How to apply for Tenders in Government – A Step by Step Guide

If your business wants to expand and is looking for business growth opportunities, the public sector procurement arena is a great place to start.

Every year, the UK government spends billions on procuring goods, works and services from external suppliers – across central government, local government, the NHS and other public bodies, which means opportunities are available for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Government relies on the competitive public sector supply market to keep services across the UK running; therefore, government contracts are a key area for businesses looking to expand, with plenty of lucrative opportunities.

If you have found the tender opportunity of your dreams but are not sure how to apply – follow our step by step guide!

When to apply for a tender?

Small businesses new to procurement should identify markets that are suitable for them. Once you identify the market, find the niche, and have something that buyers are looking for.

Procurement expert and PASS Procurement Principal Consultant Eddie Regan said:

“If your business does not have a product or service that is unique, chances are that the public sector will not give you a contract that is over twice your turnover, especially if you are a start-up that cannot prove what your turnover is in your first year.

The public sector is risk adverse. It tends not to take risks when it does not have to. The market does not have to be niche; it just cannot be flooded. A new stationery business has a slim chance of working with the public sector in its first three or four years as it will be up against thousands of more experienced businesses. Your business must build a reputation.”

The public sector wants to invest in innovative businesses that bring new ideas to the table and as The government is committed to 33% of central government procurement spend going to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), directly or via the supply chain, by 2022, businesses with unique ideas have a strong chance of winning work within this thriving marketplace.

Giving advice on entering the procurement marketplace, Mr Regan said:

“If your micro business is a specialised tech company, providing technology that the NHS or MOD wants, there is potential for your business to succeed even six months in as there are opportunities in the market.

For example, there are only four MRI scanner suppliers that the NHS will work with; if a fifth one came onto the market then it is likely that opportunities will open up as the market will become more competitive, driving down some of the costs for buyers.”


Applying for government tenders

If you are confident that your business can offer the public sector a product or service that can really deliver – why wouldn’t you apply for government tender opportunities

The process can take time, but successful suppliers can reap considerable benefits. Each year, the UK Government spends around £284 billion on goods and services – spend that thousands of suppliers get a piece of.

To join them there are several steps your business will need to take. We outline each of them below.


Step 1: Do your homework

Buyers love suppliers that do their homework! The more you know about the client and their requirements, the better your final response will be.

Find out as much as possible about the tender – ask questions and get clarification on anything you are unsure about. Things you can ask about include:

  • the scope of the contract
  • how the tender will be scored
  • the tender procedure
  • confirm the value of the contract over the full contract lifecycle
  • you can ask for clarification if tender documents are unclear

The BiP Solutions Ultimate Guide to Procurement notes that:

“Contracting authorities want the best possible outcome for their procurements, so it’s in their own interests to help every supplier submit the most accurate and well-informed bid. And the first place to start when doing research is the tender document.

It is important to remember that any questions asked of the contracting authority will normally be anonymised and the question and answer will then be provided to all bidders. This can happen both at the SQ and ITT stage.”


Step 2: Study the tender document

Your proposal should be driven by the tender document. It is your guide to winning the contract.

That means reading the specification carefully, then reading it again. The tender document should tell you everything you need to know about how the buyer wants to receive your bid. This includes the procurement process that will be used, how you will be evaluated and scored, and how the contract will be awarded.


Step 3: Get ready to write

The bid writing process can be time consuming – so do not underestimate it.

If you are new to the process, leave plenty of time for writing and submitting the tender as it may take you more time than you think.

The danger of leaving your submission to the  last minute is that a late tender response is sure-fire way to be disqualified from the competition.


Step 4: Writing the bid

Once you have done your research – its time to write your bid!

This is your time to shine. Your bid should be unique and show off the best of  what your business can do but always remember to prove that you can supply exactly what the buyer is looking for before explaining any additional benefits your business can offer.

There is no tried and tested template to follow each time you bid for a contract. All the elements, from the questions to the scoring and the weighting, will be different for every tender.

We list things to remember below:

  • Be clear on your pricing model and state any assumptions you have made when pricing (for example, resources required by you and/or the awarding authority, timetables, etc).
  • Sell yourself to beat your competitors. Detail and explain the benefits of your offer clearly and simply.
  • Some bids may also require a covering letter. Any cover letter should respond to the bid invitation, summarises your main message and give a summary of your work as a contractor, experience, and credentials for this job
  • If you are unsuccessful, make sure you ask for a debriefing; you are entitled to one and it will help you to understand where you went wrong.


Step 5: Cyber Essentials Certification

Since 1 October 2014, all suppliers must comply with the new Cyber Essentials controls if bidding for some government contracts.

If the contract you are bidding for involves the handling of sensitive and personal information and provision of certain technical products and services, you should investigate Cyber Essentials certification.

Cyber Essentials is accessible for businesses of all sizes and sectors. There are two levels of assurance available, Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus. Learn more at Cyber Essentials Online.

Find the right tender for your business

To win tenders, you first need to find them. Supply2Gov is powered by the UK’s largest database of public and private sector contract opportunities, giving it unrivalled insight into public sector opportunities.

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