How to find 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 very little gain. But with a little insider knowledge you can turn this problem to your advantage.

In my experience the key reasons for this effort strewn missed opportunity minefield are;

a. The supply chain seem to think tendering is the 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 whether there were any little gems we could provide that might signpost you to avoiding these problems, to win more higher value bids, and to hopefully spend less time chasing lost causes!

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


Because when you throw 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 (really? more on that below) but to stretch the metaphor further, wouldn’t it be better to first hone the darts to ensure they are more likely to hit a 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 using a pricing strategy approach based on ROI 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’.

Using this approach is 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 successfully for decades.

Ok as I said by throwing enough bid (not big!) darts at the tender target at the right price, eventually one will stick but what if you could expand the target side of the equation?

What if you where to link knowledge of the wider public sector, and procurement practice (for more see here) could then expand the target side of the board and further load those ‘bid darts’ in your favour.

Perhaps you could expand the target side further by including into the mix areas such as; identifing early access routes to potential tenders, understanding who the gatekeepers, who the money holders and who the decision makers are.

It would also help for you to understand why tender documents don’t always contain what the customer really wants or needs.

Knowledge of such things as category management and how the public sector uses it to buy would also put you in a stronger position.

Wow thats a lot of target expanding opportunities in just a few lines!

But all of these ‘target side areas’ actually come under the wider discipline of ‘public sector procurement’.

Remember that when used effectively knowledge of these little gems will really expand the sales target’ 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 the procurement process and hence our customers work.

I personally don’t believe that not knowing something ever helps, either within tendering for public sector contracts or other area of sales, and I think now is the time for a disruption of that outdated thinking to the benefit of both sides.

Understanding the way your potential customers work, (public sector or otherwise) and how they make buying decisions, and how and why they agree contracts is absolutely fundimental and essential (and did I say it was important?) to achieving real sales and ROI success in public sector contracting.

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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