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Successfully Bid for Government Contracts Online

Written by Thornton & Lowe


Feb 14, 2024

Bidding for Government Contracts Online

When it comes to securing a stable and reliable revenue stream for your business, bidding for government contracts can be a lucrative option. Whether you're operating a small business or a large corporation, the government often has a plethora of contracts available across a wide range of sectors. However, the process of bidding for such contracts can be complex and challenging, requiring a thorough understanding of government procurement procedures, stringent compliance with government regulations, and a strategic approach towards proposal writing.

While the competition may be steep, the rewards can be well worth the effort. Government contracts often provide a long-term revenue stream and can be an excellent opportunity to grow and expand your business. However, before you embark on the process of bidding for government contracts, it's important to understand how these contracts differ from private sector contracts, whether your business is eligible to bid, and what strategies can increase your chances of success.

The world of government contracts for bid might seem daunting at first, but with the right knowledge and preparation, you can navigate this complex landscape with confidence. This article aims to provide you with the information and guidance you need to successfully bid for government contracts.

Why is a Government Contract Different to a Private Sector Contract?

Government contracts differ from private sector contracts in many ways. Firstly, they're governed by a unique set of laws and regulations designed to protect public interests. These regulations often impose strict requirements on contractors, including compliance with specific labour laws, environmental regulations, and transparency standards.

Secondly, the process of obtaining a government contract is typically much more formal and structured than that of a private sector contract. It involves a competitive bidding process where contractors must submit detailed proposals outlining their capabilities, resources, and pricing. The government then evaluates these proposals based on pre-established criteria and awards the contract to the most qualified bidder.

Lastly, government contracts often offer greater stability and predictability compared to private sector contracts. Once awarded a government contract, you're generally assured of a consistent income for the duration of the contract. However, the flip side is that government contracts also come with increased scrutiny and accountability. You'll be expected to deliver on your promises and meet the stringent performance standards set out in the contract.

Can I Bid for Government Contracts if I do not have Public Sector References?

The short answer is: yes, you can bid for government contracts even if you don't have any public sector references. However, it's important to remember that the government will evaluate your proposal based on your demonstrated ability to meet the requirements of the contract. If you don't have any relevant experience in the public sector, you'll need to provide evidence of your capabilities and performance in the private sector. In formal tenders, they will detail what is required to create a Financial Pass for the Government tender opportunity. If this is not clear you need to ask a clarification question.

Many businesses believe that they're at a disadvantage if they lack public sector references. While it's true that having prior experience with government contracts can be beneficial, it's by no means a prerequisite. What matters more is your ability to deliver high-quality services or products that meet the government's needs.

Remember, the government is not just looking for the lowest bidder. They're looking for the best value, which means they're taking into account factors such as your expertise, the quality of your work, your reliability, and your financial stability. If you can demonstrate these attributes, you stand a good chance of winning a government contract, regardless of whether you have public sector references or not.

Are Government Contract Bids Only for Large Companies?

There's a common misconception that government contract bids are only for large companies. In reality, the government actively encourages small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to bid for contracts. Many governments even have specific policies in place to promote SME participation, such as setting aside a percentage of contracts specifically for small businesses.

The truth is, businesses of all sizes have the opportunity to bid for government contracts. It's not the size of your business that matters, but your ability to fulfil the contract requirements. Large companies might have more resources, but smaller businesses often have the flexibility, innovation, and personalised service that many government agencies value.

Don't let the size of your business deter you from bidding for government contracts. Instead, focus on showcasing your unique strengths and capabilities, and demonstrating how you can deliver value to the government.

Thornton & Lowe specialise in helping SME businesses compete successfully with larger competitors. See our blog on this topic in more detail here!

Can a New Business Win a Government Contract?

Starting a new business is challenging, and winning a government contract might seem like an insurmountable hurdle. However, it's not impossible. Many new businesses have successfully won government contracts by demonstrating their unique value proposition, strategic approach, and commitment to quality. The sector you work within is also a key variable here. A consultancy contract based around an individual’s expertise often provides a great opportunity for new professional services bids, for example. Understanding your competitors is also important here. However, a large and complex infrastructure project will be very difficult for a new business to secure the contract, unless it is two established businesses working as a joint venture, for example.

While it's true that the government often looks for businesses with a proven track record, they also recognise the value that new businesses can bring. New businesses often bring fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, and a hunger to succeed that can be very attractive to government agencies. In new and developing sectors often innovative new solutions can avoid the tender process initially by working on a pilot project.

