How To Win Bids and Tenders

Wondering how to go about winning bids and tenders? Writing first-class bids isn’t an exact science – but at Win That Bid, we’ve got the expertise to help you secure your dream contracts with ease.

Top Ten Tips for Winning Tenders

1.    Be thorough: answer every question in the bid document – missing out a couple of vital questions can lose you the entire bid.

2.    Know your marketplace (competitors & pricing): spend time researching your competitors and understand their pricing prior to the bid writing process.

3.    Appeal to your reader: offer persuasive, benefit-led responses and think about the customer – what’s important to them? What are they looking for in their supplier?  Don’t simply provide a list of features – if you want to win tenders, take your responses one step further and state the benefits.

4.    Have a model: build a library of standard PQQ and tender responses – save documents such as insurance certificates, policies and yearly accounts in one place that is easily accessible by others in the company.

5.    Outdo yourself: don’t leave your tender until the last minute – make sure that you have dedicated ample time and resources to produce the best possible result. If you can’t submit your best effort for this bid, why you are submitting at all?

6.    Be decisive: make a conscious decision to bid – if you are tendering ‘just because’, this is not the recipe for a winning bid.

7.    Discriminate: can you deliver this tender? Do you want to win this bid? If you win, what will happen to your other contracts? Make sure you’re bidding for business you really want.

8.    Understand the bid requirements – and adhere to them.

9.    Know your audience: read the bid evaluation criteria – what’s most important to the customer?

10.  Be proactive: engage with the customer – being invited to bid is a compliment, and likely to put your submission in a stronger position than a cold response.

 

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Winning Over the Public (Sector)

The public sector is a highly diverse industry, where tendering rarely fits into a predefined box. The range of tenders is as varied and wide as the different public sector organisations themselves. However, there are a few common factors to consider when aiming for public sector contracts. The multi-billion pound public sector industry is experiencing a period of growth with government backing, meaning that your business can stand to seriously benefit from a slice of the public sector pie.

Public Sector

 

Parallel Thinking

Public sector industries tend to be under a great deal of social scrutiny, particularly when it comes to environmental factors or legislative considerations which are ingrained in the public sector, such as health and safety. It is essential in public sector tendering that your bid highlights your strengths in these areas, and that you share the same core values which are of importance to the client.

A strong organisational fit between the client and contractor is vital, especially during evaluation stages. The contractor’s ability to work well and integrate with the client’s approach can have a strong influence on the ultimate success of the bid.

MEAT

Although the bottom line price will always play a significant role in bidding success, it should not be confused with value. Public sector organisations are under a magnifying glass of scrutiny, and rightfully, must justify spending taxpayer’s money. By stipulating MEAT as the goal in selecting a contractor, public sector clients can navigate around being forced to accept the lowest price in favour of inferior work. MEAT stands for Most Economically Advantageous Tender and essentially translates to value for money. When it comes to big contracts, it’s not how much the client wants to spend that counts, but what they can successfully achieve with their budget.

It goes without saying that the contract should be equally economically viable for the contractor – and projects should always be realistically deliverable and profitable first and foremost.

Backup

Public sector contracts tend to be high value, large scale projects, and with big investment comes big asks. It’s essential that you can demonstrate relevant experience, describing the skills of the people attached to the project. From senior management through to the operations team on the ground, the bid should effectively demonstrate what you are bringing to the table and the added value that comes with your team.
At the end of the day, the highest scoring bid wins the tender, and at Win That Bid, we’re all about winning – it’s what we do best. As the UK’s biggest bid writing and tender process specialists, our experts have extensive experience in construction and civil engineering projects in both public and private sector work. Our bid management team can guide you through all stages of the process, from initial tender selection right through to the final bid presentation. Get in touch for more information by calling 020 3405 1850 – and visit our site to learn more about our bid services.

Nailing Down Construction Contracts

Construction Contracts

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has recently stated that The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) for the next 20 years will include an investment of £375bn in construction and civil engineering projects. In addition, the insurance industry also plans to spend £25bn over the next five years.

Tendering for the projects included in this investment will be fierce and winning the contracts will go beyond merely attempting to undercut the competition with price. The successful bids will deliver a proposal that highlights how your organisation can offer the best solution, inspiring confidence that you can deliver on budget and to programme, with innovative and sustainable solutions.

Stand Out From The Crowd

When attempting to bid for contracts within an industry as competitive as construction, it’s essential to differentiate from the competition to ensure that your bid stands out. By examining the core competencies of your business and its competitors, Win that Bid can identify, develop and isolate the key reasons why your business is better than the rest.

