In this guide, we will cover the essentials of what you need in place if you are bidding for public and private sector Professional Services tenders and frameworks.
Professional Services is a broad category – we have tried to segment the various available services into 2 categories - ‘construction’ specific professional services and ‘other’- although inevitably there are of course a lot of crossovers and many contracts/frameworks will require multiple services from across this list:
Construction & Engineering Professional Services
Other Professional & Consultancy Services
Property Consultancy Services
Property Asset Management
Restructuring and Insolvency
Audit and Assurance Services
Project and Programme Management Services
Marcomms, Research, Communications
Funding Solutions and Bid Writing
Complete Service Solutions
Supply Chain Management and Procurement Consultancy
Demand Management and Behaviour Change
Mutualisation, Outsourcing and Alternative Delivery Models
Routes to Social Investment
Public Value Analysis
Building Services Engineers
Architectural Design Services
Landscape Architectural Design Services
Housing Finance and Management
Town and Master Planning
Learning and Development
Training, Coaching and Mentoring
Water Consultancy – Legionella Monitoring
Change Management and Stakeholder Engagement
Health and Safety
Lift Consultancy Services
Mechanical and Electrical Services
Research and Consultation
Site Investigations Services
Stock Condition Surveys
Carbon Reduction, Sustainability and Environmental Consultancy
Temporary Staffing Agencies (our article covering recruitment agency bid writing)
Party Wall, Rights of Light and Neighbourly Matters
Retrofit Coordination Services
Preparation is Key
As with writing bids across all sectors, being prepared is often a large part of the battle. Knowing where your key evidence is located, having your policies up to date and to hand and being aware of who to ask for critical information is vital. Being prepared before a contract is put out to tender will save you valuable time and eliminate large amounts of stress from your bidding procedures.
We often see that the scopes of professional services tenders are less well-defined owing to a degree of flexibility and variety in how these services can often be purchased/delivered. So, this also makes early engagement all the more important. Make sure you attend any pre-market outreach that the buyer is conducting and where possible (before formal procurement kicks in), try to understand the likely requirements from the authority. You might also need to think creatively and flexibly about how to overcome challenges or fit your solution around their requirements and/or in some sectors consider where you have a transferable experience rather than direct experience.
What should you have in place prior to bidding for Professional Services Tenders?
An executive summary is a great way to introduce your bid, summarise your win themes, and demonstrate your value. It’s the perfect opportunity to improve the perception of your proposal before the buyer reaches the assessed content. Positive perceptions mean the assessor is looking to add points, rather than take them away. These are more commonly used in private sector bids, but great to have a template in place even if you largely bid for public sector recruitment tenders.
A good executive summary should have flow and focus on the benefits rather than drilling into specifics. Try to keep it to a single page, no more than two is necessary. It should be structured to ensure you are writing about the buyer’s needs, not just what you think is good about your agency.
Technical and professional ability
Being able to effectively demonstrate with evidence your capability and capacity is crucial to winning any bid. For guidance, think about the following:
• Discuss the likely client’s specifications and how you are best suited to fulfil them. This is a base of information to then tailor for each opportunity
• What is unique to you? For example, do you have any processes that make you stand out?
• What added value will you offer? What is likely to make your bid successful over your competitors?
Collate a library of your recent contracts from the last 3 years. Put together the library from small to large requirements so you can include details of comparable contracts. Contract value, scope, volumes, and KPIs are essential. Case studies and testimonials, including any challenges and how you overcame them, can help strengthen this. We should suggest a quarterly review exercise to ensure these are kept up to date.
It could also be useful to consider categorising your case studies and testimonials by size, sector and location, making it easier to identify relevant case studies for the type of opportunities you will be bidding for. Your chosen case studies should be as close as possible in every sense to ensure that they score well on the Selection Questionnaire and can give you further evidence to fall back on for other parts of the bid.
Complaints Procedure and Escalation
It is common for buyers to expect a robust complaints procedure. A clear escalation path based on timescales and severity is essential; flow charts can help to demonstrate these procedures very well. Review the requirements of the tender or framework in question to ensure your standard process is in compliance or exceeds their requirement. Examples of case studies where a complaint has led to a policy/process change can also support these responses.