However, new businesses must approach the bidding process strategically. This means doing your homework, understanding the government's needs, crafting a compelling proposal, and demonstrating your capacity to deliver on your promises.

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Best Strategy to Win Government Bids

Winning a government bid requires a strategic approach. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success:

  1. Understand the Procurement Process: Get to know the ins and outs of the government procurement process. This includes understanding the bidding process, how proposals are evaluated, and what the government is looking for in a contractor.
  2. Research and Understand the Government's Needs: Before you start writing your proposal, make sure you fully understand the government's needs and requirements. This will enable you to tailor your proposal to their specific needs and demonstrate how your business can provide the best solution.
  3. Craft a Compelling Proposal: Your proposal is your chance to showcase your business and convince the government that you're the best choice. Make sure it's well-written, clear, concise, and directly addresses the government's needs.
  4. Demonstrate Your Capabilities: Show the government that you have the resources, expertise, and capacity to deliver on your promises. This includes providing evidence of your past performance, financial stability, and technical capabilities.
  5. Be Competitive: While price is not the only factor the government considers, it's still an important consideration. Make sure your pricing is competitive, but also realistic. Don't underbid just to win the contract, as this could lead to financial difficulties down the line.

What Accreditations do I need to Bid for Government Contracts?

The specific accreditations you need to bid for government contracts will depend on the nature of the contract and the requirements of the government agency. The tender will always make it clear what is required to participate in the process, but understanding your competitors and therefore industry expectations will help guide how you prioritise accreditations. Many bids do not require any. Some may ask for an accreditation or for you to detail your process of how you ensure quality management for, example, if you do not have ISO9001. How you detail this to offer reassurance is key and is part of the skills of professional bid writer.

Within our Simple Guide to Completing PQQs (pre-qualification questionnaires) which are a way Government procurement departments shortlist suppliers to bid, also known as a supplier selection questionnaire, we provide further insight into the minimum requirements of government contracts open for bids.

However, some common accreditations that may be required include:

  1. Industry-Specific Accreditation: Depending on the contract, you may need to have certain industry-specific accreditations. For example, if you're bidding for a construction contract, you may need to be accredited by a recognised construction industry body. If health and safety is a higher risk area, CHAS, Safecontractor or ISO18001 will be important.
  2. Quality Assurance Accreditation: Many government agencies require contractors to have a recognised quality assurance accreditation, such as ISO 9001. This demonstrates that your business has a commitment to quality and continuous improvement. For many bids open to SMEs, this is rarely a requirement.
  3. Environmental and Social Responsibility Accreditation: Some government contracts require contractors to demonstrate their commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. This could include accreditations such as ISO 14001 (Environmental Management).
  4. Financial Stability: While not technically an accreditation, many government agencies require contractors to demonstrate their financial stability. This could include providing audited financial statements or a letter of credit from a bank.
  5. Cyber Essentials. Effective information governance procedures are increasingly important to protect and manage data and that of your customers. Cyber Essentials or ISO27001 can be a big help. For many Crown Commercial Services (CCS) frameworks it is also mandatory. We provide further details on Cyber Essentials in our G Cloud article here.
  6. Carbon Reduction Plans (CRPs). CRPs are now required for all NHS suppliers and all Crown Commercial Services frameworks. They show your joint commitment to reduce our wider carbon footprint. We provide guidance for the template and tips for creating your Carbon Reduction Plan. For many of our clients we complete CRPs on their behalf, including systematic updates and data collation.

Before bidding for a government contract, make sure you understand the specific accreditation requirements and take steps to obtain any necessary accreditations. We have a brief article on your bid no bid decision, which will provide further guidance.

In addition, our Bid Writing Ultimate Guide provides many tips for winning government contracts.

Do I Need 3 Years Financial Accounts to Bid for a Government Tender

In many cases, government agencies do require bidders to provide three years of audited financial statements as part of the bidding process. This is to ensure that the bidder has the financial stability and capacity to fulfil the contract.

However, this requirement is not set in stone and may vary depending on the agency and the contract. Some agencies may accept less than three years of financial statements, especially for smaller contracts or for businesses that are new or rapidly growing.

If you don't have three years of financial statements, don't let this deter you from bidding. Instead, focus on demonstrating your financial stability and capacity in other ways. This could include providing a business plan, a letter of credit from a bank, or evidence of financing or investment.

