Sources of public sector tendering opportunities

Sources of public sector tendering opportunities

I’ve been asked a lot about sources of public sector opportunities over the last couple of months. I have a few thoughts on this. It’s good to know what opportunities are in the marketplace, but it’s not necessarily good to bid for them. This was echoed by Andrew Turner of Interserve on Twitter a while back, that if we are waiting for opportunities to come to market via portals and other websites, it really should be an automatic no-bid, because it’s too late to influence the client and you’re already on the back foot. Building relationships in advance with clients is critical to winning bids, and as I mentioned in a previous bid post, taking a punt is a very expensive and rarely successful approach to winning tenders.

Putting all that aside however, there are a number of sources public sector tendering opportunities, some of which are free to access, and some are paid-for subscriptions. The benefit (in theory) of having a subscription to paid-for site, is that you should be made aware of all the relevant tenders in your particular field, with none slipping through the net (which I know can happen sometimes).

I have split this post into three sections:

  • free sources of tender information
  • procurement portals; and
  • paid-for sources of tender opportunities. 

Free sources of tender information 

Free sources of tendering information are TED and Contracts Finder.


For larger value contracts, I would always recommend you start with TEDI have been using this site for years, but you need to be aware of the threshold limits, which are currently (due to be revised this year):

  • EUR 139 000 for most types of  services and supplies purchased by central government authorities
  • EUR 5 350 000 for construction contracts

Projects with a value below these will not be published on TED. You can find out more about TED here

Contracts Finder 

For smaller value contracts, have a look at Contracts Finder

Procurement portals 

There are myriad procurement portals, and I’d recommend signing up to the portals used by your public sector clients. Some key portals include: 


Public Contracts Scotland




These are definitely worth looking up if you want to work regionally with public sector bodies across England. 

NEPO: North East England 

The Chest: North West England 

YORtender: Yorkshire and Humber 

Supplying the South West: South West England 

South East Business Portal: South East England

East Mids Tenders: East Midlands  

London Tenders: London area 

Social housing 

Housing Procurement Portal: Social housing providers across the UK (but not all of them)


London Universities Procurement Consortium 

North Western Universities covering many higher education establishments in North Wales and the north west of England

Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium 


Bluelight for police and fire rescue opportunities  

Construction and infrastructure 



Ministry of Defence 


NHS Supply Chain 

Other popular portals 



Delta e-Sourcing 


Paid-for sources of tender opportunities

There are a wide range of providers in this space, and I list these in no particular order. I have no commercial relationship with any of the businesses and I’m not being paid to list them here.

Tenders Direct

Live Lead

Contracts Advance 


Tracker Intelligence 

Supply 2 Government Tenders 

B2B Quote Tenders 


How do you search for public sector tendering opportunities? Do you track these projects before you bid them? Are there any ideas that I’ve missed? Get in touch and let me know. 



Getting bid-ready in January

Getting bid-ready in January

The first few weeks of the new year can feel kind of lacking in dynamism, but you can use this time set yourself up for 12 months of submission success by reviewing your bid library content. You can read my blog on what you need to set up a bid library hereThe more content you can refresh, update and prepare ahead of forthcoming bid deadlines, the easier it will be to complete and submit work. Here is your checklist for your new year bid library and collateral review.

Review and update your standard supplier questionnaire

One of the best bidding evolutions over the past few years is the introduction of the standard supplier questionnaire (SSQ), reducing the administration burden by requiring one standard questionnaire. Review your SSQ and identify the information that will need to be updated throughout the year, for example insurances and finances, and diarise when these updates will need to happen and who will be responsible for providing the information. 

Review bid content

Check-in with the content owners – has the process changed in this business area since this section was written? Are there any other pieces of evidence you can write about to prove your claims? Update the copy with the changes and run it past the owner to get their sign-off. A wide range of information needs to be updated throughout the year, including human resources data and health and safety/RIDDOR statistics. Be clear about who needs to provide this. 

Policy statements

Make reviewing and updating your policy statements one of the first jobs of the year. Check the content – are the aims and objectives still applicable, and can an update be provided on outcomes? Finally, change the date to the new year, create a pdf and you’re good to go.

Update case studies

Case studies should be regularly reviewed throughout the year, but January provides a good opportunity to go through them all to check that copy is written in the correct tense, photographs are current (or final), and any missing information is completed.

