Winning a UK government contract is critical for many organisations to grow or maintain the market share. It can provide the opportunity to fund core services or test innovative approaches.
There are various tendering opportunities across the UK, ranging from, for example, local government small grants schemes, local authority contracts to central funding streams for business innovation, health, education and criminal justice initiatives.
As the economy continues to evolve, it is probable that UK government tendering opportunities will become more competitive. So, this is the time to invest in those winning bid writing skills!
In this blog, we’re going to discuss the essential techniques for winning UK government contracts. We look at key themes that apply to central government and all local authorities across England, Ireland and Scotland and at all levels. We will discuss how to how to write a tender or bid document, how to find and bid for tenders, as well as what you need to do to bid for government contracts and actually win them.
If you are looking to write a tender then these techniques are relevant, wherever you are based in the United Kindom from London, Edinburgh or Plymouth. They are also applicable to organisations large and small across the private, public and third sector.
Respond to all the requirements
It may seem simple, but these days more often than not, a procurement officer who knows very little about your industry or service, will review your tender for compliance with the specifications, before it is provided to the relevant department or panels for review. Therefore, it is so important to ensure that your submission complies with all of the requirements.
Tender documentation can often appear daunting – with lengthy text, various appendices and annexes. The terminology can be off-putting, however, don’t be put off! Persist, read through it all, take time to highlight the relevant sections and always focus on the sections that tell you what they need from you. It is important to make sure you pick out all of the essential criteria. If you are being asked for copies of your public liability insurance, be sure to provide it. Where safety policies and quality assurance policies are requested, again, remember to include them. When you need to tick a box in the tender criteria to acknowledge the contract, make sure you tick it. Read more about responding to tenders.
We’ve seen a number of organisations come to us for assistance with tenders because they lost a previous tender simply by not complying and getting through sifting at that first stage. Even though they knew they were well placed to successfully deliver the services. These businesses range from large construction and engineering companies, small trades such as plumbers and even legal service providers.
Set your win themes and stick to them
It’s easy to submit a bid or proposal but it’s hard to win it. That’s why, regardless of if you are pitching from a council contract to provide catering in London, a maintenance and services contract in Glasgow or a drugs rehabilitation project across the West Midlands; you need to assess the opportunity, assess your competition, and develop win themes that set you out from your competitors. Think of what the funder is really looking for, what differentiates you from your competition, how to showcase your experience and define where your strengths are. Be sure to include evidence and to illustrate the value of your service/product. You then need to weave in the win themes throughout the response documents, in order to tell a story and reinforce them to the reader. If you mention the win themes in the executive summary, and then lose track through the document, the submission won’t be as compelling. Make it easy for points to be awarded.
Write an exemplary executive summary
First impressions count! Whilst the full submissions are assessed and scored against set criteria, the executive summary is the first opportunity to make an impression. We have previously sat on government funding panels and whilst the core responses were the opportunities to award the points, the executive summary set the scene, allowed the panel to truly grasp the proposal and often made the difference to a winning bid. If you convey a clear understanding of the concept from the outset, it is going to be easier for those assessing the response to score positively throughout.
In other sectors, it could be the case that only the executive summaries are read by the ultimate decision makers. We were speaking with the head of an insurance company in Bristol recently, and his exact words were ‘I read the executive summary, and if it seems compelling, I usually read the profiles and some other parts of the document’. Key stakeholders and decision makers are often time poor and will only have time to read the executive summary. So, in that case what should you include?
- Opening statement – Begin with a clear introduction to the proposal, stating the key components (what, why and how; include type of provision, scope, geographical coverage and if relevant beneficiary group).
- Highlight experience – Refer to relevant experience and accreditation; include examples that will be expanded upon later in the submission.
- Introduce key personnel.
- Highlight your win themes.
- Deliver a strong closing message – Set out why you should be appointed.
Get into the public sector mindset
It is important to showcase all of your experience, not limited to the project or service area, however also your contracting experience. Especially, contracting arrangements with other government departments. So, if you have any experience, even if it’s minor such as providing ad-hoc services to a Gloucestershire Council transport initiative or you held a contract with Swindon Council two years ago, include it. It’s important to keep your bid or proposal public sector focused. There is a heavy emphasis on procedures and reporting so your experience will be relevant. If you don’t have any government experience, make sure when you submit the tender response, you focus on your systems and processes, in particular those you have in place to track progress.
It is also important to link the service provision with the relevant government policy. It is worth doing some research into those policies that the opportunity responds to and specific priorities that the initiative adheres or contributes to.
Finally, don’t give up!
Remember the end goal and if in doubt, get help! Our team is always on hand to assist with your next bid or tender. Experts can help with reviewing the specifications, simplifying the process and ensuring the highest quality submission. As well as removing mistakes and allowing you to strengthen any weak areas of the bid in order to have the best chance of winning.
For businesses with no idea how to write a tender proposal, or those looking for bid writing examples, or even businesses that know how to write a bid proposal but don’t know why they are continuously unsuccessful, we can help. Our team members are experts in government tender writing and have lots of examples of tender submissions in the UK which we work from to ensure we continuously employ best practice techniques for all our clients.