3 Steps to Improve your Government Bid Performance

  1. Review and Learn from Past Bids: Analyse your past bids, both successful and unsuccessful, to identify areas for improvement. Look for patterns and trends, and seek feedback from the government agency if possible.
  2. Invest in Training and Development: Consider investing in training and development for your team, particularly in areas such as proposal writing, government procurement procedures, and contract management. This can help improve your bid performance and increase your chances of success.
  3. Implement a Strategic Bid Management Process: Having a structured and strategic bid management process can significantly improve your bid performance. This includes setting clear roles and responsibilities, having a robust process for reviewing and selecting bid opportunities, and implementing a systematic approach to proposal development and review.

Understanding UK Government Tenders: What Resources are Available Online? ‍

When it comes to business opportunities, few can match the potential of UK government tenders. These contracts, which the government puts out for bid, represent a significant source of income and growth for businesses of all sizes. But what exactly are government tenders and are they always online?

When it comes to finding tenders and frameworks which are how government bodies and agencies engage with suppliers, Find a Tender and Contracts Finder are the best place to start, however many other portals are still used. To simplify the finding tender online Thornton & Lowe has developed Tender Pipeline, which is a free tool to use. You can set up tender alerts based on keyword, procurement code (CPV) and specific government agencies, as well as monitoring which contracts your competitors have.

The process of finding online government tenders can still seem like a daunting task, given the sheer number of opportunities available. Many of our clients as well as outsourcing their bid writing, also outsource their tender alerts and bid administration tasks. Within the links provided we provide details of our Bid Administration Service and Search & Select Service which monitors online government tenders, so you don’t have to.

Another platform is the Tenders Electronic Daily (TED), which is the online version of the 'Supplement to the Official Journal' of the EU. It provides access to the latest public procurement notices from across Europe.

However, finding tenders is only the first step. Businesses also need to assess each opportunity to determine if it's a good fit. This involves considering factors like the size and duration of the contract, the requirements and specifications, and the competition. It's also important to consider the business's capacity to deliver the contract. Bidding on tenders can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, so it's essential to focus on opportunities that offer the best potential return.

Understanding the intricacies of government tenders, public sector contracts or govt tenders can be complex, but it's a worthwhile pursuit. They come in many forms, from open tenders that anyone can apply for, to selective tenders that only pre-qualified businesses can bid on. The UK government also uses a variety of procurement procedures, from traditional competitive bidding to newer, more flexible methods like competitive dialogue and negotiated procedures.

Across our website, we have spent years developing accurate and topical guidance based on maximising bidder’s performance when both finding, shortlisting and winning government contracts and frameworks online. Our full blog can be found here. There are also many resources from the Government, such as the Crown Commercial Services which details ‘what suppliers need to know'

Knowing the ins and outs of these various processes can be a game-changer for businesses. It allows them to identify the most suitable opportunities, prepare strong bids, and increase their chances of winning contracts. It's not just about understanding the technical aspects, though. It's also about appreciating the role that tenders play in the government's broader goals, such as promoting economic growth, encouraging innovation, and achieving social and environmental objectives.

Winning Government Contracts Through Bidding for Online Frameworks

It is estimated that over 70% of UK government contracts go through framework agreements. Understanding them is essential if you want to win government contracts. We have 2 key online resources for this; our guide which covers everything you need to know about a framework and our central framework agreements page which details the main UK framework management organisations.

Strategies for Success when Bidding on Government Contracts

Bidding on government contracts for bid is a competitive process, and success requires careful planning and execution. One of the keys to a successful bid is understanding the tender requirements. This means reading the tender documents thoroughly and making sure you understand what the government is looking for. If anything is unclear, don't hesitate to seek clarification.

Another crucial strategy is to demonstrate value for money. Government bodies are accountable for public spending, so they need to ensure they're getting the best possible value. This doesn't just mean offering the lowest price; it means demonstrating that your solution offers the best balance of quality and cost. Show how your goods or services can deliver the desired outcomes efficiently and effectively.

It's also important to provide evidence of your capabilities. This could be examples of similar projects you've completed, testimonials from satisfied clients, or certificates and accreditations that attest to your skills and standards. Remember, the government wants to be confident that you can deliver on your promises, so the more evidence you can provide, the better.

