This blog has kindly been provided by a public sector buyer to help businesses understand the importance of the inclusion of evidence in their tender responses – and also how to include such evidence…
“I worked for 13 years as a procurement officer in the public sector and during that time managed numerous tender processes and associated evaluations. Whilst in the role I came across many companies/organisations tendering to deliver goods/services that were either an addition to what they were already doing or would be an expansion into a new area of work. These bids often failed due to the absence of sufficient evidence of the tendering organisation’s ability to deliver the goods/services.
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:
- What needs to be done in preparation?
- What would you do in the first few weeks?
- What steps would you take to get things up and running?
- If this includes new premises, staff, production equipment etc. have some actual options ready with costs to prove that you have looked into it and spoken with people as this evidences that it is possible.
Responses that get zero scores include:
- “we would rent premises in your area”
- “we would hire extra staff to take on the new work”
- “we would train personnel”
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:
- How many staff the call centre would use on a rotational basis in order to provide the 24/7 service?
- Information on the premises? Where, what size, the infrastructure, the guarantee from the owner/agent that they are yours to use?
- Who are the staff? Will they be seconded from another section of the business and if so has this been discussed with the individuals?
- If staff need recruiting, do you have a contract/agreement with an agency to help you? What are the realistic timescales for getting staff into place and properly trained? Provide enough detail so that the evaluators know that you understand implementation, any obstacles and are being realistic.
- What is the training that will be provided? Is this already written and ready for delivery? Provide evidence of what the training will be and then those scoring the tenders can see that it is relevant, up to date and adequate for what is required.
- If you need extra machinery/plant/transport to deliver a service, has this already been sourced with costs and timelines for readiness?
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.”