Using your tender site to find the right opportunities for your business

If you want to compete successfully for government contracts, finding a tender site that lists public procurement tender opportunities from around the world is just the first part of the story. Sifting through the opportunities to find the right tenders for your business is the bigger part of the task.

Governments across the world put out tenders for every kind of product and service constantly. TenderScout adds up to 10,000 new opportunities to our platform every day.

Without a doubt, there will be opportunities that are right for your business within these numerous tenders, but knowing which to compete for and which to bypass is really the secret to increasing your win rate.

What we’re talking about here is a lead qualification system. TenderScout’s platform has an in-built lead qualification process that helps our customers identify the tenders that they are most qualified to win.

How do you qualify tenders for your business?

Finding the right tenders for your business requires a combination of patience and asking the right questions.

Setting up a system where a team member regularly logs into the tender site your business uses and checking on tenders that are currently available is a good habit to develop. Some tenders have very short lead times and tender notices will change daily. TenderScout sends daily email notifications to our customers based on the keywords they entered when they set up their account so that they never miss out on new opportunities.

The worst mistake you can make when you decide to engage with tenders is to compete for all the opportunities you find. Initially this might feel counter-intuitive, but the most common factor in not winning tenders is failing to selectively choose which ones to compete for.

So how do you choose which tender opportunities to compete for? The questions below will help you separate the opportunities you should compete for from the ones you shouldn’t go near, increasing your win rate and reducing your tendering costs.

  • What requirements do I have to fulfil to compete for this tender?

Government buyers want to be assured that they are awarding the tender to a safe pair of hands. Most buyers will ask for audited accounts for three years and will want to see evidence of stable cash-flow. This requirement is to ensure that the tender isn’t awarded to a SME that may go out of business while the government contract is still running.

  • Can my business show relevant experience?

Proving that you can do the job the tender asks for goes a long way to proving that you’re the safe pair of hands that the buyer wants.

If you’ve got similar experience to what the tender is asking for, make sure you have references from your clients and case studies to prove your ability to do the task.

Think very carefully about competing for a tender that is asking for work that isn’t one of your SME’s core competencies. It’s not a successful strategy to compete for tenders that ask for products and services that are only a small element of what your business does.

If the tender requests some aspects that your business could manage well and some that you can’t, consider collaboration with another SME. Governments want to see more collaboration among SMEs and partnering with another business could strengthen your proposal.

  • Who is the competition?

See what you can find out about competitors who may be going after the same tender. Do you know if a competitor has an existing contract with the buyer? TenderScout provides a lot of competitive intelligence to help customers evaluate tender opportunities.

  • Is the tender the right size for my business?

A general rule of thumb is to not compete for a tender that has a value of 25% or more of your turnover. Buyers will check that the tender contract value isn’t too much for your company to handle as they don’t want your business to be compromised in delivering quality service.

  • Can my business respond professionally to the tender deadline?

Crafting a tender proposal takes time. A lot of work needs to be done only once, such as creating a tender library. However, you’ll need to spend time thinking carefully about the value propositions you want to offer the buyer. This is where a consistent procedure can help ensure you don’t waste time or money compiling your tender proposal.

The questions above highlight how you can use your tender site in a more strategic way. Being able to identify the tenders you should compete for compared to ones you shouldn’t is the strongest way to increase your win rate. This strategy has helped TenderScout’s customers win €200 million in tenders this year.

TechConnect 2017: Tenders are a #growthhack

Our founder and CEO, Tony Corrigan, shared insights about public procurement and demystified tenders for SMEs at TechConnect 2017 in Dublin in May. Here, we share his presentation with you and hope to surprise you with a few facts about government contracts – and how your SME can compete successfully for them.

Growth hacking is a new term to describe what SMEs have been doing since time began and that is looking for ways to grow their business quickly.

However, most SMEs ignore the biggest growth hack that exists and that is tenders.

Let’s take a look at a few facts:

  • Tenders are worth €9 billion in Ireland
  • Globally, tenders count for $3.1 trillion
  • Across the world, one in five dollars that is spent is for a government contract
  • Governments want to procure goods and services from SMEs and laws are in place that govern public procurement contracts being awarded to small to medium sized enterprises (e.g. in North America, 23% of government tenders have to be awarded to SMEs)

It’s not an exaggeration then to say that tenders are the most lucrative sales pipeline in the world.

