I often encounter companies who want to start tendering but haven’t yet done so. Among the many questions they have, the most pressing is usually “How do we find tenders?” This is a real-world example of the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know.” If a company has never tendered before, and hasn’t built up the institutional knowledge that comes with submitting bids, then naturally they won’t know where to look.
Fortunately, there are some straightforward things you can do if you’re in this position. Read on to find out how you can ensure you never miss an opportunity.
Tender/Procurement Portals (AKA The Easy Approach)
The first thing you should do is register your company with some of the major tender portals. A tender portal (or procurement portal) is a website through which an opportunity is administered. Tenders are advertised and released through portals, and all communications between bidders and buyers pass through portals. It’s also where you’ll submit your bid.
While the primary function of a portal is to manage the tender process, most of them also send alerts to registered suppliers for tenders of interest. Sign-up to the right portals, and you’ll get emails every day for tenders in your industry. This is a great way to find opportunities, and it takes no more than a couple of minutes to check your daily alert emails.
There are hundreds of portals out there, however. Some are in use by a single purchasing authority, while others are used by dozens. You can maximise your exposure by focusing your attention on the larger portals, or only focusing on portals used by authorities local to your business. Sign-up to the biggest portals, listed below, and you’ll have great coverage without having to register with hundreds of websites.
If you want to find out which portals are used by specific authorities, a search engine will give you the answer. Phrases like “[authority] tender portal” or “[authority] procurement” usually work. For example:
- “hull city council tender portal” leads to https://www.yortender.co.uk/ (which itself leads to ProContract)
- “hull university procurement” leads to https://supplierlive.proactisp2p.com
- “bristol city council tenders” leads to https://procontract.due-north.com/ (you can see why I put ProContract at the top of the list!)
Contracts Finder (AKA The Manual Approach)
You’ve signed up to some of the major tender portals, and some of the local ones. In doing so, you get daily alerts and are seeing lots of opportunities. But the coverage isn’t perfect, and some tenders may still escape your notice. A great way to augment the “passive” alerts you get from the portals is to do an “active” search yourself. The best website to do this is:
Contracts Finder is essentially a search engine for tender opportunities. You can look for specific key words, and apply different filters to the results, for example by date or region. The first version of Contracts Finder was… not great. Fortunately, this newer version is much better. It’s still not perfect (what government website is?), but it’s great for seeing what opportunities are out there.
If you aspire beyond the UK, and want to start supplying across Europe, then you can also check:
On this website, all EU tenders are published (above certain thresholds). I’m unsure on how useful TED will be post-Brexit. It will likely depend on the deal we strike with the EU. So, in the meantime, get your fill!
Strong Relationships (AKA The Old-Fashioned Approach)
The two methods above should be used alongside this third method. There are no secret tips here. This is good old-fashioned business development.
All public-sector tenders must adhere to the EU principle of “openness.” In other words, every opportunity must be freely visible to all. This is why we can find tenders through portals and Contracts Finder.
Public-sector organisations will also frequently send their tenders directly to companies they think might be interested. A tender that receives no bids is no good to anybody, so they want to ensure that at least a few companies apply. But, they can’t send you the opportunity if they don’t know you exist.
I’m not a marketing expert, so I won’t go into detail about how you do this. The local authorities and public-sector organisations you want to supply should know about you. You should try to meet with them on a regular basis, if for no other reason than to show your face and make your business known. In so doing, you increase the odds of them sending you opportunities directly.
Paid Tender Alert Services (AKA The Pricey Approach)
All the methods I’ve listed so far are free, requiring nothing more than time. Depending on how large your company is, and how valuable your time is, this final method may prove to be the most effective. For a cost, you can sign-up to a tender alert service. The service will send you daily alerts for tenders that match your criteria. They use sophisticated web-crawlers that do the hard work for you. In simple terms, they very rarely miss anything. If you sign-up to one of these services, it will cost you a not insignificant sum, but will save you time and streamline the prospecting process.
I’m not going to list any of them here (some of them are my competitors!), but typing “tender alert service” into any internet search engine will give you a range of options.
If you want to talk more about how to find tenders, or discuss any of these methods in-depth, please get in touch today.