Detailed guide: How to bid for government contracts as an SME effectively

Cabinet Office

September 8
09:12 2020

Where to find tender opportunities

A tender is in an invitation for suppliers to bid to supply a product or service.

Contracts Finder lets you search for information about contracts worth over 10,000 with the government and its agencies.

You can use Contracts Finder to:

  • search for contract opportunities in different sectors
  • find out whats coming up in the future
  • look up details of previous tenders and contracts
  • you can create an account to get email updates and save your searches. You can still search and apply for contracts without an account

You can also find contracts by browsing:

  • the Department for Education Portal
  • EU online tender site Tender Electronics Daily is the online version of the official journal of the EU dedicated to European procurement
  • public sector websites
  • newspapers and industry publications
  • business intermediaries, for example, chambers of commerce and trade associations
  • supply chain opportunities with other contractors
  • Twitter and other social networks

What to plan before you bid

Assigning roles

Bidding successfully requires clear roles and responsibilities to ensure complete and timely submission. Some roles to consider might be who:

  • makes the bid, or the decision not to bid
  • is the project manager
  • designs or approves the solution
  • signs off the final bid

Writing your bid

There are many different types of proposal evidence. We have explained each type in this section with an example followed by the advantages and disadvantages.


For example, actual performance against target for a similar contract.

The advantage is that they are short, sharp, specific and objective.

The disadvantage is that the range of available data can often be limited.


For example, a positive quotation attributed to a similar customer.

The advantages is that they build trust, confidence and endorsement.

The disadvantage is that they can be potentially lengthy and unspecific.

Case study

For example, a synopsis of how you supported a specific service user.

The advantage is that they bring an element of storytelling.

The disadvantages are that they:

  • only evidence a single specific instance
  • can be lengthy, using up character limits


For example, a list of prior similar clients or contracts held.

The advantage is that they can show a breadth of experience.

The disadvantage is that they are harder to show underlying detail and relevance.


For example, details of proposed skills and expertise of proposed team.

The advantage is that they show clear staff competency.

The disadvantage is that they can be lengthy, and skim over greater detail.

Guide your evaluator

Your role is to direct evaluators to content within your response to make it easy for them to score, to do this you can:

  • keep sentences and paragraphs short
  • ensure a logical flow and transition from one sentence to the next, and include a narrative (tell a story)
  • dont assume prior knowledge. Ensure that key concepts are explained
  • use sentences to grab the readers attention, and clinchers which conclude the point and leave the reader satisified
  • use spacing, headings, and bullets to guide evaluators while not exceeding the character restrictions
  • minimise jargon and acronyms

How to structure your answer

  • if the question includes bullet points, adopt these as subheadings. With equal space allocated to each
  • if there are no bullets, break down the different elements of the question to determine the best answer structure
  • address each point in the same order as they appear within the question
  • avoid extra subheadings which distract from the core wording of the question

Breaking the question down

An example question: Please provide your strategy for sourcing and recruiting subcontractors and for ensuring that you can effectively monitor, measure and exercise executive control

You should respond by providing your strategy for:

  • sourcing subcontractors
  • recruiting subcontractors
  • ensuring effective monitoring
  • ensuring effective measuring
  • exercising executive control

Constructing your answer

Combine different types of sentence to construct an effective answer.

Feature sentence

Sets out a specific element or activity within the solution.

Method sentence

Describes the process through which you will deliver this activity or element.

Value sentence

How this activity offers efficiency, effectiveness or value against the specification.

Evidence sentence

Provides evidence of established competency relevant to the proposed activity.

Advantage sentence

Explains how this competency better qualifies the bidder to deliver the service.

Sentences example: insulation

Feature sentence: we will install 300mm of loose-fill cellulose thermal insulation in all new build walls.

Method sentence: insulation will be delivered on site and sprayed using blowers into wall cavities by our NVQ diploma qualified insulation engineers.

Value sentence: our solution exceeds minimum required Building Regulations and, by using cellulose insulation, ensures the most eco-friendly form of insulation.

Evidence sentence: last year our team insulated over 50 different properties using these techniques, with a 98% completion rate on time and budget.

Advantage sentence: our experience ensures a high-quality standard, with professional installation achieved within challenging turnaround times.

How to write for your evaluator

Ensure answers leave cover all objections about your suitability, an example of this is:

Our market tested service solution works, and will deliver a step change in performance. 15 other local authorities already buy this service from us. Last year, we performed at 10% above national average benchmarks.

You should:

  • be definitive, and write with conviction
  • be positive, focus on benefits and advantages
  • be substantive, giving evidence of success
  • build trust, showing evidence of confidence from other customers

Use firm, positive language that clearly shows your commitment to your proposition. For example, use:

  • we will instead of we could
  • we know instead of we believe
  • we have or we know instead of we aspire to
  • we will meet instead of we aim to

Simplify your language. For example, use:

  • enough instead of a sufficient amount of
  • like instead of along the lines of
  • as is true instead of as is the case
  • when instead of at such time as
  • now instead of at the present time
  • is instead of has been proved to be
  • if instead of in the event that

When using jargon or technical language, evaluators need context to understand why a feature may be beneficial.

Dont write:

Our hand-held petrol chainsaw has a 50cc engine, operating at 9000 RPMs, with an 18 inch bar, and a power output of 3.4kw.


Our chainsaw is easy to start, has great safety features, an easy to replace chain, and is ideal for cutting large trees with a diameter of 10 to 20 inches.

Address all aspects of the specification, and convert areas of weaknesses into areas of strength.

For example, use We will deliver to the standards criteria and achieve accreditation within 6 months instead of we dont currently hold the standard, or, We will secure temporary local premises, and second current staff to the area on an interim basis instead of We dont have a current presence in the locality.

Remember that:

  • a tender is a sales document
  • do not waste words on goods and services not specified in the requirement
  • its goal and purpose is to convince a decision maker that they should buy your solution
  • the aim is to sell, rather than report

Cross referral and duplication

Remember that:

  • the same evaluators may not score every question, so some repetition of core content may be required
  • each question is unique, so dont copy, paste and repeat the same answer

Social value and equality

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