The Australian Government spends some $50 million a year on its Enterprise Connect program to arm small and medium-sized businesses with the skills they need to compete in a global economy.
But ask any small business in Australia and they’ll tell you that winning government deals at home remains one of their toughest challenges.
Today iTnews dropped in on a two-day intensive workshop for small businesses attempting to win business from the Australia’s largest buyer of IT, Defence.
Workshop leader Mike McNamara of Shipley Asia Pacific sat down with us to discuss the top ten biggest mistakes and missed opportunities SMEs tend to make when pitching for government business.
Our hope is that this will serve as a guide for those keen to win business in the future.
1. Prepare your bid before a tender becomes public
SME suppliers often commit resources to a bid without gathering enough intelligence about a prospective procurement.
This is what McNamara describes as the “capture” phase. This is so important that McNamara dedicates a full day of his two-day workshops to addressing the issue.
“If the first time you see a tender is when it’s on AusTender – don’t bother bidding,” he told iTnews.
“You won’t have time. You won’t have done the prior work. So we build a “capture” plan that looks at the various issues you need to consider before the tender hits the streets.”
This includes interacting with the customer to find out what their requirements are and gain a better appreciation of how to prepare. McNamara said this helps an SME supplier better understand (and be seen to be interested in solving) the customer’s pain points.
For example, a big issue in the Defence sector is the strategic reform program (SRP). That acronym might not always appear in tender documents, McNamara said, but it would be a very courageous tender respondent that didn’t take its direction into account in their submissions.
2. Bid to win, or don’t bid at all
McNamara said SME suppliers can waste time and money chasing deals that aren’t worth their effort.
“We spend a lot of time in our workshops on deciding a 'bid or no bid' situation,” he said.
McNamara used a flow chart to help SMEs decide whether they were ready to sign-off and spend money on the tendering submission.
“We did a workshop in Newcastle last year,” McNamara recalls. "One of the attendees said we did such a terrific job that they had just withdrawn a tender they had submitted.
“It would do us no good,” the supplier had told McNamara. “We want to bid for this work again. But we don’t want to have a bad name with the state of our current tender.”
3. Address the client’s problem, not your solution
It is essential to project a customer-centric position throughout a tender.
Showing how a solution complies with the tender or solves the customer’s pain points will always trump a list of the features your solutions offer out of the box.
4. Sharpen your Executive Summary
Executive summaries are the most important part of a proposal, McNamara said.
“They set the tone for individual evaluators and are often the only pages read by decision-makers”.
Too many SME tenders fail because they forget or neglect to include a cohesive executive summary. An executive summary can range from one up to a few pages.
5. Target your CVs
Often a tender calls for submissions of résumés of nominated experts to assist with a solution.
McNamara said that too many SME undermine their bids with inappropriate, dated or poorly edited descriptions.
Avoid this by ensuring the skills and experiences are framed to reflect the issue the tender wants resolved.
Read on for our top five tips...