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).


Increase your revenue with government contracts

Sales and selling is an integral part of business. Small and Medium Businesses (SMEs) invest in CRMs, Marketing Tools and sales resources to improve their ability to identify and compete for business. Somewhat surprisingly over 80% of SMEs focus almost exclusively on business-to-business (B2B) prospects ignoring the fact that business-to-government (B2G) accounts for up to 18% of Gross National Product (GDP).

Finding Sales Prospects

Generating B2B sales requires a combination of inbound (e.g. website visits) and outbound (e.g. cold calling) strategies. Once you finally get in front of your prospect, closing the sale often requires a proposal.

By contrast B2G opportunities typically reside on publically available databases for anyone to access. These leads require no inbound or outbound sales strategies; they simply exist for anyone who wants to access them.

Qualifying Sales Opportunities

When deciding whether to compete (i.e. invest in writing a proposal) for a B2B opportunity, sales teams will consider whether they have a prior relationship with the buyer, how well their solution matches the buyer need and critically, what the competitive landscape for the opportunity is like.

For B2G opportunities, exactly the same criteria applies. It’s often easier to qualify B2G opportunities, especially where you are not the incumbent because Government Buyers are required to publish details on their previous contract awards.

Competing for Sales

B2B buyers have a multitude of options when it comes to choosing their suppliers. They can be as formal or as informal as they like which it comes to making their selection. They rarely rely on just the proposal you present to them when making their purchasing decision; indeed they have the latitude to incorporate any and all information that they choose into the decision making process.

B2G buyers on the other hand are bound by rules and conventions. They cannot arbitrarily make decisions about who to award contracts to – they must rely solely on the information presented in proposal documents. The challenge for the buyer is to ensure that they solicit the right information from suppliers. To suppliers this presents both an opportunity and a challenge. As you are solely judged on the quality of your submission, suppliers who can write the best proposals stand a better chance of being awarded the business.


Suppliers competing for B2B contracts can never be certain of success for the simple reason that the rules governing the award of contracts can and do evolve over the course of the sales process.

On the other hand, everything about the B2G sales process is transparent. As opportunities are freely published, SMEs don’t have to have extensive sales capabilities, but they do need to know how to quality opportunities that are both suitable and winnable. They also need to know how to write a winning proposal.
Qualification of opportunities
and proposal writing skills are easily learnt, while tools like ensure that SMEs receive a steady stream of pre-qualified opportunities and incorporate guidance and templates that get SMEs to the finish line quicker.

SMEs should seriously consider B2G as part of their revenue mix. With a little bit of experience (and some expertise) it won’t be long before government buyers form part of your client list.