Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is a tender?
A tender is a formal process through which companies or public sector bodies purchase goods and services. There are many variations of what the process is called, for example “Invitation to Tender” (ITT) , “Request for Proposals” (RFP), “Invitation to Negotiate”(ITN). The degree of formality is determined by the purchasing organisation but typically they are governed by a necessity to be open, transparent, traceable and fair. Producing a tender is very different from producing a quote or estimate which can be a simple statement of the work elements and price. In a tender, purchasing organisations are looking for differentiators that set your solution apart from the competition. They have evaluation criteria by which they will score your responses and against which they will publish the results. To respond to a tender process requires careful planning and bid management. The Bid Team has produced an easy to follow bid process, a set of bid guides and bid process templates to assist our clients win work through competitive tenders. An overview of the process can be found here.
Question: What is bid writing?
Writing for a bid is very different from writing a report or project document. In report or project writing you are producing factual documents that address a specific topic, they are typically meant to be peer-to-peer documents and hence the language reflects that. A bid has many audiences and many purposes. It is a factual document, but it is also a sales document, so the voice used in bid writing needs to reflect this. More importantly a bid is going to evaluated or scored against the published evaluation criteria and the written answers therefore need to address these criteria. A bid writer is a person who has the experience of balancing all these factors and they typically work with the domain expert to craft bid answers to score maximum evaluation scores. The Bid Team has produced a guide to writing bids, an overview of which can be found here.
Question: What is bid design?
Bid design can refer to two elements of the submission: the design of the bid presentation and/or the production of graphics as part of the bid responses. Neither of which has a direct impact on the scoring of a bid but have a big impact on the perception of your bid, which may in turn influence the evaluator. It is important that the document set looks consistent and reflects the importance that you put on that client. It is the finishing touch to a well-rounded bid. The graphics should be consistent throughout the bid and add value to the client benefits being extolled in the copy. The Bid Team has produced a guide on how to produce a bid which can be found here and an overview of bid graphics detailed here.
Question: Where can I find out about UK Government tenders?
There are a number of ways of discovering when the UK government is going to issue a tender, unfortunately there is not one website that has all the information. Crown Commercial Services has a number of frameworks and a schedule of when they are due, and this is a good place to start. Each of the UK government’s department websites also contain details of when tenders are being issued, the NHS has a distinct list of future contracts as does the MOD. You can also use the OJEU to research when contracts have been awarded (and to which companies) and get some idea of their duration and when these might be reissued for tender. There are a lot of free information websites that provide these details and it would be best to start with the free ones rather than paying a subscription service. Additional information can be found on our government tenders page.
Question: What is a UK Government framework and how do they work?
The UK government uses frameworks to define an approved supplier list of qualified companies. Competitions are run through the framework to companies that have qualified for the lot that falls within the scope of the skills/capabilities that are being competed. There is no guarantee of work through a framework and usually the work is competed with a cohort of companies. The framework has a distinct length, say three to five years, and a defined scope. The framework will have been advertised in accordance with the UK procurement regulations and competed openly to all qualifying companies. To get on a framework you must first know when it is going to be competed and then define a strategy for gaining the necessary compliance. The last framework competition and associated OJEU notices is a good place to start. The department that is running the framework will also have information on the likely recompete timeline. Additional information can be found on our government tenders page.
Question: How do I get on a UK Government framework to receive bid and tender opportunities?
To get on a framework you must first qualify. This may involve several stages or just one application. The UK government’s G-Cloud framework for example requires an on-line application where companies submit details on their own products and services, if accepted there are then offered on the digital marketplace for public sector bodies to purchase. Construction frameworks usually require a three-step process of expression of interest, qualification and then proposal. Typically, the number of companies on a tender are limited. To get on you must first know when the re-compete date is and prepare for the bid. There is never too much preparation that you can do for a bid and even if the re-compete date is a few years away you can still start the preparation now. Additional information can be found on our government tenders page.
Question: How do I get help with writing bid responses?
There are many companies that claim to help with writing bid responses but before engaging one it is best to have a close look at what they have done and what their approach to bidding is. The Bid Team has a structured approach to bidding and a series of “how to guides” that help organisations through the bid process. Our approach is to help you define the solution, qualify the bid, storyboard the answers and then write the bid responses. While there is a temptation to rush to write it is more productive and cost-effective to plan, structure and then write. Bidding can be expensive in terms of investment of time and money, think carefully about how established the bidding partner you use is.
Question: Should I write to the word count or just answer the question in as few words as possible?
This is a usual question when starting a bid or when someone is new to bidding. The answer is that you should provide as much information as possible to comply with the evaluation criteria. This will usually mean that after planning the response and structuring against the evaluation criteria your responses are over the word limit and have to be edited down. The responses to questions should be an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of your solution to the purchasing organisations, this should again lengthen the responses. So in reality it is not a case of either as short as possible or to the limit, it is about how appropriate your answer is to the question, evaluation criteria, win themes and client benefits. The Bid Team has produced a guide on how to write a bid.
Have we answered your question?
We hope that you found the answer to your question in the list above. If not or you would like to ask a supplementary question then please use the form below and add your question to the message section. One of our team will review your question and add to the FAQ or contact you to discuss.