What is the purpose and process of public sector bidding?

The UK Public Sector marketplace is a complex and diverse ecosystem, comprising various entities, including the cabinet office, ministerial and non-ministerial departments, agencies, public sector bodies, local government, the NHS, and Blue Light organisations. Procuring goods and services in this sector is governed by strict regulations, and the acquisition routes available to buyers are numerous.

Navigating this intricate landscape can feel like tackling an assault course as you identify target organisations, engage with key influencers, research your competition, develop relevant and compelling solutions and prepare documentation that meets the exacting requirements of evaluation committees. A well-defined plan that is tailored to your business and the relevant opportunities is essential for quick success.

Service: Workshop on the public sector

This introductory workshop has been specifically designed to bring business leaders up to speed with the intricacies of the UK Public Sector marketplace. By providing access to seasoned procurement professionals, it aims to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to create a successful plan.

The workshop will cover critical topics such as the various acquisition routes, regulations, procurement procedures, and tendering processes. Participants will gain an in-depth understanding of the key decision-makers, how to engage with them effectively, and what makes a compelling tender response. Additionally, they will learn how to develop an actionable plan that aligns with their business objectives and maximises opportunities in the UK Public Sector marketplace. Overall, this workshop will provide an invaluable opportunity for business leaders to gain the knowledge and insights they need to navigate the UK Public Sector marketplace with confidence.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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What do I need to do to get good at bidding?

To develop effective capability requires assigned resources to be adequately prepared and practised.  Bidding for work in the public sector is no exception and it is valuable to have a sound appreciation of what you need and how your organisation stacks up.   

Opportunities and buying frameworks are published so that anybody can apply.  This means that your will be competing with many others, some of whom will have very experienced integrated bid, sales and operational teams.   The smarter incumbents will have been working hard to influence potential evaluators to ensure that the bid is written in their favour.   The description of their operational solution will meet all the written requirements and offer something beyond this to score maximum marks, based on insight from research and good sales practise.

Nevertheless, success in the public sector is more about your ability to demonstrate your understanding and commitment to meeting and then delivering operational requirements than it is about developing relationships and producing beautifully presented proposals.   Essentially you need to show that you have aims which align to the specification, and have the ways and means to deliver them, showing you have capable processes and can establish the necessary resources to deliver.

Our bidding health check combines best practise from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals with research conducted with the Portsmouth Business School and is informed by our experience with the public sector. We have adapted the structure of the business development capability maturity model (BD-CMM) to include best practise and insight from our experts in UK public sector procurement.

It is designed to provide you with a prioritised list of skills and capabilities which you can work on to increase your win rate.

We will provide you with access to a self-service questionnaire so you can assess your organisational maturity based on your personal experience and perspective. Beyond this we can work with you and your team to develop a practical action plan, with the necessary focus, commitment and resources to make progress.

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What could my pipeline look like?

The Public sector is a huge market and to succeed you need a plan. Considerations are which organisations to target, which frameworks to be on, who the likely competitors are and how you are going to win.

Service: Business plan review and establishment of an ongoing opportunity selection capability

You can readily access current opportunities on Contracts Finder but this is far from the only source of potential opportunities.  There are several opportunity tracking solutions which collect published data from a wider variety of sources, however, they all work in much the same way and require human intervention to down select relevant opportunities.

We can help you select an appropriate tool and, if you don’t have the necessary time or resources, conduct the research for you.

Successful bids, which ultimately lead to a well delivered contract, require input from subject matter experts in your business. Their time is highly valuable, and therefore the opportunity cost of bidding is high. It’s therefore critical that you select the right opportunities for you and don’t waste time on opportunities which you are unlikely to win or which your team are not committed to. You will have strong and capable competition, and we will help you to assess them, define your areas of competitive advantage and establish your bid/ no bid decision gate.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How do I bid for opportunities I’d like to win?

Part of your bidding tool kit will be your “way of operating” as a team to produce the desired outcome.  This is your bid process and it’s essential to lock this down early so that everybody knows what is expected of them.

Once you have decided on your opportunities, you must apply maximum effort and commitment to win. Your process needs to ensure that you have met the requirements of the bid, offered a compelling and responsive solution, explained the solution in a clear, succinct manner and avoided any misunderstandings or risks, while concurrently developing a winning price offer. Best practise suggests that you include reviewers from across the business and externally to review and improve your written responses.

Service: Bid process design

As with any team activity, it is very easy to waste time while people are learning and are unsure of how best to contribute. Our bid process design workshop will help you to quickly agree how you are going to work together, make sure that everybody understands their roles and what is expected of them.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I improve my bid scores?

Unfortunately, bid evaluation is far from an exact science and we have experienced different scores being given for the same words, when scored by different people for the same submissions. This is despite the fact the evaluation committees are given clear guidance on what to look for and the evaluation methodology will be published as part of the ITT. 

This is because scoring is dependent upon the perspective of the evaluator, their experience and their specific “hot buttons”.

Service: Bid review and evaluation service

An approach to improve your scores is to have your responses reviewed by different reviewers each of whom bring their own perspectives. 

