  • Sourcing Tenders
  • 2015 Legislation Update
  • The Brexit Effect
  • The Tender Process
  • Core Questions and Preparation
  • Key Business Policies
  • Top Tips
  • Evaluation Process
  • Next Steps

During the day, we also give you the opportunity to become a bid evaluator, carrying out an evaluation of 2 bid responses and also a pricing evaluation – you really do get to walk in the evaluators’ shoes.

By the end of the workshop you will have a clear understanding of what is required from you in your tender responses, along with the knowledge of where to look to find tender opportunities. We’ll provide you with tips to write a compelling tender, let you evaluate real tender responses to understand the difference between good and bad and help you understand what an evaluator looks for.

The course is taking place at The Northfield Centre in Stafford and places are limited. If you book before the 31st March, you can take advantage of the early bird pricing of just £65+ VAT. So, what are you waiting for, follow the link below to reserve your place.


It’s the little things…..

Most businesses that contact me to discuss bids and tenders have tried to secure a contract, but failed. Often, they’ve done so more than once. I can’t wave a magic wand and guarantee that by working with me, they’ll win the next bid they go for, but I can work with them to maximise their chances.

On so many occasions, the things that are preventing them from winning that contract are relatively minor. Most frequently, it’s a failure to read the tender specification, or not comply with the response instructions, that can be the difference between pass and fail. Often, it can be down to price. I’ve lost count of the times that someone has said to me, “Well, we could have delivered it for the same price that the winning bidder quoted.” My general response to that is, “So why didn’t you quote your best price then?” There are rarely any second chances in bids and tenders. So, it is important to get it right first time.

When that tender opportunity lands on your desk, the first thing to do is to get yourself a cup of tea or coffee (I don’t recommend alcohol at this stage – you need a clear head!) and make time to read ALL the documents. Even if they look boring and you think you’ll know what the content says. Read them. Then read them again. Is there someone else you can ask to read the documents as well? If there is, that’s even better, they will pick up on different things to you.

Having read the bid documents, then you can start to think about whether this is the right tender for your business, whether you have time to respond properly to the documents and how you might respond. Think about whether you can offer the product or service cost effectively – what is your baseline price? Is that really the lowest price you can bid? Have you checked that you’re not offering a Bentley service, when they are requesting a Skoda service (no offence to Skoda drivers, I’ve had one, they are excellent cars!)

Think about your narrative responses. Have you really answered the question that has been asked? Have you demonstrated added value or innovation? What did the scoring criteria say? How do you think you measure up against that criteria?

If you’re not sure, or you want a second opinion, get in touch & we will be happy to talk to you about your bid and tender responses.

Buy Local

The Government has an aspiration for one third of all procurement contracts to be awarded to small and medium sized businesses. Many of those businesses will have a preference to trade locally or regionally. But how many of those businesses – that includes you – look to see what public sector contracts are available locally? And what are you doing within your business to support other local businesses? Can you purchase more at a local level? Do you check to see where the goods and services you purchase are bought from? Do you employ local staff?

Remember, the more business you do locally, the greater the benefit to the local economy, and that has a knock on effect. If you’re supporting more local businesses, they in turn can do the same, and more of your money remains in the local community.

How do you convince your local public sector buyer that you are better than someone from out of area. Well firstly, it is important to remember that under the Public Contract Regulations, the public sector cannot favour local suppliers and prioritise them over non-local suppliers. So, you have to demonstrate the benefits of using a local supplier to them. That may be increased social value – better skilled people in the local area, greater economic benefit, more rapid delivery of your service to them, knowledge of local issues, local charitable activity etc.

It might also be that your service is more cost effective, since you’re not incurring significant transport costs to deliver something half way across the country. It might be that you use a local supply chain to deliver the goods or services that you provide.

Think from the buyer’s perspective. What will be important to them? How can you deliver that in a better way than other suppliers? Sometimes, local and small is best – you just need to be able to convince the buyer that choosing you is going to give them greater advantages than if they were to choose someone else.