So why are SMEs not taking advantage of this huge opportunity? In Ireland, only 10% of SMEs compete for tenders and SMEs across the world act in much the same fashion as their Irish counterparts.

SMEs don’t compete for tenders because they believe them to be bureaucratic, rigged, and too difficult to understand.

We’re not going to argue that public procurement is a perfect process, but we will say that, for the most part, government tendering works.

How can we make such a bold statement?

Firstly, believing that tenders are rigged because the same incumbents win time and time again is faulty causality. The same incumbents win all the time because they’re the only ones competing for the tender. More than 25% of tenders attract only one proposal – 10% receive none at all!

Secondly, tenders follow a standard procedure. SMEs that engage with tenders will quickly adapt to the process and find that public procurement is simpler than thought. 

Thirdly, governments pay. Any entrepreneur will know that finding business is only one half of building and running a successful company. The other half is getting the customer to pay. Doing business with governments reduces many payment headaches as structures are in place to pay suppliers on time.

How then do SMEs use tenders as a sales pipeline for their business?

As mentioned, tenders follow a standard procedure and SMEs that compete successfully for public contracts set up a system too.

This process starts before tender opportunities are published and ends a step after the tender is awarded. In other words, it entails more than submitting a proposal. We hope to encourage all of you here today when we tell you that TenderScout’s clients who implement these actions increase their win rates by 70% and more.

As a first step, engage with a tender platform that you like. TenderScout invests heavily in the user experience of our site and shares a lot of additional information about tenders to equip SMEs with as much data as possible, but there are numerous tender platforms out there that list country-specific and global opportunities.

Investigate the tenders currently open, but also look at tenders that have already been awarded. The smart money makes a note of the organisations that have already procured goods and services similar to the ones their business provides and makes contact with them.

This way, SMEs have a two-pronged approach:

  • They are building relationships with organisations that have shown they work with SMEs for the next time these entities need to tender
  • They are competing for tenders that are currently seeking goods and services

Part of this process involves qualifying the tender opportunity to ensure that it is a worthwhile one for your SME to pursue. We share more information on TenderScout’s blog about setting up a tender qualifying process. Doing this reduces the cost of competing for tenders and immediately enhances your win rate.

Next, begin to compile a tender library. Growth hacking is also about implementing scalable processes in a business, and having a tender library on hand is something you’ll use time and time again.

A robust tender library is made up of your industry certifications, CVs, testimonials and case studies. And when we say CVs, we don’t mean cut and pasted from LinkedIn. Craft CVs of your team members that highlight how your SME’s expertise will achieve what the buyer is looking for.

Compiling a tender library will take a bit of time, but if done properly, it needs doing only once. This leaves you with time to create value propositions for each new tender you compete for.

Once the tender is awarded, ask for feedback if you haven’t won. So few SMEs do this, even though they are allowed to. The buyer will be able to share information with you of the what sets the winner apart. This information is gold dust, since you’ll be able to incorporate it into your next proposal. We don’t need to say that this isn’t information you can lay your hands on easily in the private sector.

Quite simply, and we use the word “simply” deliberately here, since tenders are less complex than people think, this is how your company can take a slice of a €9 billion opportunity pie in this country. And an even bigger slice from a worldwide tender pot that equates to 18% of global GDP.

Winning tenders means that SMEs can strengthen their sustainability, protect jobs and create new ones.

Just before we conclude, we’re going to bust three tender myths for you. My team and I are on a mission to help SMEs win more government contracts and demystifying tenders is how we do this.

I’m too small to win a tender.

We’ve had consultancies of one win tenders. Half of the tenders in Ireland are spent in tranches of €25,000 or less; these are ideal opportunities for small agencies or consultants to pursue.

The tender requirements are too high for me to meet.

We have one word – collaboration! Yes, some tenders stipulate how much turnover a company needs to compete for the opportunity. This is an easy one to get around by collaborating with other SMEs. TenderScout has recently helped a Canadian company and an Irish company compete for a tender together put out by a Welsh university.

There aren’t tenders for my company’s goods and services.

