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Bids, tenders and proposals winning business through best practice, 5th edition


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Bids,
Tenders &
Proposals


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THIS PAGE IS INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK


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FifTH EDITION

Bids,
Tenders &
Proposals
Winning business

through best
practice

Harold Lewis


iv

Publisher’s note
Every possible effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this
book is accurate at the time of going to press, and the publishers and author cannot accept
responsibility for any errors or omissions, however caused. No responsibility for loss or
damage occasioned to any person acting, or refraining from action, as a result of the material
in this publication can be accepted by the editor, the publisher or the author.

First published in Great Britain and the United States in 2002 by Kogan Page Limited
Second edition 2005
Revised second edition 2007
Third edition 2009
Fourth edition 2012
Fifth edition 2015
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review,
as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be
reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in
writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms
and licences issued by the CLA. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside these terms should be
sent to the publishers at the undermentioned addresses:
2nd Floor, 45 Gee Street
1518 Walnut Street, Suite 1100
London EC1V 3RS
Philadelphia PA 19102
United Kingdom
USA
www.koganpage.com

4737/23 Ansari Road
Daryaganj
New Delhi 110002
India


© Harold Lewis, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015
The right of Harold Lewis to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in
accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
ISBN
978 0 7494 7484 3
E-ISBN 978 0 7494 7485 0
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lewis, Harold, 1933  Bids, tenders and proposals : winning business through best practice / Harold Lewis. –
Fifth edition.
  pages cm
  Revised edition of the author’s Bids, tenders and proposals, 2012.
  ISBN 978-0-7494-7484-3 (paperback) – ISBN 978-0-7494-7485-0 (eISBN)  1.  Proposal writing in
business.  2.  Proposal writing in public contracting.  3.  Letting of contracts.  I.  Title.
  HF5718.5.L49 2015
 658.15’224–dc23
2015032589
Typeset by Graphicraft Limited, Hong Kong
Print production managed by Jellyfish
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY


v

CO N T E N T S



List of figures ix
Preface to the fifth edition x

01

Bidding to succeed 1
About this book 1
Guidelines to set you on course 2
Developing skills in bid writing 6
Market research and intelligence 7

02

Bidding for public sector contracts 11
The EU procurement framework 11
Key aspects of the procurement regulations 12
Outline of the procurement process 20
Priorities for the public sector 22
Bidding for project funding 23

03

Tendering for the private sector 26
Equal concern for value for money 26

04

Bidding for research funding 31
Tendering for EU-funded research 31
Essential dos and don’ts 32
Research council and government funding 34
Bidding for Lottery research funding 36

05

Tendering for international development contracts 37
World Bank 39
United Nations 41


vi

Contents

06

Pre-qualifying for tender opportunities 43
Pre-qualification information 49
Guidance to get you ahead 53

07

Deciding whether or not to bid 58
Issues to consider 58
Risk assessment 67

08

Analysing the tender documents 69
Points for checklists 71

09

Managing the bid 84
Planning and coordination 84
Document management and version control 88
Programming production and delivery 90
Checking bid quality 91
Bringing together resources and inputs 93
Using a bid development worksheet 95
Maintaining bid records 95

10

Talking to the client 98

11

Bidding in partnership 102
Guidelines for association 103
Overseas bids: teaming up with local associates 105

12

Thinking the work through 109
Get the measure of the work 109
Match technical content and price 110
Recognize and manage risk 111
Reduce the risk of contract failure 115

13

Developing and writing the bid 116
Structuring the bid 116
Thinking different 120


Contents 

Commenting on the tender documents 120
Bid letters 121
Summarizing the bid 122
Response matrix 124
Bid development timeline 124
Creating the text 124
Editing the bid 130

14

Explaining approach and method 135
Writing method statements 137
Structuring the work plan 139

15

Focusing on contract management 145
Team management and resources 146
Management interface 149
Quality management 153

16

Defining outcomes and deliverables 156
Contract deliverables 156

17

Communicating added value 161

18

Presenting CVs 166
Management of CVs 166
Standardizing CV format and structure 168
Basic structure for CVs 169
Résumés 176

19

Describing professional experience 177
Client references 177
Project summaries and case studies 177
Bringing experience to life 181

20

Making good use of graphics 183
Types of bid graphics 183
Guidelines for effective graphics 184

