How to find contracts


Every country in the world has its own form of public procurement.

As a result, the good news is that there are thousands upon thousands of opportunities published around the world every day, meaning great potential new business wins for your organisation.

However, the bad news is that there are also thousands of websites, journals and portals where public bodies can publish their contract notices, and finding the right ones for you can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

So, in the middle of all these opportunities, how can you pinpoint that one contract that’s perfect for your business?


Contract sources

In the UK and Republic of Ireland, for example, each country has its own unique portal for publishing contract opportunities. These are:

England – Contracts Finder

Scotland – Public Contracts Scotland

Wales – Sell2Wales

Northern Ireland – eSourcing NI

Republic of Ireland – eTenders

In addition, some public sector bodies will publish tenders on their own websites. Research has shown that there are 1627 active sites which publish UK-based contract notices, plus over 1500 sites listed as ‘inactive’ but which could be a source of opportunities for your business[3]. Further afield, there are also major contract portals in Europe including Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) and Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) in the USA, but the list is potentially endless.

Wait. How many sources?

With thousands of Central Government, local government and third sector departments in the UK alone, the list of potential contract sources is exhaustive and checking them all manually is impossible.

Instead, to get the fullest picture of the opportunities on offer across the wide range of sources available, it’s best to use a service which aggregates all the opportunities published into one database.

Your business, no matter how large or small, will not want to devote hours to manually searching thousands of potential sources. By using a service which aggregates this data for you, you’ll be able to go to one, single source and search for the contracts relevant to you.


Sourcing for relevance

Most of the portals mentioned above work on what’s known as ‘category-based’ search functionality. This means that you simply choose a certain category or industry and run a simple search. While this will return a large number of opportunities, it’s limited in sorting relevant opportunities from irrelevant ones.


For example, a company specialising in cyber security could choose the category ‘IT’ which will return a wide range of irrelevant IT service and maintenance opportunities, or can search the category ‘security’, but this will return opportunities for security guards, CCTV or police equipment – none of which match the business’ services.

Top tip!

Be sure to work with a contract search tool which uses ‘Or’ search logic. This provides much more relevant search results, allows you to quickly sort through the contracts that are right for you and allows you to find and therefore bid for opportunities much more easily.


This method also depends on how each particular provider categorises their contracts and how they characterise each industry. It means you may have to interpret how the provider defines each category in order to weed out contracts which don’t suit your skills.

Instead, when choosing a tender alert service, pick one which utilises a combination of either keywords, Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) codes or both in their search logic. This is known as ‘Or’ search logic.


CPV codes are a standardised way of defining what a buyer is really looking for in their contract and are incredibly valuable in helping you to quickly identify relevant contracts for your business. By using these codes in combination with a range of industry keywords you’ll get a much more comprehensive list of results.

Jargon buster!

CPV: Common Procurement Vocabulary. A CPV code is an 8 digit number used by purchasing authorities across the EU to tag and categorise their contract notices. This is a standardised way of identifying what a contract requires and allows you to search for relevant contracts more easily.


By selecting a service which works on this ‘Or’ search logic you can get to the heart of a contract requirement first time, so you don’t waste any time chasing dead ends.



Gaining the business intelligence and insight you need to win is as important as finding contracts.


Good business intelligence enables you not only to pinpoint opportunities, but also to better understand the market, how you fit within it and what you need to do to be successful over your competitors.

Examples of additional intelligence you should be seeking include market analysis, Government spend trends and upcoming project leads and contacts. By keeping abreast of market changes and buyer needs, you can be sure to submit better informed bids.

Top tip!

Before running any searches, it’s useful to fully understand what your own business is capable of providing. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How can you fill those gaps? What’s your overall business strategy? Taking the time to understand your own business first will help you understand which contracts are right for your own growth plans.


Reading the contract

By examining the contract notice you can start to paint a picture of what the buyer needs and how best to supply it. At this early stage, you can already begin to separate yourself from your competitors.

Questions to ask yourself…

Can I meet the needs of the contract? If not, what work do you need to do in order to get your business ready for this contract?
What experience does my firm have in providing this type of contract in the past? What information or skills might you have that other firms don’t?
Have they allowed for ‘variant bids’? If so, is there an innovative, alternative way of delivering the contract specification that the buyer, and your competitors, may not have considered?
What’s the scope of the contract? Are there environmental considerations? By completing the contract will you be bringing any jobs to the local area? Will your solution have any additional benefits which go above and beyond the requirements of the contract?
What value can I offer? Added value doesn’t necessarily mean added cost; it can simply mean you offer free training or recycle your packaging after delivery.

By asking yourself these questions you can start to build a picture of how you can deliver the contract better than a competitor and start to build your bid.

And that’s the next step in the process: the bid.

But before you submit the bid, you need to get ready, and we’re going to show you how.


If you liked this chapter, you might also like this:


What’s a public contract?

Back Chapter 3

How to bid for contracts

Chapter 5 Forward

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