You couldn’t be more wrong. We have seen tenders for turquoise jewellery, silk ties, chandeliers, recruitment services, cleaning services, video production, digital marketing skills… the list is endless. Opportunities exist for every type of business.

Finally, few Irish SMEs would know this, but Irish companies have the highest win-rate of all countries’ SMEs for winning tenders in the EU. Our enterprises are looked on as professional, able to deliver and cost-effective.

TenderScout is on track to help SMEs win €200 million worth of government contracts in 2017.

Now that’s a #growthhack!


TenderScout wins Bronze at the Bank of Ireland Startup Awards 2017

There are a few sleepy heads in the office today after the great event held last night at the Mansion House for the Startup Awards 2017.  

TenderScout was delighted to win Bronze in the Tech Startup of the Year category. We’re proud of the award and proud of the company we were in; our fellow contestants are a brilliant cohort of some of Ireland’s most exciting startups.

Startups participating in this category were:

Growing a startup is an exhilarating journey, but it can also be isolating as you focus heavily on finding customers, refining the product and increasing revenue. It’s a welcome opportunity to spend an evening in the company of the startup community in Ireland.

Thank you Bank of Ireland and Startup Ireland. See you next year!

(All category winners can be seen here.)

It was great to be in the company of Ireland’s startup community.
Our category!
The cheesecake desserts were a hit with EVERYONE!
We’re proud to stand aside the contestants in our category.


Meet the TenderScout team!

TenderScout is taking some big steps in 2017! We’ve grown our team to eight people, moved into our own office on Harcourt Street in Dublin 2, and secured investment. And it’s still only the first half of the year!

With all this activity afoot, we thought that now is the ideal time to introduce you to the team, and we’re starting right at the top, with our founder, Tony Corrigan.

Tony Corrigan founded TenderScout in 2014, after realising the size of the opportunity SMEs were missing out on by not competing for public contracts. He began his career at IBM and has worked in Ireland and abroad. One of Tony’s core responsibilities now is recruiting the right team to grow TenderScout and provide superb service to our customers.  

Tony, tell us a bit about yourself and your role as a part of TenderScout:

I’m from Limerick and am the CEO of TenderScout.

How do you think your position contributes to the mission and goals of TenderScout?

It’s my job to to define the mission we’re on as a company, set goals and support the team to deliver those goals.

Tell us about why you set up  TenderScout?:

I came up with the idea of TenderScout when I saw a lot of great companies not winning contracts as they didn’t know how to write tenders.

For quite some time I’d been writing tenders and I was quite good at it. I thought everybody else was writing them too. I only realised that tender proposals flummoxed many people when individuals asked me to help them… Buyers also started to ask me for input on RFPs, so I got a unique understanding of both sides of the equation. I realised there was an opportunity and I used my knowledge of both tendering and tech startups to build this platform. Using technology, we eliminate much of the confusion associated with tenders for suppliers and help them win contracts.  

What inspires you about working at TenderScout?

I love problem solving and TenderScout is solving a big problem for businesses. Winning tenders helps businesses increase their sustainability, protect jobs and grow more jobs. TenderScout makes a real difference to SMEs with our product and service.

How do you stay motivated?

Before getting involved with tech, I’d been passionate about music; I was following bands across the country. Being a musician or an actor sounds great to most people but it’s actually a tough life with a lot of travelling and hard work. I realised I was moved by people’s passion for what they were doing, with money and fame being a secondary consideration. I feel this was about technology.

Founding a startup is a very lonely existence – a lot like being a solo artist! You have to believe in yourself to make it because the road to success is filled with obstacles. Truly believing in what you are doing is only the level of motivation that really counts.

How would you describe the value proposition of TenderScout? 

TenderScout takes away the pain of tendering, and allows SMEs to compete for – and win – business that they would have not been able to. We go on the tender journey with the client and provide support throughout the process.

Does TenderScout need to be concerned about a strong competitive environment?

Yes. We turn data into knowledge about the competitive environment for our clients. Other people could also come up with clever algorithms. Thus we need to invest in data collection and our solution in the future to maintain our innovative edge. And if we’re truly successful there’d be 50 other companies trying to do the same.

For example, when the Beatle’s started, they were innovators. In a few weeks, hundreds of bands sounding the same came up. Companies need to constantly keep innovating, then you show competitors the way.

