The Procurement Process and how to PASS

Once you’ve found the opportunity, it’s time to bid.

Part 3 of the How to Win More Public Sector Business series

Once you’ve found the opportunity, it’s time to bid.

This is maybe the most important part of the process, as it’s where you can win an opportunity which could really benefit your business.

Since this is a crucial element of winning new business, we’ll devote the next two sessions of the How to Win More Public Sector Business series explaining how to write a tender response that really wins, but for now we’ll outline exactly what you need to know about the tendering process.

The tendering procedures

At the beginning of the process, an Invitation to Tender (ITT) is published to generate competing offers for the goods, works or services. The ITT calls for bids take different structured forms usually either an Open tender or a Restricted tender — but essentially they set out details of what the public sector body wants supplied.

There are five procedures most usually used to award contracts. They are:

  • Open procedure — advertised contract notices invite interested parties to submit tenders by a set date. These are evaluated and contracts are awarded to the winning party/parties.
  • Restricted procedure — this procedure has two stages. In the first selection stage a shortlist of suppliers is identified — usually on the basis of responses to a standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ). In the second stage, shortlisted suppliers are invited to respond to an Invitation to Tender (ITT). These returned tenders are evaluated and the contracts awarded.
  • Competitive Procedure with Negotiation – This procedure is structured exactly as the Restricted Procedure, however following the second stage, the contracting authority can enter negotiation with the shortlisted suppliers to seek further clarification around their bids and can request revised or new tenders following this stage. This procedure is designed for procuring outcomes that may be tailored to the authorities needs or where they cannot exactly define the outcome, due to complexity or cost issues or where innovation is sought.
  • Competitive Dialogue procedure — As with the Competitive Procedure with Negotiation this procedure can be used where the authority is looking to procure outcomes that need to be tailored to the authorities needs or where they cannot exactly define the outcome, due to complexity or cost issues or where innovation is sought. Where it differs is that, following OJEU Contract Notice and selection process, the awarding body enters extensive dialogue with the selected parties to develop suitable solutions. This process is followed by an Invitation to Tender and contract award.
  • Innovation Partnership – this procedure is exclusively for the use of contracting authorities buying outcomes that cannot be delivered by any currently available solution, whether goods, services or works. It closely follows the structure of the Competitive Procedure with Negotiation.


The truth about Selection

In all tendering procedures, you will be asked to submit a Selection Questionnaire (SQ). Think of it as a CV. If the tender response describes how you’ll deliver the contract specification, the SQ describes you.

A SQ will ask for all of your organisational information — name, type of company, VAT number, registered addresses and so on — which paints a clear picture of who you are, what you do and how you do it.

It will also ask how you manage your business. Do you have ISO? If not, what systems do you have in place? Do you have an environmental policy? Is your business equal-opportunities compliant? What’s your health and safety policy? These are all questions covered by the SQ and you should be able to answer them in full.

Your SQ checklist

To help you, we’ve developed a quick checklist of information you will be asked to provide at the Selection Questionnaire stage.

To make sure you have all of the correct documentation in place before submitting a bid, download our handy checklist to keep you on the right track.

Download Checklist (PDF)


The UK Government has released a standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ) in order to help streamline this process. To see what this PQQ looks like in full, visit GOV.UK

Next time…

We’ve explained what bids are, now it’s time to show you how to submit a winning bid.

Stay tuned for the first in our two-part series: How to write a tender response that really wins, coming very soon.

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