Public sector sales where to start
If you are a supplier thinking of venturing into the public sector, this blog will help you understand how government buys its tech and how to figure out where yours might fit.
Despite what you might read in the media about cuts and limited budgets, the public sector presents a wealth of opportunities for technology suppliers. The government is still reliant on a great deal of legacy technology and outdated processes, whilst progress is being made with the digitisation of many key services, there is a still a long road ahead to become a digitally enabled government. But how can new entrants tap into this new, vast and complex market?
Perhaps the biggest difference between the public and private sector is the way the public sector buys its technology and choses the suppliers it works with. In the public sector, with contracts over a certain amount this need to be advertised on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). This means the playing field is open to companies in the UK but also across the EU. To make things a little bit more complicated the thresholds vary depending on the contracting authority and are updated regularly. These procurements can be lengthy, but don’t worry its not the only way you can sell to the public sector!
OJEU vs Frameworks
Many public sector organisations choose to procure via frameworks. A framework is an agreement put in place with a variety of providers to enable buyers to place orders without running individual lengthy tendering exercises. And the best part is they are OJEU compliant! When using a digital framework, it speeds up the procurement process, on G-Cloud the only time limitation is how quickly you can fill out the call-off contract, have it co-signed and start the work!
Some frameworks, like G-Cloud also have the functionality for direct award. This means that if a buyer goes on G-Cloud and searches for a product or service and only one supplier meets all their requirements, the contract can be immediately awarded to that supplier.
Now not all frameworks allow for direct award, but even those that don’t, still speed up the procurement process and put you at an advantage when contracts are available. For instance, with the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework, suppliers apply to be accepted onto the framework and then they have access to all opportunities published within the Lots they applied for. Only suppliers accepted onto the framework can bid for the tenders advertised and so far, that’s a whopping 2497!
Whist the initial effort of getting listed on a framework may seem overwhelming, in the long run if you are looking to sell to the public sector it really is a great first step!
Another vital difference to be aware of when it comes to selling to gov, is how much data and information is available out in the open.
In the private sector deals can be done behind closed doors and pricing negotiated, in the public sector this is not the case. Part of the Government Transformation Strategy is a commitment to ‘opening up government data where appropriate’. Both frameworks mentioned above, have their spend data published quarterly, this is beneficial to suppliers for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it promotes an open and competitive market for a more diverse range of suppliers and service providers.
Secondly it is an amazing tool for prospective government suppliers to gauge market interest and find potential buyers. You can see what government has been buying, from who and for how much, as well as keeping an eye on your competitors. If they are successfully selling to gov, then maybe you should be to or if they aren’t then tap into that market before, they do!
Once you’ve wrapped your head around the way gov buys its tech and what information is out there, you can begin zoning in on whether there is a market for your technology. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Plan your buying strategy, look at the frameworks out there and review your suitability for them.
- Use that freely available data and play around on G-Cloud and see how many services like yours that are out there.
- Once you found a few similar services, go and see how much business they are doing and with what government departments.
- Make a note of those buying and take a look at public sector news sources for projects that are starting that could be of interest to your business.
- Think to yourself, if we are going to sell to the sector how do we need to change our sales and marketing strategy, and do we have the resources to do this?
So, whether you are planning on just dipping your toe in or plunging head first into the public sector it is important to understand how government does business and where your tech fits!