How do you respond to UK Gov opportunities?

Ultimate Guide to Public Sector Bidding

The Basics

First off, lets cover what we mean by “Public Sector Bidding”. In short, it’s what we call the process that suppliers to the public sector (we’re talking about the UK Government market here) have to follow in order to throw their hat in the ring for opportunities. We call it bidding, or someone submitting ‘a bid’, because these responses will be evaluated and competing against other submissions for the contract being advertised.

There are different ways that a bid will be evaluated, and also different ways in which this bid will be structured, but the intent of it all is the same: For potential suppliers to outline how they can meet the criteria outlined by the buyer, and for this to be evaluated to find the best possible solution out of all of those who applied.


So what does a public sector bid look like?

UK public sector procurement usually follows a process called Further Competition. Further Competition is the process of inviting multiple suppliers to compete for a contract. Instead of directly awarding a contract to a single supplier, further competition allows for a wider evaluation of potential suppliers’ offerings. It’s aim is to ensure transparency and fairness in the procurement process by providing an equal opportunity to bid. It also allows buyers to assess a big range of potential solutions, encouraging competition and good value-for-money options.

In the UK public sector market, we often see most bids contain three important sections. Quality, Technical, and Pricing – often called QTP. These sections are described as:

  • Quality: This assesses the overall quality of the proposed solution, including its effectiveness, reliability, and suitability for the buyer’s needs. Quality criteria may include factors such as innovation, performance, and compliance with specifications. This is where suppliers usually have to demonstrate their prior work (hopefully with the public sector!), via case studies or project history.
  • Technical: This evaluates the technical aspects of the bid, such as the proposed approach, methodology, technical expertise, and the bidder’s capability to deliver the solution successfully. Technical criteria may include considerations like scalability, interoperability, and security. Suppliers here have to show how what they can deliver matches the needs and requirements of the posted opportunity.
  • Pricing: This involves evaluating the cost of the proposed solution, including both initial costs and ongoing expenses. Pricing criteria assess the competitiveness, transparency, and value for money offered by the bid.

Alongside these areas, bidders will have to show that they can meet all requirements, and follow the regulations in place. In these three areas, you should also be explaining the social value your company can bring to the public sector and UK citizens. It can take some getting use to when adding this into bids, especially if limited by word counts. However, we’ve got some useful guidance about social value and public sector bids right hereor grab your own copy of our handy infographic on the topic.


How are bids evaluated?

Public sector bids, as we see them, are usually evaluated using M.A.T., which was until recently M.E.A.T. This stood for Most Economically Advantageous Tender. Which meant buyers would evaluate a bid on whether it was fit for purpose, but also the Quality, Technical, innovation, and sustainability/social value of a solution within the bid.

Now, since the roll-out of the Procurement Act 2023, which is introduced in October 2024 properly, we’ve seen the change to M.A.T. Which means Most Advantageous Tender. This doesn’t mean we’re forgetting about pricing, though! It means that the economic benefits aren’t weighed more highly than benefits such as social value. This is because things like social value are a bit harder to quantify than costs, so making the two have an equal footing helps. It means that the chosen option might not be the cheapest, but supports local communities and improves user wellbeing for example.


Our recent free webinar held by CEO Chris Farthing

Where do I find public sector opportunities?

This is a brief introduction to the best places and most common ways to find where buyers will make their opportunities available to bid on, for a more in-depth article just click here.

The most simple way to find Prior Information Notices (PINs) is via portals such as:

PINs are what buyers publish to publicly display their intention to contract in the future. These notices outline a future contract coming up for a bidding window. This could be a brand new deliverable wanted by a public sector organisation, or a current contract coming to its end and up for renewal. They’ll detail when it opens for applications, what is planned to be in the scope for the opportunity, and the value too.

For bigger value contracts, you’ll want to look at the Find a Tender service (FTS) too. This replaced OJEU (the European version) after Brexit.


Through procurement frameworks

Frameworks, and Dynamic Purchasing Systems, are agreements that pre-establish contracts terms and requirements before opportunities are posted. Usually limited to a certain amount of suppliers, these routes to market make sure that everyone on the framework has already met the criteria and has been effectively vetted. Frameworks such as Network Services or Digital Capability For Health are capped to still create competition. However, others such as G-Cloud and Digital Outcomes aren’t at all, and just provide access to an easier route to procurement.

Usually, these frameworks also operate using Further Competition (FYI G-Cloud doesn’t, but that’s a whole different thing!), and buyers will post Invitations to Tender (ITTs) through these routes – only for those listed on the frameworks. Interested suppliers will then bid and respond to these ITTs.

Here’s a useful infographic for ways we recommend keeping an eye on opportunities.

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What happens when I bid?

When a supplier decides to bid for an opportunity, they typically start by carefully reviewing the tender documents provided by the buyer – usually in the ITT. These documents outline the buyer’s requirements, including the scope of work, specifications, evaluation criteria, and any terms and conditions. The supplier should then assesses whether they have the capability, resources, and experience to meet these requirements. We call this qualifying the opportunity, and is a very important step before starting. It’s a way of filtering out any time you may be wasting, and only focusing on bids that you may actually be in for a chance of winning.

