How to Apply For Public Tenders

Ready to bid on public sector tender opportunities but unsure how to apply for public tenders? This guide from Tracker Intelligence covers everything you need to know about applying for tenders in the public sector.

Fact checked by Eddie Regan, BiP Solutions Principal Procurement Consultant 


The Public Tendering Process

The public sector tendering process is highly structured and, as a result, understanding the steps involved is important for those seeking to win public sector procurement opportunities with public bodies such as governments or local authorities.

Nearly any business — from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multinational organisations and institutions — can apply for public sector contracts.

Successful public tender applications comply with this specific series of steps:

  • Identify a relevant public sector tender opportunity
  • Make sure you can fulfil the requirements of the tender
  • Express interest to the buyer following the process outlined in the contract notice
  • Complete the Selection Questionnaire (unless the contract uses the Open procedure)
  • Invitation to tender (ITT) is issued
  • Submit a full tender response

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1. Identify relevant opportunities for public sector contracts

The first step is to identify relevant tender opportunities. We have outlined how to find public tenders here.

2. Make sure you can fulfil the requirements of the tender

Once you’ve identified a relevant opportunity, the next step is to read the specification thoroughly and ensure that your organisation can fulfil each requirement of the tender.

BiP Solutions’ Ultimate Guide to Winning Public Tenders does an excellent job of summarising the questions and considerations you should be thinking about at this stage of the tender application process, which might include:

• Does my organisation meet or exceed the technical skills and experience required?
• Does the work fit in with the strategy and positioning of my organisation?
• Can my organisation afford the time and resources required for bidding, even if we don’t win?
• Pay attention to the evaluation criteria and weightings that will be used to score responses, which will tell you which elements are most important to the buyer and what they will be assessing.
• Make sure your proposal is for what the buyer wants, not what you want to deliver or have provided previously.

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3. Express interest to the buyer

Once you have found an opportunity and are confident that your organisation can fulfil the terms of the contract, the next step is to show the buyer that you’re interested. This involves a formal response to the buyer, which is known as an ‘expression of interest’.

This stage is straightforward and simply involves contacting the buying authority and requesting the full documentation or downloading it yourself if it is available electronically.

If your opportunity uses the single-stage Open procedure, you will be asked to submit a full tender application at this point. However, for the majority of contract opportunities in public sectors, buyers use the Restricted procedure or equivalent two-stage procedure to whittle down the applicants before the tender stage. Once you have the documentation, you will move on to the next stage in the tender process.

4. Selection Questionnaire

The next stage in the process is to prepare and fill in your response. You’re already aware of what the requirements for public sector contracts are, having thoroughly read the tender and ensured that your organisation could fulfil them.

At this stage, the buyer will send out a Selection Questionnaire (SQ)/Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) to obtain further information which can aid the bid and selection process. To streamline the process, the Government has released a Standardised Selection Questionnaire (SQ) document.

5. Invitation to Tender

After the PQQ has been received, it will be assessed, evaluated and scored by the buying authority against their weighted scoring criteria. You will know what these criteria are in advance, which will help you fill it out appropriately. Make sure you consider the weightings allocated to each section when preparing your bid response.

If you are successful at this stage, you will join the buyer’s shortlist. You will be issued an Invitation to Tender (ITT), which is a formal notification from an organisation inviting a supplier to submit a full tender response.

6. Submitting your tender response

Read our guide: How to write a tender response that really wins

You’ve been through the initial steps in the public procurement process — from finding public sector contracts of interest, identifying your ability to fulfil this work, right through to expressing an interest. The contracting authorities have weighed up your application and agreed that you have the resources to fulfil their contract requirements so they invite you to tender. Now comes the final, most important step in the tendering process — submitting your tender response.

Writing and submitting your full tender response is where the contract is won or lost, so make sure your organisation invests the necessary time and resources to ensure that it is as good as it can be and stands out from the competition. Consider creating a team of bidders comprised of a member of staff from each relevant department to help you create a thorough and comprehensive bid. Don’t be shy about selling yourself, and explain the benefits of your offer as clearly and simply as possible when you fill out the necessary documentation.

After it has been received, your tender will be scored by the buying organisation to decide if you are the best fit to provide the goods and services that are required. The tender will be awarded to the business with the strongest bid response.

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