The Two-Stage Tendering Process

20th September 2019

Two-Stage Tendering – The Process Explained

Last updated: Dec 17, 2021 @ 10:50 am

“What’s involved?”

“Is it a difficult process?”

“What hurdles do we need to jump over?”

These are some of the key questions we get asked when speaking to people who don’t know much about tendering.

A lot of people just assume you respond to a tender and then you either win or you lose.

Not quite.

There are many stages when it comes to responding to tenders and in this insight feature, we are looking at the two-stage tendering process.

When is two-stage tendering used?

Two-stage tendering will most likely be used as a collaborative approach to a project. Both contractor and supplier can benefit from greater communications which can result in improved outcomes. Two-stage tendering is often used within the construction industry and is often a popular choice for both contractors and customers. It’s used if the design process would benefit from the technical input of a contractor in the later design stages.

The increased levels of communication involved with the two-stage tendering process can de-risk logistically challenging or highly technical projects. Although it’s more time consuming, only the preferred bidder is taken forward to the next stage.

The Process

The two-stage tendering process is one of many tendering procedures that are evident across the UK procurement landscape. Now that’s not to say that this is the only process in tendering, but it is a process that is utilised quite regularly with both private and public sector buyers within the UK, especially. This involves:

  • PQQ, SQ or PAS91 (depending on your industry)

This is either the pre-qualification or selection question stage. This is typically the first stage of a tender process and helps the buyer filter through organisations that are more suited to deliver upon their requirements and needs. Buyers will select a shortlisted number of suppliers to proceed onto the second stage.

Think of it like submitting a CV for your organisation, which details generic details of your business stature. Sometimes buyers might skip this stage altogether and go straight into the invitation to tender (ITT) route. You can find out more about this stage within the two-stage tendering process on our Tender VLE website.

If you’re in the construction industry, it’s likely that you’ll have come across the PAS91. The PAS91 is a more frequent player within the two-stage tendering process in construction. It’s been developed by the British Standards Institute to save companies from filling out multiple time-consuming PQQs. The PAS91 is a type of PQQ that’s slightly lengthier but has the same basic ‘what have you done’ approach.

There are two main benefits of the PAS91:

  • There’s one standard question set across different clients. This ensures you understand what information is required from you at the PQQ stage.
  • You can develop standardised responses to the ‘core’ questions. They can be used time and time again in response to any buyer using PAS91.

The PAS91 will save you time in the long run and it helps buyer identify suitably qualified contractors.

If your company has got a Constructionline certificate, then you will be automatically exempt from completing some of the PAS91. You may not have to fill out time-consuming questions on:

  • Quality management
  • Health and safety
  • Environment
  • Equality and diversity

As long as you have the appropriate policies and procedures in place, anyone can apply for Constructionline for construction contracts.

  • ITT

This is the invitation to tender stage. This is the second stage of this process and features a strong set of candidates for the contract or project at hand. Sometimes this number may vary, and you may be one of three suppliers or one of fifteen. This stage is usually focused on the most economically advantageous tender through a split of quality and cost.

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 responding to tenders for almost two decades. In that time, we have seen buyers ask for anything from 2,000 words to 50,000+. Don’t panic! It’s best to break it 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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

Keep asking yourself ‘how’ and ‘why’

When responding to the buyer’s questions, consider;

  1. How does what I’m saying positively impact the buyer?
  2. Why will my responses persuade the buyer to choose my organisation over my competitors?

Remember, you are not the only business tendering 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. 

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.

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, and;
  • Showcase impressive results.

Preparation for the two-stage tendering process

Now that you understand this two-stage tendering process with tenders, you need to make sure you’re prepared for this.

Some tips we can provide to ensure you have the basic tools in place to help you succeed in this process include:

Maintain a bid library

When embarking on the two-stage tendering process, it is important to have your house in order and all of your corporate literature developed as a bank to draw upon.

This is merely a way to help you keep organised and have the relevant documents at the ready for a wide range of SQs and ITTs, especially across the public sector.

We’ve provided a list available on our Tender VLE website of what documents we would recommend you maintain, as part of your Bid Library.

This list is something we use with our clients upon initial engagement to ensure that tendering is made easier and a lot of time isn’t taken up with sourcing information needed to proceed with the two-stage tendering process.

Get your accreditations in order

Are you finding that buyers are asking for certain accreditations to be had when you begin this process?

If so – get certified. It won’t only help you tender for work but allow your company to remain more reputable in general.

Look up certain industry-recognised certifications, along with general nationally-recognised ones such as ISO 9001. For the Construction sector (for example), this can feature ‘Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP)’ and includes CHAS, ConstructionLine, and SAFEContractor, to name a few.

