Jargon Buster

Jargon Buster

By | Blog, Tendering | No Comments

Don't understand all the tender process jargon?

Here’s a brief guide to get you started.

The world of bids and tenders has a huge number of acronyms and jargon that can be very confusing. To help you understand what’s what, here’s a brief guide, a jargon buster, to some of the most common terms.

Bid – a response submitted in response to an Invitation to Tender (ITT).

Bidder – a single operating organisation or person that is participating in the procurement exercise.

Buyer – this is the buying organisation or Contracting Authority that is the ‘customer’ offering the contract.

Potential Bidder – a single entity/business/operating organisation/person that has applied to participate in the procurement exercise.

Contract Notice – the notice published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) or UK Contracts Finder i.e. the advertisement of the procurement opportunity to the supplier market.

Contracting Authority – means the State, regional or local authority, body governed by public law or associations formed by one or more such authorities or one or more such bodies governed by public law that will effectively be the buying organisation offering the contract.

CCG – Clinical Commissioning Group.

Deadline – a deadline is a deadline – in the public contracts tendering process if a deadline is at midday, 12.01pm is too late!

DPS: ‘Dynamic Purchasing System’ – a DPS is similar to a framework contract except new suppliers can join at any timeover the course of the contract. It can speed up and simplify some procurement procedures particularly where there are large volumes of transactions.

EOI: ‘Expression of Interest’ – is sometimes issued by the buying organisation who intends to start a formal bidding process. It is effectively the customer asking which competitors want to be considered for the formal bidding process.

Framework – a framework is an agreement with 1 or more providers that allows public bodies to buy a range of goods or services without running a full procurement process each time. Suppliers will have qualified through a procurement process to be on a framework. There is no guarantee with a framework that any services will be bought. When one of the public bodies wishes to buy something from the framework they ‘call off’ the framework either directly, or using a mini-competition.

ITT: ‘Invitation to Tender’ – this is effectively the main step in the process where suppliers are invited to provide offers to supply services or products and win a contract with the buying organisation. This requires the supplier to respond to detailed questions about the service or product and usually submit pricesby a specified deadline.

MEAT: ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’ – this is fundamentally the basis upon which the buying organisation evaluates and selects the winning bidder. It ensures the award of the contract is based on all aspects of the tender rather than just on price.

OJEU: ‘Official Journal of the European Union’ – this is the central noticeboard on which all public sector ITT’s above a specified threshold must be advertised by the Contracting Authority.

Jargon Buster

PIN: ‘Prior Information Notice’ – this is a notice from the buying organisation’s procurement team that they intend to purchase in the future. There is no guarantee that they will go ahead and procure nor is there any guarantee that they will do so at the times that they specify. At this stage they sometimes ask the market to engage with them to help formulate their procurement strategy.

Portal – all tender documentation including the specification, terms, questionnaire etc. needed for responding to a tender is stored and made available to bidders on an electronic portal on the internet. A portal is usually a page on the buying organisation’s own website, or a specific site e.g. ProContract, In-Tend, which are managed by a third party on behalf of buying organisations to facilitate the procurement exercise. The portal is also where the response to the ITT is submitted.

PQQ: ‘Pre-qualification Questionnaire’ – a stage prior to the tender submission (ITT) with several standard questions. The pre-qualification stage aims to create a short-list of qualified suppliers and eliminate others that do not meet some basic requirements before the ITT stage. Typical requirements usually include financial stability, insurances, previous experience. Once this has been approved, criteria met, the supplier is selected for the shortlist and invited to tender.

Providers – the successful Bidders who have entered into a contract with the Contracting Authority to provide the service or goods.

SQ: ‘Selection Questionnaire’ – effectively the same as a PQQ. This is still about pre-qualifying so that suppliers meet baseline criteria prior to submitting a bid. The term Selection Questionnaire was supposed to supersede PQQ but both are still being used.

RFI: ‘Request for Information’ – here a procurement team are asking the supplier market to provide general information about products or services prior to any formal tender process. There is no guarantee of business at this stage. This term may also be used (loosely) by private buying organisations instead of calling it an ITT as a way of selecting preferred suppliers.

RFQ: ‘Request for Quote’ – this is the buying organisation asking the supplier to provide a quote for goods or services.This is usually focused on submitting pricing through which the procurement team can make an evaluation of the best bidder. Again,this is not binding and not a guarantee of work.

Regulations – usually in the tender context this refers to The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (as amended from time to time).

Tender – a tender is actually a bid but the term is often applied to mean the whole tendering process.

TUPE: ‘Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations’ –  this is relevant to any redundancy decisions where a business or part of it is transferred from one owner to another.

Value for Money or VfM – the optimum combination of whole-life cost and quality (fitness for purpose) to meet the Contracting Authority’s requirements.

We hope this ‘jargon buster’ helped to make things clearer!

If you have any questions on the tender process or would like to know how we can use our proven success to help you, call us now on 01707 244713 to talk to our writers.
tender opportunities

Top tips for finding the best tender opportunities for your business

By | Blog, Personal Tender Tracker, Public Sector Tenders | No Comments

Finding the opportunity that's right for you

The benefits of tracking tender opportunities are well-known to businesses that recognise the positive growth and revenue security that long-term contracts bring. However, how do you make the most of the tendering system to achieve these benefits?
Our personal tender tracker expert Jennie has set out the key things to do to find the best tender opportunities quickly and to develop a strong pipeline of regular tender opportunities without costing lots of time and money:

1. Use free resources.

All public sector contracts are in the public domain and therefore are listed on free websites. There are two main ones covering all UK contracts, TED (Tenders Electronic Daily-Supplement to the Official Journal of the EU) and Contracts Finder. There is no need to pay a fee to a website to be able to search for tenders, or to access the information.

2. Use the search functionality on these websites to narrow down the search to the best opportunities.

You want to maximise your chances of finding the right tenders for your business.

3. Tender search terms are key.

Each of these sites allow you to put in a search term to find the most relevant and appropriate contract opportunities. Use the jargon that your industry uses and start with the core services that you offer e.g. electrical testing, farm management, cleaning services and try at least five different search terms. When you see something that looks like it might be a good opportunity check and log the terms that are used and then use those in your next search. It’s worth trying a number of different terms as these sites will bring up very different opportunities in each search even if you think the terms mean the same thing! Try common misspellings or a two-word phrase that is sometimes written as one.

4. Narrow the dates.

It sounds obvious, but timing is key. You want to find an Invitation to Tender (ITT) as soon as you can after it has been published so that you have the most time available to be able to respond.There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect opportunity with only two days to submission! At most, put a month date range in your first search but ideally narrow it down to a maximum of 1 week (this means you also need to check on a regular basis to ensure you don’t miss something!)
tender opportunities

5. Advanced Search on TED & OJEU.

The advanced function has some additional fields which can be off-putting. Ignore ‘Document Number’, ‘Contract’ and ‘Edition Number’ for a search i.e. it’s OK to leave those blank to ensure you capture everything available and ensure you’re not missing out on anything.  Instead focus on the ‘Type of Document’ field.  There is a list of options which come up when you click on it. Click on all the options that have a ’call for competition’ in their name plus ‘contract notice’, ‘dynamic purchasing system’, and ‘request for proposals’.  You should have 9 types of tender notification highlighted.  This will give you a comprehensive set of new tender opportunities and save time in the long-run.

6. Tender titles can be misleading.

Once you’ve launched your search and have a list to look at it’s worth taking a little more time here to read the notification in more detail even if you think the title is only vaguely related to what you’re looking for.  For instance, if you’re an architect it can be worth having a look at the tender notifications that describe themselves with  ‘Construction’ in the title, which is a very general term and can be applied to lots of different types of businesses as well as an architect.  Within a tender notification there can also be ‘Lots’ for different elements of the contract – one of which could be more relevant to you, so have a read through and apply the following criteria to make an efficient decision on whether it is worth pursuing further.

7. Review the notification.

As some procurement exercises can be much larger and more complex than others, the amount of information that is given in a tender notification can differ greatly; however, there should always be the following key information to read to assist with your narrowing down, decision to explore further and ultimately bid:

    1. Name and details of contracting authority – Have you worked with them and/or similar organisations before?
    2. Scope and descriptions of the procurement exercise – Are the requirements within your existing capability and previous experience?
    3. Place of performance i.e. where the contract is. Is the location important to what you do e.g. delivery times? If so, are you able to offer benefits to the buyer of being closer?
    4. Estimated contract value – Is the size of the contract appropriate to your current financial stability? The usual rule of thumb (that buying organisations will use in their evaluation, unless specified otherwise) is your turnover must be at least 2X the annual value of the contract.
    5. Contract duration and dates – Are you able to fully mobilise and implement the requirements of the contract within the timescales specified?
    6. Conditions for participation – Are you able to meet these conditions, which may include pass/fail requirements on having appropriate licences, registrations, qualifications, meet minimum standards etc?
    7. Procedure for tendering and the submission deadline – Given your resources to prepare an appropriate and contract winning tender, are you able to meet the deadline for submission?

