How SMEs Can Win Government Contracts

A Guide to How SMEs Can Win Government Contracts

  • Barkers Procurement
  • Blogs
  • No Comments

Winning a government contract is a significant challenge for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Even the UK Government has acknowledged on its website the barriers these businesses face when tendering for this type of contract and has made efforts to award more of its contracts to them. Barriers SMEs must overcome include the authorities that are contracting not being aware of the SME and the goods and services it could provide; SMEs considering the public procurement process too bureaucratic; SMEs not having the capacity to bid for opportunities and compete with larger businesses; and the focus of the process being on cost, which stops SMEs from demonstrating the broader value they offer.

However, that doesn’t mean you should lose hope if you run an SME. According to figures on the website of the Scottish Government, nearly 80% of public sector contract awards go to SMEs now. How do you win a government contract if you’re an SME though? This guide is here to help you. 

Build a strong understanding of the UK government procurement process

Understanding the UK government procurement process and its rules and regulations is essential to stand any chance of winning a contract. Make sure you understand the different stages of the process — a basic government or other public sector procurement process generally consists of four main stages: advertisement, selection, tendering and award — the legal requirements and the criteria for evaluating tenders. Be aware, too, of the different types of contracts and of the timescale for submitting bids. They’re not all the same.

Study the documents carefully

The awarding authority should provide all the information you need to help you bid successfully. If you need more clarification on something, contact them. Read all the documents and ensure you have the skills necessary to meet the requirements. Check for any additional requirements to confirm that your business is suitable for the contract. Importantly, ensure that undertaking the work will be cost-effective for your business.

Join the conversation early

Pre-market opportunity is the key to shaping a formal tender. If you don’t spot opportunities before they’ve reached the market, you’re behind. Look for contracts on Contract Finder. Look for prior information notices (PINs) on Find a Tender. Attend information days.

Be patient

Public sector contracts can be highly rewarding. Benefits you may enjoy include multi-year contracts and guaranteed payment at guaranteed times. Patience can pay off, so don’t feel fazed by tendering for a contract. Find a tender, read all the documents and apply. You can work out what support you need later.

Make your bid clear and concise

Creating a compelling bid gives you a better chance of being selected. Make your bid clear and concise, and demonstrate all your strengths and capabilities. Show why your business is the right one for the contract. If you say your business will achieve something, support your claim with evidence. Do you hold any relevant qualifications? Have you received any awards? Mention them in your bid. If you feel you need support to write a compelling bid, get in touch with a specialist bid writing provider such as Bid Writing Service (BWS).

Consider forming partnerships with other SMEs

Many public sector contracts are so large and of such a scale that many small businesses don’t even think about competing for them. There is a solution though: form partnerships with other SMEs to increase your prospects of winning larger contracts. Pooling resources and expertise can allow an SME’s bid to become more competitive than if it were to bid on its own.

Be realistic

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but be realistic about which contracts you stand a chance of winning. You can’t apply for every single opportunity you spot and expect to win.  

You’re not very likely to succeed in your first public sector tender and will likely encounter more rejections than acceptances of your tenders. Don’t lose heart. Just keep trying. Look back on the failed bids and review where you went wrong and what you could have done differently, and learn from the experience.

Play to your strengths

Remember to play to your strengths as an SME. The Government likes to work with SMEs because they’re more flexible and can offer better value than large companies. Be aware that highlighting your strengths doesn’t mean pretending to be a larger company than you are. This is a mistake that many SMEs make, and it can backfire.  

Make the most of any government sponsorships

Government-sponsored initiatives allow you to find funding and resources to support your marketing, research and development. You may even use them for recruitment. These initiatives aren’t purely about securing funds though. They also create networking opportunities that provide the chance to meet potential clients, partners or other businesses who could offer guidance to support you in winning contracts.

Prove you have a successful track record

Perhaps you’ve worked on similar contracts, so mention this in your bid. Provide evidence in the form of case studies and references, and describe the outcomes of your work on the contract. Evidence is essential and can make your bid more persuasive. 

Boost your visibility in the marketplace with social media and digital marketing 

Social media and digital marketing can boost your visibility in the marketplace. Creating and promoting social media content enables you to reach a wider audience and attract potential new customers. You can build awareness of your brand and a reputation as an expert in your field.

Competing for public procurement contracts is a challenge for SMEs, but it is not insurmountable. The tips above can help you to make a stronger case for why your business is the one the awarding authority should choose when deciding who will get the contract.

Since we support organisations in the public sector with their procurement, we understand how public procurement works. If you need a little help in tendering for a contract relating to the public sector, contact us, and we’ll be happy to lend you our expertise. We can even refer you to our specialist sister company, BWS, which has helped multiple organisations win key contracts.

Get support with your government tender

Author: Barkers Procurement