All About Tenders
Most tenders involve a number of stages, which are outlined below. Tenders involve a fair amount of work to complete, but once you have completed one, you are likely to have the relevant information to hand for future submissions.
It is worth noting that most of the stages have strict closing dates and times which aren’t negotiable and, if missed, will likely lead your application being disqualified.
1. Expression of Interest (EOI)
A contract opportunity will be advertised for a period of set duration and any interested parties are expected to complete a formal Expression of Interest in this time. Usually this will involve submitting a brief outline of your business, its size and details of any accreditations you might have (eg. BRC, Assured Produce, EFSIS, organic status).
Completing an Expression of Interest does not commit you to tendering, but merely ensures that you will receive the tender documentation.
2. Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)
A pre-qualification questionnaire is used for some contracts to draw up a shortlist of between four and seven suppliers, who will then be invited to tender for the contract.
The questionnaire itself is not a tender. Each one is compiled specifically for the contract under consideration but there are a number of standard features.
Typically, it assesses your company's suitability in terms of financial stability, company history and activities, number and qualifications of relevant staff, location of premises (e.g. workshops), compliance with legislation relating to (for example) health and safety or equalities, and references from organisations for whom you have done similar work.
3. The Tender
The tender itself will go into greater detail that the PQQ and will deal with the volumes you can supply, the range of products you can provide and the prices you are willing to supply at.
This stage of the process may also involve a face-to-face presentation.
4. The Contract Award
Tender submissions are evaluated using a points system which takes into account both price & quality criteria and each question in the tender will have a weighting which will determine your final score.
At this stage, some organisations may invite applicants who offer similar levels of quality and service to enter into an auction, where you have the opportunity to lower your prices.
If you are unsuccessful at tendering for a contract, it is useful to asking for feedback. If you are a primary producer, you can also consider supplying the successful suppliers.
For a more detailed explanation of the tendering process and some example tender documentation, visit the Defra website, where an excellent selection of documents for suppliers are available to download. Follow the link on the left of this page.
Many organisations are starting to run tenders through an online service. Often called e-procurement, web-based tenders ask you to complete all the relevant documentation via their website. You will be able to complete the application in your own time and save it so that you can return to it again if you need to.
Online tenders can sometimes take longer than paper-based applications because you will need to register your details first and create a profile. Allow extra time for this and for the usual computer malfunctions!
Help & Advice
If you are serious about applying for tenders, you may want to consider a short training course or a one-to-one visit from a tender specialist. SEFGP can help you plan your strategy, and we can also organise some more in depth training for you, and fund up to 75% of the cost.