We can bring you additional perspectives with relevant experience of the public sector and possibly the department or organisation you are seeking to sell to.   

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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What can I do if I am overworked in the short term?

A common question is “can I outsource this to somebody else who knows what they are doing?” In our opinion, this is neither possible or preferable, as you expose yourself to being inadequately or inaccurately represented or to winning a contract which you cannot then deliver.

Service: Bid management and authoring service

Nevertheless, we can help with the project management of the overall bid, with the facilitation of the bid team, the development and improvement of responses drafted by subject matter experts, the development of a commercial model and with the final review and submission of your bids.    We can therefore help to reduce some of the burden on hard pressed operational resources and overstretched bid teams.

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How can I articulate a new service proposition we are developing to meet an emerging contractual commitment?

The government is required to define the requirements which they are looking for and these invariably require solution providers to develop a service or capability which has been adapted specifically for the opportunity in hand. They are not necessarily looking for providers who have done this before but they are looking for suppliers who can show that they understand the needs, have a commitment to delivering the requirements, a good understanding of how they are going to deliver and the capability to do so.

Consequently, it is possible for suppliers with the right potential to develop and then offer new services.

Service: Service design facilitation and review

It can be very difficult to free up the time for subject matter experts to work together to design a solution sufficient to meet the demands of a complex bid. We support this process by designing and facilitating solution design workshops, maximising the effectiveness of this precious team design time. We help them to agree just what is necessary to meet the demands of the bid and enable an effective mobilisation upon contract award.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I establish a carbon reduction plan?

If you are planning to compete for business with a value of over £5 million per annum, you need a carbon reduction plan, which demonstrates your commitment to achieving net zero.   

Plans need to be produced in accordance with PPN06/21 government policy and further details can be found here.

Even if you are not planning to win this scale of contract, it is good practise to publish a carbon reduction plan on your web site, demonstrating to all that a sustainable future is an important goal for you. 

Service: Carbon Reduction Plan support

Alongside our specialist partners we will work with you to create a compliant plan, assist you to measure and track your emissions and comply with this critically important aspect of government policy.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I meet cyber security requirements?

Many government contracts now require suppliers to meeting cybersecurity requirements. These requirements vary depending on the specific contract and agency and will require you to be accredited under cyber essentials, cyber essentials plus or ISO 27001.   

Cyber essentials can be achieved by following guidance at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cyber-essentials-scheme-overview. However, ISO 27001 is more complex and generally requires the assistance of a specialist to help you to implement standards and processes which will pass an audit by an accreditation body.  

Service: Cyber Security Accreditation support

We can help you to select an appropriate support partner and this will be dependent upon your size, location and your type of business.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I answer social value questions?

All bids for government contracts now require a commitment to delivering social value and this now accounts for at least 10% of the bid evaluation scores.  However, the policy is relatively new and both buyers and sellers are now finding their way.   

For central government contracts, the requirements for both the buyers and sellers are explained in the social value model and a helpful guide can be found here.

The most compelling responses will show that you have established a social value strategy which is appropriate to your business and have established links with organisations such as VCSEs and local community groups who you are working with to deliver measurable goals.  

Service: Social Value Strategy & support

Alongside our partners, we can help you to develop and implement an appropriate social value strategy, find and select partner organisations and ultimately produce compelling and credible social value responses.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I improve the quality of commonly used material?

It is common for similar questions to be asked in different bids for the same service. With the increasing use of bidding software, it is also possible for an initial response to be automatically generated from previously written content, using software tools to match text to requirements.   As AI becomes more powerful, we predict that this will become an invaluable tool to improve bidding efficiency.  

If written well, boilerplate material can provide a strong starting point, especially when combined with an effective means to rapidly review ITT documentation and extract requirements.   If written poorly and with insufficient review to check that the intent of the question has been answered, the use of boiler plate and bidding software may provide an efficient way to lose, so it is worth spending the time and effort to do this well.

Service: Boilerplate review and rewrite study review and rewrite

We can help you to develop winning responses that you can re-use in future bids.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I do the necessary research?

Great sales people take the time to understand their customers.  Many government departments publish material which gives useful insight which may not always be obvious from the material provided in an ITT.  Consequently, those who take the time to research and understand the relevant aspects of a departmental strategy, plan, policies and objectives, and appropriately refer to them in their responses, will have an edge over those who do not.  

It is equally important to understand who you are likely to be competing with and especially the incumbent.  A review of their investor reports, web site and published material is useful to give you an understanding of their possible strengths and weaknesses.

Service: Research service

Sometimes you don’t have the time or resources to do this yourself and this is where we can help.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I build my internal capability?

Responding well to bids in the public sector is founded on being able to understand and comply with requirements, offering a credible operational solution which mitigates any potential risk of poor delivery, at a price which provides good value for the taxpayer.   When compared to bidding in the private sector, the focus is more on operational rigour than in the design, presentation and creative writing associated with the response.  Nevertheless, responses still needs to be clear, easy to understand and compelling. 

