Criticism is often levelled at the public sector, for tender processes appearing to favour large corporations and/or the incumbent providers. Actually, the public sector welcome new businesses into the market as this creates more competition which benefits value and innovation. It is also recognised that smaller independent organisations can sometimes provide a better product/service, as they are typically more agile and responsive. However when evaluating and marking bids it was sometimes impossible to score some responses as compliant, because they didn’t evidence their ability with illustrations of a full understanding nor had realistic plans or timescales.
It is possible to provide sufficient evidence to get the scores necessary to win contracts even if you are new to an industry or expanding your current provision, but you have to do detailed research up-front and demonstrate that you have done this. You need to prepare your policies and procedures in advance including any training materials and infrastructure required.
When preparing for a tender response imagine you have the contract:
Responses that get zero scores include:
These fail because none of these answers assure the evaluators that you can actually do those things or how they will be done and what it will look like.
If you haven’t provided a type of service before but are familiar with the discipline and want to expand into that market, then set out your responses using what you already know but research and understand fully the total service required. Prepare as if you were already delivering the service or at least about to.
An example would be bidding to provide a call-out service for doctors/nurses/healthcare professionals. In addition to providing the healthcare professionals, a core business requirement is for a 24/7 call centre which can despatch the right kind of professional to the right place at the right time. Some tendering organisations/agencies could provide the staff to deliver the clinical services required with all the correct clinical knowledge and understanding. Their healthcare professionals would understand the qualifications and service delivery requirements including peer reviews, clinical governance and connecting the service with other agencies as required. However to deliver the whole contract this they would have to set up a call centre. It is not enough for them to respond in their tender with: “we would set up a call centre” or “we would utilise the reception duties to provide a call centre”. They would need to detail exactly what that would look like.
Their detail should include:
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that you have done your research and know what, when, how, and how much, at the time that you respond to a tender. In particular, the “how” is essential. It is never enough to say/list what you will do, you must describe in detail what that looks like and the process of doing it. Using words, paint a picture of the implementation and delivery so they can visualise your offering– this gives evaluator confidence in your capability, which in turn enables them to give you a higher score.
There is a great deal of work involved and some of it will involve up-front investment along with the cost of your time but you need to consider off-setting this against how much you want that contract and how it will contribute to the growth and expansion of your business.
Finally, if you are going to use the services of a company like Tender Victory then listen to their advice and act on it. If they say you need examples of training material or recruitment policies, then get them ready so they can be submitted with your bid not just referred to as something you will have in the future. Evidence of those new premises could mean the difference between a compliant and non-compliant score.”
I am often contacted by clients for business advice after they failed to win a tender or more worryingly have won the tender but then realise that they do not have the resources in place to successfully deliver it,! There is then a real danger that because of the lack of time invested in assessing the risk, that meeting the contractual tender requirements will cripple their cashflow and profitability and damage the delivery of their core business. I then work with the client in a ‘business turnaround’ mentoring role.
The following are my top tips to reduce the risk of this happening and to plan for successfully growing your business through tendering:
Considerations to work through when assessing a tender opportunity can include the following (any reference to competitors below refers to those companies you are likely to be bidding against for this contract):
In the above considerations, where we refer to mandatory criteria or scored, we seek to understand whether the requirement being specified constitutes a pass or fail (i.e. if you have it you pass, if you don’t, you fail the tender process at this point regardless of other answers/responses). For scored criteria, you should seek to understand how heavily this consideration is weighted in the evaluation process and what your potential score in this area might be.
In addition to those areas noted above, there are many other factors you can take into consideration when assessing a tender opportunity. For those tenders that you decide to bid for, using a carefully considered approach when tendering will help to inform your tender preparation and writing.