Include evidence of your financial history, and 3 years’ accounts. This demonstrates business stability, and hopefully, low risk. Include your group financials too, being part of a large successful group strengthens the perceived stability. If you are a new or smaller agency, ensuring you fully understand the financial thresholds is essential before investing further time in creating the bid response.
KPI Identification and Reporting
Make it very clear in your response how you will identify and measure KPIs. Give an example of how these KPIs will be reported to your client, how often and by who. The specification will often give what KPIs are expected, so alignment is essential and if you can add others which will have a clear benefit to the buyer – you are adding value! But ensure the benefit is clearly demonstrated.
For some professional services contracts where the authority has not procured your services before, be prepared that you might need to propose KPI standards or metrics that would later be discussed and agreed upon during contract negotiations. Because of the breadth and variety of professional services which are often collectively managed as a very diverse category by a single part of a procurement team, the given KPIs may be very generic and/or not confirmed at the ITT stage. It is worth bearing in mind what the key metrics that you should be measuring are, gaining input on these at early market engagement stages/events and collecting evidence about how you perform on other contracts against these standards.
You could also include important details regarding communication, which may include the following:
• Single point of contact? Or dedicated team? Who are they and what are their details – include them. Make it specific to bring the bid to life.
Consider the types of communication you use regularly or are comfortable working with. Do you have a portal or other system in place or is your communication mostly done through email/telephone in practice? Do you currently have a hotline or service desk? Think about any security aspects of communication too, and ensure your practices align with regulations such as GDPR or Cyber Essentials.
How are your staff trained to efficiently and safely use the communication systems in place? Staff must be trained in contract-specific communication protocols if these are being used and showcasing examples of how you have effectively implemented communication strategies for previous contracts will be crucial.
You may find guidance on communication expectations within a tender specification. It is important to detail how you would meet and exceed the expectation, including the who, how and when. How you track your contact with clients will add weight to this, especially if you can provide evidence. CRM reporting requirements and procedures can act as good evidence.
Added Value and Innovation
Adding value and innovation is a strong win theme. It often comes down to reviewing the specific buyers' requirements, what are they trying to achieve, and how the bids are being evaluated and then tailoring your solution around those factors.
However, it is important to be aware that what might seem innovative for one client in the professional services sector might be a core requirement for another so be ready to be flexible with this!
Do you have evidence of successfully implementing innovations which have had a significant impact on other contracts? Case studies that demonstrate how your innovative approaches work in practice can be beneficial, ensuring the outcomes of what is achieved align with the likely goals of your clients.
To help you prepare, consider what hard, tangible evidence you have about the benefits you've delivered. For example, did you generate cost savings?
We often see that professional services bids lack this specific level of tangible, outcome-based data and might require you to work with your clients to evaluate the impact your services have had. But this in turn will help the prospective client to see the value you can deliver and has the potential to set you apart from others who may be more generic.
Wherever you can go one step further and demonstrate the potential impact of innovation for an authority that you are bidding for, this presents a gold standard, providing you can substantiate your claims with evidence. For example, "By implementing our XXX methodology, we estimate that we can identify cost savings of £400,000. This is based on average savings for our base of 20 similarly sized local government clients."
It is important to consider what you are willing to commit to with regard to Social Value. Depending on the contract value, what is feasible? As a guide, you can review more prescriptive tenders which have clear Social Value expectations. It is then important to ensure you have evidence of what you have achieved.
We have a specific article here on Social Value if you're looking for a more in-depth look.
As professional services tend to be delivered more remotely than say contracts for work, it could reduce your options for measures such as local recruitment. Authorities will usually be looking for social value that meets their (local) priorities, so do take time to research these and think creatively about how you can support them, remotely if necessary.
Whilst you may not have "boots on the ground", consider what you can offer by way of skills and knowledge to local SMEs, VCSE organisations and/or local public services (education, healthcare).