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viii

Contents

Design software 186
The bid cover 187
Bid design and page layout 187

21

Stating your price 189
Components of price information 189
Cost assumptions 194
Payment 196
Separate financial proposals 197
Best practice in dealing with price 198
Financial information in research bids 201

22

Electronic and hard-copy submission 203
Electronic submission 203
The submission process 204
Hard-copy production 208
Packaging and delivery 209

23

Understanding how clients evaluate tenders 211
Evaluation criteria in public sector procurement 211
Methods of evaluating bids 214
Questions clients ask 218
Learning from success and failure 223
Evaluation of research proposals 224

24

Presentations to clients 227
Planning and making the presentation 227
Visual aids 229
Pitfalls to avoid 230

25

True stories 232
And the moral of these stories? 236




Postscript: Tough talk from clients 238
Index 241


ix

LIST OF FIGURES
FIGURE 1.1
FIGURE 2.1
FIGURE 2.2
FIGURE 2.3
FIGURE 3.1
FIGURE 6.1
FIGURE 6.2
FIGURE 6.3
FIGURE 8.1
FIGURE 9.1
FIGURE 9.2
FIGURE 13.1
FIGURE 13.2
FIGURE 13.3
FIGURE 13.4
FIGURE 14.1
FIGURE 14.2

FIGURE 14.3
FIGURE 18.1
FIGURE 18.2
FIGURE 19.1
FIGURE 20.1
FIGURE 22.1
FIGURE 23.1
FIGURE 23.2
FIGURE 23.3

Approaches to the bidding process 3
Example of tender opportunities on a local authority
website: screen shot 15
UK regional and national e-tendering portals 16
Steps in a typical local authority process for services or
consultancy 21
Typical decision-making structure in corporate
procurement 29
Example of guidance note on electronic
pre-qualification 51
Example of PQQ evaluation methodology,
UK public sector procurement 54
Example of client note on scoring of references 55
Example of a tender submission checklist 77
Bid management responsibilities 87
Detail of a bid development worksheet 96
Detail of a matrix of team experience 119
Detail of a bid response matrix 125
Recommended timeline for bid development and
production 126
Checklist for peer reviewers 133
Example of client guidance 136
Recommended treatment of technical approach and
methodology in proposals for World Bank-funded
projects 140
Team member: example of outline of technical
responsibilities and résumé 143
World Bank standard template for CV information 170
First page of a CV showing recommended style 171
World Bank standard template for project experience
information 178
Use of thumbnail sketches 184
Example of guidance note on electronic submission 206
Typical ‘evaluation tree’ for a public sector procurement 212
Example of a technical evaluation matrix 215
Examples of technical evaluation scoring 216


x

P R E FA C E TO T H E
FIFTH EDITION

T

his new edition reflects the reformed public sector tendering environment that has come into effect in the EU as a result of the adoption
of Directive 2014/24/E and its implementation in national legislation.
Chapter 2 on bidding for public sector contracts has been comprehensively
rewritten to bring it up-to-date with new regulations in the UK, while
Chapter 6 (Pre-qualifying for tender opportunities) takes account of measures to simplify the bidding process and reduce the burden of paperwork,
particularly for low-value contracts and small and medium-size businesses.
As in previous editions, I have taken the opportunity to revise points of
wording and refresh examples of tender material. I have again drawn from
my continuing experience as a specialist consultant to add detailed advice
that I hope will make the book an even more useful source of guidance on
writing competitive tenders.
I am grateful to Jenni Hall, Senior Commissioning Editor at Kogan Page
and Lucy Carter, Development Editor, for their support and assistance during
the preparation of this new edition.


