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Common Procurement & Bid Terminology Explained!

Everything you ever wanted to know about the world of bids and tenders.  Don't let a TLA (3-letter acronym) undermine your chances of success!

If you come across anything which is not explained in this glossary please contact us and we will endeavour to help. If you have any comments, corrections or ideas please use the contact form





Accelerated, Restricted or Negotiated Procedure

The length of time of the tender or procurement response process may be shortened to accommodate extraordinary or emergency circumstances.

Accelerated Open Procedure

Quicker timeframes for Open Procedures.

Added Value Services

Services or outcomes that exceed the mandatory or expected objectives of a requirement.


Consolidation of the value of separate contracts for the same supply contract or service.

Alcatel Mandatory Standstill Period (or just ‘Standstill Period’)

Minimum 10-day period following a decision to award a contract tendered via OJEU. Its aim is to allow unsuccessful bidders the opportunity to challenge the decision before the contract is signed. Named after two linked European Court of Justice cases known as the Alcatel case.

Award (or Evaluation) Criteria

The criteria by which a contract is to be awarded. See evaluation criteria.

Accordion Process

This is a process that takes a flexible view of bidding that allows for a contraction of process steps when timeframes are tight and an expansion to encompass every possible step when time is not an issue.

Action Caption

The accompanying title of a bid graphic that explains its relevance to the narrative.

Active v. Passive Voice

Active voice makes documents stronger by showing responsibility or giving credit for an action. When we avoid showing responsibility, we often don't give enough information to explain the problem and how to fix it. Often, we use a form of the passive called the "cut passive" and never identify the doer of the action. This form sounds vague and abstract.

Cut Passive: New requirements (subject) were introduced (action) to strengthen the banking system.

Active: The Banks Act of 1985 (subject) introduced (action) new requirements (object) to strengthen the banking system.

By eliminating the helping verb, the active voice sentence generally uses fewer words to communicate the same information.

Passive: Mr. Doe (subject) was told (action) by the bank official that he would need to provide additional information. (16 words)

Active: The bank official (subject) told (action) Mr. Doe (object) he would need to provide additional information. (13 words)

Active voice more closely resembles spoken language; hopefully ideal spoken language. When we speak, we generally use the active voice without thinking. Our writing should become that automatic.


You would never say:


Passive: My car (subject) was driven (action) to work by me.


Passive: Breakfast (subject) was eaten (action) by me this morning.

Instead, you would say:


Active: I (subject) drove (action) my car (object) to work.


Active: I (subject) ate (action) breakfast (object) this morning


Answer Analysis

The process of analysing an answer given in a bid to evaluate it against the scoring criteria of the bid.

Alternative Bid/Proposal (or Variant Bid/Proposal)

A solution offered which deviates from the tender specification. This will be offered because the achieved outcomes will offer the client an improved or increased outcome or solution. It may provide them with greater cost efficiency. Alternative bids should be offered in addition to the required solution.



BAFO (Best and Final Offer)

The detailed and fully priced offer submitted by a respondent for a contract, which represents their lowest price.


A process of continuously measuring and comparing an organisation’s processes against comparable organisations. It is used to gain information to help performance improvement e.g. “best-in-class” achievement.

Best Practice

Proven and documented working practices that provide optimum operational performance within a specific business environment e.g. ‘best in field’.

Better Quality Services – BQS

Guidance for central government departments on the creation of public/private partnerships through market testing and contracting out.

Bid Management

The process of managing a tender submission for a contract and managing the bid team.

Bid (also: Proposal, Tender, Submission, Response et al)

The written document detailing the solution, benefits and commercial model you are proposing based on the customer’s specific objectives.

Bid Value Matrix (BVM)

A unique tool developed by Bid Perfect for planning and managing a bid project. The BVM develops the value argument in a logical and compelling way and allows the easy identification of bid weaknesses, allowing them to be addressed. The BVM is also used as a differentiator in written bids/proposals to summarily capture the value of the entire bid (to the customer) in just a few pages, using a simple grid. The BVM has been adopted by several large organisations as a simpler alternative to traditional storyboarding.

