7 proven tips to win work with the public sector
If you are not fully familiar with the tendering process and what buyers are looking for, it is going to have a negative impact on your chances of success.
As humans, we tend to build assumptions based on what we experience, meaning a trial and error approach to tendering could lead to poor decision-making. Sure, if you have had some tendering successes, you might be able to identify what worked and then try to apply it in your next bid. But what about the contracts you did not win? Was it due to a poor response or just that the competition was a better fit? Unless you know what you are doing, you could end up making assumptions that cost you work.
Companies can level out their success rates in responding to requests for tenders by observing and acting on the guidelines below. We formulated a set of rules after an interview with two of Tenders Direct‘s top advisors, Lukas Princ and Andrew Watson. Between them, the pair bring dozens of years of experience to the entirety of the tender response process, having advised and guided many thousands of companies in their work to win bigger and better public sector contracts.
Get the preliminaries right
Companies wanting to win contracts need to have processes in place to decide which are the best opportunities to pursue. These need not be super sophisticated but must cover essential questions like:
- Does this tender align with our business strategy?
- Do we have a realistic chance of winning the contract?
- Can we actually deliver what is required?
This is referred to as a Go/No Go assessment, and you can visit Tenders Direct’s blog for a more comprehensive list of questions.
Be generous with time
“There is a direct correlation between how much time you spend on a tender versus your likelihood of success”, Andrew said. “Given the contract values […] it weighs very heavily in your favour to spend more time on your bids.It’s worth spending an extra two days working to increase [the] probability of winning a £500,000 contract, regardless of what your wage rate of the person working on it is.”
What we can take from this is that you need to give each tender the time it deserves. Go after opportunities that have manageable deadlines, and do not rush submissions just to get them in on time – you could instead put your efforts towards finding other suitable contracts. If you would like to see what a difference this can make, take a free two-week trial of Tenders Direct. You will get notified as soon as any relevant contracts are published and will have the maximum possible time available to submit a bid.
Some companies will get attracted to a particular tender “because of a networking event or an announcement online or on social media. And then they go for the lowest hanging fruit in a way, but the scope of the tenders may be too large for what they can actually deliver,” Lucas told us. It’s suggested that businesses do their research, understand the market and bid for relevant opportunities.
There is the issue that opportunities can be published on hundreds of different sites, meaning many suppliers only see a small snapshot of what’s actually available. Tenders Direct collates every public sector opportunity in the UK and makes them accessible in one place. With a bird’s eye view of everything that’s out there, you could be selective and go for opportunities that have less competition and are more relevant to your business.
Quality not quantity
It’s tempting, Watson and Princ both said, to pursue as many public sector tenders as time permits. However, Lukas advised, “If your strategy is purely based on volume, then the quality of your responses will suffer, unless you’ve got big resources behind [you] in the organisation.”
Your chances of success are greater with one strong bid, rather than several weak ones. If there are multiple tenders that you could bid for, it’s worth doing your Go/No Go assessments and identifying the most suitable opportunities. This can help you prioritise and allocate suitable resourcing. It’s worth noting, too, the value of industry expertise. A third-party consultative partner could offer support, allowing you to prepare multiple bids at the same time. This could be a great strategy if there are opportunities that are too good to pass up.
Make friends early on
Suppose your company is unable to fulfil all the requirements or does not have the required credentials to bid for work. In that case, it pays to identify the areas where your business is lacking, and set up partnerships with complementary businesses to submit joint bids – with the partner company taking responsibility for the work you could not deliver solo.
There’s also a good argument for simple subcontracting from larger companies that have won significant tenders. Rather than respond to tenders well outside your company’s abilities, you could use Contract Award Notices (CANs) to identify winners of contracts and approach them for subcontracting opportunities. This then allows you to develop the necessary track record with the public sector that you can reference in your own bids later.
Learn to communicate
“There’s an aspect of the tender response being two interlinked pieces,” said Andrew. “How good is our actual capability to deliver? And how good are we at telling people that we’re the right business for the job? You need to answer both of these positively to win work. More often than not, businesses are pretty good at delivery, but not very good at using tenders to tell stories and really sell themselves.”
While some organisations feel they would be more successful if they could only get in front of the decision-making panel earlier on, the fact is that written submissions need a particular skill set. Luckily, those skills can be learnt. Writing good bid responses is not necessarily an art form, but it’s certainly a craft that can be polished and improved over time, given the right inputs.
Most companies that send out notices of available tenders are little more than an entity that sends emails to subscribers. Tenders Direct is different in that it offers a complete tendering support solution that includes direct support for bid writers and managers. “We can go smart for you,” Lukas said. ” We can look at your current or past bids and highlight areas where you can do better. This can simply come to how you structure your response and highlighting your differentiating factors and USPs from your competition. Bid writing is a learnt skill and with the right support, you can eventually build up a more efficient bid process for submitting your future bid responses.”
Working with experienced bid writers will help hone existing skills, as well as provide opportunities to learn new ones. Having a consultative, educative influence on bid teams can be the difference between success and failure. Having helped governments and wider public sector buyers set up their procurement portals (Public Contracts Scotland, Supply2Wales, myTenders), Tenders Direct knows how to help businesses find and formulate winning bids.
“The last couple of years have been difficult for all of us, and we want to help SMEs access the public sector market, and secure work they might not have known existed.” said Lukas. “We hope these points are useful, and help people to improve their tenders. I really do recommend taking a free two-week trial of our platform. We are the UK’s most accurate tender alert service, and in those two weeks you get full access to our service. That means you can scan our database to learn about the market, explore CANs, and get notified of relevant contracts.”
Ask Tenders Direct about the options available to your company, and get in touch with a representative to find out more.