If you can answer yes to all, or at least some of the above criteria, then the tender opportunity is worth exploring further by registering interest and then accessing and reading the tender documents.  Read our detailed guide on how to analyse whether a tender is right for you here.

8. Go back after a week and do the same thing.

Search using all of your logged searches and this time, you only need to include 1 week within the date range. This will narrow your search window significantly and present you with only the latest tender opportunities without duplicating your last efforts.  If you keep doing this each week and keep up to date, it should be a much quicker process.

9. If this all sounds too much like hard work, then get an expert to do it!

Complete Tenders provides a Personal Tender Tracking service that does all the hard work for you. Our specialist team will shortlist only those tender opportunities that are a good fit for your business using years of experience in winning contracts. We will help you make informed decisions to bid to ensure you achieve the most successful return on your tendering investment.

Call us now on 01707 244713 to talk about how our Personal Tender Tracker service can help you.

“I have been using Complete Tenders services to support and develop organisations like mine since August 2017. Complete Tenders look out for any upcoming tenders that I can bid for. They have a good understanding of the services I provide and have tendered for 3 contracts that have all been successful.”

Nazia PervezPemberton Transitions Service Ltd
no-deal brexit

Finding tender opportunities after a no-deal Brexit

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This is an update to our earlier blog in February 2019

Our previous blog focused on what will happen to the UK and EU system of contract procurement and finding tender notifications in the event of a no deal Brexit.

As of today, 8th October 2019, it is still not clear whether the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal in place. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there will be an impact on how public sector procurements are advertised, the route that UK public sector organisations will need to follow to issue their invitations to tender, and therefore how to go about finding them. The UK Government has provided an update this week, setting out what contracting authorities need to know, and what suppliers need to know to find a tender.

Current situation to find a tender

Currently there are a set of procurement regulations that must be followed, which include the fact that all public sector procurements above EU thresholds must legally be publicised through the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU).  This is the central contract notice board for all EU member states where live contract opportunities in all EU countries, including the UK, can be viewed and searched.  The EU thresholds are £181,302 for supplies and services and £4,551,413 for works. All opportunities can be found here: https://ted.europa.eu/TED/search/search.do

Below these EU thresholds, all UK public contracts must be advertised on the government website Contracts Finder (or the sites specific to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Ministry of Defence).  The threshold for contracts to be posted here is £10,000 for central government authorities and £25,000 for the rest of the public sector. Opportunities can be found here: https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Search

no-deal brexit

To find a tender after a no-deal Brexit

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK government has stated that the procurement regulations will remain broadly the same. However, one key difference will be that after a no-deal Brexit, contracting authorities must advertise their opportunities on a new UK e-notification service instead of OJEU. This new e-notification service is called Find a Tender and all suppliers wishing to access UK public sector contract opportunities will need to use this site.

Find a Tender will look the same as Contracts Finder and will be free to use.  You will also be able to register to set up email alerts and use the same login details.

Suppliers still wishing to access EU contract opportunities should continue to do so using OJEU TED.

The requirement to advertise on domestic portals, i.e. Contracts Finder, Public Contracts Scotland, Sell2Wales, eTendersNI and MOD Defence Contracts Online will remain unchanged following a no-deal Brexit.

So how do I find tenders after a no-deal Brexit?

To search for opportunities in the UK, you will need to use the new UK e-notification service, Find a Tender.  Find a Tender will be deployed at 11pm GMT on 31st October in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Complete Tenders will provide the link as soon as it becomes available.

You will also still be able to use Contracts Finder, as now, to search for opportunities.

To search for opportunities in the EU, you will still be able to use OJEU, however, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK companies will have the same status as companies from countries without an agreement from the EU regarding the EU procurement market, and therefore will be subject to the rules that currently apply to those countries. This may make winning tenders more difficult. The EU has published guidelines on this here: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/public_procurement_en.pdf

Additionally, Complete Tenders provides a comprehensive free tender listings service which currently combines OJEU and Contracts Finder; this will be updated to include the new Find a Tender UK e-notification service in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This can be found here: https://www.completetenders.com/open-tenders/

What if I find a tender on OJEU just before a no-deal Brexit?

Clearly some of the tenders advertised on OJEU will have a submission date past the Brexit date of October 31st, 2019. The exact details of what will happen and what rules will apply in the event of a no-deal Brexit have not yet been published, but, for example, any contract award notices for those tenders will need be published on the new UK e-notification service after 31st October 2019.

As you don’t actually apply for a tender through OJEU, but use the specific procurement portal or other mechanism determined by the contracting organisation, the fact that you found the tender through OJEU before a no-deal Brexit should have no impact on submitting your tender application.

Additional Information sources

You can read more from the UK government here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-sector-procurement-after-a-no-deal-brexit

The Complete Tenders website will also be updated with more information as it becomes available.

Complete Tenders will continue to share information as and when it gets published.
If you have any other questions about the tender process and how we can support you to be successful call us now on 01707 244713.

Contract Opportunities in Hertfordshire

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Open tenders on your doorstep

Having been to several events recently, including the‘All The Help You Can Get’ series run by Herts Growth Hub & Hertfordshire County Council, aimed at supporting local small businesses and helping them access the opportunities in the public sector market place,we felt there wasn’t enough actual guidance from our local authorities on how to do business with them and where to find the opportunities in the first place.So, here is a straightforward instruction on how to find tenders and contract opportunities in Hertfordshire and then what to do to go after them and win.

Quite simply, if you want to find contract opportunities in the Hertfordshire public sector, there are only 3 places you need to go, these are OJEU, Contracts Finder and Supply Hertfordshire.


Currently in the UK, all public sector authorities must follow a set of procurement rules, including the requirement to publicise all contract opportunities above a set contract value in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU). This is the central notice board for all EU member states where live contract opportunities in all EU countries and their administrative divisions, including all 10 of our Hertfordshire District and Borough Councils, can be viewed and searched. The EU thresholds are £181,302 for supplies and services and £4,551,413 for works. All opportunities can be viewed here: https://ted.europa.eu/TED/search/search.do. This site enables you to do simple and refined searches for relevant contract opportunities based on keywords that are appropriate for your business e.g. search “electrical” as an electrical contractor. As the official noticeboard for all the EU,the information presented to you is standardised and in a consistent format across every tender notice. More details on what to lookout for can be found here.

2. Contracts Finder

Below the EU thresholds, all UK public contracts must be advertised on the central government website ‘Contracts Finder’(or the sites specific to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Ministry of Defence). The threshold for contracts to be posted here is £10,000 for central government authorities and £25,000 for the rest of the public sector, including all Hertfordshire local authorities. Opportunities can be viewed here: https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Search. This site also has an easy to use search function (simple and advanced searches) for relevant contract opportunities based on appropriate keywords. Again, the information presented to you is standardised, but slightly less consistent due to the data entry being subject to the procurement officer’s attention to detail; e.g. contract values are sometimes not provided.

3. Supply Hertfordshire portal

In the instances when a Hertfordshire Local Authority needs to buy something, but does not have to go through a formal OJEU tender process, i.e. when the contract value is below the official thresholds, they are still required to demonstrate to us (as the taxpayer) that they are getting best value from the supplier market. This means that for most purchases they will still go out to tender leaving only the lowest value items as non-contractable. By still inviting all suppliers to tender,a local authority is ensuring that they capture and can select from every business available to provide the product or service they need; but, by not being required to publish the tender notice on the UK and EU wide noticeboards, helps to facilitate a more ‘local’s only’ engagement. Essentially, you need to check the Supply Hertfordshire web pages regularly to be able to see the tender notices that are posted, and this is more likely to happen if you are a business from Hertfordshire, rather than a business from Lancashire. Given the contract opportunities are lower value, big UK corporations are also less likely to be interested.
So, Supply Hertfordshire is set up to facilitate the procurement of lower value public sector contracts in Hertfordshire, and the 13 Hertfordshire Local Authorities have signed up to use this facility and enable you to do business with them, including: Hertfordshire County Council, Stevenage Borough Council, Three Rivers District Council, Watford Borough Council, Dacorum Borough Council, St Albans City & District Council, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, North Hertfordshire District Council, Hertsmere Borough Council, Borough of Broxbourne, East Herts District Council, B3 Living, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.
You can view all of the tender notices here: https://in-tendhost.co.uk/supplyhertfordshire/aspx/Home. It is also a good idea as a local business to register for a free account on this portal and set up regular email notifications on tender opportunities that are a good match to your requirements. The importance of tender tracking is discussed in our blog ‘The benefits of tracking tender opportunities’.
Should you be interested in tendering for any contracts presented through this portal, you will need to register anyway to be able to access all the documents and submit your tender.