Bid Kick-Off Meeting

The kick-off meeting is the first time all (or as many as possible) of the stakeholders in a given bid come together in one place to discuss, analyse and create the initial strategy for the bid. In summary, the aim is for everyone involved to:

ü  Be of one mind and to have agreed the general strategy (the specific details may be covered but this is more likely to be an agreed set of post-meeting tasks)

ü  To have agreed the division of work, the roles and responsibilities of all concerned

ü  To have agreed the timelines, key milestones and deadlines

ü  To have identified and provisionally agreed the key win themes for the bid

ü  To agree further actions which will take place prior to the next meeting of the bid team

ü  To have conducted a joint read through of key areas of the ITT

ü  Agree clarification questions which may need to be asked of the client

A successful bid kick-off is critical to taking the first qualitative step on the road to a producing a winning document.

Bid/No Bid

The decision process an organisation deploys to decide if the opportunity is appropriate to bid for. Key factors may include elements such as: timeline/deadline, available resource, fitness of solution to meet customer objectives, pricing models and sustainable margins, and level of relationship.

Bid Capture

Bid capture planning is the generalised process organisations use to identify new business opportunities and position themselves against a market backdrop including such elements as political climate, environmental considerations, economic factors, etc. (see PESTLE). A capture plan is intended to ensure your potential customer is given every opportunity to prefer you over a competitor in advance of proposals being submitted. Capture planning is linked into your overall business planning. Different companies interpret capture planning in varying ways and the definition given here should not be taken to be…well, as definitive.

Bid Pursuit

Bid Pursuit is the process followed to win a specific opportunity and, like the definition of Bid Capture, can be (and often is) described fluidly by different organisations. For our purposes here, we will say that the pursuit element of winning bids is the entire process from initial opportunity identification through to award.

Benefits v. Features

People don’t buy what it is, they buy what it does. A benefit is the positive outcome a customer will receive from a particular feature of your product or service.

Bid Library (see also Tender Library)

The place where you keep everything you may need to write your bid. It is a repository for constantly used documents (e.g. insurance certificates, quality accreditations, CVs, case studies, etc.) and benchmarked answers to commonly posed questions. The correct use of previously written answers improves efficiency when writing bid responses and reduces the time required. The content in a bid library should be constantly evolving in response to the feedback you receive from customers who have received one of your bids and all official documentation and information should be current.



Bid Software

Bid software (such brands as Qividian or Qorus) are, essentially, content management databases which help you to be more efficient when writing bids. However, there is an argument to suggest the use of software for writing bids leads to more formulaic and generic bids.


A standard template for writing bid with standard sections and content.



CTA - Call to Action

A call to action is a marketing term used extensively in advertising and selling. It refers to any device designed to prompt an interaction. A CTA most often refers to the use of words or phrases that can be incorporated into sales scripts, advertising messages or web pages that encourage consumers to take prompt action

Common Buying Motives (Rational and Emotional)

The Emotional and Rational Common Buying Motives (ECBM and RCBM) are a simplified reduction of the reasons why procurement decisions are made. The theory has been largely developed for bids and tenders by Bid Perfect and is a central tenet of the bid training delivered by them.

Competitive Dialogue

A variation of the normal tender negotiated process, available under European Union Rules, that allows different options to be discussed before a particular solution is selected. It can be used in complex contracts where technical solutions are difficult to define or where the buyer needs the best solution to be developed.

Compliance Matrix

A document that summarises all mandatory and advisory requirements in a customer’s bid document and your levels of compliance in all aspects. The point is to offer an at-a-glance overview of how compliant you are.

Common Procurement Vocabulary (Codes) – CPV

Codes used throughout the European Union to generically describe products or services. The use of CPV codes by public sector purchasers to define their requirements in a Contract Notice is mandatory. CPVs can also be used in Non-OJEU Contract Notices to classify expenditure. (See OJEU).


An unincorporated group of firms or individuals which has been formed with a view to pooling their strengths and resources to win contracts that they would not be able to win on their own.


A way of writing that uses phrasing and general language that will be familiar to the reader making your document a more comfortable reading experience. Good use of contextuality means you are reflecting the customer’s view of the world.

Core Competencies

What an organisation does well – its key business – as opposed to other products or services that it can or could offer.

Corporate Governance

An organisation’s system of rules, procedures etc. used to manage and fulfil its legal, financial and ethical obligations.

Coloured Review Process

The following definitions are the standard but many companies have variations and different names or functions for teams.