What has been your biggest accomplishment this month?

Oh, I completed my first board meeting, plus I secured the funding from Enterprise Ireland!

Are you more of a hunterer or a gatherer?

I’m definitely not a person that waits for people to do stuff or create solutions for me. I prefer to be proactive and come up with my own solutions. So yeah, that’s definitely more the hunting part!

Any advice for your previous boss?

I worked at IBM before which is a great company with the extremely skilled employees. So I’ve seen the best of the best working together in a company. I have wondered if quantity more than the quality is the success driver, but I’ve discovered it’s not about how many employees you have, if they still are not skilled or motivated, you won’t make it far.

In the end it doesn’t really matter how many people you have. Even if you are only a lean team like us, the most important point is that you are ambitious and motivated to succeed and believe in your company’s mission and goals.

Secret addiction: Coffee, sweets, etc…

Well, I play Candy Crush on my phone. I’m not really obsessed with it but I enjoy playing it when I’m bored. And I was fairly obsessed with video games as a teenager.


Things we learned on the Google Adopt A Start-up programme

The Google Adopt A Startup programme has just come to an end and TenderScout was a proud participant this year.

While we weren’t one of the finalists (and we send a huge congratulations to LogoGrab, Campsited and Obeo who placed first, second and third), we are delighted to take away a few observations and lessons from the programme.

Ambition drives growth

All of the participants are ambitious. Launching and working in a high octane start-up demands it. It’s important to channel this ambition into solid plans, linked to measurable KPIs, to drive growth.

Failure is part of the deal

Not enough is shared about the failure tech start-ups face, and this does a disservice to entrepreneurs and founders since failure often acts as a catalyst for innovation. One of the great insights we’ve taken from the whole programme is of the failures the finalists faced, what they learnt from it and how they pivoted to overcome the failure.

Leverage resources

Every start-up runs on a lean team, but networking helps entrepreneurs and founders extend their reach to dozens of other people who can provide valuable direction and advice. Engaging with the start-up community, and looking to provide value and support as well as seek it, is the key to leveraging resources beyond your team.

The programme made improvements

Embarking on the programme gave the participants a new perspective on their enterprises and improvements were made by each of the teams. Working so close to the coalface of your tech start-up, it can be difficult to judge whether you are doing things in the most optimal manner. Searching questions were asked by the panel of each participant and these questions provided the basis of evaluating whether current processes, product development or branding in each start-up was driving value or could be done better.

It’s onwards and upwards for us as we implement everything we learnt on the programme, and we’d like to say a special thank you to our Google team leader, Helder Pimenta, for all his support and encouragement.


TenderScout wishes Niamh Bushnell well in her new role as Head of TechIreland

The reality of running a tech start-up is far from the image words like “founder” and “entrepreneur” instil in people’s minds. While I wouldn’t change it for anything, guiding your business idea to fruition can be isolating at times, and challenges are par for the course nearly everyday.

People you meet can have a huge effect in this environment, and Niamh Bushnell’s influence on TenderScout will be felt for a long time to come.

Niamh’s support of TenderScout started in the early days when she was part of the panel that included us in the final of the WebSummit Spark of Genius Award. This was a great industry validation of what we were about and looking to achieve as a start-up, and a huge mental boost for myself.

Her championing of TenderScout continued with Niamh inviting us to participate in startup activities and SaaS workshops. Niamh also played a pivotal role in our seed investment round by introducing us to Gianni Matera of Growing Capital who led our Seed funding round.

Of great personal meaning, Niamh invited TenderScout onto the Mentoring for Scale programme although we hadn’t raised any funding and we weren’t as far along as others. Now, as Niamh moves to her new role, it’s with pride that I can say we have warranted her belief in us and are scaling into new markets in no small part due to the quality of mentoring that we’ve received.

Both myself and TenderScout would like to thank Niamh for her support through the years and we wish Niamh everything of the best as she takes up her new role as Head of TechIreland.


Your checklist for winning government tenders

As an SME owner, do you avoid applying for government tenders? Do you think that public procurement is the reserve of Fortune 500 companies, and, in any case, deciphering what a RFP means takes times that you just don’t have?

Well, you’re in for a surprise.

