Need a specialist to talk to?
01462 440077
or complete the form and we will call you back within the hour.





Your Message


Request a Demo

Why aren’t we winning? Common reasons for bid underperformance

Why aren’t we winning? Common reasons for bid underperformance

The email or letter you’ve been waiting for finally arrives. You read the first line…

“We regret to inform you that, on this occasion, you have been unsuccessful in this tender.”

Deflation. Despair. What went wrong? Now, the inquest begins.

If this scenario sounds familiar and continues to be played out within your company, we’ve compiled a list of investigative questions.  Working though each question with your bid team could help to diagnose the problem areas.  

To make the most progress, you must answer honestly!


Did you fully understand the scope of work?

Unsurprisingly, if you fail to comprehend the scope of work set out in the Invitation To Tender, you’ll struggle to build a winning proposal. You must study the scope of work very carefully. If something doesn’t make sense or you need clarification, make sure you revert to the contracting authority and ask for further information. As yourself, “do I fully understand the client’s drivers and requirements”.

Did you provide enough relevant detail or actually answer the question?

Some bidders overdress their responses with irrelevant details, while others don’t offer enough information to fully answer the questions. Assessors want to see precise responses which are to the point and meet the specification criteria. Make sure you understand what the question is specifically looking for. A common mistake is to latch onto a keyword and answer everything you know about that topic, while entirely missing the root of the question.

Did you provide enough convincing evidence and past experience?

Your submissions must be backed up with proof. Evaluators want to see evidence of the quality of your work. Previous successful projects should be the source of your supporting evidence. Case studies, supporting documents, photos, illustrations and testimonials will add weight to your bid. If the tender specification requires a minimum level of expertise or a certain number of years’ experience within a sector, you must demonstrate this to ensure compliance. 


Did you conduct a thorough review before submission?

Not having a robust review process can result in your bid being littered with incorrect information, pricing numbers that don’t stack up, spelling mistakes or typos. It’s important that supporting documentation including organisational charts, infographics, CVs, case studies, policies, procedures and methodologies are checked by a fresh set of eyes.


Did you copy and paste from previous tenders?

If you’re simply duplicating content taken from past unsuccessful bids…guess what?  You’ll end up with the same unsuccessful result. If a tender is worth your time and effort, make sure you do it justice by creating fresh content relevant to the specific specification. Copying and pasting old sections can easily lead to entire paragraphs being misplaced or containing erroneous information. Avoid this practice at all costs.


Did you check for basic administrative errors?

Under the category of ‘administrative errors’ common mistakes include: Omitting mandatory documents, failing to sign documents or statements, not answering all the questions, incomplete forms, ignoring word count quotas, disregarding font type / size, format and layout rules. Any administrative aspect which is not adhered to is a potential reason the assessors will use to exclude your bid.


Did you check that your bid is fully compliant?

Contracting authorities closely scrutinise core compliance areas such as health and safety practices, quality management systems, supply chain management, environmental and waste management practices etc. Often there are minimum mandatory levels of accreditation required and examples of good practice should be clearly demonstrated.  Make sure you comply in all mandatory areas before you start compiling your bid response.


Did you provide solid references?

Providing relevant references will establish credibility. But care should be taken in choosing the right referee. Make sure they are recent – within the last two years ideally. References should be for projects similar to those that you are tendering for and they should be for work you are able to showcase in detail should the need arise. A contactable reference is a strong indication of client satisfaction so do ask for permission and inform your contacts they may be approached by the contracting authority.


Did you demonstrate where you add value throughout the bid?  

Every answer in your bid should aim to demonstrate where your company, product or service can add value to the client. Align your answer with key motivators such as efficiency, time saving, risk reduction and of course cost savings.

When evaluating costs, awarding authorities like to see detail and transparency. Your bid should aim to explain all itemised costs explicitly. Overpricing or under-pricing without clear reason or rationale will be red flag to evaluators. It’s important to annotate costs with narrative that demonstrates how your financial offer adds value. 


And remember, you can’t win them all!

There will be times when factors out of your control influence the outcome of the tender process. Unfortunately, that’s just a commercial reality. However, if your bid writing process remains rigorous and your commitment to continuous improvement remains steadfast, it will only be a matter of time before you win. 

An example of an infographic

Infographics: Not just a buzzword, a necessity

Infographics: Not just a buzzword, a necessity

Infographics, or to give it its full title – information graphics, is seen as a bit of a buzzword and thanks to their widespread distribution through social media channels they are seen as something new. This is far from the truth. Their first documented use was nearly 400 years ago in 1626. In his research about the rotation of the sun, the Rosa Ursina sive Sol, Christoph Scheiner published a series of illustrations. These images, or infographics, demonstrated how it happened. Used as an alternative to writing pages of complex technical copy, his infographics allowed people without a scientific background to understand the process. They have been in use ever since.