A good bid team will therefore combine the ability to read and understand extensive ITT documentation; have the attention to detail to ensure requirements are covered; the ability to work together to articulate operational solutions and an ability to produce response content which is clear and compelling.

Service: Bid team development

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) and their approved training organisations provide training on how to pass their foundation and practitioner exams, which are multiple choice papers which assess understanding of their comprehensive body of knowledge.  

Our approach is help you develop processes which enable you to work together as a team, provide comprehensive guidance and feedback throughout the bid process and provide insight into the way public sector buyers operate.   In this way we will help your team to understand where they can improve and give them clear guidance on what to do.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can I make better use of bid technology?

Several tools are now available which could help you to improve the efficiency of your bid process.  Typically, they can  

  • rapidly determine likely requirements by scanning for word patterns in an Invitation to Tender and define a requirements catalogue. 
  • help you to project manage a complex bid, which involves input and reviews across your organisation.  
  • manage and extract useful content from previous work or your content library.

We anticipate that the increasing application of artificial intelligence will offer further potential for efficiency improvement. 

However, these systems do not design your operations and can only apply content which they have access to.  Consequently, they may form part of your solution but certainly not all of it.  

Service: Support to select and implement a bid technology solution

As with any system, one size does not fit all and different organisations need different solutions.   We will help you to define the requirements which are relevant to you and engage with suppliers to select something which suits your needs.  

Once selected, we can help you to review and improve your standard content so that your system is applying well considered material, not something which has lost work for you before.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can we help our sales professionals who are targeting the public sector?

Public sector procurement is designed to avoid the influence of sales relationships so it is tempting for business developers to see their role as simply to pass on published tenders to the bid team.   

Successful companies, however, research the organisations that they want to work with, find out who key decision makers are likely to be, consider how they can help their potential customers through the procurement process and provide helpful market insight. They establish account plans; ensure they are on relevant frameworks and provide potential customers with routes to acquire their services. When planning, they use tools to see when potential contracts are due to expire and work through actions which they can do now to support the customers market engagement processes.

Service: Sales team training

Our sales team training is designed to support those who seek to sell into the public sector and blends the principles of solution selling, challenger selling and capture in the context of UK public sector procurementIt is practical, rather than theoretical and helps sales professionals to focus on what they can do to improve success.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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What can I do if I am struggling for resource to mobilise a project or am not quite sure what to do?

Congratulations on winning, you are now ready for work to begin to deliver a great service which meets taxpayers needs and is in line with the expectations which the authority has set.  

It’s important to start well as first impressions count, and your ability to mobilise effectively will set the tone of your ongoing relationship.   

However, organisations rarely have all the people in place ready to respond and it takes a brave employer to have people available just in case they win a contract.  Resourcing approvals tend to lag demand, as it is not possible to immediately recruit exactly who you are going to need to fulfil contract requirements.

Service: Contract Mobilisation

We can help to plug the gap, mobilise quickly and set up your contract for success.  

We will work with you to engage the customer, verify the contractual scope and establish a viable process for successful delivery of the contract.  Then, once you have necessary resources you need, we will onboard them quickly and help you to develop a viable team for the longer term.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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How can we make sure that we are doing a great job when in contract?

Public sector contracts are invariably detailed and comprehensive.  It is critical to have a firm grasp of the detail and have plans and measures in place to ensure that they are delivered.  

Invariably the contract will require you to deliver against defined key performance indicators (KPIs) and report on your performance as part of a defined contract review process.  The authorities perception of you will be based on this process so it is important to have this in hand quickly and effectively. 

It is common for the scope of an authorities requirements to change but not always easy to change the terms of the contract.   Managing change is therefore a source of both opportunity and risk.    

Issues can arise and you will be assessed on your ability to deal with them reasonably and effectively.   

The new procurement bill, about to be launched towards the end of 2023 will put greater emphasis on contract performance.  Consequently, demonstrating and validating ongoing contract performance will be an important pre-requisite for winning more business.  

Service: Ongoing contract management support

We can help you to understand what you need to do, set up the processes and resources to deliver and provide ongoing coaching and support.   

We can review your contractual deliverables and challenge you in areas before the authority.  We can also support you with difficult engagements with the authority, should issues arise.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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What should I do to prepare now to maintain a contract?

Public sector contracts will always have a duration and authorities are mandated to publish them for competitive tender after contract expiry.  

As an incumbent, you have a considerable advantage over the competition in that you will have a more complete understanding of the contract, will have relationships with key influencers and be in a stronger position to influence them.  

However, there are risks that your competition may undercut your price, because they are less aware of all that is involved or that you have become accustomed to higher than market profitability.  You may also have failed to invest sufficiently to innovate through the contract, giving your competition the chance to propose a solution which fundamentally challenges the way you operate.

Service: Re-bid preparation

We will help you to plan for an important re-bid by helping you to develop your account plan, engage with important buying influencers, challenge your contract performance and consider how best to innovate as part of your contract delivery process.   

As the bid gets closer, we will help you to agree and commit to a target operating model which takes you beyond what you are delivering now to avoid the risk of an innovative competitive bid and maximises your position as a lower risk, proven option.

Let’s connect and get started today. 

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