Finding your way through the public sector tendering minefield; understanding your customer.

Higher value public sector tendering can be a minefield of missed opportunity and excessive effort for what seems to be very little gain. Although there can be many reasons for this difficult situation in my experience the main ones are;

a. The supply chain think tenders are only route to public sector work


b. the public sector think that they can use tenders to get everything at a knock down lowest price (how true you say..).

I think one of the key reasons for this perception is that the tendering process is actually only a very small proportion of the wider scope of what is public sector procurement.

Whilst it is true that you can set up your own tendering ‘machine’ as a repeatable process where sheer volume of bids presented may work in your favour, but as we are all aware, using that approach is a very hit and miss affair, (and usually more miss than hit!). Using our ‘insider experience’ on procurement we wondered what little gems could we provide to you with that might signpost you to avoiding this problem, win more higher value bids, and hopefully spend less time chasing lost causes.

High volume will create success but perhaps not the success you want to achieve


Well when throwing enough darts at a dart board you will eventually hit the bulls eye. Now we all know when it comes to volume tendering modifing the target side is not really feasible (more on that below) but to stretch the metaphor further, wouldn’t it be better to first hone the darts to ensure its more likely to hit the bulls eye?

For reasons of arguement lets call it this approach a honing strategy. Although there are many potential areas to a ‘honing strategy’ one area you could focus on would be the use of a pricing strategy based on likely return on investment perhaps adding a ‘land and expand’ approach. Now that approach also means that some real thought has to go in to the pricing of the tender which takes you out of the realm of just ‘pricing for the job’ its a little more work agreed, but if approached correctly, including the sprinkling of a full understanding of M.E.A.T. to public sector procurement, and then adding it to your tendering process, you could achieve a much higher return on your bid investment. Believe me its how the big boys do it, and they have been doing it successfuly for decades.

Ok by throwing enough bid (not big!) darts at the tender target at the right price, eventually one will stick, but what if linking knowledge of the wider public sector, and procurement practice (for more see here) could also expand the target side of the board and further load those bid darts in your favour?

Perhaps by using areas such as; identifing early access routes to potential tenders, understanding who the gatekeepers, the money holders, and the decision makers really are, and knowing why tender documents don’t always contain what the customer really wants or needs, whilst being aware of such things as category management and how the public sector uses it to buy would put you in a better position?

Wow thats a lot of target expanding areas in 5 lines, but all of these ‘areas’ actually come under the wider target of public sector ‘procurement’, and when used effectively these gems can really expand the target side in your favour.

Supply side procurement knowledge and the, “its always been done this way” wall

It’s a trueisim that expertise in public sector procurement rarely moves out of the public sector and into the supply side. Perhaps the reason for that is the long lasting ‘Berlin Wall’ of; “its always been done this way and the only way to win public sector work is the tender and bid approach” – translated.. “we don’t need to know how procurement and hence our customers work”.

I personally don’t believe that is true either within public sector tendering or other area of sales, and I also think its time for a disruption of that outdated approach to the benefit of both sides.

Understanding the way your potential customers work, (public sector or otherwise) and how they make buying decisions, and eventually how and why they agree contracts is absolutely fundimental and essential (did I say it was important?) to achieving real sales and ROI success in the public sector, after all it is a potential £122bn market place. Perhaps you should join my crusade! More on this topic see here…


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