The 11 Stages of the Tendering Process

18th February 2017

Table of Contents

The Tendering and Evaluation Process

Last updated: July 25, 2022 @ 11:15 pm

Want to know more about the tendering process? Our Managing Director, Jill, has been writing and winning bids via the tendering process for over a decade. She is often asked what makes her so successful. It’s important to understand that when she first started tendering, she also made the common mistakes made by all. She soon realised she had to create a process and stick to it.

She developed her 11-stage tendering process which she still uses to this day. Here goes…

1.    Develop a checklist

Don’t just assume that every project is right for your business. If you are clutching at straws for a suitable experience, it’s probably not for you. Create a checklist with 5-10 questions to ask yourself when deciding if to bid for a project. Mark these questions between 10-20% depending on the number of questions developed.

2.    Searching for suitable tenders

Searching for suitable tenders takes time and commitment. Did you know, we scrape hundreds of sources every day to populate our tender portals with suitable public and private sector opportunities? Very few businesses have the resource or time in-house to do this. Searching for tenders is critical for business growth and a great source of new work. Make this part of the tendering process as streamlined as possible.

3.    Review against your checklist

Once you have sourced relevant tenders, score them against your checklist. If you don’t score 80% or above, don’t tender for the work, put your sales efforts into other activities.

4.    Roles and responsibilities

For those tenders that score 80% or above, agree roles, responsibilities and deadlines between the Sales Team. Ensure that you’re not leaving things till the last minute.

5.    Research

Research really is king when it comes to tendering. You need to look into the tendering organisations’ business. Look at what they’ve done in the past. Read the tender documents from front to back, and compile a thorough understanding of what they are trying to achieve, who their key buyers/audience are and who they are competing with.

6.    Complete the first draft of the tender

Draft one is critical. It’s about putting all of your thoughts down onto paper. It’s important to see this as the first draft as you’re bound to think of additional knowledge and experience as you’re writing. Make sure that during this stage of the tendering process you’re answering the questions being asked of you. Ensure that it is 100% relevant to the company you’re bidding to.

7.    Amend, edit, review 

The review tender process should take a while. It’s not about proofreading at this stage, it’s about ensuring you’re answering the right questions. Make sure that the response has been correctly levelled against the scoring criteria of the tender and that you’re happy with the message the tender response gives about your business.

During the tenders process, the buyer will not want to read excessive amounts of rambling. Not to mention this would take up a lot of your wordcount! Thoroughly consider your answers to ensure you stay on track. Every ounce of your bid response will be evaluated. If the buyer thinks you can’t stay focused on a specific task, they’ll question your suitability.

8.    Sleep on it

Once you’ve edited the response, sleep on it. We’ve all been there when we’ve submitted our tender response and instantly thought, ‘I should have included XYZ’. It’s important to plan your time ahead to give you this important downtime before the response is due. Read our blog on bid management timekeeping for more information.

You are also far more likely to notice any grammatical errors and so on after giving yourself a break. All these little details may seem trivial, but they all account to the quality of your bid.

9.    Proofread

After you have had a break, you should then proofread your response for spelling and grammatical errors.  During this stage, you should also ensure you’ve kept to any word count or font suggestions from the invitation to tender (ITT) document.

When you’re happy with the response, ask someone else to read it. It can be hard to see mistakes within your own content when you’ve read it so many times before. You could even have your device read it aloud to you; this can really help you with catching mistakes!

10. Submit

The final stage of the tendering process, from the supplier’s side, is submitting your response. Give yourself plenty of time before the deadline is due. Consider how long this might take when using online public sector tendering platforms. They’re not always as straightforward as they may first appear. This is often overlooked in a bid management strategy.

Never leave it till the last minute to submit. This is a recipe for disaster. You may come across technical issues or find that there is further information needed. If you are already only minutes from the deadline, this can be incredibly stressful.

It is also important to understand that if you miss the deadline, even by a minute, you will not be considered. The buyer wants to see that you are well prepared and get work done at time at the very least. A late submission doesn’t bode well for the impression of how you conduct the rest of your work.

11. The evaluation process

So, you’ve written the tender and you’re anticipating the award. But do you know how the buyer evaluates your submitted tenders?

According to CIPS (the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply), the main objective of the tendering process is to:

“ensure the “best fit” supplier is selected to supply goods and/or services to the customer which offers the best value for money. Such a supplier is likely to be sound commercially, technically competent, financially sound and perceived as best for the task.”

This means that the buyer holds a competitive tender evaluation process to ensure they are getting the best service or product from the best possible company.

Bid support – Breaking down the question

If you do not know what the question is asking – this is your first hurdle. In order to jump that hurdle, carefully examine what kind of question it is.

Although there are hundreds of question variations out there, we’re showing you a way to tackle every question you get through a very simple breakdown technique.

Examining the question

Does the question have (what it seems like) 10 questions in one? Does it look something like this:

Example 1: Please explain your risk management procedures, including what risks you feel are vital to overcome as part of this contract, as well as monitoring and mitigation approaches you would use. Please detail who will manage said risks and provide examples of where you have overcome similar risks.

This question asks for a lot of information and the first step to jump this hurdle, is to tackle it bit by bit. We break this question down into more manageable chunks, allowing clear-cut focus on every aspect of the question, making it easier for the evaluator to mark us against their evaluation criteria. We have pinpointed these out and, as part of our bid support, always encourage you to write out sub-headings to manage this effectively. Such as:

General risk management procedures

Contract-specific risks

  • Risks
  • Monitoring
  • Mitigation.

