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Making your first breakthrough in the public sector can be just as much about your strategy and mindset as it is about the content and quality of your bids. You can maximise your chances of success by applying a few basic principles.


Some aspiring suppliers are tempted into pursuing large contracts that they have little chance of winning even if they satisfy selection criteria. The prospect of securing lucrative work that seems suited to you is not easy to ignore, but you must avoid frittering away time and effort.

The best targets are lower value / below-threshold contracts, which will often be more accessible to SMEs with limited experience. Access the recording of our free Finding and Winning Low Value Tenders webinar for a detailed discussion.

Despite this, you can become involved with larger contracts on a limited basis or indirectly. Some are split into lots for individual products or services – which can be more achievable for smaller or more specialised suppliers – and bidding as part of a consortium can allow you to punch above your weight.

At the very least, becoming part of an existing contractor’s supply chain is a sensible first step – the experience and references gained will strengthen your hand when you do decide to bid.


It is advisable to fully scope and analyse both the immediate and long term deliverables and logistical requirements of any contract that you intend to pursue.

Sometimes suppliers formulate bids only to realise late in the process that they will struggle to satisfy certain requirements or to balance the workload with existing commitments.

Don’t bid blindly only to discover that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew; a single contract can eat up a great deal of your capacity and undermine your ability to develop business in other areas.

Make sure that your decision to bid is dictated not so much by your perceived chances of success, but by a realistic assessment of your long term interests and capabilities.


Many suppliers abandon their attempts to secure public sector work after either failing to find a suitable target or having their bids repeatedly knocked back.

It is easy to become disillusioned; tendering competitions are demanding in terms of time and workload, and refocusing on the generally less labour intensive route of B2B sales may seem like a logical course of action.

Rather than giving up when you may be on the cusp of success, be mindful that it can take a long time to make a breakthrough. Your motivation may falter with no tangible benefits to all your efforts, but it’s the long game that matters.

If you can’t find a contract right for you, keep looking; if your bids keep being rejected, pay attention to buyer feedback and use the insight to strengthen your pitch. At some point down the line you’ll be celebrating a major win and you’ll be glad you didn’t cut and run.

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