The public sector is an unwieldy, bureaucratic beast. We all know this, so why on earth should you, as a sensible seller, consider this sector as an opportunity for your business?
The public sector spends £230 billion per year on buying products and services and, as a combined entity, is singularly the largest customer in the UK. They purchase anything from pens and pencils to prosthetic body parts to pest control services, and at some level will be using a product or service like yours. They advertise over 10,000 contracting opportunities every single month and have a huge impact on the UK economy by providing stability in supply and, whilst sometimes slow payers, won’t go under owing you money. The long term risk in supplying them is fairly low.
To say you are a supplier to the public sector sounds credible and acts as tremendous reference for your excellent product or service. They also strive to award sustainable contracts and recognise that, unlike some private sector corporations, you need to make a profitable margin yourself. They don’t want to award a contract and see their supplier go down the pan. This wouldn’t be good PR for them!
It’s easy to imagine public bodies working in isolation and not sharing best practice with each other, undertaking non-strategic activities and generally just being very reactive. There are lots of cases where this isn’t the reality, with them often actively sharing learnings and discussing new suppliers and products or services. If you are delivering on your promises and adding value for your public client they will sing your praises. I have seen lots of cases where a supplier has gone from zero contracts to multiple in a relatively short space of time.
I mentioned the word stability earlier, but winning a public contract can provide it in abundance and could enable you to take your business up a level or two. I’ve seen instances where suppliers have won regional contracts and, by having the logistical infrastructure in place to deliver the contract, create private sector opportunities in those areas too.
Public sector contracts are also a great way to ensure your business is continually improving. Some public bodies will have their supplier management programmes which are designed to ensure the provider of the product or service will deliver certain initiatives in areas such as process improvement, cost reduction, environmental aspects and other areas of strategic concern for the public sector. I’ve recently worked on a tender that evaluates a supplier in the area of ‘Workforce Matters’, which concerns itself with the Living Wage, Zero Hours contracts and general employee well-being. This can only be positive.
The public sector supply market is changing too. The UK Government has revolutionised the way they buy IT related cloud services, for example. They recognise the massive influence they can have on such an important market for the UK economy and have stripped the procurement process back to its bare bones and awarded supply opportunities for oodles of UK companies. This approach has also recently been applied to Digital Services.
Now really is a good time to consider the opportunities a public sector supply contract might create for your business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Philip Norman is founder of public sector bid management consultancy Bidbetter. He has worked with both SMEs and multinationals in a number of different sectors. Please call him on 01202 237506, email on firstname.lastname@example.org, connect on LinkedIn or visit www.bid-better.co.uk