There are a number of ways in which you are able to find tenders that are suitable for your business to bid for. There are subscription services such as Tenders Direct, B2B Quote, and PublicTenders.Net in addition to free to access tender and contracts databases such as TED (Tenders European Daily) http://ted.europa.eu and Contracts Finder https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Search
Many of these tender sites and procurement portals will email alerts to you regarding forthcoming opportunities. We have compiled a directory of all the free-t0-register sites that we are aware of here in our eSourcing Directory
Once you have selected a tender opportunity that you wish to pursue, in the case of on-line tenders you will need to register with the relevant portal to express an interest to access the documentation. When registering with such portals, you are usually asked to select category codes against your areas of business. These category codes are then used to alert you of any future opportunities listed on the portal that match your area of business. Assuming you are correctly registered, alerts of new tenders and opportunities are emailed to you automatically from the portal(s) – meaning that you do not have to re-visit the sites to check on new opportunities.
If the product or service that you supply is relevant to a particular region, county or geographic area you can use portal registrations as a way of being automatically alerted to contracts in those specific areas. For example, registering with www.supplyingthesouthwest.org.uk (for Council’s in the South West) or www.qtegov.com (for authorities who are members of the NEPO, North East Purchasing Organisation) will enable you to receive alerts from the Councils and other authorities in these geographical areas.
You can also consider identifying your potential public sector customers by authority type, for example, Emergency Services, Council or NHS and registering with the e-tendering sites for those you would like to supply.
Identifying e-tendering portals by region covered or authority type in this way can enable you to receive tender alerts without having to pay a subscription fee to one of the independent tender subscription services.
At Tender Victory, we work with a range of clients in monitoring and pre-assessing their tender alerts. Some of our clients deliver services which are geographically restricted, others are able to work across the Country. For those that are restricted by location, we identify all of the authorities within their reach area that they would like to tender to. For the clients to whom we provide this monitoring and pre-assessment service, our monitoring of their tender alerts from e-tendering portals means that we need only contact our clients with tender opportunities that are right for them to pursue. Accordingly they do not need to be distracted by the many daily emails of opportunities that are just not relevant to them. This works very well for our client who needs to register in waste categories, but do not provide general or municipal waste services (for which there are lots of alerts!). Another example of where this works well is for a client who supplies the Police, but do not provide products relating to Police ICT (for which there are a number of alerts!).
One of the guiding principles that we work to at Tender Victory is that tender responses should be responsive to the buyers’ requirements. In the same manner, we also like our services to be responsive to our clients’ requirements. We have pages on our website which explain our standard service offerings, but in addition we often tailor how we deliver these to meet the requirements of our clients. Some clients like to mix and match our services so that we can assist them in a way which best suits their business.
We work with a wide variety of clients, most of them small businesses, but also some micro and medium sized organisations. The level of support that each business requires varies. Accordingly our service delivery is tailored to meet their individual business needs, as detailed in the examples below:
Client 1 has competent in-house resource to draft tender responses, but together we identified that on occasions their interpretation of the specification and the buyer’s requirements could be improved. For Client 1, we therefore provide a summary of the key points and objectives of the buyer’s specification and incorporate this into the writing plan that we develop for them. Our writing plan lists the key points that should be covered in each of the scored responses within their submission. By understanding the aims and objectives incorporated into the specification, we can ensure that these key areas are reflected in the writing plan for the responses.
After Client 1 has drafted their submission, we undertake a Review and Analysis of their submission and provide them with feedback on the draft and any additional areas for improvement.
Client 1 then finalises their response and submits.
Client 2 again has staff available that are competent at writing tender responses. However, due to the technically complex field in which they operate, it is often the case that the tender packs they receive contain lengthy and technically complex specifications, in addition to numerous instructions and terms and conditions. Client 2 therefore engages our services in more of a Bid Management role incorporating the following activities:
1. At the outset of a new tender, we digest the tender response instructions, key objectives, weightings and scoring criteria and provide a summary overview of them.
2. We work with the Client 2 to develop a project plan for the completion of each tender. We take into consideration:
3.We provide a review and analysis of the draft responses
4. We organise and prepare supporting documents
5. Lastly, we submit the tender response and associated documents
You will often find, when looking at the evaluation criteria of a tender, that meaningful evidence and examples are needed in order to achieve the higher scores. Understanding how to include evidence is your responses is therefore of utmost importance.
