What is a Tender?

The UK Government is a hugely desirable client for SME businesses.

Why? Organisations across the public sector (NHS, police UK Ministry of Defence, to name a few) require a huge volume of services to keep the country running and winning these contracts can be like hitting a gold mine!

Another benefit is prompt payment. A public sector organisation must pay its suppliers and the wider supply chain on time – there is a legal requirement for invoices to be paid within 30 days.

Sounds great, but to win a contract (over £10,000) with a public sector organisation you must tender for it. We explain “what is a tender?” below and give expert advice on how to win opportunities below.


What actually is a tender?

Put simple, a tender means contract opportunity. Defined in BiP Solutions’ Ultimate Guide to Procurement:

A public sector contract can also be called a ‘tender’ and the procurement process is sometimes known as ‘tendering’, but it all comes down to the same thing: a public sector organisation buying goods, works or services.”

When the public sector decides to buy any goods, works or services, it publishes a contract notice (or tender notice). Some examples of public sector organisations that use the tendering process include: central government departments, local government, councils, the NHS, the police and other emergency services.

As the UK government makes these purchases using money raised from public taxes, procurement must be fair and transparent. Any public sector organisation publishing tenders over a certain value (or ‘threshold’) must advertise it in the ‘Official Journal of the European Union’ (OJEU).


Tendered meaning

If a business has “tendered” for a contract it means that it has placed a bid with a buying organisation for a specific tender.


How tendering works

First the buying authority will publish a contract notice or other request for tenders (RFT), detailing its requirement (what it wants to buy) together with a deadline by which suppliers need to request to participate or submit a tender and information about how a supplier can access documents with more information. Once this is published, the process is open to all qualified bidders.

The procurement marketplace is open to suppliers of all sizes, as tenders with the public sector range from stationary to cleaning services. Whether a public sector organisation is looking for a supplier to supply works, goods or services, buyers must follow a well-defined tendering process that ensures that the selection process is fair and transparent.


Tendering meaning

A “tender” is the actual bid that is submitted by a supplier to win work. The phrase “tendering” is often used to cover the whole process from the publication of the contract notice to the bidding on the contract itself.


Tender process

The tender process starts with a public sector buyer publishing a tender (for example an NHS organisation may publish a tender for a uniform supplier). By doing this they will generate competing offers. A winning tender will meet the specific requirements outlined in the contract notice and may offer some kind of “added value” to the organisation, which they will demonstrate throughout the tender documents below.

Learn more about how the tender process works.


What is a tender document?

A tender document is created at the beginning stages of the procurement process. It is a request written by buyers detailing the goods, works or services that they require and the criteria on which they will award the contract to a supplier or suppliers. Once the contract notice has been published and advertised, suppliers can obtain a copy of the tender document to get all the information they need to bid for the contract opportunity if it is relevant to them.

When reading a tender document, make sure that you are looking at the buyer’s requirements closely, as this will help you to write a bid that offers what they need as well as want.


Choosing a tender to bid for

The best advice for SMEs looking to work with the public sector is to choose your contracts carefully – be realistic.

If you think that your business lacks the capacity or resources to complete the task, then there is little point in going after that specific tender.

Don’t waste your time by bidding tenders that your business cannot commit to or can’t afford to spend its resources on. Principal PASS Consultant and procurement expert, Eddie Regan says that:

“Small businesses and micro businesses must identify markets that are suitable for them. It is important that you identify the market, find the niche and have something that buyers are looking for.”


Win tenders with Supply2Gov

Now you know a tenders meaning, it’s time to start winning.

At Supply2Gov we help new and existing suppliers find tenders that are right for their business, to help them grow in this lucrative market.

We help our customers get started with our Supply2Gov guides so that they can make the most of the opportunities that are available to then and learn more about public sector procurement.

When it comes to finding opportunities, our team can also help. We put all our contract information in one simple place for you. This tender database is the UK and Republic of Ireland’s largest and is researched from over 3,000 sources (we publish more opportunities than even the Government’s own national contract services).

Registration is free and easy, and we can help you to find tenders relevant to your business right away.

Get Started