Next steps

Each of the 3 sites above provide key information on the contract opportunity and next steps in the form of a link with instructions on what to do to access the tender documents. This will usually involve registering your business details on one of the many procurement portals (most Hertfordshire Authorities use Supply Hertfordshire& ProContract), activating a free account, and then clicking through to read more about the tender and/or download all the relevant response materials. This will all take some time and can often prove to be a thankless task in having gone through the full routine, making sure you’ve read the small print on each tender specification to make sure the opportunity is a viable one for you, only to find it isn’t. However, the good news is that new opportunities are posted on these noticeboards every day, so it is vital to have a mindset that there will be an opportunity right for you. Once you’ve got used to navigating the portals and identifying the salient information to make informed decisions quickly, it will prove worthwhile. Big companies invest many ££££s every year in tracking and pursuing tender opportunities.
Once you’ve used the above 3 sites to find the contract opportunity you’ve been looking for, you then need to go through your own selection process to establish whether you are going to bid or not. To help you take this important next step, read our guide on ‘How to decide whether a tender is right for you’.
Finding an efficient way to track, identify,register, access, review and decide on tenders gives your business a systematic list of viable, worthwhile business development opportunities in Hertfordshire which, if taken seriously, will ultimately increase your revenue. Regular checks and notifications will ensure you don’t miss out.
So, there you go, it’s that simple!
Complete Tenders provides a comprehensive Tender Writing Service using specialists with a proven track record to create compelling responses and win contracts.
Call us now on 01707 244713 to talk to our writers and get help to tender more effectively.

“Complete Tenders assisted me in the process of re-tendering for our NHS orthodontic contract as part of a large procurement project. From the outset Matthew was an excellent listener and provided a high level of support in the whole process. I found him easy to communicate with and responsive, with quick turnaround when I posed questions via email or telephone. His team assisted with the writing of the documentation for the submission - I had concerns that using a Company to assist in this process would lead to a generic submission and that this would have a negative impact to the submission. On the contrary - Matthew and his team helped me to create a thorough and robust framework to which I could add the stamp of how I wanted the submission to be presented so that it reflected my practice in the best light. Thanks to Matthew and his Team we have successfully secured a new contract. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Complete Tenders”

Dr Beth RichardsonBasingstoke Orthodontics
defence tenders

Defence Tenders – more than just weapons and vehicles!

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Endless opportunities

Upon hearing the words ‘Defence Tenders’, it’s highly likely that the first thing that springs to mind is military vehicles or weaponry of some sort.

But there’s much more to defence tenders than that; in fact, they cover a huge range of goods and services across a wide variety of industry sectors, from catering (defence personnel need to eat), to construction & facilities management (defence personnel need to places to live and work), to IT/Telecoms services (defence personnel need to communicate) and leisure facilities (for that necessary downtime) to name just a few.

As a result of that huge need for goods and services, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is the UK’s single largest procurer of products and services, with a commitment to spend at least 2% of UK GDP on defence from 2015-2025. In 2017/18 alone this equated to almost £20 billion – over 40% of all UK government procurement spend. The MOD even have their own procurement portal, Defence Contracts Online – https://www.contracts.mod.uk You’ll need to register on this portal to search for defence tenders; there is also a wealth of information there regarding tendering for MOD contracts, and it is also the means through which most defence tenders are submitted.

So now you know that defence tenders cover a huge range of sectors, goods and services, and there’s a huge amount of money being spent on a large number of tenders. However, if you’re an SME you’re probably thinking this all sounds great if you’re a large company, but what chance does a small company have in bidding for a defence tender against a large organisation, one possibly already embedded in the MOD supply chain? In response to that, the MOD have stated that:

  • They recognise that SMEs have a great deal to offer in terms of promoting economic growth
  • They are working to help SMEs gain a greater share of defence related business by improving access to their tenders
  • They want at least 25% of their procurement spend to go to SMEs by 2022.

25% of £20 billion is £5 billion. Each year. All potentially available for SMEs. Of course, the tenders relevant to your business and the profit you can make from them aren’t just going to fall into your lap without effort. Once you’ve searched the defence tenders on the MOD portal for one that fits your business, how do you go about winning it?

Firstly, despite the MOD claiming they’re making their tenders more accessible to SMEs, they’re often very technical, complex and large in size. Don’t let this put you off however, fundamentally the buying process is the same as with any other public sector buyer. Make sure you read all the tender documentation in full, so you understand exactly what the MOD is looking for, whether the tender is broken down into lots, and whether you are able to meet all the requirements. The actual submission process can be complex too so set aside the time needed to thoroughly understand the entire scope of what you need to do. Defence tenders will use specific MOD terminology, acronyms and abbreviations; make sure you use also these same terms in your response to demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the tender requirements.

Secondly, by their very nature the MOD are focussed on compliance, policies, procedures and quality. They are very risk averse and want to be confident that you have extremely robust policies and procedures, along with appropriate quality assurance and governance systems, with clear accountability throughout your organisation. Do your systems and processes have any quality assurance accreditation? Are you registered with the appropriate industry bodies? Throughout your tender response, provide the evidence that the MOD commissioners are looking for to demonstrate and assure them of your compliance. Use management information reports, logbooks, audits and use of technology (e.g. auto-flagging) as evidence to show you have fool proof systems in place that work. Describe the process you use for dealing with any problems or complaints and how you’ve learned from previous feedback to improve the quality of your defence related services. Note: If you don’t already have Cyber Essentials certification and want to start tendering for MOD contracts, you need to start working towards it. MOD policy for contracts that include the transfer of MOD identifiable information requires suppliers to possess Cyber Essentials certification before contract award. At the very least, you will need to show evidence of your progress towards Cyber Essentials certification in time for the contract start date, so get this in place as soon as possible.

Thirdly, the MOD want to be confident that your service will be up and running from day one, including all resources and staff, and that any potential risks are mitigated. Make sure you include mobilisation risk assessments and explain how your previous experience of implementing a new service will be utilised to deliver an effective and successful service this time.  Your staffing structure must meet the qualifications, skill mix and service delivery requirements detailed in the specification. With the MOD focus on compliance, you’ll need to ensure you detail your recruitment compliance checks and how you obtain security clearances if needed for the contract.

Lastly, and an area where SMEs can really excel and complete with larger organisations for defence tenders, is innovation. The MOD currently have a huge emphasis on innovation in order to attract new or non-traditional suppliers, and to keep ahead of the rapidly changing global security and technology landscape. This will be a key differentiator in tender evaluation so you need to show evidence of how you can implement new capabilities quickly and how your innovative methods have been used to provide a faster service, saved your other customers money or time, or delivered better quality and value. As an SME, really focus on how being a smaller, more flexible company gives you a huge advantage over the larger corporates when it comes to innovation.

Complete Tenders provides a comprehensive Tender Writing Service using specialists with a proven track record to create compelling responses and win contracts.
Call us now on 01707 244713 to talk to our writers and get help to tender more effectively.
council tenders

Council tenders – how small businesses can win!

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A world of opportunity

There are 418 principal councils in the UK, each of which has responsibility for some or all of the following local services:

  • Education
  • Highways & transport planning
  • Passenger transport
  • Social Care
  • Housing
  • Libraries
  • Leisure and Recreation
  • Environmental health
  • Waste collection and disposal
  • Planning applications & strategic planning
  • Local tax collection

Each of those 418 councils, including county councils, district councils, unitary authorities and metropolitan boroughs is required to go to tender for most[1] goods and services, either by themselves, as part of a group, or as a buyer on a framework or Dynamic Purchasing System. As you can imagine, that leads to a huge amount of council tenders every year, with each one being an opportunity for a small company to grow their business.

So how do you make the most of these opportunities for council tenders?

When tendering for goods and services, a council will have a particular set of objectives in mind, which they will outline in the tender documentation, so your offer will need to demonstrate that it is precisely aligned to these aims. There may be particular local issues that the council is trying to address, or that needs to be taken into account, so if you are a local SME, demonstrating that you understand these local issues and are best placed to manage them can be a real differentiator against an offer from a large corporate bidder. Figure out how to show you have a better understanding of the council and local community issues than anyone else. Are there key demographics you can include to show how your service is targeted specifically for the council? Are there specific issues with parts of the local community that you have experience in dealing with? How have you engaged / how will you engage with the community to help reduce the impact on council resources?

It’s not just an understanding of local issues where you can gain an advantage over your larger competitors, but if you can demonstrate how your tender response will actually improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the local community, this can gain valuable marks when your tender is evaluated. Council tenders will almost certainly contain a question on Social Value.  Obviously, you need to take into consideration the value of the tender and the size of your business but think about what you can offer in terms of local employment, apprenticeships, volunteering, local business support, and environmental and sustainability considerations. What can you offer as a local SME that a large corporate can’t?

council tenders

Council budgets are tight, and councils are looking to make savings across the board, so your response to council tenders will need to demonstrate that they are getting the best possible value for money. Think about how you can show increased efficiencies and/or reduced costs whilst retaining a high quality service. Do you have figures from your previous contracts/experiences? Have you saved other council customers money over the course of their contracts, if so, how much and how did you do it? Bear in mind that bids from your larger competitors will focus on their ability to achieve volume efficiencies (e.g. by buying in bulk) so you need to provide evidence to counter that by showing that in the long run, your smaller business delivers better value for money.