1

Bidding to
succeed

01

About this book
If you are engaged in professional services, consultancy or research, you will
find guidance here on every step in the process of writing bids, tenders and
proposals for contracts and project funding. The book puts at your disposal
techniques that the author has perfected as a specialist writer in this field
and insights gained from his experience as a tender evaluator with client
organizations in the public and private sectors. Those who are new to bid
writing will learn how to build the confidence to start producing successful
bids. Those who are more experienced will, it is hoped, be shown new ideas
that extend and reinforce their skills.
There are points of definition to be made at the outset. Though the type
of document that is the subject of this book – a formal written offer to
undertake work or provide services for a stated price – is usually called a
‘tender’ in services procurement, consultants may be more likely to refer to it
as a ‘proposal’ or ‘bid’, while some contracting authorities may use the term
‘offer’ and research bodies may talk about an ‘application for funding’.
Since the book is relevant to all these fields, the words ‘bid’, ‘tender’ and
‘proposal’ are used here without distinction as inclusive and generic terms.
Similarly, the term ‘contractor’ should be understood to mean any individual,
firm or organization putting in a bid, whatever their background.
The scope of the book includes a broad range of procurement and funding.
The text aims to deal comprehensively with its subject matter, and the advice
it gives is relevant to tendering for supplies and works contracts; though
constraints on space preclude specialist treatment of ‘design, build and operate’
schemes and similar contracts. Much of the material will be pertinent also to
public–private partnerships, though procurement issues related specifically
to these initiatives are not addressed directly in the book.
This introductory section is followed by chapters highlighting aspects of
bidding in four broad environments: public sector procurement, particularly
within the EU framework (Chapter 2); contracts for private sector clients
(Chapter 3); research funding (Chapter 4); and international development
(Chapter 5). Pre-qualification procedures are the subject of Chapter 6. The


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Bids, Tenders & Proposals

process is then traced out step by step from the decision to put in a bid
(Chapter 7) through the task of managing its preparation and development to
the construction of the text (Chapters 8 to 13). The categories of information
normally included in a bid, from technical analyses to cost estimates, are
discussed in Chapters 14 to 21, while the concluding sections (Chapters 22
to 25) follow the bid through the stages of submission and evaluation.
The techniques described in the book are within the reach of everyone,
whether firms of contractors or individuals working on their own: they can
be put to use in tendering for small projects as much as large contracts, in
writing short proposals as much as multi-volume offers, and in international
competitive bidding as well as internal procurement.
At its simplest, bidding can require no more than a short letter in response
to a direct approach from a client. At the other extreme, the process can go
through several stages, involving a protracted sequence of documentation
on the part of clients and contractors. The choice of process is determined
principally by the context of the bid and the scale of the contract: clients
in the private sector tend to prefer a direct and uncomplicated approach,
while public sector authorities are required to adopt more formal procedures
and have less flexibility in the way they select contractors and award contracts. Figure 1.1 summarizes these two approaches, indicating the types of
document that are commonly associated with each stage in a formal process
of bidding.
In most sectors of procurement, competitive bidding is the norm for all
except small, low-value and low-risk assignments. Single sourcing is generally
considered acceptable only if the work is a logical extension of a previous or
existing contract and continuity is required, or if only one contractor is
qualified or trusted to undertake the work, or if a contract has to be awarded
quickly in an emergency. But even in these situations it makes good sense for
the client to ask the contractor for what is to all intents and purposes a bid,
stating how the work will be performed, when it will be completed, what the
outcomes and deliverables will be and what the work will cost.

Guidelines to set you on course
Focus on the client’s needs
The prime function of a bid can be seen from the standpoint of the contractor
as winning business through a competitive response to the client’s requirements. But it is important to view bidding also from the client’s perspective.
For the client, the purpose of the process is to help identify accurately and
reliably the contractor likely to deliver the best value and achieve the best
results. Following the client’s instructions and supplying the information the
client needs to reach this decision are matters of common sense; yet it is
surprising how many bids fail in this respect.


Bidding to Succeed

F i g u r e 1.1   Approaches to the bidding process
Direct approach from
client

Tender announcement
Contract notice

Pre-qualification
Expression of interest
Capability statement
Shortlist
Bid specification
Invitation to tender
Request for proposals
Terms of reference
Brief
Information package
Instructions to tenderers

Letter or presentation
from consultant

Clarification
procedure

Bid
Tender
Proposal
Application
for funding
Evaluation

Commissioning
of work

Negotiation
Contract award

The procurement activity in which the bid plays a central role is ‘owned’ by
the client: it is the client who sets up the competition, invites contractors to
bid and judges the strengths of each competitor. So the client’s priorities, not
those of the contractor, have to take centre stage. A bid that shares with
the client an identity of understanding and commitment is more likely to
succeed than one presenting only the contractor’s point of view. This is why
it is so important to try to gain in-depth knowledge about a client’s business
environment, strategies and objectives before starting to prepare the bid.
And it is the reason why an effort has been made throughout the guidance
offered in this book to reflect the views and preferences expressed by clients.

