Knowing your contract pipeline and the opportunities that exist in the market is a key element for any business. It is important to keep up to date with potential buyers and engage well ahead of the tender process to improve your chances of success.
Contracts that are due to expire
It may be that you are the incumbent for a contract that is due to expire and are preparing for the tender to be released again, or perhaps you missed out on a contract a few years previously and are waiting to tender for the renewal of the contract, with a stronger submission this time.
Monitoring contract expiry dates is vital to ensure that you do not miss an important opportunity. The best way to do this is to stay in touch with certain buyers and any procurement information they provide – this is usually done via their chosen online portal. Alternatively, you can monitor PIN (prior information notices) for early information on contracts and an estimated date of when the contract will go out to tender.
£1.3bn of contracts awarded are due to expire in the next 5 months. The main industries for these contracts are business and financial services, IT, healthcare and construction.
Market engagement events
Typically, in the pre-engagement stage, buyers organise market engagement events, or supplier events, to consult with the market. Attending these events can be very beneficial for a company as aspects of the contract are likely to be discussed, and the consultation may inform the structure of the contract and subsequent tender submission. Suppliers can provide their input into aspects such as lot structures, TUPE, service offerings and price points.
It also provides the opportunity to meet the buyer or procurement lead and introduce yourself and your company. Remember, people buy from people, and forming relationships with buyers you are interested in working with is a great idea. The next stage is submitting a strong tender response, as ultimately your tender submission is how the buyer is obligated to judge your organisation’s ability to deliver a contract.
As an incumbent, you will have (or should have) been updating the customer on what to consider for the new contract, and aligning yourself with their future requirements. As a new provider, you need to be prepared with your offering, and what will differentiate you from the existing provider.
Buyers need to research extensively prior to publishing a new contract tender. They need to consider changes in legislation, new technologies and service-specific innovation and, in the current economic climate, consider cost savings and increased value for money over the current provision. Buyers are therefore much more approachable at this time.
Who to engage
Just as your business consists of different departments and disciplines, so does the buyer’s organisation. Reaching out to the procurement person will provide you with top-level information regarding the contract, but contacting the departments who deliver the service will offer a much deeper insight:
- What the current benefits and challenges are
- What is on their wish list for the new contract
- How well (or poorly) the incumbent is doing.
And don’t just approach the management, often the team delivering the service will offer more information.
There is another reason for taking this approach: every organisation is different. Some make decisions based primarily on the technical aspects of the service, whereas others are influenced more by service itself.
They say timing is everything. Typically, the best time to approach buyers is between 3 to 6 months before the end of the contract (another good reason for monitoring contract expiry dates).
You should keep in regular, quarterly contact with all the organisations of interest to your business: just a touch-point to ask how the contract is running. These will eventually provide a trigger alerting you to when the buyer is starting their preparation, and when you therefore need to increase the frequency of communication.
Again, market engagement events are the first indication that buyers are ready to talk formally to new potential providers. If you are not there, you won’t get the chance both to make them aware of your interest and present your ideas and arguments to them.
It is important to consider your approach too: asking to meet with them to talk about what the new contract will include may not open the door. Offering to update them on new technology or how best to address new regulations will certainly pique their curiosity, as it will help them in their preparation.
You will (or should) know the details and requirements of the current contract. Make sure you also consider:
- Any previous or future changes within the organisation (staff and structure)
- What your key messages are (what will grab their attention)
- Who else will be bidding (and what they offer)
- Changes in legislation (and what it means for the buyer)
- Innovations in technology and services that will be of interest.
As with all things, preparation is key: turning up with as much information as possible, and topics of conversation ready, will mean more doors will be open to you.
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