Risk lead

Risk Management Experience

Under each subheading, you can then start to write your content.

Sometimes, however, the question is not that easy to break down and maybe a lot smaller, making the whole manageable chunks scenario more difficult.

Does the question ask you to explain, describe, or provide detail of a process and/or situation? If so, this is a useful way of the buyer seeing how well you respond to this and how you’re reacting to their requirements.

Open questioning allows the buyer to ask for a lot of information with a short question.

Example 2: Describe how you manage risks?

This question is 5 words long; however, your response limit can be in excess of 5,000 words, depending upon your offering and sector.

The management of risks may have reams of information attached to it. The important thing to do is break this down into smaller subheadings and further questioning.

Evaluation guidance

Sometimes the buyer can be quite extensive in their evaluation guidance and based on this, you may already have your subheadings laid out for you, dependent on what the buyer is looking for/marking during the evaluation stage.

If the evaluation guidance doesn’t provide much detail – then look at the specification and make sure you fully understand what the client is looking for, so you can start breaking your response down into further discussion points.

For example: Your subheadings for the above example may be;

  • Recognising Risks– detailing how you identify/assess risks?
  • Monitoring Risks– what system you use to track these risks?
  • Risk Responsibilities– who maintains responsibility for managing risks?
  • Mitigating Risks– what do you do to mitigate said risks?
  • Risk Reviews– how often do you review these to adapt to change?
  • Contract Risks– what you feel are the top risks for this particular contract?
  • Compliance– what national standards/best practice do you comply with?

These are merely seven subheadings you can write about when drafting your response.

Depending on what the contract is for and the specification included – there could be a whole load of various points you need to discuss.

This is merely a small step when looking at a tender response, but a very important one. We are by no means English teachers, but when it comes to developing a response to accommodate buyer’s needs and requirements, we know what we are talking about!

The DAPCAS model

Bid writing support can be varied and contradictory – that’s why we invented the DAPCAS model, to boil down the tendering process into its most simplistic formula. Here is a short breakdown to outline the parameters of the model.

D is for Decipher

Before you start tendering you need to decipher the opportunities that you want to go for.

Don’t just go for any opportunity in the hope of being successful. This is not only a waste of time and money but weakens your overall tendering approach.

When starting any business, these are some of the questions you need to ask yourself, so that you understand your place in the market and set defined goals to succeed in tendering.

Start by asking yourself three simple questions; What services do you ideally want to deliver? Where do you want to deliver these services? and Who is your ideal buyer?

Once you have the answer to these questions, you then need to source the relevant opportunities. You can do this by signing up to our sector-specific portals, where you can receive daily tender opportunities that remain specific to your service. Our service will signpost you directly to the client/buyer via published notices across the thousands of websites and portals that remain across the UK alone.

A for Assess

To bid or not to bid. That is the question!

After you have deciphered what you want to start tendering for, and you have sourced an opportunity, you then need to conduct an assessment to make sure it is 100% worthwhile.  Remember the contract title doesn’t tell you everything!

A few questions to try answering, in order to gauge the feasibility of the bid are; Have you delivered work like this before? Do the opportunity outcomes align with your long-term strategy? Is it financially viable? What is your USP in the market sector?

P for Plan

One of the deciding factors, as to whether your bid will be successful, is the planning of the whole tender process itself.

Each tender is different and in turn, the planning must evolve to match the specification. You should define clear-cut milestones for what needs to be actioned, when and who is responsible for the deliverables.

The volume of an ITT can range from half a page to 100 pages long and contain pertinent information that it is imperative to consider. Our bid writing support experts advise that each document should be read one by one with the following aspects in mind;

  • Reading Instruction – You should over-allocate time for this step as the instructions should contain everything from practicalities such as where to submit the tender to design requirements for word count, font size and style.
  • Submission Deadline – Obviously this is a crucial aspect as tender deadlines are very strict, a delayed submission of one minute could result in the dismissal of your bid.
  • Clarification Deadline – Some aspects may be unclear or missing from the specification, this is your chance to ask questions, so also keep a note of this deadline.

C for Compose

Business owners may not have the time, skills or resources to pull together a high-quality bid that is concise, detailed and exceeds buyer expectations. Writing is not everyone’s cup of tea – especially when you operate a fully functioning business.

Hence the reason why bid writing support exists and our Tender Consultants offering is highly sought.

However, should you wish to carry out the writing process yourself, there is one fail-safe process to ensure high-quality results. The PEE method;

  • Point– This is where you state what you are going to do, or what you are already doing. This should be clear and concise.
  • Evidence – It is no good talking about achieving results if you can’t demonstrate that you have delivered something similar already.
  • Explain – As it says on the tin, explain how you are going to deliver the desired outcome.

 A for Analyse

This step is something that remains an absolute necessity throughout the tendering process. We advise that you create multiple drafts and have them reviewed by multiple colleagues or be even more thorough and ask a new employee to read over the document to ensure that the inner workings of your company can be understood by somebody with little prior knowledge of your structure and function.

You should never assume that the reader shares the same depth of knowledge about your company as you.

S for Submit

 As simple as this step might sound, to a tender newcomer, it can be very daunting. You should take thorough precautions to ensure that your bid is submitted within the deadline.

If the bid is due at 13:00 and you submit it at 13:01 – you’re out!

