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Public Sector Bids: Hints and Tips

Public Sector Bids: Hints and Tips

This is an article I wrote for the Buying Legal Council for publication on their website in May 2017.

These hints and tips are focussed on how to write the best quality bid you can.  It doesn’t focus on price.  That would be another topic for another day.  The content applies to firms bidding for legal work, but is particularly focussed at those bidding for public sector work in the UK, where various rules and regulations apply.

The law: EU Treaty Principles

  • Equal treatment
  • Non-discrimination
  • Transparency
  • Proportionality

These are good for bidders.  Public sector bodies (PSBs) must follow these rules.  If they fail, you can challenge them and apply to have their procurement exercise set aside or claim damages.  It encourages fair play, which can only be beneficial in my view.

The primary UK legislation is the Public Contract Regulations 2015.  Legal services are covered by what is called the “light touch regime”.  A word of warning: it may not feel that “light” to a bidding firm.

The public procurement process can look quite complicated when set out in text.  Here is my summary of what it looks like in many procurement exercises (but note they can vary):

public sector bids hints and tips

The way I look at it when working with a bidding firm is this:

  • Selection Criteria: CAN you do it?
  • Award Criteria: HOW WILL you do it?

That helps me to focus anyway.

Rules: Public procurement exercises contain lots of rules, often pages of them.  Of course.  If not, where would the fun be?  Seriously though, you must follow them.  If not you will fail.  Failure for simply not following the rules is a bitter pill indeed.  These exercises favour those who can follow rules, so this is an easy win.

Your first questions… Opportunity. Fit. Strategy. Should you bid?  Before you even start thinking about the opportunity in detail, think about whether this is really for you.  Consider issues such as:

  • Categories/ types of work and coverage – what, where, when, how?
  • Make up of panel – how many, how is it made up?
  • Estimated contract value and term
  • Price:quality weightings – if it’s 60% or more weighted towards price, is it for you?
  • Pricing models permitted – do they work for you? Are there any TUPE costs to consider?
  • Does the opportunity fit with your strategy and business model?

Writing a winning bid:  So, you’ve decided to bid.  Now, how to win the contract.  For me, a summary that works and sticks in my mind is this:

  • R –  Read
  • T –  Tailor
  • A –  Answer

Taking each in turn…


  • Read all of it, and I mean all the paperwork – even the boring bits and the schedules
  • Read it thoroughly
  • Find out what the PSB’s intentions are – what are they really looking for?
  • Note down key words – you will need them later

TailorPublic Sector Bids: Hints and Tips

  • Tailor your bid to this client
  • Address the key words – those you noted down earlier
  • Make it personal
  • Use pertinent examples


  • Answer the question – the one on the page not the one you have a pre-prepared answer for
  • Address each bullet point/phrase/word in the question
  • Demonstrate comprehensively how you meet their criteria – don’t just state that you do
  • Score an ‘excellent’ and nothing less – following the PSB’s definition of excellent

So, what would my key message be? Simply this:

  • Differentiate yourself
  • Be the yellow face in the crowd, not the grey

Common pitfalls when bidding

Do any of these and you will lose points:

  • Failure to deal with RTA above – in whole or partially
  • Laziness or complacency – particularly if you are an incumbent
  • Lack of attention to detail
  • Failure to follow the rules
  • Mediocre, dull writing exhibiting no personality
  • Spelling errors and poor grammar/punctuation
  • Insufficient details on the softer side of who you are and why you are a good match
  • [If interviews are held] Mismatch of personnel at interview/poor preparation

The End

I wish you the best of luck.  If you need a helping hand, please contact me.

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