The 6 golden rules for selling to Government

The 6 golden rules for selling to Government

By Nelson Minar — Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Globally, public sector contract spending is $9.5 trillion a year (£6.54 trillion). This is a great opportunity for all kinds of businesses from consultancies to caterers, so naturally there is no shortage of advice available. After reviewing dozens of these articles, we’ve stripped them down to these golden rules:


1. Know the rules

Before getting started, you must understand the the basic rules governing how to bid for government tenders. Policy papers guide everything public procurement teams do, so read them to ensure you know the overall policy and the specific policies of each organisation you target. Make sure you understand common public procurement technical terms such as PQQ, ITT, OJEU and CPV. This global guide is a useful place to start. As well as the general procurement rules, there will also be specific rules for your industry, construction tenders, recruitment tenders and facilities management contracts will all have their own, industry specific rules to consider.


2. Do your research

Build an understanding of the public sector market by attending events, talking to other businesses in the field, and accessing government publications. These government publications are particularly important to gaining an in-depth understanding of how government works, what its priorities are and its current procurement activity. All public bodies are publishing their policies and strategies online all use social networks like Twitter, this information has never been more accessible. 

Identify the buyers you want to target. This is not just about where your product is likely to sell, it’s also about finding buyers with policies in place designed to help businesses like yours, for example buying local or supporting apprentices. For suppliers in the UK, Spend Network is a useful site to help you understand where individual public sector buyers are spending the most, helping you to identify likely clients. You need to know the information relevant to your industry for that buyer, so if you're searching for legal tenders, or consulting tenders, take care to understand whether the buyer has specific policies in place for these services.

3. Don’t bid ‘cold’

If the first time a buyer has heard of you is when you submit your bid, you’re already at a disadvantage. UK suppliers can benefit from using Spend Network to identify public sector targets who will be more receptive to your business. Make contact with your public sector targets before you bid through networking events or business contacts. This contact builds trust and allows you to make sure your product is a good fit for the public sector market. It also means you’ll be in the know when tenders that meet the expertise of your business are advertised.

4. Be selective

Responding to a tender requires a lot of time and effort so don’t waste time filling in applications for opportunities that are not a good fit for your business. Use tender searches to hone in on the right public sector opportunities for your company. Open Opps is designed specifically so you can have the right opportunities from around the world, emailed to you every day and subscribers even get extra support refining their opportunities to make sure they are the best fit. Use your research and contacts in the public sector to identify where you could be ideally suited to the tender. Read the specification carefully before deciding to bid to make sure you can deliver on all the key points and, even better, if you can offer some added value.

5. Be meticulous

Study the specification and think about exactly how you will prove you can deliver for every required answer. Write a fresh and personal response to each point, avoid using stock answers, or unnecessary jargon. Proof read the document carefully to create a good, professional impression. Don’t waste words, focus on making sure that everything you say is absolutely essential to winning you the bid. This painstaking work requires a lot of time to get right, so plan your bid response schedule, leaving at least 25% of the time you need for reviewing and improving your submission. 

6. Show value for money

It’s not always the cheapest bid that wins. Government contracts are awarded on best value, so focus on quality as well as price, so find out how bids are being evaluated through checking scoring matrices then design your bid around them. Demonstrate the beneficial impact to the client, and provide proof of these benefits like case studies, proofs of concept or testimonials. Follow this formula: Show you understand their needs, show you can meet (or exceed) those needs and then prove that you can meet those needs. Using Spend Network to understand your target’s previous buying activity means you can be sure to address their particular needs.

Other things to consider

On top of these rules, there are some other options to consider when approaching a public sector tender. Consider applying for frameworks or multiple award contracts as they are known in the USA. These are contracts between a government buyer and several approved suppliers to enable them to procure products and services at short notice in call off contracts. Once you’re on the framework, it becomes easier for Government to trade with you . While you are not guaranteed government business from a framework, as a member of a framework agreement, you can then build up your relationship with buyers eligible to use the framework and increases your chances of winning bids.

In the UK, and you offer digital services, apply to the online frameworks G-Cloud and the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework. 53% of spend through G-Cloud goes to SMEs. While being on the these frameworks is no guarantee of government business, it is much easier to approach government buyers if you can refer to your services on these agreements.

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