It’s All In The Details

In order to maximise your success rate on the bids your company decides to submit, it is essential to examine the requirements, and ensure that each question and its required detail is addressed. From the initial planning through to the drafting and review of each response, a detailed Bid Management Plan is a key element of a successful proposal document. The Plan will assist in mapping out your plan to meet the client’s needs, and will also functions as a visual demonstration to the client that all of their requirements have been met.

To be successful with your bids, being thorough is non-negotiable as it is very easy to miss vital elements of a question. However, bids do not always arrive at the right time from clients. You could be busy with current contracts, have insufficient resources or just not enough time, but if it is a targeted bid, you still need to complete the documents professionally Win That Bid specialise in giving businesses the resources and extra capacity to get a winning proposal put together in time.

Match Your Capabilities

It’s important to remember that the bidding process is a two-way street and, as much as a client may get to choose which company to employ to develop their project; the client must also be a good fit for your business. Whilst it is wise to focus your efforts on bidding for contracts that concentrate on your strengths, it is tempting to try and diversify your portfolio. It is important to select the right schemes to avoid wasting your time and potentially leave you with less business.

At Win That Bid, our APMP qualified team are experts in the bidding process and our Project Intelligence team identify projects that are an ideal fit for our clients. With extensive experience in construction and civil engineering projects, we can help your company secure your next construction contract and benefit from the significant planned investment.. As the UK’s biggest bid writing and tender process specialists, our experts can prepare and write proposals that are proven to win contracts for both UK and international projects. Get in touch for more information by calling 020 3405 1850 – and visit our site to learn more about our bid services.

Qatar – Should Your Business be There?

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Until the award of the 2022 World Cup, few people had heard of Qatar, now construction opportunities are abound.

With a population of just 2 million, a landmass the size of Wales and vast oil and gas reserves, the country has the highest per capita GDP in the world. This new found wealth has brought with it an appreciation that energy is finite, and as a result, the government has extensive development plans for the country and need help to achieve its vision:

“By 2030, Qatar aims to be an advanced society capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for all of its people. Qatar’s National Vision defines the long- term outcomes for the country and provides a framework within which national strategies and implementation plans can be developed.”

Qatar’s future is dependent on successfully establishing itself as a centre of excellence in areas such as education, medicine and sport. The investment in infrastructure has commenced (to the tune of $220 billion).

Unsurprisingly, British and international businesses are arriving in their droves to invest, build, advise and deliver construction projects.

Outside of the energy sector, the largest tenders to be found are in construction (hotels, stadiums, accommodation, offices, schools, universities and shopping malls), transport (highways, railways, port expansion, new airport) and utilities.  Companies looking to capitalise on this growth need to review the opportunities that this exciting new market has to offer. Win That Bid opened its Doha offices in 2013 and is ready help you achieve this.

Laying the procurement pipeline

New information has emerged from the Cabinet Office describing the £84bn ‘procurement pipeline’ planned for the next five years. Covering 18 business sectors, the pipeline lays out the government’s anticipated project needs over the next few years. Notices of this kind have been published since November 2011; the most recent announcement adds professional services, financial services, waste management, and fire services.

The government’s goal is to make it easier for companies to plan ahead, something that has traditionally been difficult for organisations working with the public sector. Skills gaps can be identified and dealt with earlier. Moreover, it is evidence of a laudable transparency in government spending that can only help improve processes and efficiency.

Back in April business secretary Vince Cable laid out the reasoning behind these plans. “Frankly, we’ve been too short-term in how we’ve done procurement in the past. Our key competitors in Europe already see procurement as an integral part of a proper industrial strategy and it’s time we did the same.” Recent procurement scandals and political rows have made it difficult for the government to prove it has any kind of industrial policy at all, and rather overshadowed the wave of initiatives, ideas and proposals streaming out of the cabinet office.

This initiative comes at a time when many businesses reliant on government contracts (especially those devoted to major infrastructure projects) are struggling. Construction giant Balfour Beatty recently issued a profit warning based on a dearth of major schemes, while a former Laing O’Rourke executive recently told the press that lack of infrastructure investment and planning in the UK would lead his ambitions elsewhere. Infrastructure schemes have fallen by half in the year to October, while £3bn of construction work is behind schedule or even entirely halted as a result of planning appeals. Friends and colleagues in the construction sector have sitting around waiting for suitable bids to emerge.

The Pipeline can give companies time to plan ahead which they might not have had before. Win that Bid’s vast experience in a number of sectors can help you make best use of that time, to be ready to grab the opportunities ahead.

