The write stuff

Public sector contracts are the holy grail for many small businesses, offering the prospect of a significant amount of business without concerns about spending months chasing payment.

The most recent data from the Office of Government Procurement shows that in 2018, more than half of total public service procurement expenditure was with small and medium sized businesses with the typical contract worth around €100,000.

However, these contracts are subject to strict rules around how the procurement process is handled. The government’s guide to tendering for public sector contracts notes that for any purchase worth more than a few hundred euro quotations are normally required in writing.

Take your time

Once you decide to bid for a contract and receive the application materials, start by making sure you understand what information you are being asked to provide. If the buyer doesn’t think you understand what they are looking for your bid will fail.

If there is supporting material provided, read it thoroughly as this will give you an insight into what the organisation running the tender is looking for. There may be an opportunity to ask questions about specific elements of the process, so if anything is unclear ask for clarification as early as possible.

Don’t be tempted to answer questions that haven’t been asked as you won’t get extra points for providing unnecessary information.

Words matter

Bid tenders can be daunting, but you should view them as an opportunity to make a pitch for business on a level playing field. So much business is done by word of mouth or between acquaintances, so look at the tender document as a chance to explain what makes your business good.

Don’t be tempted to exaggerate as any statements you make will be checked if your bid is accepted. Don’t reference competitors or their products – this is about explaining the strengths of your proposal. If you are the current supplier, don’t assume that puts you in a stronger position than the other bidders.

Finally, don’t forget who will be reading your proposal. Think about the purpose of each question and make sure your responses are easy to understand.

Helping hand

Writing a bid document can be a time consuming process. It can also be difficult for the person or persons tasked with producing the document if colleagues are bombarding them with ‘advice’ and/or the owner of the business is telling them that the future of the company lies on the success of their pitch.

For this reason, companies may choose to engage a dedicated bid writer. These external specialists can use their experience of producing successful pitches to identify the elements of the bid that are most important to its success and create a ‘story’ that is most likely to appeal to the people who will be evaluating it.

Whether you outsource the process or do it yourself, don’t lose sight of what the organisation you are pitching to is looking for – as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Whether you decide to write your own bid or hire a professional writer, the quality of the data you are working with is key. Having access to the correct financial figures by using a product like can significantly help in the application process