In these uncertain times, we’ve had several contacts ask us how they can win more public sector work. Public sector contracts generally offer more contract and payment security than the private sector especially since new government initiatives to ensure on-time payments to suppliers continue (see Action Note PPN 02/20).
The government have also updated procurement policy, to allow key goods, services and works to be procured quickly (see Action Note PPN 01/20). Rather than using the traditional procurement procedure, the public sector buyer (i.e. central government, public bodies, local authorities, NHS organisations, educational bodies etc.) can now award work through shortened/accelerated procurement procedures, allowing bidders to secure public sector contracts quickly. Below, we’ve set out the key changes and, crucially, what you should do to take advantage:
Direct award – Without going through a tender process, the contract is awarded directly to a provider who can demonstrate value for money. Buyers can also use existing suppliers to provide additional services, or extend current contracts.
- Proactively contact buyers you could provide to
- Make sure your website is up to date in case they’re looking for suppliers
- Make current clients aware of your full service offering
- Confirm your willingness to participate in a contract extension if required.
Framework or DPS call-off – Many buyers will be encouraged to make use of current frameworks and DPSs to speed up the procurement process. Call-off procedures will still be followed.
- Get in touch with your framework/DPS manager and make sure your contact details, prices, and service offerings are up to date
- Ensure you’re set up to receive an alert if you’re selected to participate in a call-off
- Ask for a list of buyers who use the framework/DPS and proactively contact them
- If you’re not on a framework/DPS, search for ones that match your offering and apply! DPSs can be applied to at any time and are usually straightforward.
Short deadline tenders – For high-value tenders, the required 30 days to respond can be reduced to 14 days. For low-value tenders, the response time doesn’t change (i.e. any time the buyer chooses!). Expect a lot of short notice tenders, especially for goods, service and works such as healthcare products and temporary centres, remote working/cloud-based solutions, consultancy, and to fill gaps in the supply chain.
- With short notice tenders you need as much time as possible to respond, so finding opportunities early is key; check portals and tender alerts daily.
- If you’re too busy to look every day, try a search service like ours, where someone else will do the legwork
- Bid smart – don’t bid for everything and anything. Qualify your bid decision and once committed, give it 100%.
New Year’s resolutions for bidders
Yes, it’s a bit of a dry topic – January and tendering – however, the public sector spends £200bn via procurement every year (25% of this is awarded to SMEs) and billions are spent on private sector contracts through formal tender processes, so it’s a subject that’s well worth thinking about.
Here are some resolutions you can make that will help you secure more clients and contracts through tendering – and unlike the 80% of resolutions the nation gives up on by February, you’ll be able to maintain these all year!
Resolution 1: I will actively look for opportunities
There are 1000s of public sector tender opportunities published every week.
You can access all public sector opportunities for free via websites and portals such as Contracts Finder, ProContract, Delta, and In-Tend; once registered, you’ll be able to create ‘alerts’ which send sector-specific opportunities to your email.
If you don’t have time to look, paid services will save you time and effort in searching by ‘short-listing’ opportunities based on location, contract value, and sector.
Resolution 2: I will not bid for everything
If your approach is to bid for as much as possible hoping that you’ll win something, then it’s time to turn over a new leaf – not only is this a massive waste of time and resources (i.e. money!), it’s demoralising for your team.
Instead, before you bid, ask yourself: ‘Can I deliver what the buyer wants?’, ‘Can I deliver it profitability?’, and lastly (but crucially) ‘Do I have a winning proposal when compared to my competitors?’.
Only if you can answer a resounding ‘yes’ to all three should you go ahead. This strategy allows us to consistently achieve win rates of >80% for our clients, and is the tip that our workshop attendees rank as most useful.
Resolution 3: I will be organised
Though a tender can be completed in a couple of days, if you start working on it just before the deadline it’s unlikely you’ll have the time to write a winning tender. Your competition will have a massive head start, and you probably won’t have time to collect the case studies and evidence that would set your tender apart from other bidders.
