In his poem Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day, Delmore Schwartz observed that “Time is the fire in which we burn”. Anyone familiar with tender submissions will probably have sympathy with this sentiment. After finding a promising contract, it can be quite a struggle to prepare a bid within a limited time-frame while staying on top of existing commitments.
Many suppliers tell us that racing to meet tight deadlines while wading through piles of bid documents only to be rebuffed after all their efforts makes them less inclined to bother bidding at all. This kind of “reactive tendering” can be both exhausting and futile, so what can you do differently?
Try giving yourself a head start by scoping out your targets in advance. Is there a particular buyer you’d like to contract for? If you can build even the most modest relationship with them you can gain useful intelligence about their specific needs and procurement strategy. When they go out to tender, this can help you make your bid as bespoke as possible.
Is there an existing contract that you missed out on or are now in a position to go for? If you establish when it is due for renewal and start your preparations months ahead, you’ll have much more time to perfect your pitch without feeling pressurised. This will leave competitors who only became aware of it when the tender notice was published rushing around while you calmly put the finishing touches on your submission.
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Learn how Advance Tender Alerts can give you a head start
Most of us are familiar with this quote widely attributed to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It transpires that there is no record of Mr Einstein saying this, but there is truth to it regardless.
Suppliers struggling to win public contracts should keep this maxim in mind when considering their next move. If your bid has been knocked back, it is crucial that you find out why and take corrective action. Where did you fall down? What were you unaware of? How can you improve?
We find that one of the more common missteps made by aspiring contractors after unsuccessful bids is failing to seek as much feedback as possible from buyers and not conducting a detailed assessment of what they could have done better. Instead of allowing your efforts to be wasted, why not use them to your advantage?
Once a contract is awarded, suppliers are entitled to feedback from buyers including a breakdown of their scores and the characteristics and advantages of the winning bid. Conducting a thorough review of your submission with the information available can provide a wealth of applicable knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses.
Persisting with the same stale strategy may not be insanity, but it is certainly not sensible. If you learn lessons, hone your skills, and adjust your approach, you’ll be a much more powerful presence in the next competition.
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One of the most common pieces of feedback we receive from subscribers trying to win their first public contract is that they are tired of being knocked back from promising opportunities, with many minded to give up entirely and focus their efforts exclusively on the private sector.
This is entirely understandable when time and resources are minimal and the workload involved in bidding so substantial, but companies in any industry need diverse revenue streams in order to prosper and grow. Winning your first tender is not so much about the here and now, but about the future: once you have your foot in the door, many more opportunities will open up to you.
In our experience, it pays to be pragmatic when selecting your target. Larger contracts are unlikely to be awarded to a supplier with no previous public sector experience, so below-threshold procurements should be your focus; they may not be worth millions, but winning just one can prove to be a vital stepping stone for any company aspiring to win large government contracts.
In other words, don’t try to run before you can walk. Be selective about your bids and focus on winning one of the more modest contracts in order to give yourself the best chance of success. Your first win allows you to demonstrate your capabilities and gain vital references, which will be invaluable when making your pitch for a larger and more lucrative contract.
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The use of frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems (DPS) in the public sector is on the rise. They reduce the amount of work for procurement teams and simplify the tendering process for suppliers.
Make sure you’re prepared to bid for this type of work – join our free webinar to find out what a framework or DPS is, how they operate and what work needs to be done once you are on them.
Date: Thursday 22 March
Time: 1.00pm to 1.45pm
During the webinar we’ll cover:
- A description of what a framework is and how it operates
- A description of a DPS and how it differs from a framework
- An explanation of how to find these opportunities
- Examples of ‘call-off’ mini competitions from frameworks and DPSs
- An overview of how to write great bid responses
Social Value has been part of procurement legislation since 2013 yet it is just starting to filter down into tender documents on a regular basis – sometimes accounting for up to 20% of the total evaluation.
But what is it? And, more importantly, how can you prepare for it?
If you would like a firmer understanding of the topic then join our Head of Training and Consultancy, Gemma Waring BA (Hons), for this FREE webinar.
Tuesday 27 February, 1.00pm til 1.45pm
The webinar will cover:
• A high level overview of the Social Value Act 2012
• An explanation of how it is being implemented in the public sector
• Examples of Social Value questions that have been seen in recent tenders
• Advice on how to prepare for answering social value questions in tenders
A little heads up can go a long way in the world of public sector tendering. Suppliers usually rely on Prior Information Notices (PINs) to give them a heads up that a contract was soon to be out there to bid on.