Purple Team:   Assesses the probability of winning and alignment with organisational goals

Blue Team 1:   Reviews initial capture strategy and capture plan

Black Team:     Predicts competitor’s probable bid/solution/pricing

Blue Team 2:   Reviews updated capture plan and solution architecture

Pink Team:       Reviews storyboards to confirm solution and validate proposal strategy

Green Team:    Reviews commercial aspects of bid

Red Team:       Reviews final draft of bid to predict how the evaluator will score the bid

Gold Team:      Approves final commercial model and pricing

White Team:     Compiles lessons learned from initial capture planning, through proposal                                 development to contract award.



An organisation’s management, ethics, style and values.




Giving positive, constructive feedback to competing suppliers on their performance at certain stages of the procurement process. It affords an opportunity for a supplier to improve performance in the future. In public sector procurement, a debrief is a legal obligation from the public body. There is no such obligation in private sector procurement.


A collective name for the tangible goods and/or services that the supplier or contractor is required to supply under agreement.


Promoting equality and diversity is a duty the entire UK government takes very seriously, and is a responsibility shared by all government departments. Also see Equal Opportunities.



EOI – Expression of Interest (see Initial Expression of Interest – IEO)

Equal opportunities

The practice of ensuring that all employees and users of services receive fair and equal treatment. Also see Diversity.

Evaluation Criteria

Tender/bid evaluation criteria are the method(s) by which a tender response is marked. Related to award criteria.

Evidence (see also: Proof)

Evidence or proof is the material you provide to support your claims in a bid. People generally buy what they believe in, so the more compelling your evidence, the more likely they are to believe you. Typical evidence includes accreditations, audits, surveys, trail periods, third party examinations, testimonials. awards and references. Evidence from independent sources is always the best to use, if you have it available.

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is a document that normally precedes the main bid and which is designed to effectively summarise your entire bid offering. The executive summary is, in effect, a sales pitch and must contain certain key elements:

  • A description of the customer’s primary objectives
  • Your key solutions elements
  • Compelling elements of your commercial model
  • Examination of your key win themes
  • Key value/benefits highlighted with quantification
  • Reference to particularly compelling evidence you are providing
  • What happens in the next steps, should you be awarded the contract


As well as the above, you should also be using a narrative style that talks to the customer and is focused on the them. A good tip is to start by writing a paragraph about their business and not your own.

An executive summary is typically two to four pages in length but a good rule is try to build a document that is about one page for every forty pages of bid.



Features (see Benefits v. Features)

Framework Agreement

A formal agreement with selected (or short-listed) suppliers. The purpose is to establish the terms of contract – in particular with regard to price and quantity. In other words, a framework is a general term for a contract with a group of suppliers. It sets out terms and conditions for specific purchases (call-offs) that can be made during the period of the contract.




Ghosting is the way of calling into question the abilities and solution offered by your competition using an indirect and subtle narrative approach. Without naming them, you can use your text to undermine competitors by highlighting their weaknesses (perhaps poor track record, lack of experience, poor financial position, etc.) ultimately creating doubt in the mind of the evaluator(s).  You can also use the technique as a way of drawing attention to your strengths in any given area. Ghosting is generally an advanced bid writing practice which, when used expertly can be an extremely effective counter measure against competitors.



Hot Buttons (see Win Themes)



ITT – Invitation to Tender

Exactly that. An invitation to take part in a tender (or bid) process. The paper or electronic documentation issued to organisations invited to tender for a contract. Typically, it includes a background, rules of tender, contract specification, forms for completion, questions or information required and a draft contact.

Initial Expression of Interest – IEO

High value public sector contracts are advertised via OJEU. They usually start with asking parties interested in bidding to write and express their interest in bidding. This is different to a Periodic Indicative Notice (or Prior Information Notice). (See also PIN). Also referred to as an Expression of Interest.

Interim Associate (Interim Bid Writer, Freelance Bid Writer, Bid Consultant, etc.)

Essentially, any professional brought into a bid project to add depth of resource and/or specific expertise, generally on a short-term contract. Interim personnel are normally charged for on a daily rate. Bid related skills include writing, editing, proofreading, graphic management, media creation and bid project management.

Invitation to Provide a Proposal (IPP)

This is similar or the same as an Invitation to Tender (ITT) or a less formal process.