Tips for Securing Government Tenders Online

Securing online government tenders requires a few additional strategies. One of these is making the most of digital tools. Many platforms, like Contracts Finder and TED, offer features that can help businesses find and track relevant tenders. These include customised search options, alert services, and digital tender management systems.

Another tip is to ensure your online presence reflects your business's capabilities and credibility. This includes your website, social media profiles, and any other online platforms where your business is represented. Make sure these are up to date and professional, as they may be checked by the government during the evaluation process.

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of timely and accurate submissions. Online tenders often have strict deadlines and specific submission requirements. Make sure you understand these and plan your bid preparation accordingly. Missing a deadline or failing to provide required information can lead to disqualification, regardless of the quality of your bid.

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Understanding the Competitive Market for Govt Tenders

The market for govt tenders is undoubtedly competitive. With so many businesses vying for the same opportunities, it's crucial to understand the competitive landscape. This means knowing who your competitors are, what they offer, and how you compare. It also means understanding the government's procurement objectives and how these might influence their decision.

One of the keys to standing out in this competitive market is differentiation. This could be a unique product or service, a novel approach to delivery, or a strong track record in a particular area. It's about showing the government why your business is the best choice for the contract.

It's also important to be proactive in seeking opportunities. This means not just waiting for tenders to be published, but actively engaging with government bodies to understand their needs and priorities. This can help you anticipate future tenders and prepare your business to respond effectively.

Winning Strategies for UK Government Tenders

When it comes to winning UK government tenders, there are a few strategies that can tip the scales in your favour. One of these is building relationships with government bodies. While procurement processes are designed to be fair and impartial, having a good understanding of a department's needs and priorities can give you an edge when crafting your bid.

Another winning strategy is to focus on quality, not just price. While cost is certainly a factor in tender evaluations, it's not the only one. The government also considers factors like the supplier's experience, their understanding of the requirements, and their proposed approach to delivering the contract. So, make sure your bid addresses these aspects and demonstrates how you can deliver high-quality results.

Lastly, consider partnering with other businesses. If a tender seems too large or complex for your business to handle alone, consider forming a consortium or subcontracting parts of the contract to other businesses. This can increase your capacity to deliver the contract and broaden the range of skills and expertise you can offer.

Can SMEs or New Businesses Win Government Tenders?

The answer is a resounding yes. The UK government is committed to supporting SMEs and has set a target to spend £1 in every £3 with SMEs by 2022. This means there are plenty of opportunities for smaller businesses to win government contracts for bid.

While it can be more challenging for SMEs and new businesses to compete with larger, more established companies, it's not impossible. They can stand out by demonstrating their agility, innovation, and personalised service. They can also benefit from schemes like the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which provides funding for SMEs to develop innovative solutions to government challenges.

The key for SMEs and new businesses is to start small and build their experience and reputation. This might mean bidding for smaller contracts initially, or subcontracting to larger suppliers. Over time, they can use this experience to bid for larger and more lucrative contracts.

Services to Help Navigate Government Tenders Online

Navigating the world of online government tenders can be complex, but there are services available to help. These include tender alert services, which notify businesses of new tenders that match their criteria. There are also bid writing services, which can help businesses craft compelling and compliant bids.

Another useful service is tender training. This can help businesses understand the tendering process, develop effective bid strategies, and improve their bid writing skills. Some providers even offer personalised coaching and feedback, which can be invaluable for businesses new to tendering.

These services can be a worthwhile investment, particularly for businesses that are serious about winning government contracts. They can save time, improve the quality of bids, and increase the chances of success.

The Future of UK Government Tenders Online

The future of UK government tenders online looks promising. With the government's commitment to transparency and accessibility, the move towards online tenders is set to continue. This means more opportunities for businesses of all sizes to engage with the public sector and contribute to the delivery of public services. With the Procurement Act 2023 the government is creating an online central digital platform for suppliers to provide both contract data, spend information, future pipelines and tender alerts!

One of the key trends to watch is the increasing use of technology in the procurement process. This includes digital platforms for publishing and managing tenders, as well as tools for evaluating bids and monitoring contract performance. These technologies can make the process more efficient and transparent, benefiting both the government and suppliers.

The challenge for businesses is to keep up with these changes and adapt their strategies accordingly. This will require continuous learning and innovation, as well as a willingness to embrace new ways of doing business. The impact of AI and content creation and evaluation is already being assessed and mechanisms put in place to monitor its use.

Contact us using the form below for more information and start your bid journey today!

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