Applying for Public Sector Tenders

As a business owner, you may consider additional revenue streams, such as working for public sector bodies.

I am writing this post to support you if the thought has crossed your mind to obtain paid work with public sector bodies. I will share with you my personal insights and some of my knowledge about this option to bring you a little further in your decision making process of responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) in Ireland. If you are based in another country, this article may give you a starting point to find out more in the jurisdiction you are based, keeping in mind there is a different process in each country. This is just a tiny segment of what you need to know. Please supplement this information with your own research.

The principles guiding public procurement are Transparency, Mutual Recognition, Equal Treatment of Tenderers, Non-Discrimination and Proportionality.

  1. The centralized platform is called eTenders –
    • eTenders shows contract values from €25,000. For contract values below this, there is no centralized database and you need to liaise with the public sector buyers directly.
    • It is free of charge to register as a potential supplier and to view tendering opportunities.
    • Register as a supplier. On the left hand menu, select Supplier Company Registration and complete the details as requested.
    • Set up to receive Business Alerts via email for the industry sector and type of work you are interested in.
    • Once you are logged in to the platform, click on Public RFTs on the left-hand menu. This shows you a list of published tenders. There are close to 1,000 entries in the platform. To refine you can type in a keyword to find the opportunities which are relevant to your business in the ‘with keyword’ field e.g. type in ‘coach’, ‘mentor’, ‘governance’, ‘training’.
    • In order to view the documents related to the opportunity you are interested in, go into the entry you are interested in and click ‘accept’.
    • Once you click ‘accept’, you will be able to access the documents related to that tender. The documents attached in the platform will contain the information you need to evaluate if you would like to apply for the work and how you do that.
  2. The documents can seem overwhelming and incomprehensible. Facing an unfamiliar 40+ page document can be daunting. Take a deep breath.
  3. The first step is to see if you are eligible to supply the product or service.
    • The buyer generally specifies mandatory eligibility criteria. This can relate to things like the need for the supplier organisation to have, for example, a specific turnover (€), a specific level of insurance, specific education qualifications. In the vast document, the easiest way to assess this is to use the ‘find’ function (command F on Mac) and, for example, search for ‘turnover’, ‘insurance’. You will immediately see if you are eligible i.e. if the document states you need a turnover exceeding €80,000 during one of the last three years and you don’t have that, you may decide to not spend more time reading through the document. Please note, there is the option to fulfill the criteria by teaming up with another organisation.
  4. If you are eligible, the next step is to read through the document for the full specifications of the buyer requirements.
    • Once you have read through the document, you need to decide if you want to bid for it, or not. This is a crucial step. You need to balance the amount of time you will invest in putting together all the required information versus the opportunity cost of that time. Would you be better off spending that time on other sales tactics?
    • Check the closing date for tender submission. Do you have the time and energy to complete it before the deadline date?
    • If you decide to bid, take another deep breath. How much time do you have? What do you need? How is your mental wellbeing? Who can help you?
    • Ideally, we would all be tender-ready i.e. have a file of documents ready to go. Please note, even if you are tender-ready, it will only bring you part of the way. Each RFP must be read in detail, with the buyer’s organisation and buyer’s needs at top of mind. Each paragraph in your response must resonate with the buyer and the needs of the buyer.
    • In most responses you will: demonstrate an understanding of the buyers needs, outline your approach to addressing that need, provide your methodology and exactly how you are going to do it, provide information about the team member(s) who will deliver the product/service and how much you will charge (€) for the product/service.
  5. It may feel like you are shooting in the dark. Your response document may be anything from ten pages to one hundred, depending on your unique style of expressing yourself to address the requirements. If it is your first time to attempt the tender process, I would recommend to get a specialized mentor to support you to put together templates, to read thoroughly through the document, to guide your content and act as an accountability buddy.
  6. After you submit, your submission is reviewed and scored by a panel. The total scoring is normally calculated based on a combination of the quality and appropriateness of your methodology and approach, the suitability of the proposed team member(s), the innovation and value for money and the pricing.
  7. There is no way of knowing if you will be successful or not with your proposal. It may take several months before you receive the final decision from the buyer. When you do, they may provide a small piece of feedback to you about your submission. You are allowed to request further feedback once a certain time has passed.
  8. I wish you really well with it.
  9. If you have any additional useful information which would help us all, please post it in the comments below. Thank you.

Siobhán Cahalan, founder of Wisdom and Vision Ltd., is an executive coach and coaching supervisor with a particular interest in encouraging best practice governance, supporting CEO’s and senior leaders with executive governance. Siobhán has over 20 years’ experience in managing global processes and leading global teams in varied business environments in a number of different countries. Siobhán is also a trainer, writer and group facilitator.

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