Do SMEs have any chance in government tenders?

We are often asked what chance SMEs have of winning government tenders.
The good news is that tendering in the UK offers real competition, meaning that professionalism and price/quality are the keys deciding factors. But it is also a fact that smaller firms are still at a significant disadvantage compared to large companies. As SMEs are the backbone of the economy (more than 5.5 million firms fall into this category), the government’s stated aim is to increase the proportion of SMEs in the supply chain to 30%. At present, this figure is much lower.

Part of our market entry consultancy is preparing our clients to participate in government tenders to the stage where a company can bid for a tender. We have summarised our recommendations for those interested in this market in the 10 points below.

Here are our top 10 tips to help SMEs increase their chances of winning government contracts:

  1. Understand the Procurement Process: Familiarize yourself with the UK government’s procurement procedures, guidelines, and requirements. This includes understanding how tenders are advertised, evaluated, and awarded.
  2. Register on Procurement Platforms: Register on government procurement platforms like Contracts Finder, which advertise public sector opportunities. This allows you to access and apply for relevant contracts.
  3. Research: Regularly monitor procurement portals, tender databases, and other sources to identify suitable opportunities that align with your business capabilities. Understand the needs and priorities of the contracting authority.
  4. Build Relationships: Networking is crucial. Attend procurement events and industry conferences and engage with government officials and decision-makers. Establishing relationships can provide insights, help you understand requirements, and increase visibility.
  5. Collaborate: Consider partnering or subcontracting with other SMEs or larger organizations to bid for contracts collectively. Collaborations can strengthen your bid by combining expertise, resources, and experience.
  6. Emphasize Value and Expertise: Clearly articulate the unique value proposition of your business and demonstrate your expertise and track record. Highlight how your offering addresses the specific needs of the contracting authority.
  7. Prepare High-Quality Bids: Take the time to understand the requirements outlined in the tender documents. Ensure your bid is well-structured, comprehensive, and tailored to meet the evaluation criteria. Provide evidence of your capabilities, relevant experience, and qualifications.
  8. Request Feedback: If you are unsuccessful in winning a contract, request feedback from the contracting authority. This can help you understand areas for improvement and refine your approach for future bids.
  9. Present your Certifications and Accreditations: Obtain relevant certifications and accreditations that demonstrate your commitment to quality, compliance, and best practices. These can enhance your credibility and competitiveness.
  10. Seek Support: Consider seeking support from organizations that assist SMEs in navigating government procurement, such as the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) or local business support organizations. They can provide guidance, training, and resources to help you improve your chances of success.