Once you have successfully submitted the bid you should always receive some form of acknowledgement that the bid has been received, this is most commonly done via email or an online portal.   

MEAT

The most economically advantageous tender (MEAT) is a common evaluation process that buyers use as the selection procedure for publicly-procured contracts.  It allows the contracting party to award the contract based on aspects of the tender submission other than just price.

MEAT was introduced by the European Parliament as part of public procurement rules that apply to any contracts for public spending above minimum values. In the UK these are known as the Public Contracts Regulations.

MEAT evaluation means the buyer evaluates other aspects of the service to be delivered as well as the cost. These can include:

  • Quality
  • Technical Ability
  • The proposed Design
  • Accessibility
  • Social Characteristics
  • Environmental Benefits
  • Innovation
  • Customer Service or ongoing support
  • Ability to Deliver on time.

Each separate aspect can be evaluated by the Client on its own or in a mix with other considerations.

4 steps to source the MEAT

Based on the MEAT, the buyer will enter into a working relationship with a competitive supplier that is more than capable of delivering the requirements set. The journey is as follows:

Step 1: Set Requirements – soft market testing

This is where the buyer kicks off their procurement process and develops all the documentation to ensure their specific requirements and needs are clearly laid out for suppliers to apply.

If buyers knew how to deliver a service internally and had the full resource to do this, they wouldn’t need to procure this externally. So, remember that sometimes a buyer doesn’t know the full ins and outs of their requirements. They may have an end goal, but don’t know all the deliverables needed to reach it.

This is where a Soft Market Testing exercise and supplier engagement can come into play. This is basically an exercise where the buyer finds out information about their procurement efforts regarding a particular service, good or industry. Suppliers would give information (freely) to the buyer to support them in developing a tender, sharing clarity about their services and how their market works. This makes it easier for buyers to procure in a specific sector.

Step 2: Release tender instructions

The buyer documents are now released usually via an electronic portal. This is where the buyer discloses all of the information relating to what they require and how they wish to acquire it usually via an ITT.

This could be in many different shortlisted stages, including submitting a PQQ. Then, awaiting an ITT or directly responding to a request for proposal (RFP), or what’s becoming more common is pitching a proposal directly to the client.

Whatever the process is – this will be clearly advertised on the instructions provided by the buyer.

Step 3: Response timeframe

Once you’ve digested all the buyer’s information, you will be at the stage in the tender process to start developing your response. The tender may require a long, 1,000-word response or a very brief answer. It is all dependent on the services you are bidding for and how the buyer is managing the procurement of this.

You’ll find the typical tender timescales lasts around 4-weeks from the publication date up until submission, but again – this may vary depending on the buyer’s needs.

Step 4: Evaluation & Award

This is where the buyer assesses your response to their specific needs and subsequently awards the contract to the highest scoring supplier. If this is, you – congratulations. If it’s not you – look at the feedback and move on. You won’t win every tender you go for unless you remain strategic with your approach and bid decision-making process.

If you have any questions, get in contact with our Tender Consultants today.

Scoring

When you’re writing bids you should be aware of the ITT which will let you know how your submission will be scored.

It is normal for each question to be evaluated individually and awarded a score between 0 and 10 based on how well the response meets the buyer’s expectations.

Be aware that the buyer might reserve the right to throw your tender out if you fail to meet minimum evaluation standards throughout the scoring process.

Commonly a score of less than 5/10 will mean your tender is rejected immediately. This evaluation method is used to help the buyer shortlist quickly.

Mandatory responses

The same can be said for any ‘mandatory’ requirements the buyer might have. Before you submit your bid, you should make sure you respond to every mandatory question within the tender documents. Failure to do this will mean the buyer can reject your application without having to evaluate it.

Evaluation criteria

Evaluation criteria will be different for every bid. It will change depending on the nature of the project to be delivered, who the buyer is and their priorities.

Each evaluation criteria is given a weighting depending on how important that consideration is to the buyer.

Once submitted, each tender may be evaluated by more than one person on a panel. Alternatively, every panel member may score each submitted tender against one evaluation criteria.

The overall score for submission can be calculated by multiplying the score by its evaluation weighting and adding together or averaging the results for each assessor. Where there are differing scores between panel members, a meeting will be held to reach an agreed decision.

Pre-qualification

You may have had to pass a PQQ process before you get to this stage.

This is often used for complex projects. It helps the buyer shortlist those interested in winning the contract to those who are appropriate to deliver it.

The way that this first stage is evaluated is commonly against a set of Pass or Fail questions.

Examples of this include having:

  • Insurances above a minimum limit
  • An Environmental Policy
  • Recognised quality accreditations (for example ISO 9001 or CHAS accreditations).

Often this first stage of tendering process evaluation will be fairly simple to complete. There are often smaller word limits than second-stage evaluations and the information you need to provide is relevant to the works to be completed.

This is used by the buyer to evaluate your company and check you are able to deliver the works.

Evaluation tools

If the buyer is evaluating a tender and is unsure about a certain part of the response, they can ask clarification questions. This means they can ask you for further information regarding any part of your bid.

Other processes for evaluation

Best value

Sometimes the buyer wants to evaluate the tenders received to determine which contractor can provide the best value for money over the life of the project. Prospective clients are evaluated against a pre-determined set of criteria. These include:

  • Cost to complete the works
  • Previous experience delivering similar works
  • Company Sustainability
  • Management Systems.

How the buyer sets the scoring and evaluates each tender response gives them an accurate representation of how each bidder provides whole life cost. The supplier achieving the best score may then be selected.

