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Tendering to Grow your Business - for SMEs

If you are looking to grow your business, bids and tenders can give you access to a wide range of opportunities and contracts you can’t quote for directly. So why don’t more people do it?

Finding the tender opportunities is the first hurdle. Many SMEs won’t have a dedicated Bid Manager, so it will fall to employees in other roles to fit it around their existing responsibilities. Often this means it is pushed to the end of the pile and often neglected as the employee’s main job function takes priority. Furthermore by the time they do look, they have missed the deadline to register their interest and when that happens a few times over it is all too easy for them to think ‘why bother’ looking in the first place.

But, assuming our brave warrior has overcome hurdle number one and registered interest for an opportunity, hurdle number two is perhaps the greatest threat to SMEs for the fear it invokes leaves many running for the hills, that fear is piles of paperwork. Tender documents can be intimidating, and you never know on registering if you are going to be facing a one-page simple questionnaire or a multi-document, multi-media exam on every aspect of your business, past, present and future. Plus a few scary looking legal documents to polish them off too.

Key tips for successfully tendering as an SME:

  • Start looking for opportunities on council websites local to you as they will view local business responses positively
  • Qualify the opportunities, make sure you meet the minimum requirements for suppliers before spending weeks writing your response e.g. if it is a £5million tender, chances are they have specified somewhere in their documentation that only suppliers turning over four times that will be considered, so if you only turned over £20,000 last year it isn’t the one for you. Rules like that are usually pretty solid pass/fail so don’t waste your time, go back to the drawing board and find something you are more suited for to invest your time into.
  • Start at the beginning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bid without some sort of instructions on how they want suppliers to respond. If you start to panic at the sight of all the different documents and it all becomes a big blur, start with those instructions list the actions you need to take and work through them methodically so you know you aren’t going to lose points by missing something they have asked for.
  • If all else fails, get help! If you have tried but repeatedly failed at bids and tenders, getting outside resource to either
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