The bidding process is used to select the most suitable company to deliver a contract for goods or services. Within the public sector, the tender process is mandatory for most contracts, and aims to establish a transparent and accessible process for all.
Why use a bidding process?
Rather than just allocating a contract to whichever company they prefer, a contracting authority uses a bidding process to fairly evaluate each potential supplier and award a contract for products or services to the most suitable organisation. Usually, this evaluation is based on both quality and commercial pricing elements, meaning it is not just ‘the lowest price wins’. The Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) is the most common method for a buyer to select a winning bidder. This takes into account both cost and other aspects in a bid, such as quality, technical ability, social value, innovation and added value.
The bidding process means that a transparent and fair procedure based on identifying the best value for money exists in procurement. It is a competitive process, and competitive bidding means each company is evaluated on a certain set of criteria, depending on what the individual contract entails. This selection process may be split into two stages, whereby a PQQ or SQ is used to shortlist companies, before the final tender stage. Alternatively, it may be via a one-stage process, whereby there is no initial shortlisting stage and bidders are evaluated on a single submission.
For example, if homecare services were being procured, the buyer would want to ensure that each company has a suitable track record, meets any certification or registration requirements such as CQC and ultimately is well-placed to offer a high-quality service providing social care support. You can see why it would not be suitable to solely award a contract based on the ‘best price’, for both the authority and further members in the supply chain.
The stages of bidding – 8 steps
1. A buyer releases a contract notice to the market, outlining the specifics of the contract that they are procuring. Within the public sector, there are dedicated websites that advertise all live public contract notices – Find a Tender and Contracts Finder. Interested organisations can monitor contract notices until they identify something of interest to their business.
2. Companies interested in bidding for the contract must express an interest and access the full tender pack. Here, all contract specifics will be outlined in full, as well as the invitation to tender document to which they need to respond. Each tender is different, depending on the contract in question and how it will be evaluated, so it is important to read these documents in full.
3. Bid preparation: read and understand all contract documents and submit any clarification questions to the buyer if anything is not clear. Nearly all public sector procurement exercises are operated via an online portal, and this is where you must communicate with the buyer. At this stage it may also be worthwhile to conduct market research, and compare your organisation against any likely competitors.
4. Commence writing the bid! Whether the bidding process is being completed solely in house or you are enlisting professional bid writing support, once the above steps are all complete, it is then a case of drafting your answers to the PQQ or ITT (invitation to tender) document. Remember to focus primarily on what the buyer is actually asking you, rather than what you wish to put in your proposal. You can find further tips on writing a tender here.
5. Once you have drafted your bid response, ensure this is reviewed and proofread by another pair of eyes, if possible, to finalise your bid document.
6. Submit your bid. Again, this is likely to be done via an online portal, and the submission must be made ahead of the deadline and adhering to any particular requirements – check in case an email or hard copy version is also required.
7. The outcome of your bid and an outline of which bidder(s) have been successful and contracts awarded will be communicated to you in due course, usually via an email and available on the portal for you to access. It is common for the award decision to be delayed, but ensure you keep up with all communication from the authority so that you are aware of this, and aware of the possible start date of the contract bid.
8. Whether your bid was successful or not, always request feedback to support continual improvement for the next bidding process.
If you are an organisation looking to deliver goods and services to the public sector, it is very likely you will need to follow the tender process. The same is also true in the private sector; although buyers are not bound by the same regulations, they often follow a very similar procurement process. You may see slightly different terminology in the private sector, such as request for proposal (RFP) or request for information (RFI).
Bid writing support
Our team of professional bid writers have been supporting clients across the UK for over 10 years, completing more than 550 bids and tenders per year. We can support you through all stages of the bidding process.
How it works:
- We review the tender documentation with which you require support and help you to understand the specific requirements from the buyer. This may be a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) or an invitation to tender (ITT)
- At this stage we can offer consultation and support on the bid/no bid decision, if required, and help navigate and explain any specific details within the tender documents
- We provide a bespoke quotation for our support
- Once accepted, you are then allocated a dedicated bid writer and a back-up writer from our in-house team. We also allocate a member of our quality assurance team and a retained proofreader to provide further support with each response
- We commence working with you on the bid, with the deliverables, project plan and timescales outlined up front.
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