It Takes Time But Here's Why Your Business Needs to Invest in Tendering


Has your business tried their hand in the tender market? The figures speak for themselves - Ireland is a long way behind in the tender market. EU data tells us that fewer than 250 Irish SMEs won European tenders in 2013, with only 2% of Irish companies winning EU tenders since 2003. These figures make it clear that Irish SMEs are reluctant to throw their hats in the ring alongside the brightest and best in the EU. This aversion to the intricacy of applications means that Irish companies are missing out on a new business pool that has over two trillion euro up for grabs. It takes time but here's why your business needs to invest in tendering:

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Recent figures corroborate this bleak picture, as reported in the Irish Independent, which states, “Irish small and medium enterprises consistently lose between 74-90% of the tenders they compete for”. Reacting to these dire figures, public procurement expert Tony Corrigan said: “It’s not the system that’s the problem… SMEs dramatically under-invest in competing for tenders, taking shortcuts on researching the opportunity, building relationships with buyers and delivering a professional proposal.”

However, this lack of interest and success in applying for tenders does not appear to have stunted the emergence of thriving SMEs. In 2017, Ireland’s economy grew by 7.8% of GDP and to date we are the fastest-growing economy in the EU. And yet, ignoring money-pots there for the taking means that, on a local and global stage, Irish SMEs are missing out on opportunities, collaborations, expansion, financial injections and prestige.

With the seismic changes in the Irish economy over the past 10 years, it is clear that fortune does favour those brave enough to go back to the drawing board and start again. With a strong strategy and a clever use of language, Irish SMEs could and should enjoy the gains and accolades that accompany the achievement of a successful tender application.

Recommended reading: 7 Steps to Take Your Government Tenders to Another Level

What steps should I take to improve my tendering win rate?

As a progressive, educated and technologically advanced EU country, Ireland's business owners are perfectly primed to learn the skills necessary to succeed in tender applications and stand alongside the best SMEs in Europe.

Steps you can take to ensure that, in the short to medium term, you increase your win rate and grow your business are as follows:

1. Know your market

SMEs would do well to familiarise themselves with private, public, local and international tender lists. Finding open tenders can be difficult as many websites are not user-friendly and ads are hidden away in text-heavy documents. But at any one time, there can be over 45,000 tenders open for application, so knowing which platforms, funders, or organisations best suit your business will ensure you don’t waste time pitching to incongruous procurements.

Furthermore, investing in an automated system like TenderScout, which collates the data from 100 different sources each day (with up to 3,000 new tenders added daily) will hugely increase the chances of a successful application.

2. Analyse, scrutinise, compete, win

A thorough understanding of the frameworks, legalities and obligations is key for any SME that is serious about bidding for and winning tenders. Investing in competitive intelligence can be the difference between a win and a loss. Similarly, scrutinising the language required of tender applications is important – we should communicate to funders using their language. With a confident understanding of what is expected, Irish SMEs can and will win.

3. Cultivate a bid template

Devising a foundational template that can be altered and edited is imperative for any SME starting out on its journey to become successful tender applicants. What’s more, having a template to lean on will give SMEs a strong sense of identity - business owners will be asked probing questions about the very essence of their companies. To this end, tender consultants are becoming an increasingly popular and important asset to SMEs. Experts will collate information and write (or guide the writing of) applications to tender, as well as monitoring responses and dealing with administrative issues along the way.

Together with a strong bid template, they will ensure SMEs produce confident applications and present themselves as a strong brand when going up against national and international competition.

4. Audit and recommendations

Trial and error forms a necessary part of the tender application process. Increasingly, as companies apply, win or lose, they learn more about what is expected of them in applications - as well as what information is superfluous. The feedback loop is part of the public tender process and, if you are unsuccessful, you should treat the feedback you receive as an invaluable resource when you look to tackle your next bid.

On top of this, SME owners should also schedule bi-yearly audits of their bid templates in order to keep up to date with the changing tide of economy and company performance.

Keeping abreast of progress in public procurement and linking these developments back to business means that recommendations for edits or updates to strategy may need to be made. The world of tender applications is immediate and current. It is therefore critically important that SMEs continually update their approaches to tendering.

What are the benefits of efficient tendering?

Aside from a financial injection and gaining national and international prestige as the recipient of a lucrative tender, efficiently applying for tenders has other benefits – even if SMEs' bids are not successful. For networking alone, applying for tenders gives Irish companies the opportunity to reach out into foreign markets. As it stands, 50% of Irish SME tender wins have come via collaboration with the UK. Cross-border partnerships – whether successful or not – raise the potentiality of trading opportunities, company expansion and growth.

For those SMEs who succeed in their tender applications, the prospect of an expanding client base is a tantalising thought. Securing a tender will most certainly open a wider catchment area of business opportunity by establishing an SME as a leader in its field.

Indeed, from an economically altruistic perspective, another important benefit of efficient tendering is that the Irish economy itself will be greatly aided. Public sector contracts represent 12% of the Irish economy and are a lynchpin in the continued stability and sustainability of economic recovery here. Tenders are arguably the best example of Government commitment to the economy, meaning that success on this front is not only good for businesses here, but for Ireland itself.

Invest in tendering, invest in your future

Winning tenders is an achievable goal. Our European competitors have long monopolised public sector contracts. But Irish SMEs are confident, capable and have a real opportunity here. Go back to the drawing board, engage with the right people, work out what your business can offer, and you could stand to gain real monetary success on an international scale. With an abundance of money there for the taking, it is time for Irish SMEs to stand up and be counted – investing, applying for and winning tenders.

Over to you now. Have you invested in a tendering strategy for your business? Tell us in the comments below.


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