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Bids, Tenders & Proposals

Do not misunderstand the point of writing a proposal. It is not meant to
set out a solution to the client’s problems. That would amount to dispensing
free advice, not winning business! What a proposal is meant to do is
convince the client organization that you have the skills, resources and
experience to work out the right solution, and that it will gain unique added
value and achieve its objectives best by awarding the work to you.

Match the bid to the opportunity
Knowing how to develop bids efficiently and communicate them powerfully
is a key business skill, essential for survival and growth. Bids are first and
foremost business documents. To succeed they need to exhibit businesslike
qualities both in the way they address the work to be done and in the way
they speak to the client.
The bid has to show that the person or people who wrote it thought hard
about the client’s requirements, interpreted them accurately, developed the
bid specifically for that opportunity and exercised care in its preparation,
and that it was not just patched together using copy-and-paste commands.
Some contractors seem to have a production-line attitude to bids. They think
they have found an easy solution: all that is necessary is to splice and recycle
the same material, adding a touch of local flavouring here and there. This is
because they see bid preparation as a chore to be despatched with as little
effort on their part as possible. It is a frame of mind that wins few marks
from clients. They can instantly detect a standard, off-the-shelf formula
dusted down for one more appearance.
Few contractors manage to win work by half-heartedly going through
the motions of tendering. There is little point in submitting a bid unless it
has distinctive benefits to offer the client, and unless it is designed to be as
competitive as it can be in terms of both technical quality and value for
money. The aim should be to establish an invincible case for the superiority
of the bid, working hard to get its content right and communicating its
strengths as convincingly as possible.

Be honest and realistic about what you can achieve
Don’t oversell or inflate the bid with unrealizable promises. The only result
of that will be flocks of chickens coming home to roost. Once clients come
to believe that they cannot rely on you to deliver what you promise, you will
have your work cut out to regain their confidence. This point is important to
bear in mind when you are bidding for further work from them, especially
if there are aspects of your past performance that ran into problems or failed
to meet their expectations. You will have to address those failings directly
in the bid and show that you have taken action to put things right. Blithe
assurances about your commitment to developing a new relationship and
delivering fully in future are not enough. If your bid is to have credibility,


Bidding to Succeed

clients will want to see hard and convincing evidence that you mean to do
what you say.
When seeking work from new clients, you are unlikely to get far if you
just make generalized assertions about the strength of your expertise or the
breadth of your experience. As observed in Chapter 19, you need to validate
your claims with solid facts and credentials that you can prove.

Performance – the essential credential
Those who are new to proposal writing may imagine that to win a contract
for repeat business from an existing client is a relatively easy task. In the
author’s experience, the opposite is true. When you are defending your position
against challengers eager to take your place, your proposal has to be even
more combative, and this demands much more effort. True, you will be
well placed to put in a competent bid, the client will be familiar with your
people and your strengths, and you should know more about the client’s
requirements and the practicalities of the work than anyone else. But your
competitors may seem to offer a fresh source of energy and ideas; their
personnel may be just as skilled and resourceful as yours, and if they are
a younger and smaller firm, they will probably carry a lesser burden of
overheads and so may be able to quote a keener price for the work.
There are three principal questions that a client will want to consider:
■■

■■

■■

Who will give us better value for money – our existing contractors or
new ones?
Will a change of contractors bring practical benefits in terms of
service quality and outcomes?
Will we enjoy a more constructive working relationship with new
contractors?

The most powerful weapon in your armoury – and your strongest marketing tool – is your performance record on current and past contracts for the
client. Initiatives launched, innovations achieved, targets met, milestones
reached, outputs delivered, outcomes secured – all these need to be emphasized forcefully as part of the added value you bring. Performance and value
are the keys to retaining your status as the client’s preferred supplier: your
proposal has to demonstrate that you are the front-runner in terms of the
dependability of your contract management as much as the primacy of your
technical expertise. The critical importance of communicating added value
throughout the proposal is discussed in Chapter 17.