The questions asked may be generic to those asked in all industries, so don't forget to play to the strengths of professional services - namely that remuneration/living wage/contract types tend to be fairly favourable (compared to other industries). Don't neglect to include these inherent benefits and commitments that you feel are only standard to your sector, it all counts on a social value calculator!
To improve the overall look and tone of your bids, it is recommended you build a house style and guide on its use. This will ensure your bids are uniform in appearance and writing style, making them more pleasant to read for the buyer. Here are a few things to consider:
• Font and font size
• Headings and text styles
• Colours to use, including RGB/CMYK or Hex codes so they can be easily duplicated
• Page layouts
• Consistent writing styles such as sentence structures, sentence formality, and acronym use.
Bid Graphics and Images
If your response allows for it, you can strengthen your bids with relevant graphics and images. This can help hugely in illustrating key points without adding additional large blocks of text, which can put the buyer off.
Enhance information reporting using graphics such as tables, charts, and diagrams. We often see that our professional services clients are presenting conceptual models and so diagrams are a great way to illustrate your thoughts. But, we also see some diagrams that aren't clear or well labelled so do remember to clearly caption them to explain the relevance to the response and provide an accompanying narrative to explain key points.
Questions to consider:
• Are you using the correct format, should that table be a flow chart?
• Is the information clear, uncluttered and formatted to your house style?
• Does it fit on the page, maintaining the flow rather than restricting it?
• Has it been inserted as an image? If so, consider changing it to being a functional graphic or increase the resolution so it can scale without losing quality.
Images and photography can be used to:
• Improve the buyer’s perception of your business through interesting images with positive connotations
• Break up blocks of text. Text-heavy responses become difficult to read. Help maintain the buyer’s attention by breaking it up into shorter paragraphs with imagery slotted between
• Improve the overall visual appeal of a document, giving it a more professional feel.
To make this quicker and easier, build a library of sector-specific photographs.
Make sure your up-to-date certificates are to hand and filed in an easily accessible place. The required levels of insurance vary hugely dependent on the size and scope of each contract; however, it can be beneficial to look at previous iterations, or other contracts within the same marketplace to see what minimum amounts of cover are most required. As a basis, buyers will require the following three types of cover as a minimum:
- Employers Liability
- Professional Indemnity
- Public Liability
These accreditations will assist in winning bids and getting onto frameworks easier. If you do not hold them, you may need to prove that you have suitable systems in place to comparable standards or confirm evidence you are working towards them or will have them in place prior to contract award. But if you have them, having the certification and manuals up to date in a single folder will make it really easy. Ensure you set a reminder to update them.
ISO 9001 - Quality Management
ISO 14001 - Environmental Management
ISO 27001 - Information Security – covers all data, including non-digital
Cyber Essentials - Cyber Essentials Certified or CE+. These cover all digital information and networked IT assets.
It is also important to note that for construction and rail-related companies, or those offering services to those industries, you may be required to evidence accreditations that are common in those spheres but may not appear relevant – such as Constructionline or RISQS. It is a common misunderstanding but could save valuable time and energy to have these accreditations up to date. We have noticed that certain awards, such as Health and Safety ISO 45001 are becoming more necessary for those clients working in construction or rail-related sectors.
While ISO accreditations are not always mandatory, they are vastly beneficial. For example, an accreditation we've seen emerging increasingly in this sector is ISO44001, which is the standard for collaboration. It's rarely a mandatory requirement but is increasingly being used as a differentiator. Of course, within your specific area of Professional Services, there may be other required accreditations which you will need to hold in order to participate within both public and private sector tenders.
Policies and Systems
Below is an example list of the policies and systems you may need to have in place for Professional Services tenders or frameworks.
- Business Continuity Plan (BCP) - This will help demonstrate your ability to continue providing a service with little or no disruption following a critical event. This should include contingencies for all events, such as power or telecoms failure, unforeseen site closures such as fires or floods, or staff shortages such as throughout a pandemic
- Code of Conduct - This should be a robust document detailing the standards and expectations of your staff. It should include the core values of your business.