Firstly, SMEs are actively sought by government buyers to provide services and goods. In the US, it’s law that 23% of tenders are awarded to SMEs, and in Europe, 56% of public contracts go to SMEs.

So there goes that excuse!

Deciphering a RFP does take some time, but we can share an insight here too that will work in your favour. Although public procurement is not a perfect process by any definition, all public tenders follow the same pattern. The best way to win a tender is to apply for one since the moment you start engaging with the tender process, you’ll start learning what buyers are looking for (and what they’re not). Soon tenders won’t look so cryptic.

We work with SMEs all the time, helping them win more business. Our customers increase their tender win rate from approximately 26% to more than 70%!

Using the checklist below is one of the ways we help increase win rates for our TenderScout customers.

First things first… choose a tender you can win

What we’re talking about here is a lead qualification process. We upload up to 15,000 new tender opportunities a day to the Tenderscout platform and we always advise the SMEs we work with to qualify the leads they pursue for their business.

Our Sales Director, Ronan O’Brien, speaks about a bid/no bid process here. Evaluating the leads you think are right for your business, and actively sorting through the tenders you apply for from the tender opportunities you discard, is one of the most powerful ways you can improve your chance of winning a tender. This method also reduces the cost you incur for compiling and submitting a tender proposal.

Build your tender library

This is a step that you do once but reap the benefits of each time you compete for a tender.

Buyers want to be reassured that you’re the right team to fulfil their tender requirements. Yes, that means showcasing your core set of skills in relation to the services or products the tender is looking to secure, but it also means convincing the buyer that your enterprise has the ability to carry out the job.

Make sure your accreditation certificates are compiled in one place. These could include:

  • Health and Safety
  • Professional affiliations
  • Equal Opportunities
  • Energy management
  • Information management

These accreditation documents count for a great deal in public tenders. Buyers have to show that they have conducted due diligence on the business they choose for the tender contract, and having accreditation documents at their disposal makes their job easier. Making the buyer’s job easier is a smart strategy.

If you don’t have any accreditations, research the ones that hold the most weight in your industry and begin applying for the qualifications. Alternatively, put policies and procedures in placed internally that show you care about good corporate governance.

It’s also a good idea to have documents pertaining to your company’s financial status, such as tax certificates and the last three years of accounts, saved as part of your tender library.

Finally, make sure you have a strong set of CVs on file. This involves a little more work than you might initially think. We’re not talking about CVs downloaded from LinkedIn here nor CVs that are formatted in a job-seeking résumé template. You need to develop rapport with the buyer. Crafting CVs that tell a story about each member of the team who will carry out the work is one way to do it. Listing qualifications and experience won’t. Speak about projects each team member has been involved in that correlate with what the tender is looking for to illustrate how your business can do the job.

Getting it pitch perfect

Once your bid/no bid process provides you with opportunities to pursue and your accreditation and CV library is up-to-date, it’s time to pitch!

Writing the best proposal relies on:

  • Research – the RFP is your starting point for understanding what the buyer wants. Read up about the organisation online and find out exactly what they do, who they work with and how the tender is going to help them achieve their goals. Many tenders allow applicants to ask questions until a certain deadline. Use this period to ask questions you might be unclear about. This is also an excellent way to establish your name in the buyer’s mind.
  • Showcase your business – weave your accreditation qualifications and experience into a document that shows why your business is the best company to do the job. Remember to reassure the buyer at every stage.
  • Communicate clearly – the proposal document is the only chance you have to showcase your business to the buyer. Make sure you communicate in clear language and eliminate any bad spelling or incorrect grammar. Double check that the facts and figures you’re quoting are correct. Then submit your proposal on time.

Remember the contract

When you hear that you’ve won a tender, as our customers do often, you’ll be very excited and want to celebrate. But don’t forget the contract!

Having a contract in place protects both you and the buyer. From your side, you’ll want to know how much you’ll be paid and when. For the buyer, it will be important to know what the project schedule is for delivery.

Stick to the deadlines and build a strong working relationship with the buyer. Doing this will ensure that you’ll be top of mind for other potential tenders.

Don’t dream it’s over

If the tender is awarded to another company, don’t despair and feel this is the end of the road. If you don’t pursue the feedback that you’re legally entitled to once the contract has been awarded, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. The feedback you receive will most certainly help get closer to creating a winning tender proposal next time. Each tender you apply for is a learning opportunity and we regularly see businesses go from thinking they can’t compete for tenders to winning contracts within three or four proposals.