And if you can’t submit a winning tender, what’s the point?
View each bid as a project; give it a leader and get them to own it. As soon as possible, start delegating sections to key contributors, and ask any clarifications. It’s common to underestimate the time and effort required to write a winning bid by 50% – so whatever you think it is going to take, double that figure!
Halloween is here again, and while you’re probably not so scared of vampires and monsters anymore, there’s still something that might send a shudder up your spine – tendering.
What is it that’s so off-putting about tendering to the public sector? The most common reason we’ve found it that the whole process seems quite frightening, especially for businesses that are new to tendering.
We agree, bidding can be a challenge and will require time, energy and resources. However, if you’re up for the challenge, and you meet a few basic requirements, then tendering can be an extremely profitable.
With the right knowledge and guidance, you’ll find that tendering isn’t scary after all. Here’s some tips to bidding for the public sector:
Are you bid ready? You’ll need to evidence your finances, and be able to provide relevant case studies and references. Other than these, the only other real requirements are bags of enthusiasm and time to devote to preparing your submission.
Find tender opportunities Once you’re bid-ready, you’ll then need to find potential contracts to bid for. If you’re interested in bidding to the public sector, there are a wide variety of free registers e.g. www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk, but these can be quite torturous to navigate. You might consider using a paid-for search service (like our Search Service) to take the pain out of searching.
To bid, or not to bid… Having found a potential opportunity, ask yourself three fundamental questions: Can we deliver this? Can we present a winning case? Will it be profitable? Only if you can truly answer yes to each question, should you decide to bid.
Completing your bid Anyone who’s ever had the joy of competing in a public sector tendering process could be forgiven for losing the will to live after trying to wade through the ghastly amount of information requested. Here’s some tips to make this step as painless as possible:
- Don’t start until you’ve read everything – at least twice.
- Check you meet mandatory requirements – e.g. specific accreditations, minimum financial turnover, mandatory insurance levels.
- Understand the scoring system – so you know what is required to score top marks.
- Answer the question – it sounds obvious, but answer the question you’re asked, not the question you want to be asked.
- Answer all the questions – it’s so easy to inadvertently miss out a response requirement and miss out on points, or worse, be disqualified.
- Review – make sure your submission is as good as it can be. Oh, and definitely check for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
- Gathering feedback – You’ve finally submitted your bid, give yourself a pat on the back. Remember, you can’t win them all, so don’t expect success every time. Win or lose, ask for feedback on your bid.
‘Who ya gonna call?’
So, we’re not quite the Ghostbusters, but here at Onto the Page, we specialise in helping businesses find and win tenders (our win rate is over 70%).
Hopefully, we’ve helped demystify the tender process a little bit but if you’d like to know more, get in touch for a no-obligation chat. We will discuss any challenges you’re facing, answer any questions you have, and signpost you to services that will increase your success rate in tendering.
Believe us, once you have the right support, tendering really isn’t as scary as it seems.
Call me on 07591 206202 or email email@example.com.
If you’ve never tendered to the public sector before, you might be wondering whether it’s worth it. Sure, tenders can require a lot of time and effort, and you’ll feel like you’re having to jump through a lot of hoops. Yet, even though it can be frustrating and at times all-consuming, here’s five reasons why tendering could be great for your business:
They’re a great route to market. If you’re looking to grow and increase revenue, tendering could be the answer. There’s over £200 billion procured annually in the public sector, with around 25% of this value awarded to SMEs. Contracts are often extended, provided you perform well, and thanks to legislation, you’ll be paid within 30 days (or sooner).
You’ll get noticed by your potential customers. Buyers read all tender submissions, and this is your opportunity to shine; your proposal might include a new way of doing things, or propose efficiencies that no-one else can offer. Even if you don’t win that tender, they could approach you separately for something else – believe me, it happens!
It will improve your business. Win or lose, feedback is invaluable in refining your service offering, ensuring your pricing is competitive, and can even help improve your business processes. For example, you might find that to be competitive you need to implement management systems; this will not only improve your future bids but will make your business more efficient.