- Complaints Procedure/Manual - Buyers will want to understand what happens when something goes wrong. Must include escalation, contingency, and resolution plans. Must also include a review plan.
- Environmental Management System (EMS) - this is a framework designed so your company’s environmental performance can be controlled and monitored. ISO 14001 guidelines can help build a robust EMS
- Environmental Policy Statement - a statement relating to your environmental practices, and how you reduce your impact. This will reference your EMS. If accredited, ISO 14001 should be referenced. Often this can be provided in place of your EMS as a support document
- Carbon Reduction Plan – especially since the advent of PPN 06/21 which now requires this as a mandatory requirement for contracts of over £5 million. Though beware that Frameworks may require this too even if the likely value of services you are bidding to deliver fall below that value
- Equal Opportunities Policy - must be in line with the Equalities Act 2010. This should include details of your equality and diversity practices
- Information Security and GDPR Policy - detailing the data security rules and protocols your staff using IT equipment must adhere to
- Modern Slavery Policy - in line with the requirements under Modern Slavery 2015
- National Minimum Wage or Living Wage
- Quality Management System (QMS) - this is a framework of processes and responsibilities designed specifically to ensure consistency and improvement to your business practices. ISO 9001 guidelines can help build a robust QMS
- Quality Policy Statement - this would be a statement relating to and summarising your QMS. If accredited, ISO 9001 should be referenced. Often this can be provided in place of your QMS as a support document
By having these items in place and up to date, you will find bidding for Professional Services frameworks and tenders much easier and more effective. You will be able to focus your efforts on tailoring your information, researching the specific requirements of the tender and creating a persuasive and compliant offer.
We have also collated our top tips for writing professional services bids here.
What are the key public sector Professional Services frameworks in the UK?
We want to cover the key industry professional services frameworks which are UK-wide. There will be lots of others for specific Universities or Councils, however, these are key ones for the UK, in our opinion.
CCS Professional Services Frameworks
Professional Services Cost Lawyer Services
Professional Services Legal Services
Professional Services Trade Legal Panel
Professional Services Restructuring and Insolvency
Professional Services Audit and Assurance Services
Professional Services Management Consultancy Services
Professional Services Public Sector Legal Services
Looking for general info on particular framework bodies? Click here for our comprehensive frameworks page.
Or how about something a little more in-depth? Here’s a list of our current blogs to help you get to grips with different procurement purchasing groups:
- Crescent Purchasing Consortium
- KCS Procurement Services
- London Housing Consortium
- Schools Buying Hub
- Crown Commercial Service
- North West Construction Hub
- Network Rail
How do I find Professional Services tenders and frameworks?
At Thornton & Lowe we have software which is totally free to monitor tenders, set up tender email alerts and monitor your competitors. Tender Pipeline can be accessed here.
You can simply search for the service you provide e.g “legal service” and your location – e.g. ‘UK’. Or on the advanced search, you can search via the CPV code (common procurement vocabulary) – start typing your service area and you will find the code really easily. You can then set up alerts for relevant tenders.
Bid Writing Support Professional Services Tenders and Frameworks
There are several areas that Thornton & Lowe can support you with. This could include reviewing your current/previous content, supporting you to compile key information and evidence, conducting targeted research or reviewing/improving your bid process to ensure that you can get the most from the available time.
As professional bid writers, we can also help you respond to tenders. Our bid consultancy services will ensure you fully understand the requirements for this critical tender. Our services include but are not limited to:
- End-to-End Bid Management - managing your Professional Services bid from conception to completion
- Support for Specific Bid Elements - targeted support to areas such as case studies, additional evidence or social responsibility
- Read, Review and Comment - expert feedback to add value to your bid
- Bid Design - bringing structure and a professional, brand-oriented design to support your bid
Take a look at the other blogs in our Ultimate Guides series here:
Ultimate Guide to Grounds Maintenance Tenders
Ultimate Guide to Catering Tenders
Ultimate Guide to Health & Social Care Tenders
Ultimate Guide to Dental Tenders