6 golden rules for selling to Government

Globally, public sector contract spending is $13 trillion a year. This is a great opportunity for all kinds of businesses from consultancies to caterers. There is no shortage of advice available so we reviewed dozens of these advice articles and stripped them down to these golden rules:

1. Know the rules

Before getting started, you must understand the basic rules around how to bid for government tenders. Policy papers guide everything public procurement teams do. Read these to ensure you know the overall policy and the specific policies of each organisation you target. Make sure you understand common public procurement technical terms such as PQQ, ITT, OJEU and CPV. This global guide is a useful place to start. As well as the general procurement rules, there will also be specific rules for your industry. Construction tenders, recruitment tenders and facilities management contracts will all have their own, industry specific rules to consider.

2. Do your research

Build an understanding of the public sector market. Attend events, talk to other businesses in the field, and access government publications. These government publications provide insight and in-depth understanding of how government works. It can inform on what Departments’ priorities are, their budgets, and their current procurement activity. All public bodies are publishing their policies and strategies online all use social networks like Twitter, this information has never been more accessible.

Identify the buyers you want to target. How your product is likely to sell is important but not exclusively so. Finding buyers with policies in place designed to help businesses like yours. Such policies could be initiatives to buy local or to support apprentices. For suppliers in the UK, Spend Network is a useful site to help you understand where individual public sector buyers are spending the most, helping you to identify likely clients. You need to know the information relevant to your industry for that buyer. If you’re searching for legal tenders, or consulting tenders, take care to understand whether the buyer has specific policies in place for these services.

3. Don’t bid ‘cold’

If you bid cold, the chances are you’re a risk to the buyer, an unknown quantity. The buyer may never heard of you or if they have, they may be wondering ‘why now’? Regardless, you’re already at a disadvantage. UK suppliers can benefit from using Spend Network to identify public sector targets who will be more receptive to your business. Make contact with your public sector targets before you bid through networking events or business contacts. This contact builds trust. This contact allows you to make sure your product is a good fit for the public sector market. It also means you’ll be in the know when tenders that meet the expertise of your business are advertised.

4. Be selective

Make sure you can do the job. Make sure the fit is good for your business. Responding to a tender requires a lot of time and effort. The wrong opportunities can waste your time and your potential client’s time. Use tender searches to hone in on the right public sector opportunities for your company. Open Opps is designed specifically so you can have the right opportunities from around the world, emailed to you every day and subscribers even get extra support refining their opportunities to make sure they are the best fit. Build a research and contacts base in the public sector. Use this base to identify where you could be ideally suited to the tender. Read the specification carefully before deciding to bid. Make sure you can deliver on all the key points. Better still, see if you can offer some added value.

5. Be meticulous

Study the specification and think about exactly how you will prove you can deliver for every required answer. Write a fresh and personal response to each point, avoid using stock answers, or unnecessary jargon. Proof read the document carefully to create a good, professional impression. Don’t waste words, focus on making sure that everything you say is absolutely essential to winning you the bid. This painstaking work requires a lot of time to get right. We advise to plan your bid response schedule and leave at least 25% of the time as fat. You can use this fat to review and improve your submission.

6. Show value for money

The cheapest bid does not always win. Public buyers award contracts on best value, so focus on quality as well as price. Find out how bids are being evaluated. Scoring matrices provide a framework for the best responses, allowing you to design your bid around them. Demonstrate the beneficial impact to the client. Provide proof of these benefits like case studies, proofs of concept or testimonials. Follow this formula:

  1. show you understand their needs
  2. show you can meet (or exceed) those needs
  3. prove that you can meet those needs.

Using Spend Network to understand your target’s previous buying activity means you can be sure to address their particular needs.

Other things to consider

On top of these rules, there are some other options to consider when approaching a public sector tender. Consider applying for frameworks or multiple award contracts as they are known in the USA. Frameworks are special types of contracts between a government buyer and several approved suppliers. These contracts enable buyers to procure products and services from these selected suppliers at short notice in call-off contracts. Once you’re on the framework, it becomes easier for Government to trade with you. A framework does not guarantee business. But becoming a member of a framework agreement gives you access to buyers eligible to use the framework. This provides a unique opportunity to build up your relationship with these buyers. This will increase your chances of winning bids.

In the UK, and you offer digital services, apply to the online frameworks G-Cloud and the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework. 53% of spend through G-Cloud goes to SMEs. While being on the these frameworks is no guarantee of government business, it is much easier to approach government buyers if you can refer to your services on these agreements.

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