Review CVs

There will be members of your team whose CVs are regularly used for bids and pitches, but it’s worth going through the entire library to assess content. Are there any sectors which will be a business development focus over the coming year? Get these prepared in advance, identifying the key projects each person has delivered. You can refer to my earlier blog post on how to write winning construction CVs

Sharpen up your marketing messaging

Which sectors are you targeting this year? Why is your offer in this sector unique and how do you help to solve clients’ problems and issues? Review this messaging and make sure it is robustly evidenced throughout your project examples and other collateral.

Put together draft capability statements and presentations

Putting together draft capability statements, comprising an outline introduction, case studies and CVs will get you off to a flying start if a client asks for a ‘quick document’. While these documents are indeed ‘small’, they can really clog up the efficiency of a bid team and having outlines to hand can come in very handy.

Clean up your content container

However you store your library content, whether in bespoken software or in folders on a server, take the time out to clean it up periodically, archiving anything you longer need (but never completely deleting). This allows the good stuff to be visible when you need it.

Create a roadmap or directory

When I’m building bid  libraries for clients, I create a roadmap or directory of information, to allow easy location of information, as well as providing a starter for ten when answering tricky questions. The roadmap provides links to policy documents and response documents, as well as lists of key words that relate to each section. I’ve included an example bid library roadmap here for you to download and implement for yourself.

What other actions would you include for a new year bid library clean-up? Do you do this throughout the year or at other times?

If you need help putting together your bid library to enable you to get bid ready for 2020, please get in touch.



Bid kick-off meetings

Bid kick-off meetings

Kick-off meetings set the direction for a bid and allow the team to get together to share intelligence on the client and opportunity, while agreeing the strategy, timeframes and tasks. They are second only to the bid/no bid process for making sure your bid is a success. This post takes you through how to approach a kick-off meeting to make sure you get the most out of it.

Meeting outcomes

The outcomes that need to be secured from the kick-off meetings are to:

  • confirm the bid/no bid decision
  • share client intelligence, including project drivers and issues keeping the client up at night
  • agree your team’s USPs and how they can be developed into win themes – conversely how you can ‘ghost’ the opposition by neutralising their win themes (and not naming them, of course) 
  • agree the bid deliverables
  • agree the approach/methodology, articulating why this provides an enhanced offer
  • identify the experience that you will evidence in the bid
  • identify the proposed team, confirming requirements for experience, skills and availability
  • agree the bid programme
  • agree roles and responsibilities.

How to prepare for a kick-off meeting

It’s critical that everyone has read and understood the tender documents, so they come prepared to get into the detail of tender planning. Provide the tender documents and agenda well in advance and make your expectations clear.

Who to invite?

The key people involved in the bid need to be at this meeting:

  • senior sponsor and person responsible for signing the bid off
  • commercial lead
  • bid manager (they will probably be chairing)
  • technical experts responsible for developing the solution and providing the content
  • bid writer and bid coordinator (or however your bid team is structured)


Create a form that will capture the key points of the meeting. This form will outline the tender deliverables, so that you agree all of the actions, with timeframes. Don’t leave the room until you have all the answers you need! 

Bid action plan

When the bid kick-off form has been completed, it will form the action plan that will underpin the bid. This needs to be managed by the bid manager by regularly checking-in with contributors. 

How do you manage bid kick-off meetings? Do you have a formal process, or are things a bit less structured? What works best for you?


Building an information library for construction tenders

Building an information library for construction tenders

Having an endless supply of accurate information is one of the main challenges of bid writing or delivering any kind of submission. The task of gathering, collating and cataloguing this data is never complete, but done properly allows you to focus on developing quality bespoke content for each pitch, rather than searching for material you know you have written before, but can never find when you need it…

I speak from bitter experience – going back through submitted bids to strip out and archive good content for the future is never a priority, however, I have wasted many an hour under stress sorting through previous content to find something I know i have written before.

This post focuses on the types of information bid people need to be gathering and some suggestions for saving it, so you can find your content later on. Follow my guide to building your bid library so you won’t be tearing your hair out half an hour before the deadline.

Generic information

If you get your responses to Standard Supplier Questionnaires together, you will be more than halfway there. I like this consistent approach to requesting information from bidders – the dream scenario would be that it would contained in a centralised database that procuring organisations could access, but that’s a conversation for another day.