Being accredited to a number of recognised memberships or certifications can definitely put you in good stead for your technical responses when it comes to the two-stage tendering process.

You can find out more information in our Accreditations video on Tender VLE.

Corporate Literature is established

This is one of the most important aspects of managing the two-stage tendering process.

With you maintaining a dedicated Bid Library, you need to start populating content in said library.

We encourage that you develop a bank of corporate literature which you can draw upon so you’re not having to start from scratch on each bid:

  • Case studies (around 5-10 should get you started)
  • CVs (definitely for your senior management team and key deliverers)
  • Policies (we have featured a range of policies you can implement on Tender VLE)
  • Boilerplate responses (this is technical and foundational content you can create, ready for tendering).

Social value

Social value is now an important aspect of the two-stage tendering process within the public sector. As of January 2021, social value now has a compulsory weighting of 10% when tendering for public organisations. This will be evaluated in your quality response and can have a weighting of up to 30% in some cases.

It has been introduced by government bodies to assess the social impact of suppliers when fulfilling a contract. It assesses the social, economic and environmental impact and benefits that a business can provide when delivering the contract.

Government departments will use the model to score potential suppliers when evaluating their tender responses. This means more value for money for the UK taxpayer. Below are some examples of social values a business could refer to within their response.

  • How your organisation supports COVID-19 recovery.
  • How you are creating new jobs and skills to tackle economic inequality.
  • The equal opportunity policies you implement to tackle climate change.
  • Charitable donations.
  • Creating opportunities to develop volunteering groups.
  • Creating skills and training opportunities.
  • Recruiting locally.
  • Promoting and supporting local businesses.
  • Paying the UK Living Wage.
  • Improving market diversity.
  • Creating training and employment opportunities for school children, young adults and the long-term unemployed.
  • Equal opportunity policies your business implements and adheres to.
  • Reducing waste and increasing waste recovery and recycling.

There is a focus on the implementation of the new model to derive the maximum social value from contracts. It’s worth putting the time and effort into figuring out the social value promises that your company can deliver. It is also worth doing some research on the client to see where they stand.

It’s important you at least have the basics tools as above to ensure success with the two-stages of tendering.

These were just a few of what’s needed to see success.

What are the benefits of two-stage tendering?

  • A possible earlier start on site.
  • Early involvement of the contractor
  • Buildability ensured
  • A collaborative approach which can deliver maximum value

Single-stage tendering

When is single-stage tendering used?

Single-stage tendering is seen as a rather traditional form of tendering procedure. Single-staged tendering is used to generate a firm price at the outset through a competitive tendering process.

An ITT is issued to a number of potential competing contractors. They’re all given the chance to bid for the project based on identical tender documentation. The buyer will traditionally set out their project requirements. Potential contractors will compete for the contract based on price. They are all given a set amount of time to for a response. By pricing so definitively early on can expose contractors to unwanted risks.

When it comes to single-stage tendering, our Hudson Succeed team are experts. We hold decades of experience in sourcing, writing and bid management of projects across a diverse range of sectors.

The bid team are well versed in the single-stage tendering process. We understand what it takes to ensure a tender response scores high marks against the specification. The Succeed team always write to win, boasting an impressive 87% bid success rate.

Today we sit down with our Succeed team, gaining an insight into their roles and understanding what makes a successful tender.

So who are the Bid Team?

The Hudson Succeed team’s primary objective is to secure contracts for our various clients by creating high-level responses to tenders/ITTs, submitting PQQsPAS91s and winning quality responses overall.

The wider division is made up of the following roles:

What does the team do?

 Daniel Hall – Head of Bid Management

Daniel heads our Hudson Succeed team – managing all incoming and ongoing tender submissions. Daniel leads client liaison across the Succeed division and is often the first point of contact for the majority of clients once their requirements have been established by our Hudson Discover Team. Dan’s role still enables him to practice his passion for writing, creating copious amounts of content for our clients.

“Having joined Hudson in January 2018, I am still presented with new and exciting challenges on a daily basis. Dealing with a wide variety of clients from a range of different industries can present challenges. However, having the support of the wider Hudson Succeed team alleviates these challenges.

I have worked with single-stage tendering for over half a decade now. I have gained vast experience in the tendering processes and an accurate understanding of what buyers look for within quality responses.

My top tip for creating winning tender submissions is to write effectively, in accordance with the buyer specification. It is important to not lose sight of the specification when creating your responses. This enables you to structure your response, ensuring that it actively reflects what the buyer is asking for.”