Green Policies

Have you ever been asked, in a bid, to detail your environmental policies? Were you at a bit of a loss? Being environmentally friendly isn’t only important in tenders, it makes sound business sense and can improve your business profitability. There are lots of areas you can consider when thinking green, but they need to be appropriate to your business.

Consider your travel policy. How do you travel to client meetings? Is public transport an option? Do you consider car sharing? Do you have a cycle to / at work scheme? Do you cut out travel as much as possible and use Skye, Google Hangouts or other video conferencing methods? What about your vehicles? Are they maintained in accordance with manufacturer recommendations? Are they low polluters?

There are several small things you can implement around the office too. Turn off those computer monitors (and computers) when they’re not being used, switch off lights, replace light bulbs with LED equivalents.

Do you have targets for energy consumption per employee? Paper reduction targets? These are easy to develop and, if managed, can reduce your overhead costs.

Are you able to allow any of your staff to work from home, thus reducing the number of commuter trips made? What about flexible start / finish times so that staff can take advantage of public transport?

All those steps are relatively minor. You could go further. If you’re planning to refurbish your premises, can you make bigger changes – solar power, motion sensitive lighting or other green measures that reduce your overall energy consumption?

You may want to have a look at the ISO14001 environmental management standard to get some ideas as to the types of activity you could undertake, or if you’re already doing it, why not consider being accredited to the standard?

It may look good in tenders, but more importantly, there is a benefit to the environment you live and work in, and if you can save money whilst being more environmentally friendly, what’s not to like…?

Bid Evaluation

When you’re trying to win that new contract, or submitting a bid for a specific tender, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. What are they looking for? Have you addressed all the points they have raised in their specification? Have you answered the questions they have asked of you? No, really, have you answered the questions, and not gone off at a tangent to tell them what you want to tell them?

Make sure you’ve really understood what the buyer is asking you for, and obviously, make sure that you can deliver it in the form that they want. If it is a written tender, read the scoring criteria and check how they allocate the scores. Is the scoring weighted to particular questions within the response documents? If so, that is where you need to really focus your efforts. If, for example, it is a 5 point scoring scale, the chances are that to get full marks, you haven’t just got to answer the question, you’ve got to demonstrate added value, innovation or go above and beyond the specification.

Similarly, when it comes to working out the price you’re going to quote to deliver the contract, think carefully. If it is via a formal tender, do they state what percentage of the overall score is allocated to price? How are they scoring the price section? Usually, the lowest priced bidder scores the whole of the score available for price, and every other bid is then scored pro-rata to the lowest bid. That means that if you’re 20% more expensive, you’ll lose 20% of the score available for price, so you’ll have to make that up in your quality responses.

If you’re struggling to understand how tenders are evaluated, then please do get it touch and let us help you to understand the maze of tender evaluations.


Whether or not you tender for contracts, it’s really important to consider how you use client testimonials in your business. When you’re bidding for contracts and tenders, however formal they may be, remember that no-one has ever submitted a bid that says, “we’re pretty mediocre at delivering this service, but give us a chance”.

On the contrary, almost every bidder without exception will tell the evaluator that they are the best in the market at delivering whatever it is they are tendering to win. But is that really the case? Saying it doesn’t prove it. So, next time you’re bidding for a contract, however large or small, remember to make use of relevant client testimonials. If you’ve delivered a contract that is similar, then the evaluator needs to know about that. If you’ve delivered it successfully, and you have a good working relationship with the client, ask them for a testimonial that you can use in your bid response, and in your wider marketing activity. If your customers are confirming that you are good at delivering a service or a product, that speaks more loudly to a bid evaluator than the bidder saying the same thing.