Councils are risk-averse, so as a small business going up against larger competitors, you are going to need to demonstrate that the quality of your service delivery, including the management of that service, is more stable and better controlled than that of a large corporation. Your tender response needs to show that you have robust contract management processes in place, with a clear organisation and accountability structure and corresponding lines of communication. You’ll need to detail how you ensure that your service delivery is of a consistent high quality and describe the features and benefits of any technology that you use to manage your service delivery. You’ll also need to describe the systems you have in place for dealing with any problems or complaints. Can you show how you have acted on feedback to improve the quality of your service, particularly if you’ve had feedback from other council customers? Including management information reports and details of adherence to the SLA (Service Level Agreement) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will strengthen your bid.

One final area where an SME can excel against larger competition on a council tender is innovation and continuous improvement. This can be a key differentiator from big businesses that might have obsolete or inflexible systems and yards of red tape, so it’s critical  to show evidence of how you can implement new capabilities quickly and how your innovative methods have been used to provide a faster service, saved your other customers money or time, and/or delivered better quality and value. Councils are looking for suppliers to deliver over and above the specified services so they can deliver a better service for their own customers/residents/users. As an SME, really focus on how being a smaller, more flexible company gives you a huge advantage over the larger corporates when it comes to innovation.

Hopefully the above will help you demonstrate to the council that you provide an innovative, high quality, value for money service that addresses local issues and benefits the local community. However, when preparing your response to council tenders, don’t forget the basics:

  • Read all the tender documentation thoroughly to understand all the requirements, including whether the tender is broken down into lots
  • Ensure your policies and procedures are strong, regularly reviewed and communicated to your staff e.g. Health & Safety, Safeguarding, Equality & Diversity
  • Back up all your responses with evidence to assure the council that you are low risk and have the skills and experience necessary to provide the service
  • Prepare 3 relevant references who are happy to be contacted
  • Get your pricing right. Do as much competitor research as possible but pitch to win with at least some profit.  The council will want assurance that the contract is financially viable.

[1] See our blog “Complete Tenders Guide to Public Sector Procurement” for the exceptions.

Get expert help

If all this sounds daunting, help is out there. Complete Tenders provide a range of solutions to help you with your council tenders. To find out more about our services visit our website, or email us at info@completetenders.com.


Alternatively call us now to see how our team of experts can help you on 01707 244713.

tender writing

Tender Writing Top Tips

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The do's and don'ts of tender writing

Most tenders require you to provide two types of information – your pricing and your answers to questions about how you will deliver the service. These are often known as quality questions or method statements.  This blog suggests some top tips to bear in mind when writing the responses to these quality questions.


  1. Understand how the tender will be assessed and scored. What is the buyer looking for in a response to score full marks? Usually to score full marks, you will need to provide responses that not only answer the question accurately, but go above and beyond the requirements outlined in the specification and offer added value to the buyer, providing them with a service or product in excess of the base requirements and KPIs.
  1. Make sure you answer each question in full. Use the structure of the question to help you – if it’s broken down into sub sections, break your answer down into sub sections. If it has a list of bullet points that need to be covered, create a heading for each of those bullet points and address each one separately. In some cases, a question can be very open, for example ‘Detail how you would deliver the service?’ This is much harder to answer than a question that then goes on to say, ‘Please ensure you include information on your opening hours, how you would meet the timescales, and conform to relevant legislation’. For these open questions, look at the specification and how the service is described (to continue with that example) and structure your answer correspondingly.
  1. Use the specification to help you answer the questions. Use the same terminology in your answers as that used in the specification (e.g. ‘service user’, ‘patient’, ‘client’, ‘customer’). Some tenders ask you to make specific reference to the specification, in these cases, refer to the section numbers. If timescales are specified, ensure you include these in your answer. Check that you’ve addressed everything in the specification in the corresponding question response.
  1. Provide evidence. In every response you need to back up what you’re saying with evidence. You should include facts and figures wherever possible, detail staff qualifications and experience, and use case histories and testimonials with names, dates, and results. The buyer wants to be confident in your ability to deliver the contract, so showing how you have done it elsewhere is critical. Use management information to demonstrate what you have delivered to that client, what were the outcomes of your service to them?
  1. Keep within the specified word count/character count. This can be a tricky aspect of tender writing. When creating the first draft of an answer, don’t worry too much about this, obviously other than being aware if the answer needs to fit into 200 words, there’s no point writing 1000. Just write down all the information you want to include, and then shape it into the allotted count. There’s possibly content for an entire blog post on the art and frustrations of reducing word/character count in an answer!
  1. Be concise, succinct and get your point across.
Tender Writing

And let’s not forget the things you shouldn’t do when tender writing.


  1. Include marketing material, irrelevant information or waffle.
  1. Write in the first person. ‘I am the Managing Director and I perform tasks A, B and C’ does not read as well as ‘Mr Jones is the Managing Director, responsible for tasks A, B and C’.
  1. Leave it all till the last minute. Crafting a succinct response that includes all the relevant information, gets your point across, demonstrates that you’re the best company to award the tender, and details supporting evidence takes time and effort. Your competitors will be giving this tender the time it deserves to win the contract; you need to do the same.
  1. Never, ever assume. If something is ambiguous or unclear, ask a clarification question. Every public sector tender will give you the opportunity to ask questions to the buying organisation.
  1. Reference other answers within your response. Each response should answer the question in full, so don’t for example, say ‘Opening hours will be as detailed earlier in question 2’; make sure you write the opening hours out again. Each question will be scored individually on its merits, so each response needs to have all your information in it.
  1. Repeat yourself within the same response. You won’t get extra marks for saying something twice within the same answer, and you’re using up valuable word count. Make sure your answer is structured so the information is clearly presented.

Get expert help

If all this sounds daunting, help is out there. Complete Tenders provide a range of solutions to help you with your tender writing. To find out more about our services visit our website, or email us at info@completetenders.com.

Alternatively call us now to see how our team of experts can help you on 01707 244713.

“Complete Tenders assisted me in the process of re-tendering for our NHS orthodontic contract as part of a large procurement project. From the outset Matthew was an excellent listener and provided a high level of support in the whole process. I found him easy to communicate with and responsive, with quick turnaround when I posed questions via email or telephone. His team assisted with the writing of the documentation for the submission - I had concerns that using a Company to assist in this process would lead to a generic submission and that this would have a negative impact to the submission. On the contrary - Matthew and his team helped me to create a thorough and robust framework to which I could add the stamp of how I wanted the submission to be presented so that it reflected my practice in the best light. Thanks to Matthew and his Team we have successfully secured a new contract. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Complete Tenders”

Dr Beth RichardsonBasingstoke Orthodontics

Grounds Maintenance Tenders – much more than mowing the lawn!

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More and more private companies and public sector organisations are outsourcing the maintenance of their grounds or estates as they either don’t have (or want) the expertise in-house.

There is the expense of dedicated staff and equipment and the costs of the systems and processes required to manage things properly that all need to be considered. As a result, there are a lot of opportunities for grounds maintenance companies to grow their business as tendering tends to be the main way these organisations will buy their grounds maintenance services.  Trees, plants and grass don’t stop growing so there are regular contracts up for grabs, and hopefully your business can grow too.


Along with the opportunities comes competition, so you’re likely to be up against a lot of other grounds maintenance companies when trying to find work. As our title suggests, grounds maintenance tenders are about much more than mowing the lawn, so you need to make sure your tender responses are the best they can be. Some ideas on how to produce an outstanding grounds maintenance tender are set out below.


Get your business in shape and ready for grounds maintenance tenders 

If you haven’t tendered before (or even if you have), a good place to start is by making sure that your business is in the best shape possible for tendering. Grounds maintenance tenders are likely to ask questions on topics including Health & Safety, environmental awareness and staff qualifications/training. Ask yourself:

  • Is your Health & Safety policy up to date and reviewed regularly?
  • Can you evidence that?
  • Do you provide your staff with appropriate PPE?
  • Are your risk assessments and method statements documented and used?
  • Is your Environmental Policy up to date and reviewed regularly?
  • What environmentally friendly processes and procedures do you follow, and can you evidence them (e.g. waste management, consumables)?
  • Do your staff hold any formal qualifications?
  • Do you have a written training policy and career progression opportunities?
  • Have any of your existing management staff worked their way up through the business?
  • Does your business hold any certifications (e.g. ISO 14001, ISO 9001, Investors in People etc)? If not, it can be worth investigating whether these will help you win the type of grounds maintenance tenders you want to win.
grounds maintenance tenders

Figure out your Unique Selling Point (USP)

When responding to a tender you need to make sure the buyer understands your USP and what advantages/benefits awarding the tender to your company will provide. Are you a local company employing local people that cares about the local community? Do you embrace new technology and use it to save time and money? You need to figure out your value proposition and why the tender should go to you.  What makes you different and ultimately better than your competition? Then – get that point across throughout the answers in your tender (but without being negative about the competition!).


Find the right tender

Now your business is in good shape and you understand what makes you different from the competition, you need to find that perfect tender . Think about what would comprise your perfect grounds maintenance tender and analyse all potential tenders against those criteria. Think about value, location, services required, deadline for submission and pricing.