Auction theory

This process of evaluating tenders through a range of auction-style bids including:

  • First Price Sealed Bids
  • Second Price Sealed Bids
  • Open Ascending Bids
  • Open Descending Bids.

Auction theory has gained a bad reputation historically. There is a lot of risk for the contractor to price their tender in a way that gives them little or no profit because the buyer can drive the price down intentionally.

Balanced scorecard

This part of the tendering process requires evaluating cost against more complex features of a proposal such as socio-economic considerations. This is a process that government departments are encouraged to use when designing major works above £10million.

Some examples of this include:

  • The Olympic Delivery Authority for London 2012
  • HS2 Rail
  • Heathrow Terminal 5.

How this is evaluated is as follows. All buyers must:

  • Consider each of the critical success factors and strategic themes in the evaluation to make sure they have considered all requirements.
  • Produce a specific scorecard so that all tenderers are aware of all project requirements.

Remember: the buyer chooses to host the procurement and evaluation process, they’re always after the same things.

The best-fit supplier, to deliver the best works or service, for the best price.

One thing that can help your response, is a tender review.

How Tender Reviews Work

Tender reviews consist of having a specialist team or individual look over your proposals. Be it PQQsITTs or any other tender response.

Each aspect of your proposal will be looked over with a fine-tooth comb, ensuring that you have submitted responses that reflect what the buyer requests and also utilised the best of your business’ relevant sector experience.

Tenders will often differ from one another and hence each response you make must be tailored to the buyer’s specific demands. If you don’t do this, then you won’t be able to truly excel in your response. The winning tender responses will closely follow the buyers’ specifications.

There are options for you to get a bid review by experts. Our Tender Mentor service offers an expert review of a tender you have already written. This way we can make sure the bid you’ve produced is the best it can possibly be.

Common Mistakes That Tender Reviews Flag:

·       Failure to follow the specification

Often suppliers will fail to fully digest the buyer’s specification, this can result in responses that can often be irrelevant and superfluous. Our expert team can flag this before it is too late, allowing you to keep your responses to the point and ensure you reflect the buyer’s demands.

·       Time management 

Managing tender deadlines is an essential part of providing detailed and thorough responses in the tendering process. Rushing responses can often result in forgetting to attach vital certifications such as ISO certificates, staff qualifications, CVs and company organograms, to name a few. Tender reviews can flag any failure to attach certificates and will ensure that you accurately submit all information in your responses. For further information on this, please see our ‘Time Management’ blog on our Tender VLE site.

·       Incorrect formatting

Indeed, this sounds simple enough, however, ITTs can often be particularly lengthy, and we can all make mistakes. Buyers will often specify a certain font and size and this needs to be consistent throughout. As well as this, incorrect formatting such as mismatched paragraphs and bullet points can look messy and off-putting to buyers. The tender review process can ensure that all formatting remains consistent and that your tender submissions are visually appealing to buyers.

So, hopefully now you know why tender reviews are an important aspect of the tendering process. Tender reviews can really allow you to ensure that your bid is the best it can be.

Bonus tips from our Bid Writers

Pricing…does cheaper mean better?

Do all buyers look for the cheapest price? Yes. And … No. The answer is in fact a little more complicated than a direct “yes” or “no.” In this section, I’ll be talking about why this is the case and doing some good old myth-busting regarding some common misconceptions surrounding the procurement and tendering process in the UK. If you’ve read any of our past blogs you will not be surprised that things are rarely so straightforward in public procurement.

In fact, one of our top bid writing tips is not to be put off by what you hear on the grapevine about public government tenders. These provide a great, sustainable and reliable source of income to help businesses manage their incomings and outgoings; accurately project cashflow; recruit and ultimately expand.

Pricing – what is it?

The pricing documents, in public procurement, is the buyer’s assessment of the schedule of rates or quotation that a supplier provides. Their fee for the delivery of the goods and services will be requested in the tender.

Pricing tip #1

The pricing can come in many manifestations and most tenders typically involve some form of pricing element whether this be:

  • Confirmation of adherence to a budget.
  • A quotation for the works in the form of a grand total.
  • A schedule of rates.
  • An hourly or daily fee for individual professionals. 

Yes, it is true that buyers will scrutinise pricing. Who wants to pay more than they have to for anything? Buyers want to make sure they are getting the absolute best value for money. And who can blame them? Price is a key factor in the evaluation of tender submissions, but it is important to understand it is not the only one. Instead, buyers look at a balance of price and quality and use proportionally weighted scores assigned to each element to ascertain the MEAT.

Pricing tip #2

Pricing is important but there are many instances where it is actually weighted as the smaller element in the evaluation. Hence, it is important not to overlook the quality aspect of your submission. Don’t just rush the quality, go in cheap and hope for the best – it rarely works!

Pricing tip #3

Buyers are, believe it or not, prepared to pay a little more money for a supplier in whom they have real confidence to deliver the contract. And the only way to instil this confidence in a buyer is to put together a truly cracking quality submission! If you’re needing a hand with the quality aspect of your bid, need a second pair of eyes, have questions, need guidance or need someone to take the whole writing, bid management and submission process off your hands altogether, contact us today. No matter your problems, queries or level of familiarity with the tendering process, Hudson Succeed have a service for you.

Every buyer has the right to make their own assessment of price and each is constrained by different regulations. It is true that in most cases the lowest priced tender will score the most points for the price aspect of a bid.

