ITT Basics

24th September 2018

ITT, which stands for an invitation to tender, is a pivotal step in the process of winning new work

Last updated: Dec 17, 2021 @ 2:03 pm

Understanding ITT

An ITT has many abbreviations, but one thing is clear – it is key to growing a business.

Issuing an ITT document typically begins the ‘tender process’, by which a business (the buyer) selects qualified and interested parties (the supplier), based on such things as their price, availability and proposed delivery terms.

An ITT comes in many forms & sizes and contains varying degrees of complexity. The tender documents all depend on what exactly the buyer is procuring.

You are usually invited to tender once you have passed a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) and the buyer has deemed you suitable to be shortlisted and provided you with an invitation to submit a more detailed response regarding their requirements. This is called a ‘closed tender’ – as the buyer has chosen its shortlisted applicants to evaluate their responses.

Find out more information on the basics of PQQs.

Draft ITTs are sometimes provided alongside PQQs, to give you [the supplier] a good idea on specified requirements of the contract, as the PQQ itself usually only covers briefly what is expected, with more detailed stipulations being released to those who are shortlisted.

Remember that an ITT is not always the ‘second stage’ in tendering. Buyers may jump straight in with releasing an ITT and await detailed responses from suppliers. This is called an ‘open tender’ and happens quite regularly in that there is no separate PQQ and shortlisting stage. The buyer has opened up competition publicly and will evaluate every response that comes in.

ITT Structure

Please see the attached for the typical structure of an ITT. This is a brief blank version that we use internally to support buyers with their procurement processes. As mentioned, it is down to the buyer’s requirements, which determines the size and scope of what is contained in a tender document.

The typical tender, based on Public Procurement Regulations and European best practice, provides the supplier with the following information. This is used heavily across the public sector and has been increasingly adopted within the private sector also:

  • A Cover/ITT Letter – as per a ‘closed tender’, this is provided to all relevant suppliers when they have been invited to tender from the initial shortlisting stage (PQQ). If the buyer releases an ‘open tender’ to all, then this is usually a generic-looking letter (similar to the attached).
  • A Scope of Procurement – this provides the supplier with information regarding what exactly they are procuring, and the dates involved in the contract (start date, length, approximate value etc.). This is usually based on sourcing the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT), where technical capability and price is majorly assessed. Take note of how this all turns out. If it’s a framework agreement (for example) this should detail how many suppliers are sought for a multi-supplier contract.

Learn more about sourcing the MEAT and a typical tender journey

  • Submission Terms – this explains how you submit the tender and when it should be submitted by. A timeline is usually provided here which details every time-bound step of the tender procedure.

Find out more about how best to manage your time with bids

  • A Buyer Profile – this is quite simply information about the buyer. This will outline their overall missions and objectives, as well as background and some context to why they are procuring such services.
  • The Award Criteria – this is where the buyer will detail how the tender is assessed and evaluated. This should provide you with how the ‘MEAT’ is assessed through quality and cost ratios (for example, quality may be marked at 60% and the cost is evaluated at 40% of the overall marks).
  • Specification – this is one of the most important aspects of the tender. Sometimes this can be 1 page long or 100 pages long, depending on the services/goods being procured. Make sure you read this and highlight areas in which you can excel your response (for example, if you have to use a specific ‘tool’, make sure this is noted, and you’re not writing about a different tool)
  • Separate Appendices – this can vary widely depending on how the tender has been put together. This can include pricing schedules, a quality response template, terms and conditions of the contract, key performance indicators that will be used (if not enveloped in the specification) and many other supplementary attachments which are featured to enable transparency in the evaluation process.

This list features only a handful of the data that constitutes an ITT. There may be more or less at times.

Approaching the invitation to tender stage like a professional

An invitation to tender (ITT) is usually released when the buyer has shortlisted a group of appropriate suppliers. This most commonly follows a pre-qualifying exercise such as a PQQSQ or PAS91, depending on the industry/services required. Some buyers may publish an invitation to tender immediately, without a shortlisting round. However, during the tendering process for the public sector, you should expect to submit a pre-qualifying application before receiving an ITT.

Making it to the invitation to tender stage is certainly cause for a small celebration. The buyer has seen potential in your business, and you have proven your capability (to some extent). They are interested to hear more from your business and now is your chance to impress them.

If you are new to tendering for contracts, don’t give up now! You have made it this far. When you receive the ITT documents, you should be prepared to feel a little overwhelmed. Especially if your business doesn’t have a team dedicated to responding to ITTs. It’s understandable to feel daunted by the work that may be required.

Our team has been bid writing for almost two decades. In that time, we have seen buyers ask for anything from 2,000 words to 50,000+. Not to mention supporting evidence, company policies, proceduresaccreditations and CVs.

Don’t panic! Let’s break this down

1.    First, take some time to digest the work involved

Before submitting your pre-qualifying response, you should have fully read and digested the specification. Therefore, you will already be familiar with the requirements of the contract. You may have been able to pre-empt some of the buyer’s requests based on this.

Take your time reading the questions, assess the required supporting evidence and compile a list of work to be completed.