Don’t limit yourself to public sector contracts only – there are many private sector grounds maintenance contracts as well.  Due to the very nature of the business there are many private estates and private estate management companies that will look for suppliers through a formal tender process. There are differences between public and private sector contracts, but the fundamental tendering process remains broadly the same.


Finding a private sector contract isn’t as straightforward as finding a public sector one as they’re not all advertised in one place. You’ll have to be pro-active and, for example, phone property management companies and ask if there are any opportunities in their pipeline, and what the process is for you to be added to their preferred supplier list.  You could call estate/factory owners and ask if you can quote to look after the grounds, subcontract to a larger facilities management company, start networking, or contact the large contractors who look after large public areas and properties (e.g. Cushman & Wakefield, CBRE) so you can get on their distribution list when they go out to tender.

Writing a winning response

When it comes to the actual writing of the response, make sure you read the questions carefully and answer them in full each time. Refer to any relevant previous grounds maintenance experience when responding, to prove that you have the skills and expertise to carry out the contract. If you don’t already have customer testimonials, start collecting them. You’ll also need names and contact details for references.


If the tender documentation offers a site visit, take advantage of it. You should be used to site visits to quote for jobs anyway and the more you know about the site(s) and the buyer, the better able you will be to understand what they’re looking for and address their needs in your tender response. If the documentation doesn’t suggest a visit, ask if you can visit anyway. This also provides a vital opportunity to meet the buyer and ask them questions.


Ensure your response demonstrates that you have robust contract management processes, a clear organisational structure and corresponding lines of communication. Include the experience that your account managers have of previous similar contracts. Show how your quality assurance processes ensure the grounds you maintain are always to an excellent standard. Describe the technology you use to manage your service delivery and the management reports you provide that show the buyer how you meet your performance targets. Highlight your adherence to the SLA (Service Level Agreement) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on previous/current contracts.


Re-assuring the buyer that you provide a quality grounds maintenance service will also be key. They need to be confident that your staff will turn up on site each day, and provide a timely, quality service using the best materials and equipment. Do you have any quality assurance accreditation? How do you deal with feedback, complaints, or problems? Do you go back to site straight away to remedy? If you have any evidence that you’ve responded to previous feedback to improve the quality of your service, include it.


Finally, and confirming that grounds maintenance tenders are about much more than mowing the lawn, buyers are looking for suppliers to deliver over and above the specified services so they can deliver a better service for their own customers, users, residents, patients etc.  You are likely to need to answer questions on innovation and enhancement and will need to highlight the service improvements you’re going to make over the length of the contract. Make sure you show evidence of how your innovative methods have been used to save your other customers money or deliver a better quality service.


If you need help and support with any aspect of Grounds Maintenance tenders, from getting your business in shape, to finding a tender, to writing a winning response, Complete Tenders are here to help. We offer a variety of services including our Tender Tracker service where we search open tenders for that perfect opportunity for your business, to our tender writing services where we work with you to craft winning tender responses, to the full bid management service where we provide you with an end-to-end tendering process experience to maximise your return on investment and deliver significant growth.

Get expert help

Contact us on 01707 244713 or send an email to info@completetenders.com.

tendering process

Why tender? What’s in it for me?

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Never thought of engaging in the tendering process?

Here’s why it could be the perfect way to grow your SME.

If you’ve always thought that tendering for public sector contracts was just for large companies, it’s worth thinking again. The government has stated that by 2022 a third1 of its spend on goods and services will be with SMEs (including VCSEs), either directly or through the supply chain. Given the government spends £284 billion2 a year on buying goods and services from external suppliers via the tendering process, it’s a huge opportunity and one you ought to consider if you want to grow your business.

And it’s not just public sector organisations that go out to tender either, many private sector companies also invite suppliers to tender for contracts, and although there are some differences between the two, fundamentally the tendering process remains the same, as do the benefits and opportunities.

Some of the reasons why tendering could really help your small business grow are:

  • The buyer is actively looking for the product/service you provide. You don’t need to go out and find a customer and convince them of the need for your product or service because they already know they need it. Their decision to buy is made and they just need to make up their minds who to buy from. The tendering process provides you with an opportunity to explain why your company provides the best solution to meet their requirements.
  • Contracts are typically for a minimum of 3 years – winning such a tender provides you with a steady, known income for that length of time and something predictable you can build further business on. Often contracts are extended by 1 or 2 years, and what starts as one contract can easily turn into a long- term relationship beneficial to both parties; applicable in both the public and private sector.
  • The criteria for winning a public sector tender is very clear with a published and fair scoring system, meaning no barriers to SMEs because of favouritism or nepotism . Tenders are usually evaluated according to MEAT – Most Economically Advantageous Tender – where price and quality are given a weighting, responses are scored, the weighting applied and the bidder with the highest score wins. For example a tender may have a weighting of 40% on price and 60% on quality, and within the quality section there could be a number of questions, each with their own weighting – perhaps 3 questions weighted at 20% each, and 4 questions at 10% each. How responses are scored (e.g. with marks out of 4 or 5, and how to achieve those marks) is also detailed in the tendering process documentation.
  • Finding a public sector tender opportunity that fits your business model is relatively straightforward. All opportunities over £10,000 for central government or £25,000 for the rest of the public sector are published on UK Contracts Finder, whilst higher value contracts (e.g. over £181,302 for supplies and services) are published on the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU). Both portals can be searched with keywords. Take a look at our Guide to Tendering with the Public Sector for more information on how the whole tendering process works.
  • The tendering process includes the buyer providing feedback on why your bid was successful or unsuccessful often with a comparison to the winning bidder if relevant, enabling you to learn from the experience and improve your bid the next time you tender. This is the secret to consistently winning contracts. The feedback you receive may even help you improve your business outside of the tendering process too – for example it may result in better policies and procedures, better adherence to regulations, or encourage you to gain accreditations/certifications such as Investors in People, or other industry specific awards.
  • Tenders aren’t just for direct contracts with buyers, there are also opportunities to win a place on a framework – a tendering process which results in a group of suppliers that the buyer(s) will choose from each time they need a product/service delivered. Although it doesn’t guarantee you work, getting appointed to a framework can be easier than winning a direct contract – you don’t need to beat all the competition to be appointed to a Framework, just some of the competition. Some of the bigger companies may not be interested in Frameworks due to the lower value per supplier making it a prime opportunity for SMEs.
  • As an SME you often have a USP that can really give you a competitive edge over your larger competitors and you are usually able to react more quickly to changing needs, be flexible, innovate more easily, offer a bespoke service and provide better value for money. Often your local knowledge is outstanding, and many tenders now include questions around what you can give back to the community, aka Social Value, or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) – the fact that your employees live and work in the local community, and you use goods and services from other small businesses will all help you in the tendering process.

The tendering process can be a powerful way to grow your business, and is an avenue full of opportunities, but it can seem complex if you’ve never tendered before and time consuming if you’re tendering regularly.  Complete Tenders offers a range of services to help SMEs through the complexities of tendering, from our Tender Tracker service where we search open tenders for that perfect opportunity for your business, to our tender writing services where we work with you to craft winning tender responses, to the full bid management service where we provide you with an end-to-end tendering process experience to maximise your return on investment and deliver significant growth.

Reference 1 https://openforbusiness.campaign.gov.uk/

Reference 2 https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/summary-government-procurement-scale-nature-contracting-uk

Complete Tenders provides a comprehensive Tender Writing Service using specialists with a proven track record to create compelling responses and win contracts.

Get expert help

Complete Tenders provide a range of solutions to support with the tendering process. To find out more about our services visit our website, or email us at info@completetenders.com.


Alternatively call us now to see how our team of experts can help you on 01707 244713.

“Complete Tenders assisted me in the process of re-tendering for our NHS orthodontic contract as part of a large procurement project. From the outset Matthew was an excellent listener and provided a high level of support in the whole process. I found him easy to communicate with and responsive, with quick turnaround when I posed questions via email or telephone. His team assisted with the writing of the documentation for the submission - I had concerns that using a Company to assist in this process would lead to a generic submission and that this would have a negative impact to the submission. On the contrary - Matthew and his team helped me to create a thorough and robust framework to which I could add the stamp of how I wanted the submission to be presented so that it reflected my practice in the best light. Thanks to Matthew and his Team we have successfully secured a new contract. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Complete Tenders”

Dr Beth RichardsonBasingstoke Orthodontics
cleaning tenders

Cleaning tenders – growth through tendering

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Opportunity for your cleaning company to thrive

If you’ve been running a cleaning business for a while, or even if you’re just starting out, you might have thought about cleaning tenders as a way to win more work and grow your business. Whether your core business is commercial cleaning, office cleaning, car cleaning, window cleaning or graffiti removal, a fantastic way to expand your business is by winning a cleaning tender. Cleaning is a service that is regularly outsourced, for example by schools, councils, hospitals, offices, fleet management companies, universities and housing organisations to name a few.  This provides a regular stream of opportunities for cleaning tenders and therefore significant prospects for business growth.

