The Government’s approach to encourage smaller companies (SMEs) to compete for contracts in the Public Sector often gives false hope to those looking to break into what is generally perceived as the preserve of ‘Blue Chip’ organisations; larger companies who can afford to have standing large scale sales teams and bid teams. These small companies frequently ‘have a go’ at Public Sector tendering with little or no preparation and quickly become despondent when they don’t immediately succeed. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
I have had the opportunity to work closely with many SME companies over recent years assisting them to establish and improve their own Public Sector bid response and project delivery capability, and I see the same errors made time and again by small companies. Many of these SMEs are excellent in what they do professionally, expediting sales and delivery of their product or service. They are frequently engaged either by larger ‘Blue Chip’ companies or even just bigger SME organisations, both of whom use them as their sole delivery subcontractor camouflaged under their own brand. All too often an SME’s eagerness to get on with a tender response happens before it is really ready.
So What’s The Bid Process? – Sorry, but you’ve got to do your homework first and this homework comes in 3 key parts:
Create a single repository of information – Your Company Knowledge Bank
- All company details – registration/VAT/accounts/DUNS/insurance etc
- All company policies – Environmental/H&S/Equality & Diversity etc.
- Company accreditations – ISO9001/27001/14001/CHAS etc
- Case studies – your stories showing scale, complexity, innovation, quality, project control etc.
Read and understand the tender requirement – Can the company deliver the clients’ need?
Establish a company capabilities matrix – what is done best/well/not so well and grade it harshly – as an decision aide on whether to respond to a tender opportunity or to ‘No Bid’ it. Although it sounds obvious the Statement of User Requirement (SUR) is frequently misunderstood and significant time and effort is wasted responding to something that the company cannot do well or, worse still, cannot do at all.
Read and answer the question asked
Sounds easy? Unfortunately lengthy responses proclaiming the companies virtues and expertise in a subject which they know a great deal about frequently misses the crux of the question posed. You write lots but don’t actually answer the question. When the question is understood the response needs to be clear, concise, accurate, appropriate and complete.
On our website you will find our simple ‘fit to bid’ assessment. This is a basic aide memoire for you to build your tender capability. It’s a start. There is a mass of information in the public domain which can seem quite overwhelming – like trying to get a cup of water from Niagara Falls. Steel yourself, establish a disciplined bid process and procedure and work your way through it. For SMEs the Public Sector is now a much easier place to find and respond to opportunities which 20 years ago, would have been out of reach.
So if you’re an SME considering the Public Sector to augment your core sales … Go on. Have a go !
John Perrett leads Felber Consulting’s Tendering & Bid Support capability for SMEs and larger companies wishing to bid into the Public Sector. He also leads our P3M (Project, Programme & Portfolio Management) capability supporting ambitious organisations from bid right through to delivery.