PINs are a great way to prepare for a bid response, but the time a supplier has to prepare their bid off the back of a PIN can vary: some PINs can be live for as little as a month before the contract notice comes out.
The longer the supplier has, the better position they are in to make a successful bid. That’s why Tenders Direct has launched Advance Tender Alerts.
Advance Tender Alerts provide suppliers with notifications of tenders, related to their business, up to six months before they expire – covering both above and below threshold opportunities.
Continue reading “Tender Forecasting”
Low value tenders are those which aren’t published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) as they are below the EU threshold set at £106,047.
More information can be found about thresholds in our blog post, but what are the key benefits of low value tenders?
For SMEs and companies who have no experience of working in the public sector, low value tenders are a good starting point. Securing a few low value contracts allows smaller suppliers to build up a body of work that can help them go after high value OJEU notices in the future.
Here are the five key benefits of low value tenders:
Continue reading “Why we love low value tenders”
If you are a public sector supplier and you’ve found a tender that you want to go for – great news!
Often some areas of a bid response get overlooked in the buzz of bidding for new business. Millstream Training and Consultancy offer bespoke Consultancy to companies looking for tailored support for their tendering exercises. This can be anything from writing a bid response for you, to reviewing a bid response you’ve already written
One of our consultants, Nicola Bramwell (BSc, MCIPS, MSc, PRINCE2), has written her top five ‘must do’s to follow in your next bid response:
Agree a response structure and consistent approach
This can include an overview, technical information, resources, and timeframe, so that the entire team uses a consistent style when preparing a response.
Take advantage of the opportunity to ask clarification questions
Most tenders will provide bidders with a timeframe to which they are able to ask questions relating to the tender e.g. the clauses included in the terms and conditions. It is vital that bidders take advantage of this opportunity to clarify issues which are vague or unclear.
Ensure that all team members adhere to response limitations
It’s common for tenders to include a word / pagination limit for each question so that all bidders are treated equally during the evaluation. If you don’t adhere to these, useful information can be discounted the tender could be deemed non-compliant.
Do not provide non-requested attachments / supporting material
As above, tenders will also specify any additional documents that need to be submitted. No bidder is able to submit documents outside of those specified, if they do, a bidder runs the risk of being disqualified.
Allow sufficient time for responses to be peer reviewed and / or proof read
When writing bids, it is easy for mistakes to be made, such as failing to respond to a certain point within a question or including typing errors or out-of-date information within a response. Get the entire bid to be peer reviewed and / or proof read by another colleague prior to its submission.
To help put these tips into practice, contact us today to find out how we can help you with your next tendering exercise.
The business world is ever changing. To keep on top of the latest trends, it’s important for SMEs to have a resource bank of insider tips and knowledge. We have compiled a list of our top five business resource websites so you have a go-to list of sources to help inform your business practices.
Bdaily was founded in 2009 and provides timely news, advice and opinion content useful for SMEs. What’s good about Bdaily is that you can target news stories for specific regions in England: North East, North West, Yorkshire and London as well as national and international coverage.
If you’re looking for a range of advice for your small business or startup, or even if you’re just in the planning phase, gov.uk has a range of resources: advice on writing a business plan, financial planning and support, and links to the various schemes the government runs.
With a dedicated Q&A section maintained by small business experts, smallbussiness.co.uk is the hub for start-ups and SMEs looking for insider knowledge. The site covers the most important topics and advice for SMEs covering finance, business management and technology.
Established 40 years ago, the FSB provide a wide range of business services to their members. What makes them stand out is their legal edge: online you can access fact-sheets, legal documents and read their blog to get into the nitty gritty of regulations.
A ‘national campaign by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’: Startup Britain offers inspiration, resources and guidance to help people start and grow their own business. Startup Britain have local support centres and run events which you can find via their interactive map online.
For guidance specific to public sector tendering, our ‘Things to help you’ section on Tenders Direct has guides, infographics and handy procurement links to help suppliers with their procurement exercises.
Do you know your AINs from your PINs? You sure CAN.
Tendering in the public sector can involve many acronyms that suppliers will need to get their heads around. We’ve taken the top five acronyms used in the world of procurement and made them into a handy infographic.
For more terminology explained, download our ‘Tendering Terminology’ guide to help you understand the jargon and help take the pressure off your bid response.