JV - Joint Venture

A formal or informal partnership created to achieve a specific aim – typically to win a tender or PFI, PPP etc.




KPIs - Key Performance Indicators

Specific measurements of service delivery within a Service Level Agreement (SLA).



Lean Writing

A way of writing that removes unnecessary words and narrows down the text to its minimum requirement. This is particularly important when you are writing an answer which only allows for certain number of words to be used (i.e. word count).

Here is an example of an unnecessarily wordy paragraph:

This document is for the purpose of giving the reader a detailed explanation of the inventory process. It describes the activities we currently do in the majority of instances on a daily and weekly basis. In order to provide an introduction to the process for employees who work on a temporary basis, we also have prepared an overview, which describes the highlights of the inventory process in just two pages.

Here is the same paragraph when lean writing techniques have been applied:

This document explains the inventory process in detail, describing our usual daily and weekly activities. We have also prepared a two-page overview for temporary employees.

In the above example, the first paragraph contains 70 words and the second 26. However, they both say the same thing.



Marginal Gains

At the start of a bid project, there is, essentially no real difference between making strategy and writing choices that are 1% worse or 1% better. But as the bid progresses, these seemingly insignificant improvements or declines can suddenly amount to a big gap between winning and losing. Marginal Gain Theory calls upon you to seek every small improvement you can make to your answers to give an accumulative larger increase in your overall score.

MEAT - Most Economically Advantageous Tender

The optimum combination of whole life costs and benefits assessed against pre-determined evaluation award criteria which will normally be detailed in the Invitation to Tender (ITT) or equivalent documentation. Best Value is also a public sector term meaning the same thing but is now a mostly defunct phrase.

Method Statement

The document used in a tender process which sets out questions for the suppliers to answer which helps the purchaser or procurement officer to understand how the goods or services will be delivered.

MIS - Management Information System 

The mechanism for measuring and reporting information relevant to the management of service delivery. Information that assists both the supplier and customer.



National Audit Office – NAO

Its role is to audit the financial statements of all government departments, agencies and many other public bodies. It reports on how well the expenditure of public money achieves value for money (VFM) and improvements in the delivery of public services.

National Supplier Vocabulary (Codes) – NSV

CPV numbers developed by the European Union for public procurement. Their main purpose is to provide standardised terms to help procurement classify contract notices (in the Official Journal of the European Union – OJEU). They also help suppliers find those of interest to them.

Negotiated Procedure

For high-value public sector contracts (see OJEU). Only chosen suppliers are invited to negotiate for a contract(s). This has limited use only e.g. extreme urgency, failure of open/restricted procedures or repeat of similar contract.

Nomenclature of Statistical Territorial Units – NUTS

A hierarchical classification of administrative areas, used across the European Union for statistical purposes. e.g. Northern Ireland is one of 12 “NUTS 1” areas in the UK


Official Journal of the European Union (formerly OJEC) – OJEU

The publication in which all high-value public sector contracts in the EU must be advertised. (Also see TED)

Open Procedure

For high-value public sector contracts (see OJEU). Suppliers can apply without prior selection e.g. going through a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). The EU Directives lay down the type of criteria which can be used to eliminate unqualified or unsuitable suppliers.



A working relationship between two or more parties either creating added value for the customer or as a means to win contracts that individually they may not be successful with. Partners can include suppliers, distributors, joint ventures, and alliances. Note: Suppliers may not always be recognised as formal partners. (Also, see Joint Ventures.)

Period of Notice

PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental)

Factors to consider when strategising your bid response or conducting your initial evaluation of the opportunity.

PIN - Periodic Indicative Notice, Prior Information Notice 

An advance warning of a public sector contract to be tendered at some time in the future. The issue of a PIN does not guarantee that a contract will be placed. This is different to an Initial Expression of Interest (See also IEO).

Proof (See Evidence)

Proof or evidence is the material you provide to support your claims in a bid. People generally buy what they believe in, so the more compelling your evidence, the more likely they are to believe you. Typical evidence includes accreditations, audits, surveys, trial periods, third party examinations, testimonials. awards and references. Evidence from independent sources is always the best to use, if you have it available.


Same as bid or tender

PQQ – Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (or Standard Selection Questionnaire – SSQ)

A filtering mechanism employed by procuring organisations to decide who to invite to participate in the tender


Question Analysis

The process used to ensure every part of every question is fully identified, evaluated and answered. Missing elements of a question will generally mean losing marks during the evaluation process.



