The Dos & Don’ts of Applying for Public Tenders

What you should do when applying for public sector tenders 

The public sector market can be very competitive, especially since the Procurement Bill, due to go live in October 2024, encourages SMEs to bid on government contracts through smaller, more accessible tenders. The change in focus from the most advantageous bids to bids that provide the most value for money has also levelled the playing field for smaller businesses to submit proposals on higher-value public tenders.

Those new to government procurement need to understand the unique tendering process. We’re going to look at how best to submit public procurement tenders and what you should avoid to enhance your chances of being awarded government contracts.

First, we’re going to look at tips on how to win a public tender.

1. Do your research

It’s essential to find out as much as possible about the buyer. The more you know the more you can tailor your proposal to their specific needs. 

You must also research the prevailing market concerned. What are the trends and how can you use them to bolster your unique selling points (USPs) in your proposal? All of this will help distinguish you from your competitors, especially if you can prove how your USPs provide value for money.

2. Understand the tender document

You must understand exactly what the tender requires and be certain that your business can deliver the right solutions.

Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’re not sure about certain points. This enables you to deliver a proposal that is spot-on and addresses all the pain points detailed in the contract.

3. Answer all the questions

Understanding the tender will help you answer all the questions and provide all the required information. Be informative, but try to be concise, too. 

Ensure that you include all of the supporting documents necessary, for example, financial statements (are you financially sound), references (testimonials), and case studies (if requested).

Double-check to make sure you have answered all of the questions to the set specifications. You want to provide as much positive information as possible, but you miss the opportunity to do so when you leave out questions.

4. Price your tender competitively

Setting the right price can be tricky. You want to get the contract, but you don’t want to be out of pocket. This is where you demonstrate how you’ll deliver value for money by using a transparent pricing process.

It’s important to include all costs related to the production of the total, such as full life-cycle costs and outsourcing to subcontractors.

5. Build relationships with key decision-makers

Networking and early engagement provide opportunities to meet key decision-makers in your area of the public sector. This gives you insight into different buyers and their particular pain points so you can create targeted, winning proposals.

6. Be prepared to answer tough questions

Government contracts need to know as much about the suppliers they work with and this means that they must sometimes ask probing questions. You must answer the questions openly and honestly.

What Not to Do When Applying for Public Tenders

Now we’re going to provide essential tendering advice about the don’ts of government contracting.

1. Don’t miss the deadline

Tardiness isn’t an attractive trait, but it makes tendering to the public sector more difficult. You’re automatically disqualified if you miss the due date. Add it to your calendar and then set a few reminders as the deadline gets closer; for example, 10 days, five days, and two days before proposal submission.

Try to finish the proposal with at least five days to go, so you can thoroughly go over it to pick up any mistakes (including spelling mistakes) or omissions. Give yourself time to resolve any problems that arise.

2. Don’t submit a tender that doesn’t meet the requirements

Only ever submit tender bids that you know you can deliver. Submitting proposals that don’t meet specifications is a waste of your time, not to mention the buyer’s time.

3. Don’t make any false or misleading statements

Transparency is the name of the game. The processes that facilitate transparency can make it difficult to get away with falsehoods. Getting caught in a lie or intentionally misleading statements will get you disqualified from the contract tender, but it can be worse. You could face legal action depending on the nature and severity of the falsehood.

4. Don’t bid too low

It can be tempting for new businesses to submit a low bid to try and get their foot in the door. Unfortunately, this can backfire. According to sound government contracting advice, low bids can make businesses look unreliable and cast doubt on the quality of their services.

Put some serious thought into calculating your bid. You want to make a decent profit and that means factoring in all applicable costs. Use the proposal to demonstrate how the budget will be used to provide value for money.

5. Don’t give up if you don’t win the first time

Very few people win the first time they compete in anything. So, give the proposal your all, using as many government contracting resources available to you, but realise that the first time out is a valuable learning experience.

You can get insight into how to construct a proposal in a way that enables you to emphasise your skills while following the format. You’ll learn more about how to price your services, and you might even learn the importance of being well-written and structured.

It’s also a good idea to ask for feedback following an unsuccessful tender, as this will help you right some wrongs.

Find public sector tendering opportunities with Supply2Gov

Follow the government contracting tips we’ve provided and you’re well on your way to writing a contract-winning tender bid. That just leaves one, significant question: Where do you find public sector contracts?

Supply2Gov (S2G) has an extensive database of government contracts, including lower-value opportunities for SMEs or businesses just getting started with public tendering. You can easily access the database by registering on S2G’s website.

Registration is free and opens up your world to government procurement opportunities across the UK and Ireland.