Get Your Business Ready To Win Government Contracts

Many businesses are aware of the great opportunity and potential of selling into government but they worry about how they can best showcase what their business can offer. Like every type of business development, bidding for government contracts demands understanding and conformance with strict procurement requirements. For success you need the generation of a compelling response backed up with relevant evidence. The good news is the change in EU Regulations, implemented on 25th Feb 2015, has made it easier for smaller businesses to win government contracts.

The measures that have been implemented include: 

• A single portal to publish opportunities

• A move towards e-procurement

• A focus on Social Value and Environmental issues

• Maximising visibility of opportunity to local organisations

• Standardising processes and documents 

• Encouraging consortia and supply chain opportunities

• Full life-cycle costing considered when awarding contracts

To help smaller businesses the criteria have been changed to:

• Split large contracts split into Lots

• Demand faster supplier payment - maximum 30 days

• Turnover cap set at no more than 2 times contract value

• Self-declarations meaning only the winning bidder has to provide full information

• Market consultations actively encouraged

MEAT the criteria

There was traditionally the belief in the market that only the lowest price bid will win, this has now been changed to evaluate based on ‘MEAT' criteria - "Most Economically Advantageous Tender".

MEAT factors may include:

quality, price, technical merit, aesthetic and functional characteristics, environmental characteristics, running costs, cost effectiveness, after sales service, technical assistance, delivery date and period of completion.

This enables the bid criteria to be tailored to the buyer's requirements, which will of course include price as a criterion but can also emphasise value.

When assessing a bid, a ratio based marking approach may be adopted, showing the proportion of score allocated to both the quality and the price elements. Ratio scores of Price: Quality could be 50:50; 60:40; or even 90:10 for a very high risk procurement where risk may determine a much greater focus on quality elements.

Be consistent

Consistently successful bids are always structured in line with the client expectations as stated in the tender requirements, and deliver a compelling reason as to why you should be selected that is backed up with relevant evidence.

To stand out from the crowd, each business will need to prove that it is:

• An established business 

• A low risk choice

• … and is able to add value to the client

As a business, you will need to understand what procurement routes are used and do as much research as possible in advance of the procurement to find out the buyer's needs. ‘Meet the buyer' events, industry days and exhibitions as well as relevant news and social media feeds are all useful in gaining detail on the requirements.

Government funded procurement departments want to deal with local businesses, but you will need to prove that you are the combination of reasonably competitive, professional, timely in your service delivery and will be a low risk choice. These assessment criteria must be as supported by evidence at the bid stage so make sure that you have well developed case studies and client testimonials to use as proof within your application.

Golden Rules for Bid Success

Every bid needs to be reviewed and the requirements assessed thoroughly before you start the journey of completing the tender requirement.

When assessing the opportunity, the business needs to ask itself very honestly:

• Does the project match our core competencies?

• Can we prove a match against the questions asked and the marking scheme?

• Has my company got enough resources, time & tendering expertise to complete the bid?

• Is the tender opportunity commercially viable?

• Does the project match our core competencies? 

• Is the tender for the type of work you currently deliver? 

• Can we meet all of the stated performance criteria?

• Are we big enough for the scale of the project?

• Can my company meet all the buyer's needs?

• Has my company got a long enough trading history?

Where to look for opportunities

All Central Government procurement opportunities over £10,000 must now be advertised on the Contracts Finder site:

From 1 April 2015 opportunities over £25,000 from organisations in the wider public sector must also be advertised here; the portal provides a useful source of completed contracts businesses can understand previous procurement exercises in their sector.

The ‘saved search' facility allows you to register to receive email alerts when new opportunities are added and when existing notices are updated that match the selected contract ‘key words'. You can select to receive these notifications daily or weekly so that relevant opportunities come to find you rather then constantly login into the procurement portals to check.

Be a winner

When writing your bid, play to your strengths. SME's are flexible, quicker to react and able to offer better value. Make sure that you look good on paper,  highlight what is unique about your business, and what value you deliver to clients. Keep your case studies up to date and gain testimonials as you complete a project as this will make it easier to document your successes. Capture the innovation you have within your business and warm up your referees so when they are asked how good your business is, they will already have a prepared answer.

If you are totally new to bidding - have a go on a low risk project and when you are done, get feedback so you can continually improve.