You can find out more from Daniel via the UK’s first FREE Virtual Learning Environment, all to do with tendering.

Alex Holt – Bid Writer

Alex works as an integral part of our bid team under the guidance of the Head of Bid Management. On a day to day basis, Alex liaises with clients, extracting information from them and informing them of our progress. Alex must effectively adapt his writing style dependant on the industry he is writing for. By doing so, he ensures each submission is completed to the highest quality, bespoke to the requirements of the specific buyer.

“Working across numerous different industries with multiple clients poses challenges to our bid team. I feel that effective, efficient and thorough communication with clients is vital in the creation of a successful response. We place their expertise in the best light on paper. 

In order to create industry-specific responses, we must facilitate the effective transferring of information between ourselves and the clients. Hudson’s procedure for client communications enables us to extract all the information we need and produce high-level responses. Since joining Hudson, I have found that the level of industry-specific references has raised the quality of my written responses and has broadened my understanding of business processes in key industries.”

Katherine Kane – Bid Writer 

Alongside the bid team, Katherine works with clients to produce responses which showcase them in the best possible light. Katherine ensures that our outputs are completed to the highest possible standard and within strict time frames posed by submission deadlines.

“My role at Hudson allows me to pursue my passion for creative writing and researching on a daily basis. Through working with clients across industry boundaries, I have built a bank of knowledge across a variety of interesting sectors. I have also gained insights into the inner workings of businesses and industries.  

When creating quality responses, I use simple and precise language so that the buyer can easily understand the key points. This ensures that my submissions are easy to read and easy to follow, making them accessible and engaging to tender evaluators.”

Jonathan Worthy – Bid Writer

Jonathan works alongside the Hudson Succeed team, producing high-level responses for our clients. Alleviating work from clients, Jonathan handles all elements of the single-stage tendering process. Jonathan works closely with a variety of clients in disciplines ranging from Building Surveying, Grounds Maintenance and Facilities Management companies.

“In the single-stage tendering process, it is important to plan out every aspect of the bid in order to guarantee enough time for each submission and mitigate the risk of missing a deadline. Therefore, when planning bid schedules, I always overcompensate time and have the tenders ready for submission ahead of the deadline.

I am thankful that, in the event of tight deadlines, I have a supportive team around me to help guarantee the submission in line with deadlines. The wider Succeed team are capable of jumping from industry to industry to help with pressing deadlines. This is of great help when managing numerous tight deadlines during busy periods.”

Olivia Backhouse – Bid Writer

Olivia works in tandem with the rest of the bid team to develop content for our broad range of clientele. Crafting persuasive tender responses for our clients, Olivia helps them to grow their businesses and operations through single-stage tendering.

“During my time with Hudson, I have found that thorough research is key to writing bids and winning quality responses. It is important that you have a firm grasp of the company that you are writing for, the industry and the bid before beginning your response. I tend to conduct research online and fill in any gaps through liaising with the client directly.

It is important to understand the values of the company you are writing for so that it reflects in your proposal and links to the values of the buyer. Evidence is a key driver within successful submissions as it proves your ability to fulfil the contract. Research must be conducted in order to uncover this evidence and develop your responses into winning ones.

Kathryn Johnson – Head of Creative

Kathryn works alongside our Hudson Succeed team. Ensuring that the responses are creative, high-quality and bespoke to our client’s branding is imperative. Design work is only required on certain tenders, but we encourage the use of design wherever possible. High-quality, branded proposals demonstrate to buyers the effort that has been put into the submission. Kathryn creates bespoke designs for our bid proposals, including:

  • Logos;
  • House Styles;
  • Branded Case Studies;
  • Content Pages

“Design is an important aspect of many submissions. Seen primarily in the creative and technology sectors, designed proposals allow the buyer to instantly recognise the company providing the proposal. As part of my role at Hudson, I am responsible for improving the visual appearance of many bid proposals. This task allows me to bring creative ideas and see them flourish into live brands for our clients. The bespoke designs we provide to our clients enhance their brand and image, enabling them to stand out to buyers. Therefore, I see tender design as an important aspect of proposal submission for any industry.”

You can find out more from Kathryn via the UK’s first FREE Virtual Learning Environment, all to do with tendering.

What can the Bid Team do for me?

To put it simply, the Hudson Succeed team can help your organisation to:

  • Win public tenders;
  • Enhance your operation;
  • Increase your turnover and business performance as a result.

Tendering can help your business expand by gaining guaranteed work over a set period of time and achieve regular income.

Get in touch today so we can help you with the two-stage process in tendering.

Book a free consultation

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