How SME’s can improve their chance of winning bids, via Crown Commercial Services frameworks.
It was about a year ago that I found myself chatting to a key contact at the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) offices about our experiences with their Frameworks. For Triad, as a supplier of Digital Services, that means G-Cloud, Digital Outcomes and Specialists, Quality Assurance & Testing for IT Systems 2 and a few others.
You may or may not be aware, but in 2011/12 there was a push to “break down” the monolithic contracts that prime suppliers (IBM, ATOS, KPMG etc.) had with larger Departments such as The Home Office and the DVLA while giving more agile, specialist and cost effective suppliers a fair chance at securing contracts. Also, in 2015, the Government announced a target of £1 in every £3 going to an SME by 2020. These two forces have created a much improved environment for SME’s looking to work with the Public Sector.
Triad has been on the CCS Frameworks since 2013, having started with G-Cloud 2 and while I was chatting at CCS, we discussed how much the procurement landscape had changed since we started six years ago. Not only from the point of view of the additional frameworks now available, but access to the market for SME’s combined with the sheer amount of numbers of suppliers now looking to work in the Public Sector.
The conversation turned to what we’d won in that time, and then they did surprise me; Triad had become a Top 10 supplier of Digital Services to Central Government via the CCS Frameworks. I think they were pleasantly surprised too! They asked me how I thought we got into the Top 10 and whether we’d share our story, as an SME, with other suppliers to help them make the best use of the Frameworks.
Several months later, I joined a CCS webinar for current and new suppliers on the Digital Outcomes and Specialists 3 Framework. I recounted our journey and gave advice, hints and tips to the 400 or so suppliers who had joined the webinar.
It’s no secret that almost 90% of suppliers on any of the Frameworks have yet to win any work. So, if you’re one of those or would like to increase your chances of presenting to Departments, then read on!
It’s also important to stress a couple of points; firstly we’ve lost a lot more bids than we’ve won. Secondly, there is no magic formula or secret key that’ll unlock immediate wins I’m afraid, but by using some or all of the points below your journey should be more rewarding.
So, what are the key points that have been instrumental in getting Triad where it is today?
Pre Tender Market Engagement (PTME)
A decade ago, the chances of getting to speak to the Commercial / Procurement Department or even a CTO/CIO or Head of Digital, would have been almost impossible. However, with the mandate to spend £1 of every £3 with SME’s, there’s an incentive for “buyers” to explore opportunities with new suppliers. You don’t need to make the first introduction very “heavy”, have a coffee and a chat around you and your services and their challenges in the first instance. If it’s gone well, other conversations should follow.
Familiarize yourself with Government Digital Services (and the Local Government version if relevant)
This means understanding GDS Aims, Standards and Principles. Most Public Sector bodies will work towards these when working on a new project. This gives potential clients confidence that you have an understanding of the work ahead and this key pillar for all digital development.
Go to events, especially those held by CCS and TechUK, do attend relevant exhibitions and seminars, there are 100’s so, choose wisely. If you are yet to join TechUK, do so, they hold some excellent events and have good facilities.
Choose your bids wisely.
Don’t lose sight of the wood for the trees. There are 100’s of Public Sector bodies you could engage and work with, so focus your attention on a market that will be most receptive to your area of expertise or can benefit from your product. If you chase everything, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of things OK, rather than a few things successfully. DO NOT spend time trying to respond to every single opportunity you see because you feel you must. Only go for those you truly feel you have a strong chance of winning.
Use social media for promotion
Keep your company front of mind with potential buyers, LinkedIn is probably King in this area, but also Twitter and news feeds (Computing / UK Authority / Tech Market View etc.). As ever, keep your message relevant and don’t flood the market with irrelevant information. You don’t want to lose followers during this process!
Get professional help when responding to bids.
If you take any advice from this blog, this is probably the most important. A bid writer will help you keep responses relevant, succinct and help you iteratively improve. They can also give you a frank, outsiders view of your bids.
Work with the CCS.
When you do win something, and you’ve successfully delivered the project, liaise with CCS about getting a case study written up on your work (with the client’s permission of course) then use this to promote your work.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly (well as important as a bid writer!) remember clients are not looking for a product or service or application as such, they are looking for a solution to their problems. Be prepare, with research on your potential client and, when approaching them, translate what you do into how it can help them… save money / reduce costs / increase productivity / become more time-efficient etc etc). Sell the benefit, not the product.
Anyway, that’s it from me and I hope it’s been worth the read! If you have any feedback, questions or queries, please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01980 278450
A senior consultant for Triad, a UK-based IT consultancy that provides the skills, commitment and people to help companies in the public, private and third sectors achieve their digital transformation goals by quickly delivering specialist teams across Agile and waterfall projects.