If you develop your standard information into the following business functions, you will have the right data at your fingertips when you need it – creating a much easier life for yourself. This information includes (but isn’t exhaustive):

Organisational information

This is basic structural information on your business, including the certificate of incorporation, company number, VAT number, registered address, number of offices, description of services provided. Review and update this content annually.

Finance and accounts

I recommend putting a basic Word table together that captures turnover, profit and turnover by sector or service where you can as well. This may also need to be supported by annual accounts, so save these as well, keeping a record of five years. Review and update this section annually.

Quality management

I check with my new clients whether they hold ISO 9001, and recommend they obtain it if they haven’t already. Your quality management section needs to contain quality certificates (if you have them), standard text on approach and process, implementation and non-conformance, and complaints procedures. Review and update the material annually and speak to your quality manager following any audits to see whether there are any actions to be implemented.

Health and safety

Some businesses will have safety certifications and some won’t – this is ok, but every business should have a suite of information that covers its health and safety procedures and systems, including a policy statement and health and safety statistics. It’s also worth getting your head around the CDM regulations as a bid person working in the built environment. The roles and responsibilities are different for each discipline, and this has an implication for the information required. Review and update annually and keep up to date with any changes in regulations. 


Every business should have an environmental management policy, and documented processes and procedures about how you manage your environmental impact, both from a business operations perspective and how you design/engineer/build buildings. I also recommend that bid people gather information that demonstrates the effectiveness of any initiatives – bids love statistics.

Also, if your organisation is involved in designing and delivering BREEAM-accredited buildings, you can never have too many case studies on how the grade was achieved and what the quantifiable outcomes have been. Review this information annually and produce case studies on an ongoing basis.

Social value

This is a topic that is becoming one of the most important quality sections in a bid. Gather information and case studies that demonstrate how you are working with the wider community, the opportunities for employment or training you are providing, or how you have maximised local spend on construction projects. Review this information regularly, updating case studies and statistics. 


This information can be wide-ranging, including Investors in People, policies on a range of issues from recruitment to development, staff numbers cut by grade and staff turnover. Best to make good friends with your HR team and ask them to provide a range of information on a regular basis. Review and update annually.

Discipline-specific information

This covers specifics such as design approach or how you planning construction projects – it will be generally guided by quality management processes and be available within the business. Ensure you are communicating these processes and procedures accurately. Review and update annually and be aware of updates or changes.

Bespoke ‘golden nuggets’

This is the content that has been specifically written for other bids and submissions. It is often technical in nature and takes a while to produce. Examples can include ‘added value’, ‘BREEAM’ or technical approach, but this list isn’t exhaustive.

When the submission has been completed, go through the bid and strip out this content and archive it in a separate Word document. The most simple approach is to create one document with an index of the questions, along with the responses. This will enable you to quickly search through in future and will also provide you with a boilerplate or ‘starter for ten’ for those last-minute submissions.

Again, this information can be reviewed annually or more frequently and updated with fresh content or examples. Always key to these questions is the quality of evidence provided to support your claims. Make sure you speak to your technical colleagues to know what is happening on projects.

Cataloguing content after submissions

Develop the discipline to strip out and catalogue the good stuff after each submission – an hour after bid will save many hours searching for content in the future. Develop a process that works for you and the organisation you work for. As you develop your library, you will become more adept the sorts of data and information required in the bids you tend to work on, and you will build efficiency into the process.

How to save your information

It’s one thing gathering all the information together, it’s something else saving it somewhere. There are many solutions out there – from specific programmes, to something more simple like folders on your shared server. Select what works for you – I would recommend something simple with access for the people who need it.

Building relationships

All of these information requirements have one thing in common – as a bid person, you are reliant on other experts providing the data to you. Find out who is responsible for providing this data within the business, and make friends with them! There may be information sources, such as business systems that you can tap into. Maximise these.


If you need to structure or develop your business’s bid library, I’m always happy to chat through your options with you.

#BidTips – Bid/no bid – assessing the opportunity

#BidTips – Bid/no bid – assessing the opportunity

All opportunities should be qualified with a bid/no bid discussion before the bid process starts. Be clear about your reasons for bidding and what winning will mean for your business – is it a good fit and how likely are to you to be successful? I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard ‘let’s just take a punt’ over the past 16 years of work-winning, but I can count how many times taking a punt led to bid success. Never.