Readability makes a difference
No amount of slick phrasing can disguise a lack of technical substance.
A bid needs to be written in a way that conveys energy, enthusiasm and
drive, and it should be interesting and easy to read. There is a consensus

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Bids, Tenders & Proposals

among evaluators that the bids most likely to win are those that make their
case straightforwardly, concisely and vividly. Once in a while an evaluator
will be fortunate enough to come across one that is really outstanding: it
may have an imaginative and compelling structure; its content may project
a sense of value in a way unmatched by any other bid; it may have examples
that bring the text to life; it may communicate an intense commitment to the
challenges of the assignment; its use of graphics may be unusually creative;
it may have a hands-on feel and a clear sense of having done the job before.
All these qualities give the bid a directness and personality that heighten its
competitive impact.

Keep calm and in control
If they were willing to admit it, there are many contractors who greet the
arrival of an invitation to tender not with eagerness but with feelings close
to panic. This reaction is understandable when you are faced with a complex
and stressful intellectual challenge and an unforgiving deadline, particularly
if you have relatively little experience of bid writing. But don’t let fear last
for more than about five minutes: you need to get down to work! The best
antidote is to know that you have to hand a structured procedure that will
enable you to develop the bid methodically and that will quickly yield positive
results. That is what the guidance in this book is intended to provide.

Developing skills in bid writing
The more experience you gain in writing bids, the less intimidating the task
seems and the easier it becomes to find the most effective means of communicating your message. For people who are on the staff of a firm one useful
route into the process is to start by contributing technical input to bids
and pre-qualification material, working with bid managers and proposal
specialists. If you are a manager looking to develop good bid writers, you
need first to identify people with the right qualities and then help them build
up a bank of skills not just in business communication and the logistics of
bid preparation, but also in the strategic aspects of tendering:
■■
■■
■■
■■

■■
■■

■■

gauging a practicable response to the scale of contract requirements;
analysing contract issues, options and approaches;
seeing contracts from the client’s side of the table;
viewing the work as a service delivered to the client, not a technical
exercise;
matching work procedures with their cost implications;
applying project management techniques in developing work
programmes;
researching markets and projects;


Bidding to Succeed
■■
■■
■■

understanding client needs and priorities;
applying first-hand project experience to bid development;
acquiring an attitude of mind that looks into the mechanics of
a project, sees what problems might occur and how to prevent
them, and builds these measures into an effective partnership
between client and contractor.

Successful bid writers...
■■

are bright technically;

■■

know how to write clearly and directly;

■■

work conscientiously and methodically;

■■

do what the client asks;

■■

care about detail;

■■

perform well in a team;

■■

understand outputs and meet deadlines.

Market research and intelligence
Opportunities to bid for work can come through any number of channels:
from a client who knows the services you provide and approaches you
directly; from a referral by someone in your profession or in a related field
of consultancy; from a contract notice in the EC Official Journal; from
information you read on a client’s website, on an e-tendering portal or in the
technical press, or from your own initiative in detecting a requirement on
the part of a client and structuring a possible solution. An invitation to bid
may be the reward for nursing a project over a period of months or even
years in which you have built a relationship with a client and established the
value of your skills and experience. Or it may arrive quite out of the blue,
simply because a person you worked with in the past remembered your
name and gave it to someone else who happened to know a client in need of
your type of expertise. Whatever the route, your success in capturing these
opportunities will depend on the information clients have about your services
and the information you have about them and the business environment in
which they operate.
There are three general points that apply to all types of market intel­
ligence. First, it has to be up to date and dependable or else it is useless –
which means that it needs to be maintained as part of an efficient management
information system. Second, it has to be structured in a form that relates to
your competitive strengths and business objectives. Third, you should never

