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5 tips on Public Sector tendering

Is your organisation considering supplying the public sector? I've enjoyed assisting many companies in winning business. Here are my hints and tips. 


How do I find out about the opportunities?

Web Portals exist for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, which collate information about Public Sector opportunities over £10k (for the life of the contract), and either point you to another portal where the Tender Documents are to be completed, or tell you who to contact to ask for the Tender Documents. Registration is free of charge, and once set up with your criteria, the portal will e-mail you when an opportunity arises.

Opportunities are often for Regional – and therefore manageable – contracts of an appropriate size. Most portals give details of current live opportunities, and (surprisingly importantly), contracts which have been awarded. The upcoming business speaks for itself, but often the ‘past opportunities’ show the contract end date, and when the opportunity is likely to be offered again. A good date to have in your diary!


Who can submit a tender?

In many cases, everyone can apply. There may be no pre-amble, just a Tender document which needs to be completed and returned by a given date and time. This often includes a Qualification check to confirm that you are competent to do the work. There is usually an indication of how your answer will be assessed – e.g. 40% weighting given to price, the other 60% spread equally over (say) six questions, where you have the opportunity to impress the buying organisation about quality, implementation, planning the contract, training, your environmental credentials etc etc. 

Framework Agreements may be created in which Approved Suppliers deliver the requirement throughout the life of the contract. Depending on the scale of the opportunity, Approved Suppliers may sometimes be selected via a Pre Qualification Questionnaire or PQQ. Following this, when specific demand becomes known to the buying organisation, they send an ‘Invitation to Tender’ (ITT) to those on the Approved Suppliers list.


Opportunities are increasing

The rules have been developed over time, with SME's in mind. 

This means two things:

1) If you have enjoyed working with the Public Sector for a number of years, there is a very good chance that your business will be put to tender soon.

2) If you aren’t supplying them yet, the Public Sector business enjoyed by others may soon be coming up for grabs!


Completing the PQQ or Tender

By all means express your company’s personality and character in your PQQ or Tender submission. This is important – but keep it professional.

It seems an obvious statement to make, but please ensure that you answer the question – you really would be amazed at some of the ‘schoolboy errors’ which I’ve seen. This is often due to diving in and starting, then becoming exhausted at the process, and ‘skimming’ the text of the next question.

Read everything diligently, take your time, and consider your response thoroughly.

Don’t be afraid of duplication, as quite often part of one response can be included in another. For example, if your service needs to ensure personal data security, the way in which it is done would be explained fully as part of your operational procedures response, and also in your response regarding the quality of the service you provide. It’s relevant to both, so put it in!


Clarify any ambiguity

I have yet to see an opportunity offered which didn’t have an element of ambiguity or uncertainty in it. The author of the Tender document knew what was meant when it was written, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you, the reader, fully ‘gets’ it. 

Equally, further detail may be required – for example, does the instruction in a tender specification to ‘collect from Reception’ mean that Reception is open all day, or do they divert the phones at lunch time so that the receptionist can go to lunch? If this would interfere with the way you provide your service, you need to clarify the point.

All tendering opportunities come with the ability to ask questions, by various means.  Some give a telephone number, while others insist on e-mails, which are then published to all other competing companies, together with the answer to that query.

Whatever the means of contact, ask the questions you need answers to – it doesn’t count against you, and ensures that you never assume anything.

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