Winning a public sector contract can be a valuable source of revenue for businesses. However, the process can be complex and time-consuming. To succeed in securing public sector contracts, businesses must take a proactive approach to pipeline planning, search for opportunities in the right places, develop capture planning and strategies, and effectively navigate tender portals and alert services.
Preparing for a tender
To prepare for the tender process, businesses need to fully understand the different stages involved.
When new contract opportunities come, the buyer (i.e. the Authority needing the services/products) is legally required to publicly advertise a contract which typically states the number of tender stages involved.
For larger, significant opportunities, the buyer may opt to use a Prior Information Notice (PIN) before issuing a Contract Notice. This is optional and is a way of notifying interested bidders before the official contract notice is published. PINs will generally contain high-level information – enough to attract any potential bidders.
All bidders must also go through a qualification process, which often involves submitting a Single Procurement Document (SPD) or Selection Questionnaire (SQ) and meeting minimum requirements.
After qualification, the tender process will also involve an Invitation-To-Tender (ITT) or Request-For-Proposal (RFP), along with a Pricing/Commercial section. This is the main stage of a tender, with scored questions that will effectively distinguish bidders from one another.
The procurement team will then assess the bids and evaluate the quality of the tender responses and pricing through transparent, pre-determined marking criteria. Sometimes, there may be an extra presentation and/or interview stage that can indirectly affect the tender outcome.
Capture planning and strategy
To prepare as much as possible before a tender is released, businesses should try to:
- Build relationships with buyers before tenders
- Do research on buyers to identify their key needs/issues
- Prepare internal and external resources required to respond to tender opportunities
- Discuss the opportunity with internal teams, suppliers, and contractors
- Analyse and model the commercials
- Have senior management ready to support, sign off, and advise
Where to find opportunities
All public sector opportunities above a certain threshold value are required to be published and publicly advertised. Some methods of finding tender opportunities include:
- The use of subscription services to gain access and identify contracts that are soon due for re-tender
- Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to uncover opportunities and useful information
- Attending “Meet the Buyer” events and public sector conferences to learn more about pipeline opportunities
Tips and tricks
- Tender portals/alert services – Tender Notification Services are available to businesses and are arranged with Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes to help businesses find contracts that are suited to their services. Websites such as www.gov.uk/find-tender and www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk are useful in finding public sector contracts.
- Meet the Buyer Days and other events – These events provide opportunities for businesses to meet procurement teams and buyers, gain insights into buyer bid pipelines, needs and budgets, see competitors, and obtain market intelligence. Conferences, exhibitions, and trade shows allow businesses to meet existing and potential new buyers, get the latest industry information, and raise awareness of their business via social posts/tags/hashtags.
- Jargon buster – Bidders must understand the jargon associated with public sector contracts. For example, ISO accreditations and other standards are frequently desired by buyers but not always required, so bidders need to understand what these are.
Winning a public sector contract requires a proactive approach to pipeline planning, searching for opportunities in the right places, developing capture planning and strategies, and effectively navigating tender portals and alert services. By understanding the tender process, finding opportunities, and having a plan, businesses can increase their chances of securing public sector contracts.
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