Free competitor research. From meet the buyer days and site visits, to the feedback after you submit a tender, you’ll find out information on your competitors. Feedback will often show other bidders’ scores alongside yours and detail your proposal’s strengths and weaknesses in comparison.
It’s not as hard as it seems. You’ll need to meet basic requirements and have the time to complete the bid, but apart from that all you need is the enthusiasm to get started. Be selective with the tenders you go for to increase your chances of winning, and remember to give it 100% – it’s a competition!
If you think tendering would be a good option to explore and want to know more, get in touch for a chat; we can help you decide if you’re ready to tender, help you find tender opportunities, and crucially help you with your bid responses.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 07591 206202.
We’re halfway through the award season and we’ve been busy writing entries for our clients (and ourselves). We talk to lots of companies who would like to enter awards but don’t know where to get started. Here’s our response to the top three questions we get asked:
What are the benefits?
Awards are a great way to shout about your strengths and achievements; they look great on social media and in marketing materials, bids and proposals. They allow you to recognise successes in your business and team, and are a great boost for staff morale. Also, just being shortlisted is fantastic (you’ll usually receive a ‘finalist’ logo to use), you get to attend the award ceremony which is a great reward for your team, and excellent opportunity for networking.
Win or lose, feedback from your entry will be invaluable in identifying business strengths and improvement areas.
Do I have a chance of winning?
You have to be ‘in it to win it’ but there are ways to increase your success:
- Be selective with the awards you enter, there’s hundreds out there – choose the best match for your business.
- Make sure you fully meet the entry criteria and check you can answer all the questions fully.
- Writing the entry will require focus and dedication, so check you have the time and resources available. Remember it’s a competition, and you’ll need to give it 100%.
Most importantly, find your ‘win theme’ – what will put you above all others? You might need to brainstorm with your team or ask your customers. You’ll need to identify what raises you above others and will make your entry special. If you can’t think of a reason, it’s probably not the award for you.
What should I include in my entry?
Capture the finer details that will support your entry, the more detail, the better. Judges will be looking for entries that are supported with evidence, so avoid sweeping generic statements or unsubstantiated claims, ‘our customers were happier’, and include actual benefits, ‘customer satisfaction increased by 10% in 3 months’. If you’re allowed, provide supporting documents to enhance your entry. Photographs, images, charts, and illustrations are eye catching and make you stand out.
Judges have a lot of entries to review, and often little time to do it in. Make it easier for the judges to allocate marks by structuring your entry so it is easy to read and to find the information required. Always ask someone to proofread the final draft for spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Where can I find awards to enter?
There are hundreds of regional and national awards for almost every sector, location, service, and type of business You can easily use a search engine to find awards in your area or sector. Most local Chamber of Commerce, or Councils hold awards for businesses in that area.
We’re delighted that our Quality Management System is now certified to ISO9001:2015 international standards.
When we started this journey, our priority wasn’t getting a certificate, it was building a Quality Management System that would allow us to deliver the best service to our clients. Now, our clients benefit from:
- Assurance that our management systems are externally assessed and certified.
- A continuously improving service; our customer satisfaction is currently 100%.
- A consistent, customer focused approach, no matter who you deal with.
- Having all your expectations met, with a ‘right first time’ delivery.
- A better chance of success; our win rate is an enviable 80%.
- Efficient, speedy resolutions to complaints
- Better value for money; we’ve refined our systems to ensure maximum efficiency across our services.
Achieving this certification hasn’t been easy, especially as we’ve done this alongside writing hundreds of bids over the last year! However, the experience has really allowed us to relate to our clients who are beginning their route to certification. In a competitive market, especially in the public sector, having ISO certifications are often the difference between winning or losing a contract.
We’re so proud of our achievement. To see the benefits it has brought, and continues to bring, has made all the hard work worth it. Thank you to our team, and to everyone who has provided guidance and support along the way!