How to start tendering for work | Part 1: smart processes

Place North West 7 The Northern Edge Winning Bids Tenders

I often write about the challenges facing established bid teams but if you’re completely new to tendering for work, you might be wondering where to start. If 2017 is the year you wish to grow your business through tendering, here are some suggestions on how you can be bid ready.

Have a plan

If you dive into tendering with no strategy, you’re likely to waste valuable time and resources. It’s a competitive process, which requires focus and commitment. My earlier post discusses the importance of your 3Ps when bidding – brilliant people, smart processes and winning propositions. Investing in these from the beginning will put you in a strong position for those first few bids and help you to work efficiently as you start to win and then bid for more work.

The first step is to identify who you want to work with – which sector, clients and locations – and the type of work you want to deliver – the scope, size and value of projects. Be ambitious but realistic – this should reflect your capabilities and capacity to deliver the projects. 

From here you can develop an actionable plan for your 3Ps and start winning work. As a starting point, here are some suggestions on setting up your processes. I will cover your people and proposition in later posts.

1) Finding and choosing the right tender opportunities

Once you have a strategy, you can focus on the tender opportunities that fit your business…the key now is to find them. Putting an efficient process in place to find and monitor these opportunities will save time and aid efficient decision making.

There are many companies you can pay to search and filter tenders for you or you can register with various portals and track opportunities yourself. This purely depends on what you want to invest…time or money.

Here are just a few of the main tender portals you may wish to register with. For a complete list and to discuss sector / service-specific portals, please email me. It’s also worth checking your target client’s websites for details of where they advertise new opportunities.

Contracts Finder – central government tenders over £10k and non-central government tenders above £25k.

TED (Tenders Electronic Daily) – TED is the online version of the ‘Supplement to the Official Journal’ of the EU and provides free access to business opportunities from the European Union, the European Economic Area and beyond.

The Chest – a North West procurement portal used by North-West local authorities.

The Construction Index – free-to-use tender service, providing access to new business contracts within the UK construction sector.

Whichever option you choose, you can set parameters on the opportunities you wish to find based on your business strategy, which means you only see relevant tenders.

Directing all tender opportunities to a dedicated person within your business will prevent duplication and streamline the qualification process – this is where a senior decision maker will review the tender and decide whether to proceed with it. A simple bid / no bid form can be created to highlight key points from the tender and evaluate these against your business strategy. This will help you to make a robust and evidence-based decision on which tenders to bid for. For a free bid / no bid template, please email

2) Creating a bid library

You will often provide similar information within each tender so it’s worth creating some standardised bid content and storing it in a central place.

The Standard Supplier Questionnaire (SQ), implemented in 2016, has lessened the need to provide lots of company information up front, with companies now self-certifying their business credentials. However, should you be awarded a contract, you will be required to provide evidence, and some tender processes still ask for it so it’s good practice to have the information to hand. This also means, when you do decide to tender, you can easily source the content you need and spend more time working on your winning offer.

Examples of standard company information include:

  • Annual accounts
  • Company policies, accreditations and certificates such as environment, equality & diversity, quality and social value
  • Slavery and human trafficking statement (for companies with a turnover of £36m+)
  • Employers’ Liability, Professional Liability and Public Liability insurance certificates – insurance levels will differ for each contract but should be proportionate to the contract
  • Previous experience
  • Supply chain management procedures  
  • Investment in skills development and apprenticeships.

You are also likely to reuse information relating to who you are and what you do, so the following will be useful:

  • Your company structure and history
  • Your value proposition
  • Team CVs
  • Project case studies
  • Client references and testimonials
  • Methodology statements – any standard practices that you apply on the majority of projects.

The way these should be written is a whole other subject I will cover another time but, in the meantime, this great blog on business writing might give you some food for thought.

These are just a few of the considerations and actions to take before you start to tender for work. Whilst the upfront administration can seem complex, you will be in a far better position to work smarter and win more if you invest a little time now. 

For support in setting up winning bid teams and processes, email

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