General statements within tender responses that don’t contain evidence expose the bidder to the risk of scoring low marks and ultimately losing the contract.
When preparing your response to a specific requirement, technical question or method statement, think about how your business is different to that of your competitors and how you want your response to stand out. Bidders often make the mistake of keeping their evidence short, thereby neglecting to include the more important elements. For example, when discussing the processes or procedures deployed or your approach to service delivery, don’t just pay lip service to them, go further and include details such as the following:
It is important to tell a story, albeit non-fictional!
Bidders sometimes assume that everyone on an evaluation panel is a subject matter expert, when often they are not. The panel typically consists of a subject matter expert (or two), an end user, and representation from procurement and/or finance. It is vitally important to ensure that your responses are meaningful, informative and that they inspire confidence in every member of the panel – not just those that are familiar with your industry.
Another area in which bidders often miss an opportunity is by merely stating ‘we are highly experienced in the provision of xx services”. This needs to be evidenced and quantified. In your response tell the panel:
In addition to the inclusion of relevant and meaningful evidence, the characteristics of a good tender include being:
These are all things that a buyer and the wider evaluation panel want to know.
One of our pet hates as buyers was reading irrelevant sales information –a bidder’s total global sales for the last financial year is all well and good, but unless a buyer has specifically asked for it or it is relevant, don’t include it, it will not attract additional/higher marks.
Finally, remember, cut the waffle/sales pitch, but ensure you sell your company, its attributes, ethos and experience – particularly where it mirrors the buyers aims and objectives. A buyer, and the organisation for which they work, are looking to partner/contract with a company they believe in and who have inspired confidence, so evidencing an end-to-end linear process or approach with meaningful detail is key.
How do you impress the buyers and evaluators with your submission? How do you write a clear document that reads well?
Buyers and evaluators have multiple submissions to read. How do you make yours as reader friendly as possible and stand out from the others?
We recently discussed these questions with Public Sector buyers and undertook a poll of their pet hates and the common pitfalls they witness in submissions they receive. They suggested that to keep the evaluation pabnel happy and in a positive frame of mind when scoring your submission, you should avoid the following:
These are all areas that the buyers we spoke to felt strongly about. Keeping them in a positive mindset when reading your documents can only benefit the scoring of your submission. Make it easy for them to score you well!
If you would like any help,assistance or guidance in writing or formatting your submissions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
You may or may not be aware, but the existing Bluelight eProcurement system is being migrated to a new supplier (EU Supply). Accordingly several of the UK Police and Emergency Service authorities have already begun to change over to this new supplier and are now using EU-Supply’s Bluelight to advertise tender opportunities, and manage their procurement processes.
EU Supply successfully won the contract for a new electronic tendering/procurement portal which replaces Bluelight (ProContract), previously facilitated by Due North.
There is no set timetable for the move of each Authority over to the new system (they have only stated that this will take place over the coming months), so we recommend that anyone with a registration with the existing ProContract Bluelight also registers with the new EU Supply Bluelight. By being registered with both you will be sure not to miss any future opportunities.
The new site can be found at the following link:
Please do get in touch with the Tender Victory team if we can assist with any general tendering and eprocurement queries. For any Bluelight specific queries, you should contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the 2nd of April 2014, a new classification system, the Government Security Classifications Policy, was implemented by the Cabinet Office. This has replaced the old Government Protective Marking Scheme (GPMS). This is applied to information held to ensure that the information is appropriately “labelled” as to the level of its sensitivity.
The new system is organised by the Cabinet Office and has been implemented throughout central and local government in addition to other organisations such as those providing electricity generation, oil and gas production, agriculture, health and the security services. The Government Security Classifications Policy is also used by private sector bodies who provide services to the public sector.
The Policy describes how the Government classifies its assets to ensure they are appropriately protected, as well as meeting the requirements of relevant legislation, international agreements and obligations. It applies to all information that the government collects, stores, processes or shares to deliver services and conduct business, including information received from or exchanged with external partners.