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Bids, Tenders & Proposals

underestimate the time, effort and money that may have to be invested in
researching a market, getting to know clients and gaining an inside track
before you see positive results.
If you have built a good relationship with your existing clients, delivered
value for money and earned their trust, you should get an early lead into
opportunities while they are in the process of being defined by management.
You may be able to help managers develop their ideas about the work and
shape the content of tender documents. You may learn the budget available
for the work and the client’s priorities for allocating the budget. At the very
least you should gain a sense of how client managers view the scale and
scope of the work and what they will look for in terms of added value from
consultants.
Maintain contact with clients between assignments, but don’t do this
just to advertise your availability. Try to develop a genuinely professional
relationship with counterparts and managers in the client organization –
keeping your ear to the ground, staying up to date on the progress of strategies,
programmes and projects, and making use of opportunities such as seminars,
conferences and other events in which client managers take part. The aim is
to build up a dialogue in which you can discuss their needs and problems as
one professional talking to another, rather than as a seller talking to a buyer.
Be careful not to take this relationship for granted or to assume that the client
will from now on turn to you as a matter of course: a new manager may arrive
who is unacquainted with your work or takes a different view of consultants.
Keep track of the situation and change your approach if necessary.
If you are fortunate enough to form a good relationship with a client
manager, you may on occasion be asked informally to give advice on a technical
question or business issue. Do not be tempted to turn this approach into a
formal project. Unless the advice requires a significant commitment of time
on your part, you stand to gain more by providing a rapid and thoughtful
response as a courtesy unaccompanied by an invoice. As a useful rule, if the
response takes up less than half a day of your time, don’t charge for it!
Regard it as an investment in your customer relationship.
Records of customer contacts are an essential part of every consultant’s
marketing network. You may have invested in a customer relationship manage­
ment (CRM) software application such as Salesforce (www.salesforce.com),
giving you instant visibility into your marketing leads and sales activities
and their impacts on your business. You may be enterprising enough to be
using one of the versatile Cloud-based applications that plug into CRM
systems, provide a library for storing and retrieving bidding resources and
are intended to streamline the bidding process. Or your records may be no
more sophisticated than a file of business cards or an index listing job titles,
phone numbers, e-mail addresses, contact history and services used; If you
have been in practice for some time, you will know that it is not uncommon
for professionals to migrate from con­sultancy firms to client organizations
and vice versa. People whom you knew as colleagues in the past and perhaps
worked with on consultancy assignments may now have senior management posts with clients and may be in a position to put work your way, or


Bidding to Succeed

at least arrange for you to meet other managers in their organization. The
relationship is not necessarily one-sided; they may well be glad to have
you available as a known and dependable source of specialist advice whom
they can recommend to their employers. Keep your professional contacts in
good repair: the quality and strength of these relationships are all important. Help from one’s friends can make a difference when times are hard
and jobs are scarce, but a phone call after 10 years of silence just because
you are desperate for work is hardly likely to produce results.
Though potential clients may not be so forthcoming as existing ones, it is
possible with the right approach to gain a substantial amount of information about their structure and operations, their expectations of consultancy
performance and the way they perceive their requirements. The principal
medium is the face-to-face meeting, the technical dialogue that establishes
your claim to be considered a professional resource that can deliver what
they value more satisfactorily than anyone else.
Adopt a policy of researching as much as possible about a potential client
before a first meeting:
■■

■■

■■

■■

■■

Does the client use consultants on a regular basis? Do any of your
competitors have close relationships with the client? Conversely,
even though you may be facing an entrenched competitor, is there
evidence that the client may want to take on new advisers who can
offer a fresh approach?
How are consultancy services bought in? Is this arranged through
a central procurement department, following a set procedure, or do
individual units have discretion in the way they engage advisers?
In many organizations your ‘client’ will be a group of managers and
other decision-makers and stakeholders in the work whose support
may be essential to success. Who are the people with most influence
in the process? Is there one individual on whom you should focus
your marketing efforts, or are responsibilities divided between
several people in various offices? Do consultancy appointments
require endorsement by a board of directors, and will it be enough
to convince the managing director about your merits?
What is the organization’s management style? Is it run in an
authoritarian manner by executives who are defensive about their
sectors of responsibility, or does it encourage an open, participatory
style of working? Do you have an initial sense of how the chemistry
between you and the client might develop? Are there aspects of the
way the client works that can offer you a competitive advantage?
What messages does the organization project to its own customers?
How much can you learn from the way it presents itself on the web
or from its business publications? Public sector websites will tell you
about strategies, policies and plans. Annual reviews or reports and
accounts often contain useful material about key management
personnel and their responsibilities as well as strategic issues such
as business restructuring and investment programming. Company

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10

Bids, Tenders & Proposals

newsletters and in-house journals will offer useful pointers to
business plans and projects.
One common-sense though sometimes forgotten point: you have to make
that first meeting an interesting and professionally worthwhile experience
for the client! You want the client to see you as a potential colleague not as
someone pitching for business. If the client manager feels that he or she is
gaining value from the meeting in terms of information or insight, it is likely
to prove rewarding for you as well.
As we will see in Chapters 7 and 8, there may be a large number of
questions to answer in deciding whether or not to put in a bid, and even
more issues to consider when you are analysing the bid documentation. The
more thorough your market research, and the more information you are
able to acquire about possible work opportunities, the better equipped you
will be to address those questions and develop a confident, competitive bid.

