Tendering For Contracts
Caroline Duncombe advises small firms on winnng public contracts
WHEN the coalition government came to power, SMEs were only winning around 6.5% of the total government procurement spend (£230bn).
In a bid to change this and make the marketplace more competitive, the government aims to increase this figure to 25% by 2016. This gives SMEs a huge opportunity for rapid growth and is an area that any ambitious company in the flooring sector should be seriously considering at this time.
Writing a tender bid can be an intimidating process, even for larger organisations. Not only must you consider the rules, regulations and procedures that must be followed; you must also scrutinise (and in many cases create) your in-house policies and procedures to ensure that you meet all of the requirements.
The core policies that you are likely to need to include are:
Health & safety: Documents which set out your organisation’s health and safety procedures:
Quality: The procedures that govern quality assurance;
Business continuity: Aimed at identifying an organisation’s exposure to internal and external threats and establishing how critical services will be delivered during periods of disruption;
Risk assessment: Used to identify potential hazards and risks that may impact a business’ ability to function and outline plans for how they can be mitigated;
Equality: Sets out an organisation’s commitment to tackle discrimination and provide equality and diversity; and
Environmental: Summarises the organisation’s stance towards the environment in which it operates. If your organisation already has existing company policies in the areas outlined above, use the tender process to ensure that they’re robust and up-to-date. Each should be checked and tweaked to ensure they reflect changes in legislation and circumstance.
Research, Research, Research: Once you have selected an appropriate opportunity which you are sure you can deliver, a good place to start is market research. Who are your main competitors and which companies have been awarded similar government contracts in the past?
You should also consider your pricing strategy: If you are an SME, it is likely that you will be able to price your proposal competitively but be sure not to under price either.
Many smaller businesses shy away from tendering due to the risks associated with failure – i.e. late delivery charges and over reliance on one key contract/customer but these risks should be factored into your costs. It is also good idea to consider your contingency plans should you encounter any problems.
Other factors to take into account during the market research phase focus on delivering a bid (and service) that is in line with what that particular government department considers to be most important, both within this particular contract and as a whole.
Look at their website, political statements, strategy documents and most importantly, the contract specification. Think about how you can demonstrate that your plan for the delivery of this contract is in line with theirs – let them know that you are on the same page!
What’s unique about you?: When you provide responses to the questions, think about the benefits that your service will bring and formulate answers around those benefits rather than what you will be doing. Also try to demonstrate how those benefits will offer value for money in comparison to other bidders, i.e. what are your unique selling points?
It is paramount that you answer every question specified. Missing out an answer to just one key question could be the difference between getting through to the next stage and not. If you’re unsure how to answer a question, ask for help; whether that is from someone else within the organisation or someone external.
First impressions count: A successful bid will always tick all of the boxes in terms of presentation as well as answering all of the questions in a clear and concise way.
Your bid can be further enhanced by stylish presentation and including graphical elements where possible, will create an immediate and long lasting impression on the public sector buyer.
However you must ensure that you check:
1. That you are allowed to include graphics in your submission;
2. If any graphics used must be included in the word count (many tenders that include a word count do not allow you to use graphics); and
3. If graphics can be used without restriction.
y establishing these facts before you begin, you can ensure that your bid is as stylish as it can be within the given guidelines. Anything that is not requested or allowed can often be disregarded.
Some examples of where graphics can be used to enhance a bid are:
Service request process flow;
Complaints handling process;
Staff vetting checklist; and
Training and development process.
All of the above can be interwoven into your bid documents to provide the buyer with key information without relying on lots of text.
n Get some help!: Due to the fact that the quality of tender bid submissions has risen substantially in recent years, it is always advisable to get some kind of help. Whether that is from other staff or associates with previous tender writing experience; via a tender writing training course, or; from a professional tender writing company.
Tender writing is fraught with potential pitfalls and when the rewards are so high, a second opinion could be the difference between success and failure.
Caroline Duncombe is business development manager for professional tender bid writing company Snap Edition http://snap-edition.co.uk
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.