When the supplier prepares the bid, there are several key steps:

  • Understanding the Requirements: The supplier thoroughly analyses the tender documents to understand the buyer’s needs and expectations. They may seek clarification from the buyer if any aspects of the requirements are unclear.
  • Solution Development: Based on their understanding of the requirements, the supplier develops a solution or proposal that outlines how they will deliver the requested goods, services, or works. This may involve detailing their approach, methodology, technical specifications, and any added value they can offer.
  • Pricing: The supplier determines the pricing for their bid, considering factors such as materials, labor, overhead costs, profit margins, and any other expenses associated with fulfilling the contract. They ensure that their pricing is competitive while still allowing for a reasonable profit.
  • Document Preparation: The supplier prepares all the necessary documentation required for the bid, including completed forms, certifications, references, and any supporting materials that showcase their qualifications and capabilities. They ensure that their bid is clear, comprehensive, and aligns with the requirements outlined in the tender documents.
  • Submission: Once the bid is complete, the supplier submits it to the buyer by the specified deadline. This may involve submitting physical copies of documents or uploading electronic files through an online procurement portal.

During this process, when crafting the bid suppliers should also be reviewing throughout. Making sure that everything is included, clearly and effectively. This should be done across your team, so that the person writing isn’t the same reviewing – this usually leads to a mistake or two!


Before you carry out a public sector bid

Before carrying out this bidding process however, there are some things that suppliers should be doing:

  • Create a Qualification Process: Establish criteria to assess if the opportunity aligns with your company’s capabilities, resources, and goals. This ensures you pursue opportunities with the best fit. How do you know what a good opportunity looks like? Head here for some guidance.
  • Get the Right Teams Ready: Assemble skilled teams from sales, technical, legal, and other relevant areas. Each member should understand their role and be committed to delivering a quality bid. We suggest looking into rainbow teams, and how they are used effectively within companies.
  • Allocate Proper Time to Complete the Bid: Plan realistic timelines for research, solution development, document preparation, and review. Rushing can lead to errors and a lower-quality bid.
  • Ensure Compliance with Deadlines: Adhere to all specified deadlines to avoid disqualification and maintain your company’s reputation. Set internal deadlines and prioritise timely execution.
  • Tailor Your Approach to the Opportunity: Customise your bid strategy and solution to match the specific requirements, priorities, and preferences of the public sector organisation.



We recently covered common ways that suppliers fail in their bids

After you bid

Whilst there are a lot of things you can be doing once you hit the send button, here are some of our expert suggestions on what to do:

  1. Maintain a Bid Library: After submitting the bid, ensure it’s stored in a bid library along with other successful and unsuccessful bids. This serves as a valuable resource for future bids, allowing you to leverage past experiences and improve future proposals.
  2. Schedule an Internal Post-Bid Catch-up: Hold a meeting with your internal team to review the bid process, outcomes, and lessons learned. Discuss strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement to refine your approach for future bids. Bid retrospectives are a very important thing to do!
  3. Act on Feedback: If feedback is received from the procuring entity, take immediate action to address it. Share the feedback with relevant teams and incorporate it into your processes and future bids to enhance competitiveness and performance.
  4. Follow-Up for Feedback: If feedback hasn’t been received within a reasonable timeframe, proactively follow up with the procuring buyer. Request feedback to gain insights into areas of improvement and demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement.
  5. Prepare for Next Steps: Regardless of the outcome, prepare for potential next steps such as negotiations, debriefings, or further engagement with the procuring entity. Stay proactive and responsive to maintain momentum and capitalise on opportunities.


Here's a session on why creating a strategy for your bidding is essential

Crafting a successful public sector bidding strategy

Having a public sector bidding strategy is essential for tech suppliers to boost their chances of success. With a strategy in place, suppliers can identify the most suitable opportunities effectively, tailor their bids to meet specific requirements, and mitigate potential pitfalls. By understanding the procurement regulations that affect their business, targeting the right contracts/buyers, and allocating teams more strategically, suppliers can increase their competitiveness in the public sector market.

A well-made strategy also enables suppliers to optimise their teams and what they bid on, focusing on opportunities with the highest potential for success.

Here’s some of our expert tips on getting a good strategy in place:

  • Storyboard your bids! Plan what you do and outline so that you can make sure you’re hitting the criteria. If you’re unsure on how to get started with storyboarding, head to this useful article here.
  • Put together a Bid Content Library. This is where you keep all of your successful bids, and even unsuccessful. Having these at hand and categorised, is an essential resource for your bid teams. It means no crafting from scratch, and you can utilise parts of past winning bids.
  • Make sure you’ve got something in place so that you can manage the whole bid process – from start to finish. Here’s some guidance on doing this internally (if you’ve got the resources) or externally.
  • Set up a proper reviewing process. It’s no good just forgetting about your failed bids. Look back over them, what did you get right? What didn’t you get right? Looking over both the winning and losing bids helps you continuously improve.

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