So, for example, when I’m promoting my Winning Tenders workshops (the next one is on the 9th May by the way!), I’ll include a testimonial from a satisfied participant as part of the promotional material, “If you are a business that repeatedly tenders for contracts, and you do not win them, then this is the course for you!” Tracey, Health & Wellbeing Specialist

It is highly likely you’ll be asked to provide formal referees as part of any bid. When doing so, please make sure you’ve spoken to those referees before you name them. Check that they are happy to be named as a referee, ensure they will be available to provide a reference during the period of evaluation, and brief them about the bid you’re going for, so they can make sure their reference relates back to the contract you’re bidding for.

Until next time, if you want any further advice or guidance on including testimonials, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What do organisations buy?

One of the comments I frequently hear, when I’m talking to businesses about tenders, is, “There’s never any tenders relevant to my business.” The public sector alone spends approximately £240bn every year with third parties. Yes, a great deal of that is taken up with high value procurements, but equally, there are hundreds of smaller value contracts published, on average about 600 each week.

So, what does the public sector buy? Well, in recent weeks, opportunities have been published in many different areas, including:

  • chemical waste disposal
  • duck food supplies
  • external audit services
  • fire safety assessments
  • rail material fabrication and supply
  • insolvency services
  • boarding up services

The list above is a tiny extract from recent tenders that have been published. Frankly, I’ve yet to find a business sector that doesn’t have opportunities available to them. The opportunities above are all public sector opportunities, don’t forget that many private sector businesses also tender their purchasing requirements.

You need to be very clear and concise in knowing what products and services you offer, and how they are categorised by potential buyers. For example, you may manufacture a product, but does a buyer seek to solely buy the product, or do they purchase the product and installation? If so, can you partner with an installer, so that your bid will be considered? If you can, how do you select that installer? What is their track record. Once you’ve found the installer, the job hasn’t finished there.

It’s essential that you know where those opportunities are advertised, and how your target customers buy the services you deliver. Are they tendered? If so, where are they advertised?

If you’re not sure whether your products and services are bought by public sector organisations, or by commercial buyers in the private sector, on a competitive tender basis, get in touch with us and we’ll talk to you about your product and service offer, to work out with you where you need to be searching for those opportunities.

Business Networks

What possible use are business networks when trying to win tenders? There are lots of potential benefits.

  1. Potential Suppliers – so, you’re tendering for a contract, but your Health and Safety Policies aren’t up to scratch. It is highly likely that within many business networks, you will find, or meet someone who can introduce you to, a good health and safety consultant. The opportunity to find people who can work with you on your business to maximise your potential means you can then bid with increased confidence.
  2. Collaborative Partners – thinking about bidding for a contract, but you haven’t got the capacity to deliver everything yourself? Effective business networking is likely to introduce you to businesses similar to your own. Are they competing with you? Probably, yes. Could you work in partnership with them to bid for contracts that you’re not likely to win on your own? Almost certainly. Approach your competitors in business networking with an open mind, they may just open the door for you (and them) to bigger, longer term clients.
  3. Potential Customers – are you going to sell your services to people in the room with whom you’re networking? Possibly / possibly not. Are those businesses working with clients of their own. Almost certainly (at least, they are if they’re any good!). Are they able to introduce you to their customers. Well, that will depend on how well you get to know, like and trust them, and them you. If you’re looking for a contact into a specific organisation, ask people. You never know who they know and for lower value tenders, the process may be less formal, they may only need three written quotes for example, in which case having your name and contact details alone could be enough to open the door for you.
  4. Knowledge – there will be lots of it within your business networks, have you tapped into it to find out what people know about the organisations you want to supply?
  5. Confidence – it’s possible that there will be a copywriter or bid writing expert in your networking group. If not, someone may know someone who is. Having the confidence to bid, safe in the knowledge that there is someone who can review what you’ve written prior to submission and give you some feedback could make the difference between the winning bid and the losing bid.

Never underestimate the power of your business network! If you want to know more about how to capitalise on your existing business network, please do get in touch with us for a chat. We’ll happily share our own experiences of business networks and the benefits to business development, identifying ways of making sure your own networks benefit your business.