Top tips

Don’t get caught out with pricing. Make sure the rates/total/quotation you provide is as competitive as it can be. That’s where an effective pricing strategy comes in handy!

·       Mediate your pricing depending on where you are in the country

You can’t price for a job in rural Cumbria and expect to get away with charging London rates, for example. Hence, a top bid writing tip is to not only know your business but to know the area in which you will be delivering works and price accordingly. Do your research into the local area where you are bidding to deliver work. It might be tiresome, but it will help you price more accurately and appropriately, and, as my old Head of Sixth Form used to say, “nothing worth having is easy.”

·       Don’t assume

Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you price a job at an extremely low rate that you will win the contract. First of all, if you do win the contract you are beholden to deliver the works for that price, even if it might not be profitable for you. Second of all, buyers can smell sneakiness a mile off. Many tenders include clauses that allow buyers to reserve the right to reject tenders with abnormally low rates because of the corners that would need to be cut in terms of quality in order to realistically deliver the works for such a low rate.

·       Make use of your graduates and interns

Hiring them out for a job will not only provide valuable experience that they can thing bring back to the company but will allow you to charge a much lower daily rate.

·       Do your market research

If you can, find out what your competitors are charging for similar jobs, and price accordingly. It pays to do as much research as you can to make sure you don’t get a nasty surprise after the evaluation when you find out most of your competitors were cheaper.

·       Read the specification

It might seem like an obvious one, but it is vital to understand the particulars of the job at hand and price accordingly. Don’t make the mistake of not factoring in several important job considerations into your pricing such as travel costs, staff overheads and expenses and ultimately finding yourself out of pocket.

It depends on the type of tender

With tenders such as an RFQ, the buyer may simply choose to award the contract to the supplier with the lowest quotation/cheapest schedule of rates, outright. In an SQ, for example, pricing may not even be a factor, suppliers will instead have a list of minimum criteria to meet and if they do so, they’re through to the next round. It is important to make sure you are aware of what’s expected of you in terms of your submission and respond accordingly.

Don’t overlook quality

If there is a quality element present – never overlook it no matter how cheap your company might be. This is an assessment of the past experience, and technical and professional ability of prospective suppliers and might involve competency questions, questions on skills and qualifications, and scenario-based questions.

Top bid writing tip

Cheap does not necessarily mean effective. It is particularly important in the public sector for example, that public money spent on goods and services is spent effectively. Hence, it is generally regarded as more important for buyers to find competent suppliers with the most relevant skills, experience and qualifications than it is for them to find the cheapest quotation.

Whilst pricing effectively will help, this is no substitute for a robust quality aspect. If you’re struggling to showcase your skills, experience and ability to deliver in the way that you’d like to, contact our team at Hudson Succeed today for dedicated, one to one support to help you see success in your tendering and procurement efforts.

Of course, if a tender is scored on a 100% price basis, but still includes a quality aspect, you probably won’t need to exhaust yourself by spending all of your time writing detailed quality responses. Instead, in this example, you’d be best to focus on ensuring your pricing is as competitive as possible to maximise your chances of success. And vice versa. Generally, it is a myth that the cheapest supplier is guaranteed to win. There are numerous factors at play in the evaluation of tenders and it is always important to not completely disregard other aspects in favour of one.

Now let’s take a look at the commercial tender process

The commercial tender process is basically a trading agreement. Tenders are usually published by governments or private sector companies, asking for suppliers to bid for projects. The best tender is then awarded the contract by the buyer.

Procurement terminology can seem complex at first glance. There can be different names or abbreviations for the same process. For example, a PQQ and an SQ are essentially the same ‘pre-qualifying’ process.

Similarly, some might call the process of tendering simply a ‘tendering process’, but it could also be referred interchangeably as a:

  • Bidding process
  • Proposal
  • Procurement process
  • Commercial tender process.

If you’re finding it a bit confusing, don’t worry, you are not the only one! It can be hard to keep up. Hopefully, this blog will enable you to understand the terminology, abbreviations and commercial tender process in general, a bit more.

How many types of tendering procedures can there be?

Realistically, how many different types of tendering procedures can there be?

It might seem unnecessary to overly complicate the tendering process. However, with so many different types of contracts available, one size can’t fit all. There are a number of different processes within the commercial tender process. These include open, restricted, public and private tenders to name but a few.

Public sector tenders

The majority of commercial tendering opportunities are published by public sector departments. This is because the public sector must spend their money fairly and wisely. This enables a fair and level playing field that allows potential suppliers to tender for contracts.

Examples of public sector tenders include:

Contract: Implementation of a Community Engagement website – Hart District Council

Buyer: Hart District Council

Value: £20,000

Contract: User Experience and Design Capability

Buyer: NHS Test and Trace

Value: £1,100,000

Contract: Commercial Agreement for the Provision of Employment and Health Related Services (CAEHRS)

Buyer: Department for Work and Pensions

Value: £7,5000,000,000

Contract: Enfield Cluster Cleaning

Buyer: George Spicer Primary School

Value: £850,000

Contract: AOC Major Refurbishment Works at Hellesdon

Buyer: East of England Ambulance Service

Value: £175,000

Tendering for public sector contracts can be a prosperous avenue for generating income for many businesses.