So how do you make the most of these opportunities?

In most cases, your experience will be in management and provision of cleaning services, not in procurement or writing tender responses; so how do you make sure that the bid you submit is as good as it can be? There are several key areas to consider when it comes to winning a cleaning tender; this blog will take you through them step by step to help you to write a winning response.

What does the buyer want?

For all cleaning tenders you will need a thorough understanding of what exactly the buyer is looking for. Read all the documentation associated with the tender. Check floor plans or surface areas (e.g. of windows) if applicable. Is any specialist cleaning required? Understand whether the cleaning must take place during certain hours (e.g. before school/after office hours). Check whether any security clearances are necessary, or staff background checks. If the buyer has a current service, is it provided by an in-house team or is it already outsourced to another contractor? Are they having problems with that service and if so, what are they? Think about how you can address those problems. Wherever possible arrange a site visit so you can gain a full understanding of the premises to be cleaned and talk to staff on the ground about what works well/what isn’t working. The cleaning tender process will also enable you to ask questions for clarification, use this opportunity to ensure the service you provide covers every requirement.

A high quality service

Whatever the buyer’s requirements are, they will want a high quality service delivery for their cleaning tenders. They don’t want to waste time and effort dealing with problems and complaints and poor quality cleaning. You will need to demonstrate to the buyer that not only is your cleaning service of high quality, but that you can maintain this consistently over the course of the contract. Think about what processes you have in place for monitoring your service and your team. What audits do you perform? Can you explain how you ensure a full complement of staff turn up to work each shift and how you ensure they clean to a high standard in the time allowed? Do you need to improve anything (e.g. introduce new technology) before tendering for work? If there is a problem, do you have consistent, well understood processes in place to deal with it? E.g. if a buyer finds some unsatisfactory work, what do they do to report it and how will you resolve it? What do you do if a staff member doesn’t turn up to work? Do you have relevant industry accreditations such as British Institute of Cleaning Science, Federation of Window Cleaners, CHAS, SafeContractor, ISO9001, ISO 14001 etc to demonstrate that you are low risk?

cleaning tenders

Staff training

Linked with quality of service, you will need to demonstrate that your staff are fully trained in their roles, follow all your policies and procedures and have any necessary qualifications where applicable. Do you have specific induction training for staff who join the company? Is any mandatory training repeated annually? How do you ensure staff know what to do on a new site? If you don’t maintain a staff training matrix showing training completed and due dates of future training, consider creating one and ensure it is regularly maintained.

Health and safety

By its very nature, cleaning is a service with risks associated with it. You’ll need to demonstrate robust Health and Safety processes and procedures, including risk assessments and method statements for all tasks undertaken, COSHH procedures and compliance with RIDDOR. The buyer will want to be sure that the cleaning service will be carried out with minimum risk to both your employees and their employees, along with anyone else on site and the general public. This may cover, for example, working at height, working in confined spaces, lone working, protecting the public, manual handling, asbestos awareness or accidents and emergencies. This may also involve working around children and vulnerable adults (e.g. schools) or patients in care (e.g. hospitals, care homes), which requires suppliers to have specific processes like Safeguarding in place.  Make sure your Health and Safety policy is up to date, that you have other appropriate policies in place, and they are all reviewed regularly.

Environmental awareness

Any buyer will want assurances that the cleaning company they use has a robust environmental awareness and operates sustainably. You will probably need to supply your environmental policy and procedures. Can you describe all the ways your business operates with the environment in mind? Think about water usage, environmentally friendly consumables, recycling, chemical-free solutions, staff training in proper product usage, electricity usage, and operating a ‘greener’ fleet (e.g. electric vehicles, regular servicing and maintenance, route management). Providing real figures regarding environmental impact will help your tender e.g. how much water do you use/save by following your procedures? What’s your carbon footprint? How much has your new dosing system reduced the use of cleaning fluids?


Evidence is key to winning cleaning tenders. You need to support all your responses with as much evidence as you can, particularly if you’re a small business competing against bigger companies. If you don’t already have some customer testimonials, start collecting them. Use facts and figures from your previous experience to support your bid.

Get expert help

Bear the above in mind when writing your next tender response and you should be on your way to winning a valuable cleaning contract.  Complete Tenders uses a system of writing tenders to help cleaning companies beat the competition and consistently win contracts.   To find out more about this system, or if you need help with any aspect of tendering, please visit our website, or email us at info@completetenders.com.


Alternatively call us now to see how our team of experts can help you on 01707 244713.

“Our Company first used Complete Tenders in May 2018 where I was struggling to finish a tender due to the complexities of the finances. I called Complete tenders and Matthew dropped everything he was doing to assist and pulled the figures together in a short space of time which I then submitted on time. As a result of Matthew's intervention, we were awarded the contract in June 2018. I am confident that Complete tenders will help us grow our business significantly over the foreseeable future and look forward to what can be achieved. I would not hesitate in recommending Complete Tenders to any organisation that has growth at the heart of their business strategy.”

Andy PearmanUnited Cleaning Solutions
online tenders, tenders

Online Tenders – how to get it right!

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Top tips when using online tender portals for tender submissions

Most tenders are now submitted via an online portal rather than by email or post. However, buying organisations don’t all use the same one and inevitably, there are now a myriad of procurement portals, all of which are navigated slightly (or even very) differently. Consequently, this blog isn’t a user guide to online portals; rather it is some top tips to be aware of when using an online portal to submit online tenders.


Our Top Tips for tender submissions are:


  • You’re going to need to register on the portal. To do this you will generally need some company information and an email address for notifications, and you’ll have to set a password. Make sure you set up the notification emails so that they go to multiple email addresses or a group email address accessed by more than one staff member. You don’t want to miss important updates when a member of staff is on holiday, off sick or otherwise unavailable.


  • Some portals may appear to be different but actually are under the same umbrella so only one login is required. For example, many are powered by Proactis, such as ProContract Due North, The Chest, London Tenders Portal, YORtender. You only need to register once to access all these.


  • Keep a central log of all your portal usernames and passwords; once you start tendering you may find the list growing rapidly. Its also a good idea to print this out every so often so you have a hard copy back up. Your security doesn’t need to be too tight as this access is only to an online tender portal, rather than your bank account…


  • That said, make sure your portal passwords are not the same as those for your bank account, i.e. don’t choose your cats name!


  • Once you have accessed the portal, you will usually have a dashboard, where you can click through to view the particular tender opportunity you are exploring, and likely there are other areas, like ‘other tenders,’ ‘messages’ and ‘user/company profile.’ As portals manage multiple tenders, you may also be able to search for other tender opportunities.


  • In order to download all the documents associated with a tender and/or ask a question you may need to ‘register your interest’ or ‘opt in.’ Don’t worry, this doesn’t commit you to anything, but will thenceforth engage you in the notifications related to that tender exercise.


  • Familiarise yourself with the portal after registering and downloading the documents. How do you navigate the various sections? What do the various sections contain? This helps you to become familiar with the site, so that you can make tendering an efficient process. Its also important to know where to upload your tender submission when the deadline is looming.
  • Clarification questions will need to be asked using the communications or messaging function in the portal. Familiarise yourself with how the messaging works before you need to use it and check emails regularly as you will be provided with answers to other potential suppliers’ questions in addition to your own.


  • If the buyer makes changes to a document or a date, they will use the portal to inform anyone who has registered an interest about the change. Don’t ignore emails from the portal – login and check what has changed as this may have important implications e.g. the deadline date has been put back.


  • In order to submit online tenders, some portals require you to upload a set of completed documents, whereas others require you to enter text directly into fields in the portal. Some require both, some require you to click a button to confirm you understand and agree with the terms and conditions. Make sure you understand how the submission works well in advance of the deadline.


  • Check if the portal has any specific limitations on file size. Some smaller portals may limit the files you can upload, which may have significant consequences if you’ve just spent 3 weeks preparing a beautifully designed and formatted proposal, only to be faced with ‘file size too large for destination server.’


  • There is often a limit to the number of words or characters that you are allowed to enter into a text field on a portal. Bear in mind that the word/character count in MSWord can be slightly different to that in the portal (particularly character count as portals include carriage returns) so an answer that is within character count in your document may be over the limit in the portal. Don’t leave it to the last minute to find this out and needing to make edits with 5 minutes to go!


  • With some portals, you can save a partial submission to go back to later if needed. This is handy if you’re uploading many responses/supporting documents and some are ready before others. It’s also good practice to press save regularly when uploading everything at once, just in case you have an IT issue. Only when you’ve uploaded everything do you need to press submit.


  • Lastly, and this may sound obvious (and sometimes seem unavoidable!) but don’t leave the tender submission to the last minute. Allow yourself plenty of time. Large files can take time to upload. Portals can have problems of their own. Your business could have network connectivity issues. And so on. You don’t want to spend weeks working on your submission, only to fail to submit it because you left it too late. Deadline extensions are not usually possible.