Registration
In both the public and private sectors it is common for clients to maintain registers
or lists of approved suppliers or preferred contractors. Entry to these registers is
generally obtained through the completion of forms and questionnaires covering the
scale of the contracts for which a firm wishes to be considered, the size and
structure of the firm, its personnel, specialist skills, technical capacity, experience,
financial standing and related matters, as well as quality management and ‘business
excellence’ issues.
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Pursue a systematic approach to registration. Obtain accurate information
on the individual requirements of client organizations: there are often wide
variations even within a single administration or business group.
Complete all the client’s requirements in full detail.
Review your firm’s registrations and update them regularly. What was the date
of the last set of documents, and to whom were they sent? Does the client
organization still exist in that shape, or has it been superseded by another
authority or taken over by another business? It is easy to lose track of
developments and then find that registrations have lapsed or become obsolete.
If and when you visit a client’s offices, check on the status of your registration
and replace any out-of-date documents with new material.
On its own, registration simply brings you eligibility for selection and places
your firm in the database or filing cabinet. In some instances it may succeed
in getting you on an extended list with an invitation to express interest; but the
mere fact of being registered with a client or funding institution is not in itself
an endorsement or a credential and should not be portrayed as such on your
website or in your proposals.


11

Bidding for
public sector
contracts

02

The EU procurement framework
The term ‘public sector’ as used in EU member states covers central government, regional and local authorities, utilities, European institutions such as
the European Commission and its related programmes and other bodies
governed by public law. Across the individual member states the value of
public sector procurement – ie the purchase of goods, services and public
works by governments and public utilities – ranges from about 12 per cent
to 20 per cent of gross domestic product.
All public sector authorities are subject to European public procurement
rules, intended to secure open and fair competition, transparent and auditable contracting procedures and equal access to contract opportunities for
all EU suppliers. Utilities (defined as entities operating in the water, energy,
transport and postal services sectors) are required to comply with procurement rules that differ in some points of detail from those applying to other
parts of the public sector.
Public procurement rules are defined in a series of EU directives implemented at a national level through regulations and other forms of legislation.
The procurement rules set out procedures that must be followed before
awarding a contract to suppliers (ie providers of works, supplies or services)
when the contract value exceeds set thresholds, unless the contract qualifies
for a specific exclusion – for example, on grounds of national security. The
purpose of the procurement rules is to open up the public procurement
market and to secure the free movement of supplies, services and works within
the EU, eliminating discriminatory and uncompetitive practices counter to the
public interest, and ensuring that public funds are spent in a way that achieves
best value for money. Authorities in the UK and other member states are able
to apply their own procedures for tendering and contract award on the basis
of standing orders, provided these do not infringe EU rules or the requirements of national legislation and government accounting principles.


12

Bids, Tenders & Proposals

Public sector contracts for services and consultancy in England, Wales
and Northern Ireland are governed principally by the Public Contracts
Regulations 2015, which implement the 2014 EU Public Sector Procurement
Directive and came into force on 26 February 2015. Separate but similar
regulations apply to public sector contracts undertaken in Scotland. At
the same time, the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2006 were amended as
specified in Part 2 of Schedule 6 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Key aspects of the procurement regulations
Financial thresholds
Specific rules apply to contracts with values at or exceeding financial
thresholds set out in the regulations. Though contracts with lower values are
subject to less stringent requirements, every public sector contract in the UK,
however small its estimated value, has to respect the EU principles of nondiscrimination, equal treatment and transparency.
The threshold values indicated below remain in effect until 17 April 2016.
The sterling values of these thresholds are calculated on the basis of exchange
rates between sterling, euros and special drawing rights (a currency unit
devised by the IMF). Contracts with values at or above the following sterling
amounts are subject to the procurement rules, with certain exceptions that
chiefly affect categories of research and development, telecommunications
services and the defence sector:

Threshold
Services and supplies contracts – central government
Services and supplies contracts – other public sector
authorities
Works contracts (all public sector authorities)

£111,676
£172,514
£4,322,012

Source: European Commission

Prior information on procurement programmes
Contracting authorities may publish an overall notice of their planned
procurement over the year ahead (or longer, in the case of public contracts
for social and other specific services), instead of having to publish a series
of individual contract notices throughout the year. The purpose is to give
prospective contractors an early indication of tendering opportunities.
The prior notice may serve also as a call for competition, subject to the
terms of Section 48 of the 2015 Regulations.