The advantages of public sector tendering include:

  • Increased chances of finding a suitable tender due to the sheer volume of opportunities that are published.
  • Guaranteed pay due to the regulations that public sector organisations are bound by, such as the Prompt Payment Code.
  • An efficient way to build your portfolio and experience as you work your way up to delivering larger contracts.
  • Access to buyers that you may not ordinarily get to work with.
  • When social distancing is necessary, tendering is a way of generating new business without the need for face-to-face meetings.

Private sector tenders

Private sector tendering allows privately-owned organisations to choose the type of tendering process. This allows them to outsource goods or services that they need. They aren’t bound by the same regulations as the public sector. There are no rules preventing the business from choosing whichever supplier they want that meets their needs. They could pick one simply because they’re the cheapest, or they know them.

There are also fewer regulations in place regarding payment. Private organisations don’t have to publish their tendering opportunities. This can make it hard to find private tenders.

Open tendering procedure 

There are many different types of tendering procedures within the public sector, and open tendering is just one of them. It is used when the goods or services needed are considered to be “straightforward”. When an open tendering procedure is released, they’re allowing any business the opportunity to bid for their contract.

The process would look something like this:

Step 1: An ITT is released 

When their buyer releases their invitation to tender (ITT), any prospective supplier can respond. The ITT will be published in the public domain and interested parties can respond to the specification. Each supplier will be submitting tender responses that they believe sell their business.

Step 2: The contract is awarded 

After evaluating the bidder’s responses, the buyer will award the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT). The buyer will have placed an evaluation weighting on the prices quoted vs the quality of the written responses.

Of course, the buyer may choose to include steps such as site visits or requiring a presentation from potential suppliers. However, overall, the open tendering procedure allows any business to bid for the opportunity to deliver the contract.   

Restricted procedure 

A restricted procedure will be used by a buyer if they’re looking to acquire more complex services or goods. This will enable the buyers to shortlist the bidders ruling out any suppliers that don’t meet the necessary requirements. The bidder’s capabilities will be assessed before being invited to submit a final tender.

This type of tendering process could look like this:

Step 1: The buyer releases a PQQ

pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) would be released for interested businesses to complete. At this stage, anyone can fill out the questionnaire. It’s important to note that this stage could have a variety of names such as an SQ or PAS91. The PAS91 is the construction industry’s version of a PQQ but essentially, they all deliver the same result. The pre-qualifying questionnaire is designed to shortlist eligible suppliers. Here, you can expect to be asked for details of your:

Step 2: The ITT is issued to eligible businesses

Once the buyer has assessed the questionnaire responses, they will be able to shortlist eligible businesses for the tender contract. These companies would then receive their ITT documents.

Step 3: The contract is awarded 

After evaluating the ITT responses, the contract would be awarded to the most economically advantageous tender.

Competitive dialogue

A competitive dialogue is a type of tendering process that is used if buyers need more information about their solution. Sometimes, buyers will have identified a need for goods/services but they’re not sure of ins and outs. This process would look like this:

Step 1: A PQQ is published 

Buyers will ask interested suppliers to answer a pre-qualifying questionnaire in order to shortlist the eligible businesses. This is similar to the restricted procedure at this stage in the process.

Step 2: An invitation to participate in the dialogue

Once the buyer has shortlisted the eligible organisations, they will invite them to a competitive dialogue process. During this time, prospective suppliers can discuss aspects of the project and discuss solutions. The buyer can allow the dialogue to continue until solutions have been identified that meet their requirements. Essentially, this is an opportunity for the suppliers to influence the solutions being procured.

Step 3: Closing the dialogue and inviting tenders

When the buyer is satisfied with the proposed solutions, they will close the dialogue. Once closed, only limited further clarifications are permitted. The buyer will then issue the invitations to tender.

Step 4: Awarding the contract

In the same way as the above procedures, the buyer will evaluate the final tenders and award a supplier.

Negotiated tendering procedure

A negotiated tendering process does what it says on the tin. The process will follow these steps:

Step 1: A pre-qualifying process

In this type of tendering procedure, buyers will ask for a PQQ to be completed before the second stage.

Stage 2: Negotiation 

After the suitable suppliers have been shortlisted, they receive an invitation to negotiate. Unlike the above procedures, there are no clear rules as to how long the negotiations should take place. There is no formal end to the process before the contract is awarded. Sometimes, negotiations can continue after the preferred supplier is appointed. 

Innovation partnership

This type of tendering procedure was introduced in 2015. It’s used when the buyer has a need for a solution that isn’t currently available on the market. In this case, the buyer would need to work collaboratively with suppliers to develop the product or service. Then, they can procure the resulting supplies or works. In practice, this process usually works in the following way:

Step 1: Call for competition 

Using the innovation partnership procedure, any business may submit a request to participate in response to the call for competition. In order to help suppliers decide whether or not they can provide a solution, the buyer must:

  1. Identify their need for the goods/services that cannot be procured from the market currently.
  2. Indicate the minimum requirements that must be met by all bidders.

Step 2: Shortlisting 

Once the buyer receives the requests to participate from the interested parties, they can shortlist the bidders. The buyer must choose at least three suppliers to make the next phase a genuine competition.

Step 3: Developing the solution

The buyer will then enter into the development phase with the chosen bidders. The successive phases are typically well structured and after each phase the buyer may decide to either:

  • Terminate the innovation partnership, or
  • Reduce the number of chosen partners.

Step 4: Awarding 

Tenders must be awarded on the basis of the best price to quality ratio.

RFPs, RFQs and RFIs

During the commercial tendering process, you may be asked to submit an RFP, RFQ or even an RFI. Although they may sound similar, it’s important to understand the differences between them. 