Virgin Rail and the right to challenge

The origins of the Virgin Rail scandal last month rapidly became lost in the recrimination and blame, as the Department for Transport attempt to apportion culpability and pundits discuss the role and capabilities of the civil service. When self-styled “tie-wearing adventurer” Richard Branson launched his legal challenge to the West Coast franchise decision two months ago, it was widely regarded as a knee-jerk, even ill-considered action of a man known for scrappy battles on behalf of his business.

The DfT was due to award a long term franchise to FirstGroup until “significant technical flaws” became evident during their preparations for the Virgin lawsuit. These flaws became evident in the risk assessments of First’s winning bid.

Virgin faced substantial risks in mounting a challenge to the DfT. Some of these risks were revealed in the initial media coverage of the challenge that portrayed Richard Branson as an opportunist and a sore loser (not helped by Virgin Rail’s relatively poor public reputation). If the legal case had failed Virgin’s commercial reputation (and finances) would have suffered.

They had a number of options, all of them risky:

Under Public Procurement law Virgin could mount a formal challenge. To do this they would have to allege that the contracting authority has run the process in an unfair or opaque manner. If they were successful in this, the contract award would have to be suspended while the issue is resolved – allowing more time to discover exactly what happened (and why they lost).

Their second option would be a judicial review. They would need to show a public interest in such an action – easily achieved, given the political climate – but the latter stage would be more difficult. Virgin would essentially have to prove that no reasonable authority would have made the contract decision. Before the events of last month, this was considered unlikely to happen.

In the event, Virgin were able to prove that large parts of the process was flawed. The DfT has spent the last few weeks apportioning blame, mainly directing it at the civil servants involved. In turn, there has been a lot of scrutiny directed at the structure of the procurement process –

A great many qualified professionals have been lured out the public sector by higher wages in recent months, and this, combined with poor systems of review, greatly contributed to the fiasco. We have been discussing government initiatives on this blog for months – all of them seem doomed to failure if the Civil Service can’t do something to arrest the skills gap in government procurement.

Richard Branson’s decision to challenge has been vindicated. The DfT has ordered a number of independent reviews and Virgin has been awarded a short term contract under circumstances that some rivals claim were actively uncompetitive (there should have been a tender for the contract extension). Since the fiasco Virgin has changed strategy dramatically, aiming to expand its market share into the East Coast lines that GNER and National Express mismanaged back into government hands three years ago (under contracts similar to the one offered to FirstGroup). They will likely also retain the West Coast franchise in the long term, if they can see off competition from Abellio.

Virgin Rail weighed up the risks inherent in challenging the bid and made the strategic decision to do. Meanwhile, we’ve been noticing that numerous tenders are having their deadlines put back – maybe as a result of jumpy procurement officials? Win that Bid can help you weigh up the risks in your own bids, and comprehend the contracting authority.

Paying attention to EU procurement rules so you don’t have to

The Cabinet Office has released a Procurement Policy Note (PPN) discussing the latest results of negotiations in Brussels about changing the procurement rules which ultimately define public sector tenders. These EU rules can be a bit obscure and so it is interesting to get a window into the process and progress of these discussions.

There are a few specific areas of interest to bid writers within the document.

Reducing minimum timescales

The government has supported proposals to reduce the minimum timescales for responding to advertised procurements and preparing tender documents. So far a reduction from 40 to 35 days has been agreed upon, under the open procedure.

Increasing the use of self-declarations

Regular readers of this blog will have seen several articles about government initiatives (not to mention scandals and complaints from business) surrounding the length and requirements of public sector tender PQQ documents. The latest response is to increase the use of self-declarations, whereby only the winning bidder must submit documents and certificates proving their status, while self-declarations of compliance must be accepted by the procurement officers up to that point. This will be a welcome change for SMEs and smaller bidders, if it isn’t open to abuse.

Financial Requirements for SMEs

The Cabinet Office has continued to argue that SME business should be encouraged by breaking large bids into lots, at the discretion of the purchasing authority. It also wants to reduce the turnover requirements relative to contract size. Together with proposals in favour of “innovative public service delivery-agents” such as employee owned “mutual”, these are further moves in favour of diversifying the pool of bidders from which governments and public sector purchasing authorities draw their contracts.

The final results of these discussions will probably be adopted in early 2013. Win that Bid can help bid writers keep up to date with the latest public sector tender developments.

Could the G4S security contract have worked?

Last week Win that Bid published a blog quoting a director from G4S as he proclaimed the rise of police privatisation. I wasn’t entirely positive about the prospect… and even as it went live on the site G4S became embroiled in a massive contract scandal reported across the world, destroying their share price.

