Public-sector contracts can provide lucrative business opportunities for SMEs, but at BiD Masters, we understand the bids and tenders process can be daunting for smaller businesses. Many SMEs have limited experience when it comes to bidding for work and it’s hard to know where to start. Here are some tips to get you off the blocks.
There are a few important things to bed down before you decide to bid. Firstly, give some thought to your potential customers. Bidding takes time and effort, so make sure you’re clear about what you’re selling and who the most likely customers are for your product or service. If your product or service is applicable to multiple industry sectors, consider ranking the sectors so you can define a starting point.
Next up, make sure you have sufficient resources to bid. You’ll need a bid team with clear roles and responsibilities to make sure you meet the bid requirements and submit on time. You’ll need to determine who will make the decision to bid or not bid, who will be the person with overall responsibility for the bid, who will develop the solution, who your subject matter experts are and who is going to actually write the bid. If there are gaps in your resourcing, you may want to consider outsourced bid support. There are some tips on outsourcing here.
Search “tender opportunities” or “public sector procurement” and you’ll find a plethora of websites to choose from, including individual government departments, industry sectors, and universities, along with commercial entities that offer a search service to find suitable contracts. The latter can be beneficial if you want to start bidding but don’t have the resources or wherewithal to do the initial research.
Otherwise, in the UK, start with Contracts Finder. This government-provided database lets you search for information about contracts worth over £10,000 with the government and its agencies. There are also numerous sector-specific portals, such as the NHS Supply Chain Procurement Portal, the MOD’ Defence Sourcing Portal, the Crescent Purchasing Consortium for opportunities in the education sector and Bluelight for tender opportunities with police and fire and rescue services in England and Wales. There are local authority portals for each of the regions in England; eTenders lists opportunities in the Republic of Ireland; Public Contracts Scotland covers what it says on the box; as does Sell 2 Wales.
Once you’ve built your team and found an opportunity that fits with your business development plans, you’ll need to develop your solution to meet the requirements outlined in the bid documentation. Analyse the questions in the customer’s document to gain an understanding of what they really want, what is important to them, and how your solution fits. Outline your win themes – the reason(s) your company should be awarded the contract. Write these out in a clear and succinct way as these should be at the heart of your proposal.
Make sure your bid team buys into the bid. The bid writing process runs more smoothly if your bid team is confident in the solution, understanding exactly what the opportunity is, what you are planning to deliver and why your company is suitable to deliver the contract.
You’ll also need to gather evidence to demonstrate your capability. A bid is not only about saying what you will do. It’s also about the benefits your solution delivers and the proof that it can indeed deliver these. Statistics around past projects, case studies demonstrating successful delivery and testimonials from satisfied clients will all help your case.
You’re ready to start writing. Remember to review your responses regularly and make sure your answers stay on track. Here are some tips to help you improve the first draft of your response.
If you need support with finding or assessing opportunities, building a bid team, developing a solution, shaping or writing a response, evaluating your draft, designing and proofreading your submission or anything else to do with bidding, contact BiD Masters for a no-obligation conversation. We offer fixed price packages to help SMEs produce winning bids. Contact us here.