2.    Set internal deadlines

Gathering the evidence and information you need may require liaising with multiple departments, depending on the size of your business. Next to each task to complete, set a deadline for yourself and anyone involved. This will avoid last-minute panicking and rushing to produce documents.

3.    Reach out for support before it’s too late

If you don’t have the in-house resources to produce the work required to a high standard, consider outsourcing – in advance. You may want to try and complete the bid yourself but leave enough time to source help if required.

Don’t wait until two days before the deadline to decide that you need a Bid Writer. This will mean risking submitting a rushed bid, or not submitting anything at all.

Our “How to work more effectively with your Bid Writer” blog will help you with things to consider before outsourcing. This includes timescales, word counts and the evidence you can produce.

With the above in mind, let’s explore our top three tips for impressing buyers at the invitation to tender stage.

1.   Keep asking yourself ‘how’ and ‘why’

When responding to the buyer’s questions, consider:

  1. Howdoes what I’m saying positively impact the buyer?
  2. Whywill my responses persuade the buyer to choose my organisation over my competitors?

Remember, you are not the only business bidding for this contract. Even if you know the buyer or have established a previous working relationship, this doesn’t guarantee a win. So often we hear businesses say, ‘we know we’ll win because we know the buyer’. We would strongly advise against relying on this and spend time creating high-quality, detailed responses.

For example, if a buyer requires domiciliary care services, they may ask something along the lines of:

“How will your organisation ensure the safety of the service users throughout the contract?”

Here, it is not enough to simply say that you have experience and will ensure patients are safe. You must demonstrate your competence. Provide a detailed response, outlining your safety policies and make the buyer feel confident in your ability. 

2.   Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes

Imagine yourself as the buyer. They are not only evaluating your invitation to tender responses but several others. When bidding for the same contract, the responses will understandably begin to sound very similar. It’s important to provide your information concisely. Provide detailed responses but don’t allow yourself to go off on a tangent about how wonderful your business is.

When writing your concise responses, you should also be aware of your tone. You want to sound assertive and sure of your answers. Stay away from words such as ‘we could’ and ‘we might’ and replace them with ‘we will’ and ‘we are’.

If you were the buyer, you would undoubtedly choose the supplier who fills you with confidence. Don’t leave any room for doubt in your invitation to tender responses.

3.   Evidence, evidence, evidence

If you follow our Insight Series, you will know that we always reference ‘evidence’ in our blogs. That’s because evidencing your capability is crucial. It will mean the difference between a win and an unsuccessful submission.

In public sector tendering, we always advise that buyers often ask to see at least three relevant case studies. If you know you can’t provide three examples of similar work, you should probably reconsider bidding. Our ‘to bid or not to bid’ blog can help you make this decision.

Case studies allow the buyer to assess your company’s competency in context. They can see how your organisation responded to similar scenarios that you could be faced with on this contract. An effective case study will:

  • Demonstrate that you have experience in delivering similar work
  • Detail how you overcame obstacles and responded to challenges
  • Provide information about the lessons you learnt whilst delivering the contract
  • Showcase impressive results.

Should you be tendering for work now?

We know some businesses put tendering on hold in December, until the new year. However, we always advise tendering for contracts, while you are still delivering work. This means that you can build a pipeline and secure income for the future.

After the challenges most businesses have faced in 2020, we are advising our clients to schedule their bid work early. They can then get a head start on the new year and make up for lost time.

Do you need support with an ITT?

We know that most businesses don’t have endless resources to dedicate to tendering. In order to be successful, you will need skilled writers with experience in writing winning tenders.

If you need extra support, our team are here to help. At Hudson Succeed, we have been helping businesses to grow for almost two decades. Our team of multi-disciplinary Bid Writers have helped organisations in a variety of industries to see success. Their experience includes:

Our Bid Writers proudly hold an 87% success rate, and they are trusted by over 700 businesses globally. Get in touch for a free consultation.

Don’t just take our word for it, see what our clients have to say

Could not recommend higher”

– Nick Steiert, Managing Director at Invasion Ltd.

We are thrilled to have been successful for all 3 pieces of work.”

– Matthew Meanie, Managing Director at MJ Support Staffing.

It was a pleasure to work with Hudson and we look forward to collaborating in the future.”

– Dave King, Director at Imagine You Can.

With such a tight deadline, we could not have done this without Hudson.”

– Fred Kivumbi, Managing Director at Care Solutions Recruitment Agency.

We would highly recommend Hudson and look forward to future endeavours together.”

– Nick Sheehan, Sales Director at iLine Technologies.

We would highly recommend Hudson to any company who require bid support of any kind!”

– Samantha Reid, Director at APM Cleaning Ltd.

Find more client testimonials.

Stay tuned for the final part of our Getting Ready Series. Our next blog will explore the role of a critical friend and how this can help your business.   

Get access to hundreds of ITTs every week by signing up to one of our industry-specific portals.

Our Bid Writers can help you when tendering for contracts, helping you write winning bids, having an 87% success rate.

Find more helpful tips and advice in our blogs. We cover topics including:

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