Get expert help

If all this sounds daunting, help is out there. Complete Tenders provide a range of solutions to help you with your online tenders. To find out more about our services visit our website, or email us at info@completetenders.com.


Alternatively call us now to see how our team of experts can help you on 01707 244713.

dental tender

How to win a dental tender

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Creating winning bids in the dental arena

As a dentist, endodontist, orthodontist or other specialist dental services provider, a key part of your business growth strategy could be to win an NHS dental tender, for a new specialist service, or re-tender for an existing NHS contract that you already hold. Most NHS dental contracts are time-limited, so just because you hold one now, doesn’t automatically mean it will be re-awarded to you. Additionally, you may find that when a dental service is re-tendered, the locations and lot sizes have been reassessed, relocated and resized due to changing NHS patient needs. Existing PDS contract holders will need to submit a dental tender in the same way as potential new providers and will be assessed in exactly the same way.

NHS dental tenders are focussed on bringing equity, accessibility, value and excellence to the provision of dental care and treatment with improved patient outcomes. Understanding the commissioners’ motivations are key, so your dental tender response will need to demonstrate that your practice delivers outstanding quality of care and cost-effectiveness with the needs of all patients at the heart of what you do. In this way, smaller dental practices can show that they are not just as good, but even better than the large dental corporations out there. This blog outlines some key ways to achieve success and beat the competition to winning a dental tender.

Firstly, quality of service. You are going to need to describe and, importantly, evidence the following:

  • How you adhere to regulatory standards (GDC, BOS, IRMER etc)
  • What clinical audits you perform, and the audit process undertaken (e.g. plan, audit, action plan, re-audit). Show that your process is more efficient and effective than a large corporation that may have layers or bureaucracy to overcome before things get changed
  • The structure of your organisation with clearly defined roles & responsibilities (e.g. Caldicott Guardian, Clinical Governance Lead, Data Protection Officer, Compliance Manager, SIRO, Safeguarding Lead, Radiation Protection Officer etc)
  • What safeguarding procedures you have in place and the safeguarding training undertaken by your staff. Show this from your receptionist to your principal practitioner
  • Your approach to Health and Safety; it’s not enough to simply say you have a H&S policy – how often is it reviewed, how are staff trained on H&S, do you undertake H&S audits etc
  • That your patient complaints procedures are advertised, followed and result in process improvements and better patient care. Again, differentiate from your bigger rivals by showing how effective your feedback and lessons learnt processes are.
  • That you have strong incident reporting procedures in place, and staff adhere to Duty of Candour

The highest scoring tender responses will demonstrate extremely robust clinical governance policies and procedures, along with an appropriate quality assurance and governance mechanism, such as the BDA Good Practice Scheme, with clear accountability throughout the organisation. At every appropriate opportunity, provide the evidence that the NHS commissioners are looking for to demonstrate your performance; this may include practice vital sign information, NHS BSA Compass-e-portal evidence, NHS Dental Reference Service Reports, PAR scores, FFT results, PROMS/PREMS, IMOS/Endodontic/Orthodontic Transition Score, Dental Assurance Framework, NHS choices, referral to assessment waiting and assessment to treatment waiting times, CQC reports.

Secondly, ensuring the needs of patients, accessibility and equity of care are at the heart of your service delivery. You will need to think about, describe, and evidence:

  • How your proposed surgery location and layout comply with relevant legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act (e.g. hearing loop, wheelchair access, proximity of public transport, parking)
  • How you meet and exceed patient expectations (provision of information, ensuring understanding of treatment plan, oral health care advice etc)
  • How you prioritise patients and manage waiting lists, including transferred patients
  • How you manage referrals
  • How you meet the needs of vulnerable and hard to reach groups
  • How you engage with the local community (e.g. school visits to reduce incidences of poor oral health)
  • How you have used the feedback mechanisms you have in place (e.g. satisfaction surveys, social media) to implement patient feedback
  • How the technology you use in your practice helps you meet the needs of patients.

The best responses will demonstrate that you have an in depth understanding of the local population and its associated challenges/issues, and that your surgery is the best equipped to deal with them. This is critical to differentiating yourself from a competitor that might not have any understanding at this level. Include evidence of discussions with NHS Area Teams, MCN meetings, Healthwatch, and if possible, your previous experience of e.g. waiting times, to show your knowledge and why your practice is ideally placed to deliver the new contract.

Thirdly, resourcing. You can’t provide outstanding quality of service and meet the needs of patients without the correct staff in place from day one. You will need to:

  • Provide a detailed mobilisation plan showing that all potential risks from lack of resources have been mitigated. Even if some things are already in place, include these as ‘completed items’ to show you’ve considered them
  • Ensure your proposed staffing structure meets the required qualifications, skill-mix, experience and service delivery requirements. Show why your clinical team are more qualified than anyone else. Show why your non-clinical team are more qualified than anyone else
  • Provide a clear organisational plan with defined roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability. Don’t make 1 person accountable or responsible for everything as this implies a work-overload and potential to drop the ball
  • Use evidence and statistics to back up your statements on staff quality e.g. PAR scores, patient feedback letters
  • Evidence how you follow NHS safer recruitment guidelines when recruiting
  • Describe your staff training program and how you ensure compliance with GDC CPD requirements. Do you use a matrix to flag when training is out of date?
  • Detail your process for managing staff conduct and performance
  • Provide assurances that you can retain compliant, qualified, high-performing staff.

The best responses will demonstrate that you have thought about all elements of a thorough mobilisation (e.g. patient data transfer, surgery fit-out, TUPE of existing staff and the costs) and that your staff are in place, competent and compliant with strong supporting HR policies.

Lastly, finance. Your tender proposal needs to be financially viable, deliver long-term value for money and be aligned with the resourcing structure you outline as the tender evaluators will cross reference it. Your dental tender financial model needs to include:

  • Full costings for all the staff you outline in your tender responses
  • Full costings for equipment (e.g. if you refer to using a new digital dental scanner this needs to be in the set-up costs)
  • The cost of any fit-out required
  • Proof of funds for any up-front costs
  • Show a positive cash-flow throughout to evidence a stable business model.

The pricing element of a dental tender is typically limited to committing to pricing per unit of activity (UDA/UOA) within a pre-determined band. Consequently, there is limited room to differentiate your practice from much of the competition and highlights the importance of doing this as much as possible in the written element of the tender. As charges and therefore revenues generated from dental activity is largely fixed and the same for all bidders, the onus on preparing a strong pricing tender/financial model template (FMT) becomes the viability of your service delivery. The more comprehensive and inclusive your FMT is, the less room for doubt you give to the tender evaluation panel. Not only that, but you may be able to point out costs to the commissioners that other bidders haven’t even thought of, and thereby show that their FMT’s are incomplete or unviable.

In addition to the above, and this may seem obvious, always remember to answer the specific question that is being asked. Responses will have limited word or character counts, so there won’t be room for additional information that you want to provide but haven’t been asked for (and it won’t be scored).

Proven dental tender experience

Complete Tenders’ proven success in winning dental tenders and orthodontic tenders comes from applying a detailed knowledge of the dental services industry to best principles in securing NHS contracts. If you would like help preparing your dental tender, please see our website for more details or get in touch via info@completetenders.com or by giving us a call on 01707 244713.

“Complete Tenders assisted me in the process of re-tendering for our NHS orthodontic contract as part of a large procurement project. From the outset Matthew was an excellent listener and provided a high level of support in the whole process. I found him easy to communicate with and responsive, with quick turnaround when I posed questions via email or telephone. His team assisted with the writing of the documentation for the submission - I had concerns that using a Company to assist in this process would lead to a generic submission and that this would have a negative impact to the submission. On the contrary - Matthew and his team helped me to create a thorough and robust framework to which I could add the stamp of how I wanted the submission to be presented so that it reflected my practice in the best light. Thanks to Matthew and his Team we have successfully secured a new contract. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Complete Tenders”

Dr Beth RichardsonBasingstoke Orthodontics

To bid or not to bid – how to analyse whether a tender is right for you

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Finding the perfect tender for your business

There are thousands of open tenders in the UK at any one time, a quick search of either of the two main databases – OJEU and Contracts Finder – will show just how many there are. Both databases can be searched using keywords, so you can search for tenders relevant to your business; but even then, the number of tenders returned using a keyword search can be huge, so how do you narrow the field down to that one key tender that fits your business perfectly and gives you a good chance of winning?

Ensure you understand your requirements

Firstly, before you even start searching, determine what would comprise your ideal tender. Make a list of all the things your ideal tender would contain. If your business provides multiple services/products, do this for each service/product. This will really help you narrow down what it is you’re looking for and will help you analyse real tenders as you’ll be able to compare them against your ideal.

Having understood what would comprise your ideal tender, it should be fairly straightforward to put together a list of specific keywords to use to search the databases.

Your database search using those keywords may return one tender, it may return ten, or it may return many more. When you have that list, what do you look for to determine if it’s a good fit for your business?


If you supply goods and/or services nationwide, then location isn’t necessarily of importance. But if you can only supply fairly locally, you can discount any tenders for locations outside of your area. Additionally, being local can put you at a real advantage if you can demonstrate a unique understanding of the needs and/or challenges of the local community in your tender response.


