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.

 

Need some help winning that dream contract?

Call us today to discuss how we can help you win more business

OJEU opportunities: 2014 Thresholds & Limits

Proposal writers may have noticed that on the 1st January 2014 the EU published new public procurement financial thresholds. These will apply to all award procedures under the public contracts regulations 2006. With these recent changes, now is a good time to look at what the financial thresholds are and what they mean for proposal writers looking for opportunities.

The UK thresholds for public sector tenders under the latest regulations are:

  • Supply/Service contracts awarded by central government- £111,676.
  • Supply/Service contracts awarded by other contracting authorities – £172,514.
  • Works contracts – £4,322,012.

If the contracting authority wishes to enter into multiple contracts to fulfil the same requirement, then the value of those contracts will be aggregated together to decide whether it crosses the threshold. The rules are very specific about this: when offering public sector tenders contracting authorities must not enter into separate contracts below the thresholds in order to avoid having to apply the regulations.

If the value of a tender exceeds these values then it must be listed in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), which is a major source of public sector tenders for proposal writers. The OJEU is a very good resource for anyone looking for tender opportunities. Win that Bid can help you navigate through these complicated procedures.

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.

Did your Win Theme get bronze, silver or gold?

The client has a problem that it can’t solve itself. So it submits an invitation to tender (ITT) in order to discover the best available solution to that problem. In order to attract the client’s attention, a bid writer needs to have the most compelling solution to that problem, and that should all be encapsulated in the Win Theme which needs to run through the entire bid proposal.

Brainstorm the problem

If you are having trouble coming up with a win theme, consider the client. Is it a public sector tender or for a private company?

  • What does the client want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What are the client’s priorities?
  • What are the client’s long term goals?
  • What worries the client?
  • What skills or products do I have that can answer those questions for the client?

Focus on the client

The client’s problem isn’t going to be solved by a detailed description of your company, its history and achievements, or even the quality of your general services. It needs a specific solution, which your bid writer’s win theme should address. Is there one primary focus – cost, regulatory compliance, innovation?

What can you offer the client that beats your competitors?

Make it the theme of your bid proposal

Once you’ve decided on a win theme, weave it through your document – not just the executive summary. Your bid writers should emphasise how your technical solutions reflect the theme. Highlight how your solution will allow the client to meet the goals you have identified.

If you or your bid writers are having trouble finding a compelling win theme, Win that Bid can help you find the answer!

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.

Qualifying the Bid

The G4S debacle we discussed in the last post raised a big issue for bid writers: how to qualify your bid. Is that astonishing £300 million tender opportunity going to turn into a real disaster for your company? Less melodramatically, are your bid writers going to waste weeks of sleepless nights filling out PQQs trying to win a bid you weren’t ever going to win?

Don’t go for every bid

Setting aside an apparent opportunity isn’t the same as wasting one. Trying to win a tender opportunity means putting in an enormous investment in time and energy. Much better to put that effort into a quality proposal than spreading it across dozens of failed prospects.

Before you choose which bids to aim for, read the tender contracts in detail and consider:

  • Are you qualified for the bid? Do you have the right accreditation, the right resources, the right documentation to get through the PQQ? More to the point, can you demonstrate that to the procurer?
  • Is the bid right for your business? Can you demonstrate prior work for clients in the same sector?
  • Do you understand the bid requirements? That unclear pricing structure could really hurt you after the contract is won, as happened to G4S!
  • Who is the buyer? Do you have a relationship with them? Will you be able to establish a dialogue with them? Will they ask you to provide five times the number of personnel you were contracted for at the last minute, and do you have contingency plans if they do?
  • Who are your competitors? Can your bid writers demonstrate why it is that your company will be a better choice?

Get some sleep!

The answers to those questions aren’t always as obvious as they sound, particularly in tender contracts with long or arcane PQQs. Win that Bid has a lot of experience in helping people to get those winning contracts, but also in avoiding two of the great curses of bid writing: wasting time on failed bids, or winning bids that the company was never suitable for in the first place.

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.

New tender opportunities in Defence?

The Defence white paper released on 1st February 2012 has some important news for bid writers. Notably, it raises the possibility that the MOD will be procuring from a much wider range of sources than they had been previously. The paper states:

“Wherever possible, we will seek to fulfil the UK’s defence and security requirements through open competition in the domestic and global market, buying off-the-shelf where appropriate”

It is debatable how far this aim will be met. It will meet resistance from both vested interests in the defence industry and a number of powerful arguments about the practicalities of defending the nation using equipment sourced from outside. This makes it difficult for bid writers to predict exactly how MOD tenders will work in the future.

The MOD has made some more concrete initiatives of interest to bid writers. The threshold for advertising tendering opportunities has been reduced by 75% to £10,000 and they can now be found on Contracts Finder. Internal guidelines are being changed to ensure that PQQs produced by SMEs are not rejected on the basis of rigid turnover-to-contract value ratios without proper assessment of companies’ actual capacity and potential. This, along with the new Defence Suppliers Forum might present new tendering opportunities for bid writers in the future.

New procurement rules in Scotland

The Sustainable Procurement Bill passing through the Scottish Parliament aims to open up new public sector opportunities by making the public sector tender process more standardised and transparent.

Complaints in the construction industry were a major driving force behind this bill. Industry leaders have been complaining that the existing construction tender rules were unfit for purpose and exacerbating the decline of the sector.

The Scottish government claims that the Sustainable Procurement Bill would ensure that:

  • contract opportunities are advertised or awarded through Public Contracts Scotland;
  • public bodies adopt streamlined procurement processes friendly to Scottish businesses;
  • smaller and medium companies have more opportunities to win public sector tenders.

Alex Neil (MSP) also emphasised that community benefit clauses will be an important part of the new procurement rules. He stated that the “bill will seek to ensure that major public contracts deliver training and employment opportunities”.

If it passes this bill will obviously offer advantages to Scottish businesses aiming for construction tenders. However, the simpler public sector tender processes ought to make it easier for other companies as well, especially those that emphasise their CSR and training programmes.

Knocked out at PQQ stage? Learn how to get feedback

Writing a tender for the vast majority of public tender contracts in the UK will involve filling out a PQQ. There are plenty of suppliers eager to fill those tender contracts and so the contracting authorities use them to keep the number of tenders they look at manageable. This can raise problems for suppliers that we’ve discussed before.

However, even if you do provide everything requested by the PQQ , it’s still possible to get knocked out at this early stage. It isn’t always easy to find out why you’ve missed out on a contract at the tender stage, let alone the PQQs.  For this reason it is important to know what the regulations are.

Regular 29A of the Public Contracts (Amendment) Regulations 2009 states that a contracting authority must notify an applicant of exclusion from the process. Regulation 32 then clarifies that the contracting authority must provide reasons for this decision, including details of why successful candidates progressed.

It is important to ascertain what went wrong in a failed PQQ so you can use that information the next time you find yourself writing a tender. Win that Bid can help you analyse the feedback you received and help you seize the next opportunity.