Having worked in the public sector for nearly a decade collaborating with partners big and small, I’ve observed when SMEs get it right and also when they get it wrong! Here are some tips based on those observations that might help you bag the ultimate prize; a government contract!
- Use your network – it’s about the innovation you bring AND who you tell about it. Start by making links with key public sector people in your network, and key influencers who’ll be interested. They’ll be interested in how you can help solve problems. I get lots of connection requests and follow up on most of them even if I don’t think there will be immediate interest. I know many public sector people are happy to connect to SMEs where there are credible secondary links and or compelling cases made in the introduction.
- Use social media to monitor trending topics for your public sector stakeholders and to build your own credibility and awareness – search hashtags for area of expertise and follow key departments including @CrownCommercialServ, @GOVUK, @GOVUKdigimkt, @cabinetofficeuk.
- Contact your local MP - some have particular interest in helping SMEs, they can also request information on your behalf to provide useful background information which could help your pitch. I’ve seen this approach work a few times, where the information gleaned has helped outline the need for the product/service, impressive!
- Register on Government Frameworks - Get your services on www.Gov.UK/digital-marketplace - to sell cloud technology and digital specialist services to government, you can apply when a new version of the framework is published on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). On average, an OJEU will be open for 6 weeks, every 6 to 9 months. There is also Contracts Finder https://www.gov.uk/contracts-finder that lets you search for information about contracts worth over £10,000 with the government and its agencies.
- Work with system integrators like Capgemini. We incorporate innovative products and services from SME’s into deliveries for many different Government clients, so it’s a quick route to market. Your first engagement with an SI will introduce you to a community of interest and opportunities to work with a range of clients and other partners, what’s not to like!
- Seeing is believing – develop a prototype/ demo that you can easily show / send a link to. I’ve seen lots of great demos on YouTube and also on company web pages that I’ve followed up to find out more, and so do the clients I work with. The best ones tell a clear story and are simple to follow. I’ve seen links being sent around departments (sometimes from a completely different place or angle from the starting point), an efficient way to get your messages out there.
- A good reference is king – use your systems integrator prime contractor to provide testimonials for you. Case studies work well when they focus on business outcomes.
- Try starting with a wedge offer - start small, charge small, deliver good results, learn more about your customer’s needs and how you can help them succeed. Use intelligence about your customer’s priorities to show them new ideas and work together on propositions that will benefit them and grow your business.
- Extend your network across the customer’s organisation. I’ve seen commercial departments offer to link SMEs with other departments commercial teams for cross government selling opportunities.
- And finally don’t give stuff away for free, it won’t guarantee a sale. Getting a government contract set up can sometimes be challenging but once it is set up (regardless of value size), quite often it leads to follow on business. Whilst some SMEs choose to invest in opportunities, I’ve only seen this lead to follow on work in a small number of cases.
Its important to remember that sometimes securing government business can take significant time and effort, after all they are spending hard earned tax payers money so decisions can’t be taken lightly. Be patient but time-box offers or key activities to help maintain pace if there does seem to be interest. Good luck!