Our top tips for writing winning language services bids for interpretation, translation, and transcription services.
Your dream of writing winning language services tenders doesn’t need to be the work of fiction. Pitched to help Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) gain confidence and skills to win public sector contracts, our ultimate guide contains everything you need to know to give you the best chance of a contract award!
- What are language service tenders?
- Why should I bid for public sector contracts?
- Are language services contracts right for my SME?
- Bid writing tips for language services frameworks
- Where can I find language service tenders?
- Further help from Thornton and Lowe
What are language service tenders?
Language services groups together all aspects of communication services. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication. Used in a range of sectors from Government to healthcare, legal services to housing, these are a group of services that provide:
Closing barriers and ensuring the smooth running of businesses and relationships, language services are an essential part of day-to-day life. Being a necessary service in an increasingly communicative world, there has never been a better opportunity to start winning and delivering language service contracts!
Why should I bid for public sector contracts?
This is a common question that is often asked by our SME clients. To put it simply, public sector language service contracts offer SMEs the greatest opportunity for expansion and revenue growth. Evidencing this, the UK Government aims to award 33% of contracts to SMEs, the benefits of which include:
- All contracts are open and accessible: The UK public sector procurement process is legally bound to be open and accessible. This means that providing your company can reasonably deliver the contract according to the required criteria (such as holding sufficient insurance, licences, and legal compliance), your bid will be considered by the awarding panel. This is different to the private sector whereby private businesses can choose which suppliers to inform of the opportunity. The public sector offers greater opportunity to small and emerging SMEs as contracts are awarded according to the quality of service provided, not on their name, existing relationships, or reputation.
- Reduced risk: When providing services within the private sector, there is always the risk that your buyer could go bust. This would mean a sudden and unexpected loss of work and revenue. This risk is eliminated within the public sector as your buyer is funded by central government to deliver specified works for an agreed length of time. Public sector contracts will offer you a stable and reliant revenue stream that, once awarded, will allow you to focus your time and resources on high-quality service delivery.
- Transparent process: Unlike private sector tendering which can appear secretive to outsiders, public procurement is a transparent process that offers feedback to both successful and non-successful bidders. This includes a matrix that outlines your performance on each response and feedback to support you on future bids.
- Increased chance of success: Language service tenders are commonly posted as lots, with the potential for multiple bidders to win 1 or more lots. More opportunities for success mean more opportunities for your bid to be successful!
- Opportunity for extension: We understand how time-consuming and frustrating bid writing can be, especially for SMEs without large bid writing teams. To eliminate the time spent searching for continuous contract awards, public sector contacts often allow the opportunity for contract extension past the agreed timeframes. Extensions are often 2 or 5 years (with opportunity for further extensions), meaning guaranteed work for the successful bidder. However, this does mean that if you miss out, you may be waiting a while before another similar opportunity comes around.
To make sure your SME has the greatest chance of contract award, we have pulled together common themes and our expert top tips below to make your bid stand out from the competition.
Are language services contracts right for my SME?
The key to ensuring that your bidding efforts are focused in the right place is to first understand your business plan and your offerings/limitations. If bidding for a framework, the requirements for each lot will be broken down alongside the services that you should be able to provide. Carefully check to ensure that these requirements align with your vision for the business because, if successfully selected, you will be bound to the agreed service delivery until the framework renewal.
If bidding for a specific public sector contract, you will need to carefully read though the entire specification and all appendices. This is to ensure that you are aware of all requirements and to allow you to identify areas where you can add value to your response.
If you’re unsure as to whether language services contracts are right for your SME, get in touch with our team of professionals to discuss your options. If you are uncertain about memberships or you are lost in the webs of language services legislation, we will help guide you through the bidding process and suggest ways to mitigate any nonconformance. We advocate for ultimate transparency and believe that your success is our success.
Bid writing tips for language services frameworks
Whilst every tender specification will be different, there are common themes and key areas that you can expect to encounter when writing and submitting language services bids. These will include:
- Offering a bespoke service: A key element of successful language service bids is the ability to offer a personalised and considered service that meets the demands and requirements of the buyer and end-user. These requirements will cover a range of interests, from professional certifications to social initiatives, to the range of services offered and additional value for the end-user. Top tip: Before writing your bid, set some time aside to research the buyer. This could include researching their company values, initiatives, goals, charity work and end-users. For example, evidencing that you can offer translations into all required languages, reflecting end-user demographics. Doing this will show the awarding panel that you have gone the extra mile to cater your service to the buyer and that your service responds to the needs and interests of the end-users, in this case the people who will benefit and interact with the language service you provide. Doing your research is an essential way to add value to your bid and set you apart from competing bidders.
- Social value: Contracts are awarded to the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT). This means that the awarded bid goes to the bidder who convinced the awarding panel that their service was the best value for money (note that that this does not mean that they were the cheapest option). One of the best ways to add value to your bid is through social value. Use The National TOMS framework to demonstrate the commitments to social value that your SME can make in relation to the interests of the specification. Where possible, use examples to highlight your ongoing investment in social value and evidence how you will meet the commitments you vow to make.
- Demonstrate sector-specific legal/best practice compliance: Your team may be small but your service delivery can be mighty. Showcase your professional membership, certificates, and professional compliance, with qualifications such as Association of Translation Companies membership. The awarding panel will want to see evidence of your commitment to delivering top-quality language services that align with industry best practices.