RFP

An RFP is a request for proposal. This is asking for something very different than an RFQ (request for quotation). In our experience, different sectors may also favour different approaches to their requests. RFPs can typically be found within the technology, creative and construction industries. They are often a lot longer and more complex than RFQs and RFIs.

They usually incorporate the entirety of the project at hand. Companies will be required to complete long and complex answers. Therefore, becoming a successful RFP writer within the commercial tender process can be a challenge.

Some requests will often include a statement of work including all the tasks that are to be performed. This will need to include a specified timescale for completion of the project. You must ensure you understand the buying organisation and reflect this in your proposal. You also may be asked to include a specific format that the buyer is looking for. Including this will win you marks within your proposal.

RFQ

A request for quotation is a way for organisations and businesses to ask suppliers to provide them with a quote. This could consist of the cost of a particular item, a specific project, product or service. Buyers typically provide a list of services or products they require the costing for. Suppliers must respond accordingly to these quotes. Examples of industries that use RFQs are logistics and hospitality.

RFI

A request for information (RFI), usually consists of a document that’s sent out by buyers to gather information from potential suppliers. This can also be referred to as ‘Soft Market Testing’. It’s usually sent out in the early stages of development, allowing buyers to gather a pool of information regarding supplier capability. It enables them to better refine the buying and procurement process. You can think of it as the buyer having a need. You, as the supplier, are helping to define that need further.

An RFI can be asked for in a range of different industries such as technology, construction and facilities to name a few. Responding to RFIs can be a great way to get your foot in the door, helping shape the tendering process. Becoming a successful RFI writer is about showing you have the complete approaches to buyer’s solutions. It is not to be overlooked.

Why more businesses are turning to the commercial tender process

Impact of COVID-19

Since the pandemic, we have seen an increase in businesses turning to the commercial tendering process. In 2020, we worked with over 240 new clients. That’s almost one new client every day. The pandemic has changed the way a lot of organisations do business due to social distancing and working from home. Tendering for work usually doesn’t require face-to-face meetings, allowing new contracts to be won remotely.

Previously, many businesses relied heavily on networking and scheduling meetings with prospective clients. Thanks to lockdowns and social distancing these are not as reliable as they used to be for businesses. The commercial tender process is a great way for your business to grow and secure contracts in a safe way.

Increased security 

The commercial tendering process can allow both suppliers and buyers increased security. From the buyer’s perspective, eliminating single sources of supply offers greater security. This was particularly evident in 2020 when the government was attempting to quickly procure a large amount of PPE.

Enabling more local supply chains encourages a healthy competition which is perfect for innovation. It also removes the dependence on a single supplier should there be issues delivering their goods or services. It is safeguarding the supply chain from both ends. This is good news for SMEs as both the private and public sectors are increasing their business with SMEs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had an impact on SMEs. This is another reason why now is the perfect time to broaden your horizons into the commercial tendering process. It can help you secure a steady stream of work and has an array of advantages, such as:

·       Guaranteed pay (public sector)

If you secure a public sector contract, you will benefit from guaranteed pay. Unlike the private sector, public organisations are contractually bound to pay the awarded supplier.

Moreover, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) must comply with the Prompt Payment Code (2008). This means they must pay their contractors within 60-days of invoicing. If you’re a first-time winner, this is sure to give you peace of mind.

The UK government is actively looking to award contracts to SMEs. They’ve even got a specific target they’re aiming for. They are aiming to see at least £1 in £3 being spent with SMEs. This means there has never been a better time for SMEs to start branching into the commercial tender process.

·       Gain experience 

As mentioned above, public sector businesses are actively looking to award their contracts to smaller businesses. This is a great way to build up some experience. Now is the perfect time to get involved with the commercial tender process. If you’re lacking in experience, the tendering world is a great steppingstone to build your portfolio.

More experience enables you to progress and win larger contracts. This is because larger contracts will require relevant case studies that demonstrate your experience. The more experience you have, the greater wealth and bank of case studies you can draw upon. This allows you to demonstrate more relevant case studies to the specification at hand. Tendering for frameworks or dynamic purchasing systems (DPS) are effective ways of building up your experience.

Tips for succeeding during the tenders process

Here are some top tips from our own professional Bid Writers to help you see success during the tenders process.

·      Use case studies to back up your claims

As you can imagine, it is easier to believe someone when they have evidence to back up their claims. This is especially the case during the tenders process when you bid for work. The buyer wants to see examples of where you have successfully carried out similar work. This is a great way of building trust between you and the buyer.

It is also important to note that the examples you use MUST be RELEVANT. There is no point in including ones that don’t relate to the contract at all. All this does is give the buyer the impression that you don’t understand the contract well enough. In turn, they will have even less faith in you to complete the contract properly.

Ideally, you should aim to use three to five different examples. This is enough to show that you have conducted reliable services multiple times.

·      Never submit without proofreading and editing

As we have mentioned earlier, it is crucial to proofread and edit your bid proposal. Leaving errors and mistakes gives the impression that you are lazy and unprofessional. This is the last thing you want the buyer to think! Take the time to thoroughly go through your bid and ensure it is of the highest quality.

·      Make sure you answer the buyer’s questions

You need to ensure you answer the buyer’s questions. If you ramble and go off topic, this leaves a bad impression. It also makes it less engaging when the buyer is reviewing your bid proposal.

