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Tender for a contract

Submitting a tender is common practice for businesses supplying goods or services to the public sector or to other businesses.

First published:
20 June 2017
Last updated:
14 September 2023


1. Overview

Submitting a tender is common practice for businesses supplying goods or services to the public sector or to other businesses.

Businesses from the smallest sole trader to the largest organisation will be accustomed to presenting quotes for jobs. To bid for larger contracts or for long term contracts a specific and formal tendering process will exist.

For public sector organisations such as councils, hospitals or central government who purchase goods or services there needs to be an effective, fair and transparent competition between suppliers that will provide value for money.

2. Finding out about private and public contracts

Finding public sector contracts:

  • is a free online service that publishes contracts and opportunities from the Welsh public sector. Sell2Wales also publishes sub-contracting opportunities with private sector organisations, normally those that were successful in winning a public sector contract. It will also keep you notified of other large scale projects taking place in Wales.

  • After registering on the Sell2wales site you can create an alert profile that triggers an automatic message to your inbox informing you of the contract opportunities that arise in your business sector.

  • When contracts are over a certain value they are referred to as being 'above threshold' and are published through OJEU – (Official Journal of the European Union) – this means they are published to suppliers throughout the European Union. You can search for these opportunities on Sell2wales or via TED (tenders electronic daily).

  • Business Wales regularly delivers workshops on how to register and make best use of the Sell2wales website. These are free of charge.

Finding private sector contracts:

  • Building contacts with potential customers.

  • Advertising in local, possibly national newspapers and in trade and professional magazines relevant to your business sector or activities.

  • Visit the Business Wales Events Finder to find opportunities such as supplier awareness days or meet the buyer events.

  • Investigate contracts outside your business sector, these may produce sub-contracting opportunities for example, a new office block will need all sorts of suppliers such as plumbers, electricians, furniture, signage, stationery, maintenance, cleaning and so on.

  • Follow press and other reports - a company may be expanding or sub-contracting part of a big contract.

  • Network, attend events and source information from other businesses.

3. Deciding whether to bid for a contract?

The decision whether to invest your time and effort in preparing a bid needs to be considered carefully. If you don’t win the contract this can prove to be a costly exercise, particularly in time and effort and you should consider these key points before tendering:

  • Read the tender document thoroughly and carefully.

  • Can you meet technical, skills and experience requirements?

  • Do you have accreditations, qualifications or training stipulated by the buyer?

  • Do you have the capacity to fulfill the contract, does the opportunity fit in to the strategy and aspirations of your business? How would it impact on other work commitments and staffing?

  • Accurately estimate the cost of fulfilling the contract and decide whether you’d make the profit margin to justify it.

4. Find out what the client wants

If you need to clarify a clients requirements you may wish to call them directly prior to commencing the tender completion. On electronic tender sites a function is available to post questions to the buyer and the responses will then be published for all bidders to view in the messaging section.

If tender documents are unclear - from deadlines to how you'd get paid - you should always raise questions on anything that concerns you.

5. What to include in your tender

Ensure you match the bid specification and respond to all the questions.

Golden rules for writing your tender:

  • Before you start answering the tender questions make sure you have read and understood the tender documentation and familiarise yourself with the evaluation guidance provided.

  • Make sure you answer the questions directly and in full.

  • Focus on client needs and how you can best come up with solutions. When you write about yourself, it's to prove you have the skills, experience and capability to fulfil the client's requirements.

  • Help the client by providing innovative ideas – for example, alternative ways of doing things to tackling problems that may arise during delivery of the contract.

  • Requests that need supporting evidence, need to be uploaded and titled correctly.

  • Value for money does not always mean the lowest price but can be a combination of different factors. If your bid demonstrates competitive advantage through social and economic benefits, or offer service improvements, risk reduction, quality, reliability etc you may be differentiating yourself from your competitors, which could give you the edge over them.

  • Analyse all the cost and pricing factors of the contract including fixed costs such as staff pay. Business Wales currently offer free of charge workshops on Pricing strategies, visit Business Wales Events Finder.

  • Consider whether to include some protection of your information from future disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. You may wish to indicate which information you consider to be a 'trade secret' or is likely to prejudice your commercial interests if disclosed. There is often an upload facility with a template form for this in the tender attachments.

  • Contract management – show you have the resources to do the work in a cost-effective way to meet the clients needs, ability to hit deadlines and respond flexibly to changing situations. Consider using a project management tool such as a Ghant chart to identify project timelines.

6. Writing your tender

Once you decide to bid, you will need to decide who manages and co-ordinates it:

  • who gathers information and does research?

  • who co-ordinates all the material you need?

  • who writes the drafts?

  • who checks them?

  • who from the team has specialisms such as contract management, technical competencies, health & safety and quality and so forth?

Clients will ask a range of questions in specific sections of the tender, for example, quality management, health and safety or finance. Clients will expect you to:

  • state clearly who you are and what the opportunity you are tendering for is

  • summarise your work as a contractor, past experience (usually 3 past contracts) and credentials for this job use references and evidence to back up your statements

  • state how you'll carry out the work, how you will meet the client's needs

  • explain the benefits and value for money of your bid

  • detail how and when goods and services are to be delivered, and provide a timetable

  • demonstrate your team's skills, experience of similar work and their responsibilities if you win the contract

  • explain how you will manage the project

  • give details of your pricing and any aftercare arrangements included within the price

  • be practical and identify potential problems, but do not make promises that are clearly not possible for you to deliver

7. Tips on editing your tender

It is well worth spending some time looking at the presentation of your tender. Here are some tips on editing your tender:

  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short, punchy and business-like.

  • Use bullet points, headings and tables to break up text.

  • Decide on a typeface, layout and font size - not too small - and stick to them.

  • Make sure everything is consistent. Are CVs all presented in the same way?

  • Be careful if cutting and pasting text to make sure the format stays the same and that nothing is left out in error.

  • Read everything again. Then get a colleague or someone else to read it - checking for meaning, typing mistakes and omissions.

  • Use appendices for supporting additional information.

  • Produce a front cover with the project title, date, name of the client and also that of your own business.

  • Number paragraphs and provide a contents page so material can be easily found.

  • Consider getting it printed and bound professionally - if the client has asked for hard copies rather than submission via electronic systems. The increase in the use of electronic systems of tendering by the public sector usually mean that delivery of a tender is becoming safer and quicker.

  • Make sure the tender is delivered on time - organisations will not consider your tender if it arrives after the closing date.

For further information see our guides Sell2Wales - selling to the public sector and Business Wales - Tendering.

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