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Small Business Saturday: top tips for selling to government

Crown Representative for Small Businesses, Emma Jones, gives her top tips for SMEs to sell to government.

Today consumers across Britain are encouraged to buy from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on the High Street and online. Good news is, government buyers are keen to buy from small businesses all year round!

The government has a target of spending £1 in every £3 with small businesses by 2020. This is equivalent to around £15 billion worth of purchases each year, a big opportunity for small business.

Emma gives her top 5 tips on how to sell to government:

Step 1: have a plan

First ask yourself if you want to sell to government direct – or via tier one suppliers – the answer to this question will determine how you approach contracts and buyers.

The benefits of selling to government direct include having a relationship with the buyer, and being able to reference your public sector credentials to win work with other clients. The key benefit in selling via tier one suppliers is the ability to secure work, without having to manage the administration of the contract.

 Step 2: source opportunities

With approach determined, find your contract opportunities. The best place for this is Contracts Finder (https://www.gov.uk/contracts-finder) which is the single portal on which contracts valued over £10,000 are published. On this site, you can view upcoming contracts and those that have been awarded, which means being able to contact the prime suppliers if sub-contracting is the route you decide to go.

 Step 3: meet the buyers

Getting to know buyers involves understanding their buying needs and requirements.

Meet them online through getting your business on frameworks such as GCloud and DOS for digital services, and meet them offline at events across the UK.

In the past 6 months, there have been ‘Meet the Buyer’ events hosted by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, HS2, and the Department for International Development and more.

Attend these events to get your business known and raise profile in trade and industry press too.

 Step 4: ask for feedback

Whether you win or lose, ask for feedback from the buyer on the strength of your pitch and areas for improvement. If you’re not happy with an element of the procurement process, contact the Mystery Shopper team so questions can be asked on your behalf, whilst you remain anonymous.

 Step 5: innovate to win

The Prime Minister recently announced a review of the government’s Small Business Research Initiative, with a particular focus on looking at how entrepreneurial innovators can get their products and services seen by government, at a stage that’s ahead of any procurement exercise. A review will be carried out by Cambridge entrepreneur, David Connell, with a report due in 2017. This will please many entrepreneurs who have said to me they have an offering that government doesn’t yet know exists, the SBRI could be the very route to getting innovation not only seen, but purchased and adopted.

In selling to government, you’ll be guaranteed prompt payment with 80% of current undisputed invoices with small businesses being paid within 5 days, and the remainder in 30 days. For this reason, and many more, selling to government represents an ideal opportunity and I hope you’ll spend Small Business Saturday following these steps!