Bidding for Public Sector Contracts

Advertisement and publication of contract notices
Maintained and updated daily online, Supplement S of the Official Journal
of the European Communities (OJS) contains notices of all contracts for which
public sector authorities are calling for tenders. The Supplement is available
from the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) website (http://ted.europa.eu). Its
coverage includes principally:
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public contracts for works, supplies and services from all EU member
states;
utilities contracts;
public contracts from EU institutions;
European Development Fund contracts;
projects funded by the European Investment Bank, European Central
Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development;
European Economic Area contracts (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland
and Liechtenstein);
notices about European Economic Interest Groupings.

Access to TED is free of charge: the database offers multiple search options
and in addition to current notices contains information on contract advertisements over the past five years. Tender opportunities that are part of ECfunded programmes may be notified also through internet announcements
on programme websites.
Authorities are required to use standard forms for contract notices published
in the OJS: the aim is to facilitate the online interrogation of notices, reinforce
the development of electronic procurement and overcome problems caused
by the appearance of incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information.
Most tender notices are sent for publication through an electronic channel.
SIMAP, the EU’s information system for European public procurement
(http://simap.europa.eu), offers a web-based tool (eNotices) for the prepara­
tion and publication of tender notices, and a service for the direct submission
of public procurement notices (eSenders).
Authorities may also use the standard forms to publicize contracts not
subject to OJS notification requirements. Decisions on how and where to
advertise such contracts are left to the discretion of authorities: generally
contract notices may be placed in the national, regional and local press and
in technical and trade publications.
A note of caution: before deciding to invest time and effort in following
up a contract notice about an opportunity in another country, make sure
you are adequately informed about both the technical and commercial
context of the assignment and the workings of the local procurement
environment.
Contracting authorities are required to offer unrestricted and full direct
access free of charge to procurement documents via the internet.

13


14

Bids, Tenders & Proposals

The EC has set up an information system termed e-Certis, to help com­
panies identify the different certificates and attestations frequently requested
in procurement procedures across the EU member states and EEA countries.
The e-Certis website (http://ec.europa.eu/markt/ecertis/login) describes its
function as follows: ‘If you are a European company wishing to submit a
proposal in response to a foreign call for tenders, or if you are a contracting
authority that has to evaluate a foreign tender, e-Certis can help you to
understand what information is being requested or provided. Secondly it
can help you to identify partner country documents that match certificates
and attestations that are required locally.
‘Just enter the description relating to the document you look for or query
the database using e-Certis search criteria, including keyword searches in
your own language.
‘Please note that e-Certis is a reference tool and not a service of legal advice.
It does not guarantee that the evidence information resulting from a query
will be recognized as valid by a contracting authority. It is just an information
tool which helps to identify and recognize the certificates and attestations
that are most commonly requested in the context of procurement procedures
of the different member states. The information contained in the database
is provided by national authorities and updated on a regular basis.’

E-tendering portals
As part of the widespread adoption of e-tendering by the public sector, most
authorities publicize contract opportunities either on their own websites
or through national, regional or sector-based portals (Figure 2.1). In 2011
the UK government launched Contracts Finder, a free service, intended to
consolidate information on opportunities to supply goods and services to
the public sector, including local authorities as well as government departments and agencies. The Contracts Finder website offers access to contracts
over £10,000 in value and has helpful keyword search facilities. The information published on Contracts Finder is required to include among other
items the internet address where the procurement documents can be obtained, the time by which any interested bidder must respond if it wishes
to be considered, and any other requirements for participating in the
procurement.
BIP Solutions Ltd offers an alternative source of information on contract
opportunities. At the time of writing (April 2015), its information services
included Tracker (UK and international contract opportunities), Contrax
(UK and Irish contract opportunities), Defence Contracts International
(DCI) (international defence, emergency services and humanitarian aid
contracts) and MoD Defence Contracts Bulletin and Supply National SME
Engagement Programme (for start-up and small businesses).
Each of the nine government regions in England has its e-tendering portal
(Figure 2.2), while there are separate online portals for Scotland, Wales and
Northern Ireland.


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