There has been lots of press coverage about the company’s failures, but what about the contract itself? Could they have succeeded in meeting it at all?

There were warning signs last September, when the firm reported that it would not be able to recruit more than guards than it was originally contracted for without a great deal of prior warning. The Home Office then took four months to confirm what it actually needed (far more than the contract called for, naturally). All security staff have to be centrally vetted and licensed through the Security Industry Authority (SIA) before they can be deployed, drastically slowing down their recruitment process. There seems to have been an awful lack of clarity about the pricing structure of the tender contract, which allowed the Olympic Sponsors to add more and more requirements to the contract. G4S simply couldn’t provide the resources asked for, and didn’t communicate that very well.

This raises a second issue with the contract: there was no provision for outsourcing. The authorities wanted to hand the entire £200 million contract to a single security company. This created problems for G4S and seems like a wasted opportunity; Win that Bid has worked with plenty of qualified security companies in London. Many of them were very interested in pursuing Olympic security contracts and were disappointed to find that there were no opportunities for them do so, either because of the sheer scale of the contract or because they were vulnerable to changes in the tender contract. The tender contract isolated G4S; before taking the contract they should have considered their contingency plans in the event the requirements changed, as they usually do in contracts this large and politicised.

Based on these facts, G4S certainly appears to have a strong case to complain about the government’s conduct in this contract. It hasn’t taken that opportunity. Possibly, it simply doesn’t want to jeopardise the security contracts it already has with the government. The political climate and the scale of the bid certainly left G4S in a very poor negotiating position; something that any company should consider before bidding for a tender.

A company trying to win any bid, let alone a security contract, should make sure they plan for contingencies. G4S weren’t prepared for big changes in the contract, and have paid for it.

How will the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 change your bid?

There have been some recent changes in the way that public bodies can take social considerations into account when procuring public contracts. The new Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 aims to clarify the issue a bit.

The Act (applied to public service contracts) creates a statutory requirement for public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts and for connected purposes. However, the Act also states that these decisions must also be directly relevant to what is being produced in the first place. This is roughly equivalent to what the EU procurement regime already allowed for.

From the bid writer’s point of view, the main thing is to look at where the question of Social Value will come up in the tender writing process:

Before the public sector tender is issued: the contracting authority will try to identify non-commercial, social value considerations before they commence the procurement process. This will have a big impact on the technical specifications of the project that a bid writer should take into account.

In the terms of the Contract: if the contracting authority does decide it wants to place emphasis on a particular social need, it might include “special” conditions.

The selection stage: the contracting authority could well reject applicants who don’t meet the non-commercial needs of the contract. Bid writers should make sure that their bid meets those requirement.  For instance, the contracting authority might want to fulfil an environmental consideration and choose a company with a proven record in that area.

The Act states that the selection criteria must be non-discriminatory, proportionate and linked to the subject matter.

Need help writing a public sector tender? Contact one of our team today on 0203405 1850 and we can help.

Police privatisation: an arresting opportunity?

David Taylor-Smith of the security company G4S recently grabbed headlines by stating that private companies will be running large parts of the UK’s police service within five years. His statements were supported by news that at least 10 police forces are considering outsourcing parts of their service to the private sector in response to funding shortfalls brought on by government cuts.

Taylor-Smith’s statements simply focused minds on a trend already causing consternation among many observers. The American experience in privatised law enforcement has been riddled by stories of corruption, genuinely horrible scandals and enormous pork barrel spending at taxpayer’s expense. And while people laugh at the classic Fry and Laurie sketch from decades ago, areas of London have already reverted to the Victorian situation of overlapping private spaces patrolled by company personnel, disrupting police response times and creating some disturbing civil rights issues. If frontline police services are privatised, precedent suggests that most of those tender contracts will go to established firms with extensive backroom contacts.

Not all of the requirements being investigated by the police are so controversial. Managing the vehicle fleet, providing legal support and even helping victims and witnesses; these opportunities for bid writers are all less likely to be delayed or prevented by political clashes.  Existing companies experienced in public sector tenders for maintenance, human resources or social care could find important roles within the police force.

Bid writers looking to win public sector tenders in the police force must be aware of how politicised the process could potentially become.  Consider the image of the company and be ready to discuss issues of social value during the bidding process. The stated goal of the outsourcing deals is to reduce costs; bid writers will encounter procurers who hope they can reduce their overheads while improving levels of service at the same time.

As more information about potential police tender opportunities becomes available, companies should carefully consider their options. Win that Bid can help bid writers, both in putting together an appropriate tender document, but also in deciding whether an apparently lucrative policing tender contract is going become a dangerous albatross in the long term.