Selling to the Public Sector

Before you consider selling to the public sector you should research what markets are open to you and decide if you can meet the needs of those target markets. You need to be able to:

  • Compete with other firms
  • Complete contracts on time and to the required standards
  • Have a sound financial and commercial reputation
  • Be able to familiarise yourself with Government purchasing procedures
  • Offer value for money

Public sector organisations

The public sector covers a wide variety of organisations including:

  • Central civil government departments and agencies
  • NHS and local trusts
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Northern Ireland Assembly
  • National Assembly for Wales
  • Scottish Executive
  • Local authorities
  • Universities and colleges

Products and services that public sector organisations may be interested in buying include IT, telecommunications, buildings, office interiors, catering, healthcare, consultancy and training.

What you need to do

The first step in tendering for a government contract is to make sure you understand the needs of the buyer and that you can meet those needs. If you can do this you will need to submit an application to the organisation. When submitting your application you should include:

  • A description of your products or services using non-technical language
  • A complete list of your products
  • If possible, a client list, highlighting any large companies, public bodies and overseas governments you have already dealt with
  • An outline of any business you have already done with UK Government departments in the past
  • Any trade brochures you may have

Who to contact

Higher level contracts have to be advertised and details of who to contact will be given in the advertisement. Lower level contracts may not be advertised so it may be wise to contact the public sector organisations that you have decided to target direct.

You should find out what contracts your target organisations are currently looking to fill and let them know what your business could offer them. If they do not have any contracts that you could currently apply to tender for, you should ask them whether they have an ‘approved supplier list’ or use a database of suppliers and whether your company could be added to it. Being on one of these lists may give your company a better chance at being noticed by an organisation when future contracts arise but there is no guarantee.

Specific ways to market your business

There are a number of routes that might help you to market your business to the public sector. produces catalogues of products and services. All of the products and services in these catalogues have already been pre-tendered. This means that the companies on these lists do not have to put in separate bids each time they want to tender for a government contract. This cuts down on both time and money. The catalogues are also widely used by public sector organisations. This therefore greatly increases the visibility of the companies listed in them.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) is also a useful contact as it is Britain’s largest single customer. The MoD advertises many of its major requirements in the MoD Contracts Bulletin, which you can subscribe to fortnightly by contacting Business Information Publications. However, to be invited to tender you may need a third-party quality assurance accreditation. This can be obtained by becoming part of the DTI’s Quality Assurance Register, which is widely used by the MoD purchasing department to ensure that a company reaches a required standard.

This information based on Crown Copyright 2003

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