The bid/no bid process facilitates fact-based decision-making and should be completed before preparing a response to an opportunity. It also enables you to focus your efforts on the bids you have a greater chance of winning, further increasing the possibility of a successful outcome.

Using a bid/no bid form to evaluate the opportunity

Using a bid/no bid form for your own business should be the first step of your bidding process, and if you haven’t got one, it should be high on the to-do list. I have developed one that I use with my clients and you can download a copy of this here that you can tailor to fit your own business.

The bid/no bid process will review how strong relationships, experience and your proposed team are. It will also prompt you to consider a range of client factors, such as whether funding is in place and if you know who will be marking the bid, and internal factors, such as whether you have the resources in place to effectively deliver the bid and subsequent project, as well as whether the legal and commercial terms are acceptable to your business.

Bid/no bid factors to consider

The three most important quality factors in any bid are: client relationships, relevant experience and delivery team. As a bid writer, I will work with you to align this information effectively to the bid’s requirements. There are also further factors, listed below, to consider when evaluating whether to proceed or not – if you find you have more negatives than positives, it’s definitely not a bid to pursue!

Client relationships

  • How well do you know the client and understand their issues?
  • How does this project meet their needs?
  • What are their concerns about this project?

Conflicts of interest

  • Are there any conflicts of interest that could prevent you from proceeding?
  • How are these being managed, or does it present a no bid situation?

Business plan and funding

  • How does the project fit with your business plan and strategy?
  • Does the client have funding in place? Do you know what the source of it is?

Tracking or ad-hoc

  • Have you been tracking this opportunity for a while or is it an ad-hoc piece of work you have been asked to tender. If it’s ad-hoc, go no further with it – if you were a serious contender, you would have been approached for a conversation before now.

Legal and commercial requirements

  • Review the contract to check there are no legal or commercial requirements that could pose a problem.
  • Are there any other conflicts of interest that preclude you from bidding?

Time to complete the bid

  • Is there enough time between now and bid submission to develop a robust response?

Resources to complete the bid and deliver the work

  • Do you have the right team in-house to put the bid together, including writer, senior bid lead, technical experts and graphics support?
  • Is the right delivery team available?

Having the right experience

  • Can you demonstrate having the right experience for this project?
  • How does the experience align to this project, and which pieces of evidence do you need to source to prove your claims and write your case studies?

Having the right team and skills

  • Do you have the right team, blending experience with other skills, such as collaborative behaviours?

Organisational infrastructure

  • Do you have the right certificates, finances and insurances required to bid and deliver the work?


  • Can you articulate why you are the right bidder to win this job?
  • How are the two organisations aligned?


  • How are the marks distributed across the bid? Which sections are the most important for the client? Does the marking give you a hint as to what the key issues are on this project?

Working with the bid/no bid form

I have developed a bid/no bid that you can use for your own business – you can either download the pdf (above), or run through the checklist version below by putting a tick in the relevant box for each question, and analysing the total. I’d really love to get your feedback on this version of a bid/no bid form and whether you have applied it to your business.

How I work with clients on this

I go through the bid/no bid process with clients on all bids and give them my opinion about whether I believe the opportunity is worth pursuing. Of course, clients can disregard this advice – but if I am asked to work on bids, I like to create the best chance of winning. The bid/no bid is kept are part of the bid documentation I hand over at the end of the project and is really useful as part of review or feedback processes once the result is known.

If I can help you assess your next bid opportunity, please get in touch.

Bid/No Bid Form

How this works

The bid/no bid process provides objective evidence to help you make a decision.
Answer each question, putting a 1 in the appropriate column (except question 12).
Review the result and then consult the interpretation section.

Interpretation of the result

13 – 16

Strong opportunity that should be bid with the full support of the business and senior management.

7 – 12

Is there any further information available to strengthen the business case of progressing this opportunity?

1 – 6

Definitely not worth pursuing any further.

#BidTips – a series

#BidTips – a series

I first started producing BidTips about two years ago and I’ve decided to revisit them, building on the original content and developing it into longer-form blog posts. BidTips will be published monthly and are snapshots of best practice I’ve worked with during my work winning career and designed to invite your thoughts, whether via the website, on Twitter or Instagram.