If you’re a small business, with a relatively low turnover, trying to win a £multi-million tender straight out is unlikely to be a fruitful pursuit. Be realistic about the value of the tender you may be able to win. Some tenders state a minimum turnover in the requirements; some require that the income from the contract will not be more than a certain percentage of your turnover. Not all tenders publish a contract value, so you may have to dig deeper and look at exactly what they’re specifying to work out the value from your approximate bid price.


When is the tender response due? Crafting a winning bid is time consuming, so if the deadline is only a week away, you’re going to be under pressure and your bid may not be as good as it could be. Choosing a tender where you have enough time to pull together your response properly and can go through a revision and edit process will help ensure your bid is the best it can be.

Framework vs Direct Contract

Getting appointed onto a Framework may be easier than winning a direct contract if you are just starting out. It can help you gain valuable experience and use the credentials of being a ‘framework approved supplier’ to attract other business. However, as no income is guaranteed if you are appointed, you may wish to focus your efforts on winning a direct contract outright. If possible, try to calculate the likely revenue each venture will bring over the long-term and the likelihood of success. This is a key area where an expert like Complete Tenders can really help.

What assessment weighting is being used?

Tenders are assessed according to the principles of MEAT – Most Economically Advantageous Tender – and will have a ratio (or weighting) of quality vs price. For example, a tender could be assessed as 80% on quality and 20% on price, or vice versa, or any other ratio, including 100% on quality or 100% on price. If you know that your prices generally come in higher than your competitors, then bidding on a tender with a large weighting on price won’t be in your favour. Where there is a better ratio between quality and price, and your higher quality can outweigh your competitors’ lower prices, then this is the tender for you.

How much work is involved in creating a response?

Does the tender simply involve answering some standard questions about your business or are there more complicated method statements to be written? Do you have any previous material you can use to help you answer the questions and build on these to make them stronger and more relevant to this buyer? If the questions are complex and plentiful and you are new to tendering, consider whether this is the best use of your time or whether you should look for an ‘easier’ tender. That said, time and effort spent on preparing any tender makes the next one a little easier.

Do you have all the documents required?

Some tenders require the submission of extra documentation such as policies and procedures. Do you already have all the documentation required? Would you need to create any? It may be more appropriate to leave the tender this time, and work on creating the documentation so you have it ready for the next time.

Pricing schedule

How complicated is the pricing schedule and how much work is involved in completing it? Do you have experience completing similar pricing schedules? Are you able to review it to calculate the total value and the margin you would make? The pricing model will play a large part in deciding whether you can make money from the contract or not – ultimately if you’re not making any money from it, its not worth bidding for.

Terms and conditions

Is there anything in the terms and conditions that would affect your decision to bid? Are you able to confer with a legal support about getting into such a contract?

Does the specification match your business?

The above should have narrowed your search results significantly, so now you’re going to need to read the tender specification in detail to understand exactly what the buyer is looking for and determine whether you can deliver all that is being asked. Consider whether you can demonstrate previous experience and provide evidence to back up your bid.

Get expert help

If all this sounds daunting, help is out there. Complete Tenders provides a personal tender tracking service that does all the hard work for you. Our specialist team will shortlist only those tenders that are a good fit for your business using years of experience in winning contracts. We will help you make informed decisions to bid to ensure you get a successful return on your tendering investment.

Alternatively call us now to see how we can help you tender more effectively on 01707 244713.

Winning a Catering Tender

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There are hundreds of businesses, large and small in the catering industry, looking after our culinary needs.

If you’re the owner of a catering business, you’re probably on the lookout for ways to grow your business and increase your market share. One way to develop your business is by winning a public sector catering tender.

There are a huge number of catering tenders available as this is a service regularly outsourced by many organisations, e.g. schools, hospitals, care homes, festivals, airports, exhibitions, councils, offices, the armed forces. However, if your business is focussed on supplying sandwiches, you don’t want to waste time and resources tendering for a contract for fruit and veg deliveries.

So firstly you need to find a catering tender that applies to your business. All UK public sector tender opportunities, depending on their value, must be published either on the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) website or the UK government website Contracts Finder. You can search these databases using key words to find a tender appropriate to your business.

Once you’ve found that perfect tender (it’s only a matter of time!), what do you need to consider and how best should you answer the tender questions?

1. Check how the tender is structured

Check how the tender is structured. Is it split into different lots or are all the catering products and services grouped together? If the latter, be sure you can deliver all of the requirements. This is a good opportunity to demonstrate to the buyer how you will achieve excellent volume efficiencies to save them money. If they award the whole contract to you, how much will they save? Can you offer some added value incentives? Correspondingly, if you’re bidding for an individual lot, how will your business deliver better value than a bigger catering company capable of delivering all requirements?

2. Read all the tender documentation

You need to understand exactly what the buyer is looking for and whether you are able to meet all their requirements. If you or your products don’t have some of the accreditations, e.g. Red Tractor, MSC, Soil Association, Red Lion, Fair Trade, is this something you should be looking to change or invest in so you can tender for future similar opportunities? Check carefully whether having the accreditation is an absolute pass/fail, or whether there is opportunity to explain an alternative.

3. Food standards and quality assurance

Buyers will want assurances that all products are fit for purpose and comply with all appropriate Food Safety Legislation and regulations published by the Food Standards Agency.Can you show that you source your catering products from suppliers who satisfy UK Welfare standards? How do you package and label your products? Are they stored and delivered safely? Do you comply with Food Labelling Regulations and Allergen Regulations? Can you demonstrate staff training and qualifications in food safety? All of these questions are likely to be asked in any catering tender so its good to prepare these answers as soon as you can.

4. Timeliness

Timeliness of the delivery or preparation of catering products and services is of huge importance. How can you be sure you can meet the delivery timeslots and locations specified? Do you have evidence/statistics from previous contracts/clients that you can show to confirm you deliver on time? If you don’t have this sort of management information, consider implementing the systems into your business that enable you to capture it.

5. Supply chain and service robustness

Buyers want to be sure of an uninterrupted catering supply so you will need to demonstrate contingency in your supply chain and service delivery with multiple suppliers, sufficient stock levels, cover for absent staff, and transport options. Most tenders will ask about how you select and maintain relationships with your suppliers. Think about how you can show your selection processes are robust and demonstrate low risk to the buyer. Do you have a business continuity plan and is it fit specifically for your catering business?

6. Contract Management

To deliver the contract, there will be regular communication between yourself and the buyer, so you will need to demonstrate effective contract management processes and strong lines of communication. What technology do you use to manage your service delivery? How do you monitor your catering service delivery to ensure you are meeting the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) of the contract? What systems do you have in place for dealing with any problems or complaints? Provide as much as evidence of previous experience as possible, such as management information reports and adherence to SLAs (Service Level Agreement) and KPIs.

7. Environmental awareness

Due to the very nature of catering, you will need to demonstrate that your catering service has good environmental awareness, strict waste management procedures and that you are committed to a sustainable future, e.g. by composting kitchen waste, using re-usable containers for deliveries, using environmentally friendly consumables, and disposing of (minimal) waste in accordance with all relevant regulations. You are likely to need strong environmental policies and procedures. Can you provide evidence to support your commitments? e.g. calculation of your carbon footprint or volume of waste recycled/produced. The highest scoring tender responses will consider how this commitment will then help the buying organisation with their own environmental program. So, try to calculate specifically the environmental impacts of your service on the buyer – e.g. how much less waste will go to landfill?

8. Value for money

Buyers expect to save money by outsourcing their catering needs. Can you demonstrate how you can help reduce costs or increase efficiencies without affecting the level of service? Use real figures from your previous experiences where possible. How did you save your last 3 customers money over the course of their contracts? As a smaller business, you will also need to differentiate yourself from a bigger bidder that expects to achieve volume efficiencies (e.g. bigger company can buy in bulk). What evidence do you have to counteract that argument? Can you show that actually, on balance, your smaller business delivers much better long-term value?

9. Provide evidence

The buyer will want to be certain that you have the skills and experience necessary to provide the catering service requested. To provide the assurances they need, use case histories and testimonials, ensuring you include information on mobilisation, resourcing, timescales, communication, and most importantly the results/outcomes. Wherever possible, include facts and figures from where you have successfully delivered similar services to other customers in the past. The more similarities you can draw between what you have previously delivered and what the buyer wants, the better.

Winning a catering tender isn’t going to be a piece of cake, but with the right system and motivation in place you can do it. Hopefully this blog has given you some key pointers to help you along the way and if you’d like any further support, please get in touch by emailing info@completetenders.com or calling us on 01707 244713.

The Complete Tenders website also provides a comprehensive and entirely free tender listings service click here.

Tender Writing

7 Reason You Won a Tender

By | Blog, Tendering

Success! After a few (or maybe several) attempts at winning a tender, you successfully beat the competition and came out on top. But why? What were the reasons that made your bid better than the competition, or better than your previous efforts?

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