Security classifications indicate the sensitivity of information in terms of the likely impact resulting from compromise, loss or misuse, and the need to protect against applicable threats.
Information marked as Top secret is that which whose release is liable to cause considerable loss of life, international diplomatic incidents, or severely impact ongoing intelligence operations. Disclosure of such information is assumed to be above the threshold for Official Secrets Act prosecution.
This marking is used for information which needs protection against serious threats, and which could cause serious harm if comprised – such as threats to life, compromising major crime investigations, or harming international relations.
All routine public sector business, operations and services is treated as OFFICIAL. Many departments and agencies operate exclusively at this level. As of April 2014 the OFFICIAL classification replaces the Confidential, Restricted and Protect categories of the former Government Protective Marking Scheme.
The classification system operates within the framework of domestic law and includes, the Official Secrets Act 1989, Data Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Informatin Act 2000, and the Public Records Act 1967.
If you, or the organisation for which you work, is a service provider working with the public sector, it would be advisable to familiarise yourself with the new policy and wherever possible ensure shared documentation is aligned with and reflects the changes described. More information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-security-classifications
The European Commission, after extensive public consultation, has recently published its proposals for simplifying and modernising, public procurement. It is not expected that the proposals will become law in the UK before June or July 2014.
The changes will apply to procurements beginning after the date of implementation – and so are not being enforced retrospectively.
The following information details the proposed changes, some of which could be quite significant for public sector organisations and therefore impact suppliers tendering to the public sector.
Under the current regime, services contracts are split into ‘Part A’ (priority) services, which are fully regulated by the procurement regulations, and ‘Part B’ (residual) services, which can be procured using less formal means.
The new directive will abolish this distinction. Apart from certain low-value contracts relating to health and social services, all services contracts, which are over the financial thresholds, will need to be procured formally with an OJEU contract notice. This includes legal services.
The ability to submit contract notices online and to download tender documentation following publication of a notice will increase accessibility and streamline the tender process. Many public sector organisations already conduct their tenders in this way, but this should become more widespread.
The new rules are intended to encourage the engagement of smaller businesses through various initiatives. Currently very large contracts can, in many cases, only be handled by very large contractors. To help open up the market to SME’s there will be a new presumption that large contracts should be divided into lots when this makes sense.
When procuring contracts worth over €500,000, public authorities will have to explain why they consider that smaller lots are not appropriate.
Many SME’s operate as subcontractors to a main contractor. Recognising that the main contractor may not pay invoices as quickly as public authorities, the new rules will allow direct payments to subcontractors.
Other than in exceptional circumstances, contracting authorities will now no longer be able to specify a turnover of more than three times the contract value in a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).
Under the new rules, candidates will ‘self-certify’ that they meet the selection criteria at the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) stage, rather than needing to send in documents such as accounts. These can then be checked if the candidate makes it through to the end of the process.
The window for the open procedure will reduce to 35 days, and restricted procedure 30 days (PQQ) and 30 days (ITT).
A reformed negotiated procedure will become much more widely available, and is likely to be used for more complex procurements which are currently procured using the often unpopular competitive dialogue procedure.
The negotiated procedure is more flexible in its structure, but the new directive will impose safeguards to minimise breaches of the principle of equal treatment.
The open and restricted procedures remain however; contracting authorities will also be able to use two new procedures:
(i) the competitive procedure with negotiation (similar to the previous negotiated procedure); and
(ii) the innovative partnership procedure (where the market does not already offer viable procurement solutions).
Option (i) is distinct from the competitive dialogue procedure. Competitive dialogue will no longer be limited to complex procurements, again allowing a contracting authority greater choice.
A new ‘national procurement oversight body’ will be formed, which will be tasked with monitoring compliance with procurement rules.
For contracts with a value greater than €1m (€10m for works), a full copy of the contract must be available for viewing by the public. This is of particular impact on registered providers as they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It will therefore become vital to ensure that any commercially sensitive or confidential aspects of contracts are appropriately flagged to the oversight body.
Please find to follow a link to the Cabinet Office’s Procurement Policy Note on the new thresholds which apply from January 2014: