With close to £15bn expected to be spent on SMEs this year and thousands of contracts available covering everything from building works to website design – it is essential UK businesses know what they have to do to win these tenders. To help speed up the process and encourage more small businesses to bid for government work, a major step was taken in 2014 in abolishing Pre Qualification Questionnaires for under £100,000 contracts.
In this guide, we shine a spotlight on the important steps businesses should be taking in order to ensure they are submitting competitive bids – and as a result – winning more tenders.
1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Although many bemoan the depersonalised process of bidding for public sector contracts, it is still recommended to also adopt the traditional approach by picking up the phone and get in from of the right people. Businesses should not be afraid to call their Local Authority to find out more information on the renewal of contracts – while it may take more time to find the right person, it is then a direct opportunity to explain what value you can bring.
It is important to raise your visibility, given most councils operate an approved suppliers list, who will often get the first look at any new contracts. Therefore, it is essential you stand out and are on the radar of local councils.
With the mounting pressure from the government to use local businesses, many Local Authorities and Chambers of Commerce run events covering procurement processes and previews of upcoming work. Not only do these events give local SMEs a better understanding of what the buyers are looking for and where they publish tenders, it is also the business’ opportunity to make themselves memorable, provide a positive first impression and begin dialogue for future contracts with the right people!
Firms now also have a contact in central government – with each department now having a small firms champion to talk to. By finding out their policies and goals, small businesses will be able to fine tune their approach when preparing their bid.
2. Play to strengths
Firms should focus on the smaller, more local opportunities to build a stronger, more relevant portfolio of work; rather than chasing big opportunities that aren’t a perfect match or are too big to successfully manage. It is important to remember that every question in a tender needs to be answered well – so if you are struggling then it may be a sign that the opportunity isn’t the right one.
A common mistake businesses make in tenders is focusing on features, for example what they do, rather than the benefits that will have on the buyer. When applying for a tender, businesses shouldn’t expect something like their benefits to be self explanatory – ensure they are included!
Never underestimate the small details – silly mistakes, a missing signature or failing to send printed proposals by recorded delivery can undermine weeks of work. If a business doesn’t meet all the requirements set out, then they will fail!
It’s important to remember that the bid isn’t about you, it’s about the client. Businesses should never get in the habit of copying and pasting responses as you should be talking about the buyers more than your business.
3. Learn from losses
No one ever wants to lose out, but bear in mind a win ratio of 1 in 3 is considered good in tenders. This reiterates that a business should only apply for tenders that are really suited to them.
If you unfortunately get the bad news that you have been unsuccessful, it is in your best interest to get feedback on why you missed out. This will benefit the business’ future tender applications and will minimise the risks of losing out again. Losing businesses should find out who won the contract to see if there is anything to be learned from them.
Attention to detail is vital. Get a fresh pair of eyes to proof read your application and documentation – don’t be the person who gets a 40-page bid rejected because there were spelling or grammatical mistakes!
4. Get expert help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance from an expert when applying for tenders. There are consultants who specialise in helping businesses prepare for bids and tenders, and with experience of scoring methodologies and knowledge of buyers, a consultant will help shed more light on how to improve success rates.