Let’s start with this essential piece of advice:

Do not make the mistake of going after every tender!

It can be appealing to start off on this footing when you see a flood of tender notices coming through, all of which apparently match your business area. But are you remembering how high bidding costs can be and have you really thought about your chances of winning? Companies who bid for everything are not normally the most successful. Bidding on the wrong contract can be a waste of resources if you have no chance of winning so you need to think about things a bit more strategically and start targeting specific opportunities to make the most of your time and resources. Don’t just enter to make up the numbers.

It could be very easy to end up in a muddle when following this approach. If you win the wrong contract it may tie you up or distract you to such an extent that it prevents you winning more lucrative contracts. Even worse, you may not be able to fulfil the contract satisfactorily which will damage your reputation with that client, other potential clients and may incur financial penalties.

However, there is a delicate balance to be achieved. Failing to bid on a contract may mean missing opportunities to grow turnover, profits, market share or achieve a strategic position in the market. It may also provide a golden opportunity to your competitors.

Here are a few initial things to think about before you dive in and start bidding for everything:

Track Record –  Ah yes, that old catch 22 situation. How do you establish a track record if you can’t get your first contract? You could start by going for lower value opportunities or subcontracting opportunities. This is quite a good way to make yourselves known to clients and start building relationships.

Client Relationship – Don’t shy away from developing relationships with public sector purchasers. It’s easy to see this as mission impossible but more and more purchasers are interested in establishing a dialogue with suppliers through informal meetings, meet the buyer events and networking at exhibitions and conferences. Making yourself known to purchasers is a good way to put you on their radar.

The Competition– Your chances of winning are significantly affected by the competition so you should never have them far from your thoughts in a competitive bidding situation. If you are 1 in 3 you have a much greater chance of winning, provided you put in a credible bid, than if you are 1 in 20. If you are lucky enough to have the choice, concentrate on tenders where you have a limited number of competitors.

There is plenty more to come on this topic. In the meantime, leave us your own thoughts…

2 Responses

  1. Hi Jill,

    As a micro organisation. Our 3-month experience shows the following:

    1) We have learned the art of competitive pricing hence getting 95% marks there
    2) We losing out on experience – as are yet to start our govt. experience counter (catch 22)
    3) Our competitors (checking on winning bidders) are big, with big teams, big govt. experience, big awards, and winning contracts on all accounts of price & quality (David Vs Goliath !)

    My questions:
    1) Where do we find subcontracting opportunities – specifically for digital govt. projects – any specific portals, through council procurement teams?
    2) Going through normal recruitment agencies who advertise government jobs is that a good idea to get govt. experience?
    3) Is there any other way of getting subcontracts or small govt. jobs? (considering we have no govt. job experience)

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Hi Himani,

      My suggestion would be to focus exclusively on small contracts to start off with, i.e. those with a value of less than £30k. The big competitors who are winning the contracts you have been bidding for won’t be as interested in these and so that might improve your chances. Tenders Direct has lots of lower value contracts listed so take a look. A government client will also be much more willing to take a chance on a relatively small project than a larger one.

      Another suggestion would be to try and identify potential clients in government by looking at the past contract notices. Use these to identify particular organisations, the departments within those organisations and if possible the individuals responsible. Try and arrange to a meeting to present your expertise so that when they do need a quotation or issue a bid that you aren’t a completely unknown quantity to them.

      Past contract award notices can be a useful way of identifying companies who have been successful in winning a contract that you could approach for future sub-contract opportunities. By the time a contract award notice is published it’s probably too late to contact them for the current contract, but they’ll be bidding again in the future and you might be able to provide some capability or capacity that they don’t have in-house.

      My answers to the specific questions you asked are as follows:

      1) I’m afraid that sub-contracting opportunities aren’t routinely advertised anywhere that I know of. The obligation to publish contracting opportunities is limited to public sector organisations and utility companies. While some public sector organisations do include a contractual obligation to publish opportunities further down the supply chain these tend to be related to major infrastructure projects, such as the Glasgow City Region Deal (http://bit.ly/GlasgowCityRegion).

      2) Recruitment agencies are seeking to place an individual rather than a company and so even if you were successful, it wouldn’t enhance your company’s experience and track record.