Being clear and concise is an excellent way of increasing your chances of success. The buyer will get the impression you know exactly what you’re talking about, and you cut out any nonsense.

·      Have your bid response designed by a professional (if applicable)

Sometimes during the tenders process, you won’t be given specifications for the design of the bid proposal. This means you get free rein of how your bid proposal looks. It is an excellent way to bolster your chances of standing out. Hire a graphic designer that can help you showcase your expertise in the best light!

·      Stick to the given wordcounts

Another way of showcasing your professionalism is by sticking to the given wordcounts. The buyer will usually specify how many words you can use to answer a question. Stay as close to this amount as possible. This way you are showing that you can follow instructions. Those that go excessively over or under the wordcount will drastically decrease their chances of success.

·      Consider your unique selling point (USP)

Showcasing your USP can certainly help you stand out. If you have something that sets you apart from other suppliers, the buyer will hold you in high regard. This may even be one of the biggest factors that helps you to secure the contract.

Our services 

Tender Writing

Once you’ve found the perfect bid for your business, send it our way. Our Bid Writers can take care of the whole thing for you; they’ll even submit it on your behalf. They’ll let you know what they need from you, providing you with a full Tender Writing breakdown. 

Tender Ready

 Our Tender Ready 4-week programme is perfect for businesses that have never tendered before. A Bid Writer will work with you to ensure you have everything in place to navigate the tendering process. They can also help you better understand the tendering process. Tender Ready offers your business:

  • A 12-month subscription to one Hudson Discover.
  • Access to Global Bid Directors and Senior Bidding Professionals.
  • An Organisation-wide Bid library, including 3 case studies, 5 CVs and policies.
  • Additional flexible benefits.

Tender Improvement

If you’ve been tendering but aren’t seeing success from your current efforts, our Tender Improvement package can help. Our Bid Team will assess your previous responses and tender documents. They will work with you to improve for future submissions. This package includes a 12-month subscription to a Hudson Discover portal and additional tendering development services.

Tender Mentor

If you’ve written your own tender response and need it double-checked for errors, Tender Mentor can help. A Bid Writer will proofread your work for any inconsistencies, grammar or spelling mistakes. They will also ensure it’s in line with the specification before you submit. This can help you formulate a winning submission.

Additional support

If you only need assistance with PQQs or SQs we can help. Send the information over to us and we can provide you with a quote for the work involved.

Finding different types of tendering opportunities 

Keeping track of all these different types of tendering opportunities can be a full-time job. That’s if you’re not using an efficient tracking process.

There are many tender tracking systems on the market to help you find tendering opportunities. But there is a fatal flaw in them. They rely on the accuracy of common procurement vocabulary (CPV) codes.

In theory, every buyer should categorise their tender with the correct CPV code. However, it’s too easy for them to be used incorrectly with so many floating around.

What does this mean in practice?

For example, a construction company could sign up and pay a tracking system to send them construction tender notifications. Instead, they could receive obscure notifications for the supply of baked beans or irrelevant tenders for website design.

Enter…Hudson Discover  

We conducted research into the use of CPV codes and found that a third of tenders are categorised incorrectly. To combat this, we made our own tender tracking portals.

Hudson Discover houses our 11, sector-specific tendering portals. Instead of relying on CPV codes, we use manual tracking. Our team of Opportunity Trackers sift through thousands of sources every day so that you don’t have to.

What opportunities can I expect from a tender search on a Hudson Discover portal?

We host all kinds of tenders in both the public and private sectors. These are inclusive of, but aren’t limited to:

Choose the portal that is best for your business then schedule a demo for a suitable time and day.

A subscription to one of our industry-specific portals will include:

  • Unlimited portal access. You can browse your industry’s portal to your heart’s content. See the hundreds of opportunities that are available, intuitively categorised, and easily accessible.
  • A daily email bulletin. When you sign up to a portal, you’ll receive an email alert when new tenders are uploaded.
  • A free 20-minute phone consultation with a Bid Writer. Our expert bid consultants will chat with you about anything tender related.

Discover Elite

Upgrading to Discover Elite can help optimise your tendering efforts – even when you’re busy. Our two new time-saving tools can improve your competitor awareness and success rate when bidding for a contract.

The Ultimate Time Saver package offers your business: 

  • A maximum of five tender breakdowns per month.
  • An annual subscription to a maximum of two Hudson Discover sector-specific portals. This option can help businesses that overlap two industries such as Healthcare and Technology, for example.
  • Pre-market and award 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 strategy.
  • Weekly phone calls with your dedicated Account Manager to discuss viable tendering opportunities.

The Become a Pre-Bid Master package also includes: 

  • All of the above.
  • Up to seven tender breakdowns per month.
  • Bid Strategy delivered by a Senior Bid Manager with a minimum of 5 years of experience. It will also be managed by our Global Bid Director.

Contact us to find out how we can help your business grow.

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

Vocal

Our support doesn’t end there! Our creative content agency, Vocal, are on hand to help.

The Vocal Team are not afraid to stand up and be heard. And we make sure our clients aren’t either! From small, micro businesses to large organisations, we are vocal about the things that make your business unique.

Our creative service is dedicated to growing your business through striking and thought-provoking content. Our team specialise in six areas, including:

If you’d like to know more about what we can do for your business, introduce yourself to the team!

Contact us today to find out more.

Further support with the tendering process

If you need further support with the tendering process, or writing winning bids, please contact our consultants for specialist advice. Alternatively, visit our free virtual learning environment, Tender VLE.

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