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How an SME Can Win Public Sector Tenders – 5 steps to winning a contract

Here at Rothera Group, we work with companies of all sizes and shapes. However they all have one thing in common; they all want to win work.  The majority also want to win it without having to cut margins or invest disproportionately high levels of resources.

Big companies often have complex processes and large bid teams and they usually have staff who are experienced with the preparation and submission of proposals.   Having processes does not necessarily mean they are efficient and having staff does not mean they are skilled or effective but overall, big companies often ‘have something to work with’.

Small companies, or SMEs as they are often known, usually have a different set of challenges.  It is not uncommon for us to work with firms which have never tackled a tender before or only have very limited experience.  It may be that one or two people do everything in the business so resource efficiency becomes critical.

So, how can an SME win a public sector tender and how can they compete against the large organisations?

Before I share the 5 steps I take with our SME clients, I should stress that winning a public sector tender is no different to winning any other piece of work, assuming it requires a written bid or proposal document.  The same golden rules that we apply when helping an SME win public sector tenders apply to large multinationals which are bidding for public or private sector contracts.

5 Steps to Win Public Sector Tenders

The first step is to have a positive mindset.  As a time-poor SME it is easy to become frustrated or irritated with the tendering process and become negative about your chances of winning.  This will only lead in one direction so try to maintain your enthusiasm and energy levels.

The second step, for SMEs wanting to win public sector tenders, is to ensure you identify the correct opportunities.  It is common for those starting out in public sector tendering to try to bid for everything however you must be realistic about the ones you can actually win.

The third step is to be creative and ensure you maximise the positive aspects of your service or product.  As an SME, for example, you may be able to offer a director-led service.  You can present previous project work in a number of different ways, highlighting all aspects of your experience.

The fourth step is always to think like a customer.  Think about the contract and the tender questions from their perspective and try to interpret what they might want to know.  Identify what their concerns will be and address them.  For example, as an SME trying to win work in the public sector, do you have adequate data security in place to ensure you do not ‘embarrass’ the client if you have a security breach?

Finally, be resilient and realistic.  It is unlikely that you will win every contract you apply for so do not be disheartened if you receive a rejection.  Treat the ones you do not win as opportunities for improvement.  Most public sector procurement is utterly transparent and auditable so ensure you get feedback and use it to improve.  Be realistic about the size of contract and relative risk to the client.  It would be unreasonable to expect a public sector body, which is accountable to taxpayers, to place a £1m contract with a firm with a turnover of £100k and only two staff members.

If you would like to know more about the way we help large corporations or SMEs to win public sector tenders, why not read one of our case studies or just get in touch directly?   As an SME ourselves, we know that it can be tough sometimes but we also know how to help.