Improve your bid success rate

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

With public sector budgeted spend exceeding £700bn, the competitive bidding environment is mature and healthy. It’s the winning that counts; bidding costs are often high, resource heavy and non-refundable – you get nothing for second place.

So how can you improve your bid success rate? 

In a typical public sector contract tender (subject matter aside) there are three key pieces of information that you, as a bidder, need to focus on:

  • The question (including the impact weighting that indicates its importance in the overall decision);
  • How the question will be scored; and
  • The scoring guidance (often the score will be heavily linked to the confidence that the evaluator has in your response).

The question weighting indicates where a bidder should focus their efforts; questions with a larger weighting are key, and signify a requirement that is critical to the success of the solution and difficult to deliver.

The scoring scheme tells the bidder what scale the evaluator will use against a response to a question; most likely this will be a confidence level range – high confidence, good confidence… down to concerns or major concerns. High confidence will usually result in marks of 100% while major concerns will normally receive 0%. 

Crucially, the scoring guidance tells the bidder, as it tells the evaluator, what it takes to hit a top score – laying down the extent of the response required and the level of critical evidence required.

There may be occasions when you, as a bidder may disagree with the question content, scoring and/ or scoring guidance, but you should not ignore these three factors when writing your response. The public sector is bound by Public Contract Regulations, and once their evaluation methodology is published, they have little, if any, flexibility to change it.

Simply put they must say what they are going to do, and how they are going to do it – and then do it.

So whether in agreement with the tender details or not, Subject Matter Experts and Bid Managers must pay close attention to the detail, not just of the question, but also of the aim, the scoring scheme (level of confidence) used and the scoring guidance (what it takes to hit a high confidence score).

Those familiar with standard bid management structure, its purpose and roles, will recognise the points below from accepted standard bid review processes. However, it’s putting them in to practice when writing the proposal that is crucial to producing the winning bid.

The following points will help you to structure your bid and to elicit a high confidence in your response from the Authority

  • Make sure your bid writers, the Subject Matter Experts, have understood the scoring guidance for each question, not just the actual question.
  • Stress the need to all contributors to the bid to convince the evaluators that they can and will deliver the solution; and crucially, how they will deliver the solution.
  • Focus on your audience – the evaluators. You want them to feel confident and reassured that you’ve understood their requirements and will deliver on time and within budget.
  • Write like a journalist in the way that you structure a piece; be concise and to the point. Start with a bold headline to capture the evaluators’ attention and get your best evidence / material on the table straight off the bat.
  • Start each question with “we have high confidence that this response will give the Authority what it needs”. Then make sure you back it up – demonstrate how you’ll do it with compelling and overwhelming evidence.
  • Give the evaluator high confidence that you understand the question and why it is being asked. Consider risk, value for money and acceptability in your response.
  • Make sure you answer the question asked, including all its parts, and have provided the compelling supporting evidence outlined in the evaluator guidance for high confidence scoring.
  • Structure each response in the same way to make it easy for the evaluator to respond with high confidence to your proposal and evidence. Use sign-posting to show references and cross-references. Stick to manageable file sizes, tell the evaluator where to find the key supporting data and be clear about any less important, supplementary data.
  • Compare the depth and detail of your answer in a ‘tick box’ fashion against the stated required evidence to score high confidence with the published guidance issued to evaluators.
  • Don’t give the evaluator room for doubt, or any reason not to award the high confidence score. Lead the evaluator to instinctively follow the path you want them to take through your bid.
  • Finish your story with a strong conclusion and summarise the key points for the evaluator.
  • Always request feedback even if you win the contract – you need to know how you can improve.

Apply the golden rule to any bid

Make it easy for the evaluator to evaluate your response cover to cover. Remember the Authority wants to gain high confidence that your bid will deliver all their needs.


Organisations bidding for high-value Public Sector Works and Ministry of Defence (MOD) contracts often use Commerce Decisions’ services, hiring us to take on the role of bid reviewer at various stages of the colour team reviews. We provide a fresh pair of eyes, bringing the benefit of our experience in bid review; built on a foundation of writing and advising the Public Sector and MOD in the development of procurement evaluation criteria and overall bid evaluation strategy.