- Provide examples of similar service delivery on previous contracts: The awarding panel will want to see evidence of your business previously delivering works of a similar size and scope to the specified works. You should include previous contract values, scopes, locations, and any examples of positive customer feedback. Make sure that the examples you give align to the specification you are bidding for and put your work in the greatest possible light.
- Staffing, training, and qualifications: The provision of language services may put your staff in contact with vulnerable people and people with additional or complex needs. Use this opportunity to prove to the awarding panel that your staff have the appropriate DBS checks and accredited training to provide the specified works to the end-user. This might also extend to how you train your staff to always perform with professionalism, especially where in-person and sometimes challenging service delivery is required. Include details of the customer service training your staff undergo and the customer service ethos of your company. Top tip: This will also extend to any subcontracted/TUPE staff that will work on the contract. Provide details of how you will train these staff to your standards/ensure that they meet the minimum training requirements for the contract. Where subcontractor/TUPE staff are not fully aligned with your requirements, demonstrate how this will be rectified and the kinds of support that they will receive.
- Contract mobilisation/delivery: Let it be known that you are ready and raring to begin work on this contract. Show the awarding panel that you have all necessary procedures/checks in place (or at least a steady plan in place) for a seamless transition to take place upon contract award. Provide a step-by-step plan for mobilisation and explain who will be responsible for which aspects of the contract. Your mobilisation plan should also detail the internal systems you will use and how/when you will update these with contract-specific information. Top tip: This information is most clearly presented and interpreted as a Gantt chart.
- Innovative service delivery: As the demand for language services increases, so too does the range of specialised service deliveries. Demonstrate how you continuously keep ahead of the curve when it comes to providing innovative and bespoke services. Use examples of where you have gone above and beyond to provide an improved service, for example by including testimonials/customer feedback data as evidence.
- Collaboration: It can be expected that your service may be required to work in collaboration with other sectors/businesses during contract delivery. Use past examples to show how your team have successfully worked alongside others to provide a seamless service. This might be collaborating with healthcare professionals to deliver sensitive information, coordinating the translation of construction notices to affected residents, or formatting Easy Read documents on a tight deadline.
Where can I find language service tenders?
Owing to our 13 years of experience working with SMEs to write winning bids, we recognise that a common hurdle to public procurement is finding the right opportunities.
To simplify this process for small businesses like yours, we continuously list language service tenders as they are posted on our free-to-use database, Tender Pipeline. This service is freely available and has been created with SMEs in mind to find relevant tenders easily and quickly. Tender Pipeline is a streamlined and easy-to-search collection of all UK contracts over the value of £10,000 that are posted on Contracts Finder, and opportunities over the value of £118,000 that are posted on Find A Tender. Listing your opportunities in one place as they are advertised, this service was launched to help businesses like yours save time and resources, allowing you to focus on your service delivery.
Commitment to helping SMEs grow and succeed is central to our core values, and as such we have listed below a selection of the essential frameworks for any business looking to expand into public sector language service tenders.
Language Services Frameworks
ESPO Language Services 402_20 Framework: This is a framework lasting 3 years that lists and advertises 18 pre-approved language services providers from which the public sector may procure language services. The framework is split into 5 lots, with 9 sections in total. Each section provides detail on the types of services required and the geographical locations of the services demanded. The framework is next up for renewal on 30/12/2023.
Top tip: This information can help you to tailor your own service delivery and raise awareness of what competitors may offer as evidence of added value.
NOE CPC 0180 – Interpreting and Translation Services: This is an NHS framework for interpreting and translating services, next due to renew in July 2023. 7 suppliers are listed to provide:
- Face-to-face interpretation
- Telephone interpretation
- Video interpretation
- Document translation (including hard copy and electronic translation)
- Sensory impairment interpretation and translation (including but not limited to British Sign Language, lip speaking, speech-to-text operators, Braille transcription and audio transcription)
The benefits of joining the NOE CPC 0180 include:
- Being a compliant process, which allows contracting authorities to confidently award contracts to pre-approved suppliers
- Covers all service needs and is flexible enough to be amended to meet local demands
- Delivers cost-efficiency savings by procuring through a cost-effective service
Crown Commercial Service RM6141 – Language Services: This framework lists 15 suppliers from which suppliers of language services for 29 lots may be procured. This is a 3-year framework that will next renew on 09/05/2024. The benefit of this framework to an SME like yours is that, once successfully awarded a position on the framework, your business is one of a select few that is promoted for use by public bodies. This doesn’t only raise awareness of your business within the public sector but also provides further credibility and awareness for private sector opportunities. Specific language services guidance includes:
- The definition/description of sector requirements
- Benefits of language services
- The names, contract scopes and end dates of existing contracts. Top tip: Keeping an eye on existing contract expiry dates gives you the best chance to prepare for upcoming contract releases. Having this knowledge will keep you one step ahead of the competition and put you in the best position to submit your best bid
- Advice on buying from agreed suppliers
For further help with writing a winning Language Services bid, get in touch!
We know that our clients have what it takes to win, and we champion the SMEs that make it happen. With a success rate of 75% and 90% client retention, get in touch and let us be the voice that wins your language services contracts today.