Tips on how to win government tenders

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 12/02/2017

Preparing a government tender is a trial for any company. However, a successful business earns more than just a financial reward, it demonstrates it can survive the thorough scrutiny of a government review.

So what are the other rewards of a government contract? Well, unlike companies, governments are highly unlikely to become insolvent. Government contracts are also longer than most. The majority are for three to five years, which means a reliable revenue stream and a period where you can plan ahead for your business, instead of chasing the next project.

Public transparency, prompt payment and the potential for growth are also aspects that make a government tender attractive.

Tenders come in all shapes and sizes. They range from the $56 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) construction contracts to connect millions of homes and businesses, to the recent ACT Government tender for a flock of sheep to keep the grass down at its Mugga Lane solar power farm (“wethers or non-lambing ewes are preferred”).

Here are some tips to help you respond to government tenders without rushing into it, and preparing a lacklustre bid that could harm future applications.

Find out about the tendering department or agency

We all prepare vigorously for job interviews, learning how a company works, its recent organisational changes and successes. So how much more important is it to investigate the government department issuing a Request For Tender?

Information and media releases are freely available on the department’s website, and if you speak to someone within the specific area such as the project officer, even better. Try to personalise your approach by putting a face to your tender application.

Are there signs that the successful tender will be based on cost alone? This is rarely the case – most departments are concerned with factors including:

  • Regulatory compliance (e.g. does your product comply with ISO and/or Australian/New Zealand standards?)
  • Risk management plans (What happens if your plant goes out of operation?)
  • Individual skills of your team (are they distinguished in their areas?)
  • Environmental management (Do you have ISO14001 certification?)

Governments are also interested in the relationships you have with other clients, your environmental record, and whether the running costs of your service or product are feasible in the longer-term. Remember, a two or three-year contract could extend to much longer if you are successful.

Look for an inside angle on the tender

After you research the department and get a feel for how it operates and what the main concerns are, read the tender document carefully. Resist the temptation to gloss over a point just because it’s the only one you do not comply with. It will be the first thing the review panel notices.

If the tender is unclear, ask for a meeting for clarification. At this meeting, you can gauge the knowledge level of the people you’ll be dealing with. But this is a chance to listen, not blow your own trumpet.

Gather information and see if you can find an angle that your company can exploit. If there are concerns about an incumbent’s reliability track record, your bid should emphasise your ability to deliver consistently and on time.

Maintain an ongoing relationship with government

When writing the tender, never assume that the person reading it knows of your company and what it does. Within the limitations of the application, you should describe what you do, who your people are and how you will approach the project.

Including references from previous clients is important, even if they are not from government. You need to show that you can do the job, because you have taken on a similar project before.

Successful government tendering is about building a relationship with the administrative staff related to your industry. MPs and their departments often hold informal gatherings for business networking. Attending these will demonstrate your interest in the community and the government’s policies, and keep you abreast of future plans.

Finally, government tenders are a responsibility to the public to increase the general welfare of the population. Any tender that doesn’t keep this in mind, and focuses only on the bottom line, will find itself relegated to the bottom of the pile.

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