Restricted Procedure

For high-value public sector contracts (see OJEU). Suppliers are selected by an open first-round invitation e.g. a Pre-qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). Any prospective supplier can apply to be included in the restricted list for the contract. Those suppliers who then meet the required criteria or ‘qualify’ will then be invited to tender. NB This is the most common type of tender for high-value contracts.

RFP – Request for Proposal

A document from a customer or funding source calling for proposals to provide specific services or goods. This is essentially the same thing as an Invitation to Tender (ITT), but is an expression used in the commercial sector and/or outside of the UK.

RFQ – Request for Quotation

Usually a brief RFP with few key requirements but focusing more on the provision of a price or commercial solution.

RFI – Request for information

A customer document used at an early stage of a procurement project to create a list of viable bidders. An alternative term for Pre-qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)




A list of suitable prospective suppliers that has been drawn up through a preliminary evaluation exercise for a particular contract or procurement activity.

Single voice

Making sure that a bid comprised of content from a range of contributors is edited to ensure consistency of style and language.

SLA - Service Level Agreement

A mechanism for helping a service provider and its customers achieve a shared understanding about services and service delivery. An SLA is a tool that helps manage the expectations, clarify responsibilities, and provide an objective basis for assessing service delivery. See also Key Performance Indicators KPIs).

SME – Definition 1 - Subject Matter Experts

Personnel required to provide specific contributions/content to bids due to their expertise in a given area. For example, questions about delivery may be dealt with by the Logistics Manager, who will be defined as a Subject Matter Expert.

SME – Definition 2 - Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

The current definitions are:

  • Micro Business = less than 10 employees & turnover under £2 million
  • Small Business = less than 50 employees & turnover under £10 million
  • Medium Business = Less than 250 employees & turnover under £50 million


A description of requirements and standards to which the goods, works or services should conform. Also known as a statement of needs, a statement of requirement, an operational requirement, or a brief. Its purpose is to present prospective suppliers with a clear, accurate and full description of the organisation’s needs, to enable them to propose a solution to meet them.

SPV – Special Purpose Vehicle

Typically, a company, partnership or organisation formed by one or (more usually) several partners to to bid for a contract as a single entity.


Individuals, groups or organisations that are affected by and/or have an interest in a particular issue or organisation e.g. customers, partners, employees, shareholders, owners, government, and regulators.

Stand Down Notice

Standstill Period

See: Alcatel Mandatory Standstill Period.


Individuals, groups or organisations that are affected by and/or have an interest in a particular issue or organisation. e.g. customers, partners, employees, shareholders, owners, government and regulators.

Supply Chain

The flow of resources into and out of the enterprise’s collective operations e.g. an IT supply chain is the flow of resources into and out of its IT operations. The chain can be said to start with the suppliers of your suppliers and ends with the customers of your customer.

Sustainable Development

A widely-used and accepted international definition is: ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. e.g. the environmental and social impact of today’s actions that may affect the ability of future generations.


The process of breaking your bid down, question by question, and ensuring you have examined every aspect of your response to ensure you have not missed anything and have delivered the highest quality answers possible.




Same as a bid.

Tender Library (see Bid Library)

TUPE - Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)

These regulations are designed to protect the rights of employees in a transfer situation e.g. when there is a change in supplier or when a facility is first outsourced. This enables affected employees to enjoy continuity of employment keeping the same terms and conditions. Often referred to as the TUPE regulations.



Variant Bids (see Alternative Bids/Proposals)


What the customer will receive by choosing you as a supplier. Value as a term is vague and undefined by the evaluator. Value should be clearly explained and be measurable, quantified and proven.



White Glove

An editing process that is the closest scrutiny of your text to ensure the highest level of quality.

Win Themes (or Hot Buttons)

Win themes are the main reasons why you believe that your potential customer will choose you. There may not be many of them and they will be woven into the fabric of your bid narrative. You will return to key win themes as often as the text allows you to, without making them looked ‘shoehorned’ in. You may choose to identify them in your Bid Value Matrix.







Errors & Omissions Excepted

If you come across anything which is not explained in this glossary please contact us and we will endeavour to help. If you have any comments, corrections or ideas please use the contact form

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