If your company is looking to grow, and the strategy is to work with big organisations, have blue-chip clients or be a preferred supplier to Federal, State or Local Government, chances are you’re going to need to tender. Most of our blogs cover various facets of how to tender, but this blog goes back to square one: how do you find tenders to respond to or get on the radar to be invited to tender? The first step is to think about the scale of the opportunity you are likely to be pursuing. The value of the contract will dictate the process you’ll go through, including how you find the tenders and get on to the invitation lists. For example, most Australian Government departments and agencies, and also publicly-listed companies, work through a scaled process such as follows:

  • Expenditure less than $50,000 – obtain three quotes from known suppliers
  • Expenditure between $50,000 and $150,000 – undertake formal tendering process to a select list
  • Expenditure over $150,000 – undertake formal tendering process to open market.

Following this approach, if you intend to pursue opportunities less than $150,000, then you need to be on the invitation list with the specific purchasing organisation. If you intend to pursue larger opportunities, then you need to be on the lookout for the public invitations, keeping in mind that there is much you should be doing before then.

Regardless of the value of the opportunity, the basic principle is to win the work before the quote is requested or the tender is released. It is the work you do in establishing the client relationship, getting to know their organisation, understanding their issues and their opportunities, and positioning your organisation that ultimately leads to the success of the tender. And along the way, the smart operator is shaping the upcoming quote or proposal to ensure that they can deliver the services or products, offer excellent value for money, and have unique advantage compared to the competition.

The starting point is therefore long before a quote or tender is requested and it requires you to be proactive in identifying which clients you want to work with, and specifically which services or products you would like to supply to them. From there, the hard slog begins in business development.

Government opportunities

Identify the departments and agencies you want to work with, and then begin your research to identify the specific individuals who would be the decision makers and influencers in the area you’re interested in.

A good starting point would be to contact the procurement group within the department or agency and ask how they procure your services or products, what the procurement cycle is, what information they have to assist you and who they suggest you talk to for further information. The procurement group is tasked with getting the best value for money for their organisation, so they should be interested in any suppliers that can provide the services or products at a higher quality, at a lower cost or both.

You should also try to build relationships with people within the functional areas of the department or agency who would be the users of your services or products. For instance, if you sell industrial equipment, you’ll want to connect with the end users of the equipment as well as the procurement department.

In addition to these business development activities, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the government gazettes and relevant industry portals. These will give you an insight in to the various departments and agencies, how they go about tendering, and how much work there is in the space you are looking at.

Select a tender that looks like one you would love to tender for, download the documents, and go through them thoroughly. You’ll see what they are looking for and you’ll also see who is the right contact for these opportunities in future. Attend any public briefings that the department or agency might host to give you more information. If you want to, you can tender ‘cold’ (without any prior business development engagement) but recognise that you will be tendering from a very weak position compared to the incumbent and other known providers, so you’ll need to ‘go hard’ if you are to stand any chance of success.

Through the following websites, you can review the relevant procurement policies, see current opportunities, and sign up to alerts for future opportunities:

  • Federal Government: https://www.tenders.gov.au/
  • State Government: General information can be found here, as well as the following State links:
    • QLD https://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/qtenders/
    • NSW https://tenders.nsw.gov.au/
    • NT https://tendersonline.nt.gov.au
    • SA https://www.tenders.sa.gov.au/
    • WA https://www.tenders.wa.gov.au
    • ACT https://tenders.act.gov.au/
    • VIC https://www.tenders.vic.gov.au/
    • TAS https://www.tenders.tas.gov.au/
  • Local Government: The majority of local Councils register their tenders on their websites, but in some cases they use a tender box, such as:
  • QLD https://lgtenderbox.com.au/
  • NSW https://lgp.org.au/

Corporate opportunities

As for government opportunities, the first step in pursuing corporate opportunities is to identify the specific organisation you want to do business with. If the company doesn’t advertise its tenders publicly, you will need to contact their procurement department and register as a potential supplier and you will need to target them directly through business development activities.

Remember, the goal of these activities is not to make a quick sell – the goal is to build a relationship that positions you to win, and ideally allows you to shape the opportunity. You need to make consistent contact, ensure they know who you are and what you do/sell, what makes you the ideal supplier for your services or products, and what you’ll do differently/better than the other suppliers.

Start early

As I said above, the basic principle is to win the work before the quote is requested or the tender is released. This means that the real work happens months in advance of the formal opportunity to quote or tender. If you are only finding out about a tender when the documents are released, you are almost certainly too late.

When you invest in business development at the appropriate time – before the formal quote or tender commences – you can find out the information you need to build a compelling and persuasive proposal. Remember, during the quote or tender phase the probity process precludes you from having any contact with department, agency or company contacts, so you’ll be tendering from a position of guesswork instead of information. When you start early, you can build a deep understanding of the client’s organisation, issues, concerns and opportunities. And they’ll guide you, because their ultimate goal is to improve the quality and value of the services or products that they procure. Your research and their insights might unearth further opportunities besides your original pursuit, or possibly even opportunities to partner with another solution provider to make your combined solution even more competitive.