Everyday use of Infographics

Data visualisation is the art of presenting complex information quickly and clearly. These images tie into the inbuilt part of our brains that see patterns and trends. An infographic has come to represent a collection of lots of different data visualisations that are all related to the same topic. Weather maps and road signs are both examples of infographics that have been a part of our everyday life for a long time. We may not think of them as such, but they both use symbols to transmit information quickly in a very visual way.

The importance of infographics in bid submissions

The benefits of including data visualisations and infographics in your bid submissions are twofold:

  1. Removing the need for several paragraphs of explanatory text when you are limited by page count is vital. By portraying a wealth of information graphically frees up space in your bid, allowing you to include more information overall.
  2. Presenting information in a graphical form breaks up pages of text and makes the bid more aesthetically pleasing and appear easier to read. This will mean that your marker looks upon it more favourably.

Below are a series of data visualisation examples that engage the reader, are easy to understand, and build an instant picture of the process you are demonstrating. Furthermore, the person marking the submission doesn’t need to read through a whole page of text explaining the process. Circular charts These demonstrate a continual process of improvement Infographic: A circular chart Illustrative graphics These are a very visual way to show the different component parts of a project Infographic: An illustrative graphic Linked graphics These can identify the different departments in a chain and where there may be weaknesses in the process. Infographic: A linked graphic Flow diagrams These show the different stages in a process and highlight areas of difficulty or that need more attention. Infographic: A flow diagram Maps These demonstrate the geographical locations involved. Infographic: A map At Propeller, we specialise in visual communication for pre-qualification and tender submissions – combining images, words, and ideas to convey information to an audience to produce a specific result – creating a winning bid. We can provide you with infographics to insert into your submission, or produce the entire bid. If you would like to see how varied infographics can be, the website Information is Beautiful has some great examples; if you would like talk to someone about how we can help you create an expertly designed bid submission, contact us now on 01462 440077, or via our online enquiry form.

Office meeting - Man_crop

A Supplier’s Guide to Framework Agreements

A Supplier’s Guide to Framework Agreements

Public sector Framework Agreements can bring significant commercial benefits for contractors, but firms need to understand the scope, commitment required and the potential disadvantages.

If you are considering making a Framework application, and are unsure whether to proceed, this short guide will provide some background insights.

What is a Framework?

‘Framework’ is simply a general term for an agreement that sets out terms and conditions for making specific purchases of goods and services (call-offs) from suppliers. Terms usually relate to price, quality and quantity.

Frameworks are usually based on large volume buying.

The Framework Agreement may be a ‘contract’, but only if the Agreement places an obligation to purchase. In this case, it is treated like any other contract, and EU procurement rules apply.

However, most Frameworks are not contracts. They just describe the conditions that would apply to any order placed during its life. The lifespan of a framework can be anywhere between 3 – 10 years with 4 years being the most common.

When are Frameworks used?

They are typically used when the buyers identify a need for specific products or services but are unsure of the scope or time-frame.

When a buyer is ready to procure, it will run a ‘call off’ or ‘competition’. Only suppliers on the Framework are invited to pitch.

Frameworks give public sector buyers the flexibility to order goods and services from private sector suppliers multiple times without going through the full tender application process more than once. It saves time and money.

Frameworks can be ‘national’ and include many dozens of suppliers grouped into ‘tiers’. Or they can also be ‘regional’ with just a handful of approved suppliers.

Many Frameworks are published either on behalf of multiple buyers or left ‘open’ for use by any public sector organisation.

Finding opportunities

Suppliers can only join Framework Agreements when a new Framework is being set up. It is therefore important that suppliers are aware of the contract notice advising that a new Framework is being launched.

If a Framework Agreement is publicly funded and the estimated total value of all the potential call-offs exceeds the relevant procurement thresholds then it should be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Full details of existing Frameworks can be found on the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) website.

Notices announcing framework agreements are published in the same way as standard invitations to tender.

What are the benefits to suppliers?

There are several good reasons to apply for inclusion onto a Framework:

Good introduction to tenderingIf your business has nevertendered before, Framework Agreements can be an ideal starting point. The greater volume of available places can result in your success rates being higher.

Beef-up your bid credentials – Once you are supplying a Framework you can use this as evidence or supporting information in future tender bids.

Prestige for your brand – being on a Framework will show the marketplace that your business is taken seriously by public sector organisations. It may help your firm win bids elsewhere.

You can focus on selling – By being an approved supplier on a framework you will have already demonstrated your competence to supply. You can now just focus on ‘selling’ when an opportunity to pitch arises.

Less hassle more opportunity – the long-term recurring nature of Framework call-offs results in a reduction in administrative burden. The process is streamlined. You won’t need to tender each time and you have the possibility of being awarded multiple contracts throughout the lifecycle of the framework.

Build long-term relationships – Frameworks provide the opportunity to establish long lasting working relationships with multiple buyers.


Are there any disadvantages to Frameworks?

