Your Guide To Winning Government Business
Each year our Federal and State Government’s combined spend on goods and services within Australia is over $150 billion dollars. Government procurement exists in many forms, including contracts, tenders, Request for Quotes (RFQ’s), and grant programs. However, most smaller businesses don’t consider Government a realistic target market and instead rely on their traditional customer-base to secure revenue. For many this is a mistake – put simply, there has never been a better time for smaller businesses to target and win Government business.
For those businesses which are bidding for Government work, they know better than anyone that it’s not easy. Opening the Government door usually means many hours of work above and beyond their core business, frustrating rejections, and often tedious requirements to fulfil. Alarmingly, more than half of the submissions put to Government aren’t even assessed. This can be soul-destroying for small business owners, but it can be avoided with some foresight and determination.
A Scary Statistic!
60% of formal submissions made to Government don’t conform and cannot be considered. 60%! Now, this figure varies a little from state to state, but only minimally. Some states sit around the high 50’s, others low 60’s. However, roughly six out of 10 formal submissions aren’t assessed or even read because they don’t conform to the tender specifications. To a Big Business, this isn’t necessarily a big issue – they spread their risk across many areas, and when one tender falls over as non-conforming they usually have several other irons in the Government business fire. Yet for a small business who’d dedicated so many hours of work into their proposal, this non-conforming outcome puts many off ever submitting for Government business again.
Interestingly, many factors behind non-conforming submissions are relatively simple, and could’ve been avoided with a touch more effort. Let’s take a look into the main reasons behind why so many submissions put to Government are deemed non-conforming.
1. No Signature, No Deal
The clocks ticking and you’re not sure if you’re going to make the submission deadline. You’re scrambling to complete the final sections, and the Tender-Gods don’t seem to be smiling. You somehow bring it all together and just manage to send your proposal away before time runs out. Consumed as time ticks by, you neglect to add your signature in the required places. Guess what? Your proposal doesn’t comply, likely won’t be read, and certainly won’t be considered. No signature usually means it’s not valid. Result: Non-conforming.
You’d be surprised how often this seemingly small oversight happens. However, missing signatures is quite common, yet so easily avoidable.
2. Time is of the Essence
It’s D-Day, and you know your submission deadline is 2pm. Just like your school years, you’ve left it to the last day to submit – but you have no real concerns. You finish off the last touches, make a few small changes, then at 1.30pm you click send, with 30 minutes to spare. You sit back for a minute, relax, and congratulate yourself. Then a sickening feeling comes over you, and as you scramble to refer to the initial tender documents again, you realise the deadline time for submission is 2pm AEDST! Let’s say you’re in Queensland, meaning your work will officially be recorded as being submitted after the 2pm deadline! You quickly call and email the Department contact to explain the situation. Sadly, they regrettably inform you that any proposals to be submitted must adhere to the specified times. Result: your submission is non-conforming, and will not be considered.
Late submissions are very common, and most of the time the end result is the same: proposals submitted after the specified deadline will not be considered and are non-conforming. Cover your bases and aim to have any proposals finished and sent at least a couple of days before the noted deadline.
3. Blank Space is Dead Space
You’re diligently and methodically composing responses required in the tender documents. Some a simple, such as your company’s ABN. Some not-so straightforward. You analyse a section that has a question almost identical to the one you’ve already provided a detailed response. To save time, you reach a seemingly logical conclusion and provide a response similar to this: ‘See response to question 1234’. Your response to both sections is the same, hence your decision to refer to the previously answered section. Result: your submission is now incomplete, non-conforming, and cannot be considered any further.
Answer every question, regardless of how many times it seems to be repeated. Many business professionals don’t understand what happens once a huge number of proposals flood Procurement’s inbox on D-Day (Deadline Day). Often, tender responses are pulled apart into sections, with panel personnel only given a small chunk of a tender response to assess. They can’t assess responses that simply refer to a previously completed section which they might or might not have been given in the first place. Responses like this are more often than not deemed non-conforming, and further deliberation no longer necessary.
Provide a response to every section, no matter how tempting it might be to refer to previous sections.
4. Change the Format at Your Own Peril
I’ve lost count of how many Government officials have told me they couldn’t consider a particular proposal because the submitting company chose to use a different format for their response. Most tender documents provide the formatting required for responders. It’s usually stated pretty clearly that this format is to be used by any business looking to secure the contract. Do they want a pricing schedule in Excel with their own headings? Don’t get fancy; use the format provided. They request value-adds to be listed in alphabetical order with Calibri 11-point font? Do it. If you want to comply and give yourself a chance of getting through, then follow the format outlined in the initial tender document.
5. Collude and You’re Out
You know that only one or two companies including yourself can effectively fulfil a released contract. This being the case, after a few meetings, you all agree to put forward pricing which is virtually identical, with inflated profit margins. Perhaps there are even plans for the winning company to ‘share’ the work so all three companies can benefit. The assessment panel realises something is amiss and investigates. They determine there’s been collusion between the three companies involved. Result: Non-conforming and not considered.
Now collusion of this nature isn’t usually driven by SMEs – it’s normally the domain of Big Business and larger contracts. But any form of collusion that can be substantiated all results in the same outcome – you won’t be considered for this business, and it could also harm your chances of securing future Government contracts.
6. Address all Mandatory Requirements
Tender specifications will almost always indicate whether a requirement is mandatory, or desirable. Successful bidders will have addressed all mandatory requirements, which can include delivery, performance, timeframes, technical specs, regulations, accreditations, among others. Did you miss one? Result: Non-conforming, and not considered.
Following is a list of some of the more common mandatory requirements
- Your ABN
- A company profile and capability statement
- References from reliable sources
- Whether you propose to subcontract
- The price for each product or service you offer, and an indication of whether these are fixed or variable (based on exchange rates or consumer price index variations)
- Any conditions affecting the price
- Delivery details and charges
- A proposed schedule stating meetings, progression, and delivery dates
- Whether goods or services are periodic or recurrent
- GST and other taxes
- Applicable insurances
- Intellectual property rights (where relevant)
- A description of any variations you propose in meeting the conditions of the contract.
7. Read It Again: 60%!
Finally, I just want to draw your attention once more to the fact that 60% of official tender responses are NOT EVEN CONSIDERED OR EVEN READ, because they don’t conform! All of their hard work can so easily be sent to that digital waste bin on a procurement specialists desktop, simply by making any one of the mistakes listed here. However, if you’ve read this far, you’ll understand that most of these conforming errors can be relatively simply overcome – get your response in on time; sign everything required; complete every section; don’t collude; address all mandatory requirements – follow these recommendations and you should avoid being part of this ugly statistic. And to all SMEs out there who decide to find and bid for Government business in 2021, I wish you all the best on this journey. It will take time and effort, but you can absolutely win!
If you’re an SME and want to find out if your business is ready to fulfil Government business, go to THINQ Learning’s Free Gov Pulse Check. Complete the questionnaire and you’ll be sent a customised report including quick wins on how to improve your chances of winning government business.
You can also purchase the book on Winning Government Business here.