Beat your lack of tendering experience

Writing a winning tender for a public sector contract can be a daunting task. The requirements for tenders can vary significantly, and it can take a lot of trial and error to identify what your business should include with your bids.

The key tendering challenges of inexperienced suppliers

We asked a sample of suppliers what their biggest challenges were when it comes to tender writing, and 18% of respondents told us that their lack of experience was holding them back. The four most common themes identified in their responses are detailed below.

Not understanding terminology and requirements used within notices

If you are not sure what the buyer is looking for, we have a couple of useful documents that can help. The first is our Tendering Terminology document – it details all the terms you are likely to encounter and what they mean. The other is our post titled ‘What is a public tender?’ – here you will find details of the different types of tenders, and what is included in each. 
If after doing some research you are still unsure, please remember you will be able to ask buyers questions during the clarification period. During this time, you can post anonymous questions and the buyer will provide a public response which will be made available to all other suppliers. There is no shame in asking questions, getting answers sooner rather than later ensures you spend your time developing an appropriate response. More often than not, questions raised point to insufficient detail being provided, rather than a lack of experience on your part. 

Not knowing how to answer Social Value questions

Social Value is playing a more significant role in public procurement, and that means suppliers like you need to be able to identify what social, economic and environmental considerations you are making. This could be internal processes you have in place to benefit local communities, or it could be environmental benefits that will result from awarding work to you.

Reflect on all possible outcomes from doing business with your company, and then create a list of highlights to include in relevant questions – you can also identify areas that need improvement. If you are not sure where to start, our Social Value in Bidding training course is designed to teach you how to score more points for these types of questions. 

Not Winning Work

If you are struggling to win work, you could benefit from conducting a simple analysis of your bidding strategy and working to identify what might be going wrong. In our posts ‘What criteria do buyers use to evaluate bids?’ and ‘What are my chances of winning a tender?’, we look at what buyers measure and provide you with reflective questions to identify what needs your attention.  
If you have already tried similar exercises, the Tenders Direct Training and Consultancy team are currently offering a complimentary Tender Readiness Check. Simply complete this contact form, and we’ll be in touch to see what support you might need. 

Not knowing where to start

Getting started is the trickiest part, but if you put in good groundwork, you can set yourself up for success. Your goal should be to first explore bidding for lower value contracts, as they have fewer restrictions and are easier to bid for than high-value notices – which often require 2-3 years of audited accounts. While there are fewer restrictions, you could be required to have a few months’ worth of bank statements, demonstrate your company’s ability to fulfil similar contracts or have certain policies in place.   
If any of these restrictions are creating a temporary barrier, you could in the meantime look at award notices and framework announcements, using them to prospect for work with the contract winners. This is a great strategy to boost your familiarity with tender requirements and gain indirect experience of working with the public sector.  
If you are not facing any barriers to entry, the advice we would give to get started is familiarise yourself with the market and plan your responses. You can start by looking at local tenders or notices from other regions and familiarising yourself with expectations and even attempt doing a practice bid to see what issues you encounter.  
Whether you do a practice bid or dive straight in to bidding for actual work, planning is essential. You must be aware of what to expect and manage your time appropriately. We will not go into detail here about planning, and will instead refer you to The 9 Step Tender Writing process – which details everything you should consider before writing your bid.

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