TenderScout is on a mission to help businesses win more contracts. Contact us to see find out how we can help your enterprise get a slice of the very large tender pie (worth $3 trillion globally at last count).


How to write a winning tender proposal

Are you applying for government tenders? You should be.

Globally, government tenders are worth a huge 18% of GDP, and in the Republic of Ireland, the largest buyer from Irish suppliers is the Irish government.

Yet you could be one of the many business owners who don’t attempt to compete for government tenders, which could be in relation to anything from looking for a stationery supplier to seeking ecommerce consultancy services, believing that you’d never stand a chance of winning one.

We’ve got news for you.

Firstly, government tenders are regularly awarded to SMB suppliers.
Secondly, to win one you need to have a strategic approach. Applying for a tender in an ad hoc fashion is a waste of time and effort.

Winning a government tender rests on a few elements; one of them is the proposal, and we discuss how to write a tender bid here. (We’ll be speaking about the other elements, such as qualifying your leads, in other posts.)

What does the client want to see?

Here’s a little insider knowledge for you. Putting out a tender is a job that no one enjoys. It’s a time-consuming process for government departments (and for businesses who may occasionally issue tenders).

This insight can work to your benefit if you show clearly in your tender proposal that you understand what the client needs. It sounds simple, but few companies competing for government tenders do this, relying instead on populating free tender templates and speaking about themselves rather than highlighting how you can help the buyer with their requirement.

You’ll seldom find all the information you need to build this understanding of the buyer’s needs through the tender notice. They’re notoriously cryptic (though TenderScout provides extensive additional information for each notice we serve on our platform, such as highlighting all the documents that need to be completed as part of the proposal and rating the opportunity in line with your own business).

To show that you understand what the buyer is looking for, you need to ask questions to gather the information you need, and the best time to do this is before the tender process begins. Hence our advice earlier that to win government contracts you need to adopt a strategic approach.

Ensuring an even playing field for all prospective suppliers once the tendering process is in play often means that government departments are restricted in what they can tell you. This is why it is so important to meet the relevant buyers and speak to them prior to the tender going live. TenderScout provides users with a list of current active tenders at any one time, as well as information on potential prospects, including details on past tenders and information on when they were won, and who won them, to help business owners build pipelines.

Knowing whether the buyer is issuing the tender because of operational or financial (or other) reasons will change the approach you take, so understanding the buyer’s motivation, and showing that understanding in your bid, is your first step in writing a winning tender proposal.

Mind your language

When you write your proposal, make sure that you use the language the buyer uses. This immediately establishes rapport and highlights you as a supplier that has an understanding of what the buyer is looking for.

Unnecessary jargon is annoying and government procurement officers are able to sift through clichés and exaggerations at speed.

Communicating in your proposal as you would with a live human is what you want to do. It’s important to include case studies that show how your product or services can help the buyer achieve their aims, but do this in a way that seeks to inform rather than impress. Don’t describe every process you have as results-driven, and not everything you do is a paradigm shift compared to the rest of the industry so don’t depict is as such.

Time is of the essence for everyone. Write clearly and concisely in your tender proposal, and ironically, you will impress the buyer.

It’s not over until it’s over

Many SMBs set themselves up for failure by competing for one tender, not winning it, and then doing nothing.

Don’t make this mistake. You’re legally entitled to feedback on your tender proposal and to find out why you scored lower than the winning proposal.

This information is gold dust!

Actively ask the buyer for it. Not only does this provide you with a further opportunity to speak to the buyer and build the relationship, which stands you in good stead when they tender again, you will also receive first hand information on how to improve your tender proposal.

Then, use this information. Again, you’ll be surprised at how many SMEs don’t and submit a second tender proposal for an opportunity that looks exactly the same as their first. Another waste of time and effort.

We help businesses win more government contracts. Our method is exactly as we outline here, and businesses that work with us and follow our advice increase their winning rate to 70% within three tender proposals.

If you’re interested in how your business could gain a slice of the government tender pie, please feel free to contact us. We’d be delighted to hear from you and help you win tenders.