Framework Agreements are not perfect. Their ‘one-stop-shop’ formula can make it difficult for buyers to satisfy their procurement goals. The long-term nature of Frameworks mean they are unresponsive to market changes. There may be new suppliers, new technologies and new ideas within the market that were not considered when the agreement was initially set up.

Some businesses, particularly SMEs, are deterred from applying for Frameworks due to the significant work required to successfully apply, with no guarantee of winning any business.

There is also a view held that the high number of other Framework contractors entered on to the roster still results in a high level of competition.

It is also true that suppliers unsuccessful at the selection stage are locked out of any call-offs for the duration of the agreement.

Suppliers still need to effectively ‘winthebusiness’ so making the decision to apply for a Framework position should not be taken lightly.


Further resources and support

You should always evaluate the likely value / quantity of work available before applying to a framework. And be sure to identify the number of other suppliers invited onto the Framework. This will help you in making the bid/no bid decision as to whether it is a worthwhile endeavour.

See our services page on bid / no bid decisions

Use our bid / no bid assessment tool

Read this case study to find out how we helped a business onto a Local Authority Framework.

Contact us on 01462 440077 to discuss how we can help you secure a place onto an upcoming Framework.



Budget B - 72DPI_CROP2

The Chancellor’s Budget 29th October 2018

The Chancellor’s Budget 29th October 2018

Contractors and suppliers to the housing, transport and infrastructure sector were boosted by news that there would be an increase in Government spending in key areas.

The standout items of interest for our bid response clients were as follows: 


  • £500 million added to the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock 650,000 new homes
  • Confirmation the borrowing cap on local authorities will be scrapped
  • Strategic partnerships with nine housing associations to deliver 13,000 homes 
  • Up to £1 billion of British Business Bank Guarantees to support the revival of SME housebuilders
  • Loosening of Permitted Development Rights for office-to-residential conversions 
  • £75 million from the Home Building Fund for St Modwen plc, to fund infrastructure to build over 13,000 new homes
  • The abolition of PFI and PF2 contracts with all existing contracts to be honoured



  • High streets to benefit from a £675 million fund to develop town centre infrastructure.
  • £70 million towards developing the national element of the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre
  • £100,000 to developing proposals for Eden Project North in Morecambe
  • £37 million to support the development of Northern Powerhouse Rail
  • £240 million to the six ‘Metro Mayors’ for substantial transport investment in their local areas
  • Local authorities will receive £420 million as a pothole fund, plus £150 million for local traffic hotspot improvements

Additionally, it was announced that fuel duty remains frozen for the ninth year in succession. This should ensure greater stability for contractors and suppliers with significant transport and freight costs.  

View the full budget document here


Stand out from the crowd with compelling case studies

Stand out from the crowd with compelling case studies

Your case studies are one of the key areas where you can differentiate yourself from your competition

Including the relevant information in your case studies and highlighting all of the added value you brought to a project will help position you as a potential supplier for the contract. When you are asked to include case studies, it is important to include those projects that relate to the contract you are bidding for. For example, however good your examples of work in schools are, if the contract is for a hospital, companies demonstrating a track record of building hospitals will be favoured. Don’t overload the reader with the life story of the project or intricate technical details; focus on the facts. We suggest you cover these key areas when building a case study:

Key Information

  • Client Name
  • Project Name
  • Form of Contract
  • Duration
  • Contract Value
  • Brief Description

Brief Description

Typically you have 500 words to describe a project, therefore keep information factual. Detail how you added value; any challenges that you encountered and how you developed a solution to resolve them. What lessons did you learn that enabled you to improve your processes and will take forward onto future projects? Were there any cost savings or KPIs that demonstrate excellent customer satisfaction and exemplar delivery? Did you win any awards or receive any accreditation or recognition from your industry, client or peers? Case-study

Client Testimonial

Including a client testimonial is an effective and powerful way of adding more value to your case study by providing evidence and instilling confidence in the reader. A short paragraph from your client is all you need, but if they are too busy and can’t write a testimonial, consider drafting something yourself and asking them to confirm they are happy to put their name against it. Testimonial

Project Photos

Gathering high quality project photos throughout the duration of a project will gradually build a library of images that you can use on both your CVs and case studies. It helps immensely if they are well lit or taken on a bright day with a blue sky. Studies indicate that clients respond more positively to photographs which focus on outcomes for them. Photographs of completed buildings or finished products being enjoyed by delighted end users send a positive message that you deliver on your promises. Project-photos

Experienced Bid Writers

Our bid writers have the experience to identify the added value benefits our clients have brought to previous projects, expertly developing them into a convincing and winning narrative which helps them to pre-qualify and ultimately tender successfully for new work. If you would like our help to improve your case studies, contact us on 01462 440077 or complete the enquiry form.

propeller logo

ISO 27001 logo

Twitter Google + Linked in RSS Feed