Selling to the public sector can seem super tricky at first. Government and institutional buyers have unique needs and goals. But nailing a public sector sales strategy isn’t impossible! After working with many suppliers, we’ve identified some key factors for success. With the right strategy, you can become a preferred provider ready to support public sector outcomes across the UK. Read on for advice to boost your sales to the public sector market!
What is Buyability™?
Before we get into the tips, let’s touch on what we mean when we refer to ‘Buyability™’. This key concept was coined by Advice Cloud back in 2020 to address a major pain point – what prevents suppliers and their offerings from being purchased easily, compliantly, and efficiently by public sector organisations?
After working with many successful suppliers on G-Cloud, Crown Commercial Service’s largest and longest-running procurement framework, we found that Buyability™ is make-or-break. Regardless of the value your solution offers, if you lack buyability, you will struggle to win business.
It’s the culmination of all the elements that make a supplier accessible and aligned to buyer needs. It is what positions you as a strategic partner versus just another vendor. Maximising Buyability™ should be a priority for any public sector supplier.
The following tips offer actionable ways to assess and improve your Buyability™. This will enable your solutions to be purchased and deployed more readily to drive impact for the public sector.
1. Understand the ins and outs of the framework in question
We can give you all the helpful tips and tricks for supplying to the public sector, but if you don’t understand the route to market you’re using, you may find yourself not meeting the criteria or breaching the terms and conditions of the framework or DPS. Suppliers must understand the procurement process, including the rules and regulations that govern it.
Therefore, we always recommend you look into the requirements of the framework first and foremost. Elements that can vary between frameworks include:
- Eligibility criteria
- Regulations and legislation
- Buyer contract terms and conditions
- How to navigate pricing
The tendering process itself can also be complex and vary from framework to framework. You may be required to submit detailed responses to tender documents, participate in presentations or interviews, or provide references or case studies. Make sure you know what you’re in for!
2. Know your market
Suppliers on a framework should have researched their market and have a good understanding of the needs and priorities of potential buyers. This can help to identify areas of demand, and you can tailor your services accordingly.
This also goes for knowing your competition. Public sector frameworks can be highly competitive (again – research your framework because they operate differently and have different levels of competition!). You must differentiate yourself from competitors, and knowing their offerings is the first step to doing this. From there, you can identify your unique selling points (USPs), and make these a focal point in your listing and/or bids.
3. Pay attention to Social Value
Social value is becoming increasingly important in public sector procurement. Make sure your business is accounting for this – around 10% of any tender or award should now include some form of social value. This may include environmental sustainability initiatives, employing and upskilling disadvantaged groups, supporting local communities, diversity and inclusion policies and training, ethical sourcing and supply chains, and more.
The exact approach to assessing social value can vary depending on the specific procurement framework and the requirements of the procurement project. More often than not you’ll find the Social Value Model being used to assess your positioning. It was created in 2020 specifically for public sector procurement to strengthen social value measurement. The 5 main themes it uses are:
- COVID-19 recovery;
- Tackling economic inequality;
- Fighting climate change;
- Equal opportunity;
- and Wellbeing.
4. Build upstream relationships
Connecting with potential buyers early is key before they even begin procurement processes. This means attending relevant industry events and getting your brand known amongst public sector stakeholders long before any sales opportunities arise. Building trust, familiarity and mindshare with key contacts over time can pay big dividends compared to only engaging when tenders are opened.
Consider how to build relationships through multiple touchpoints over time:
- Attend relevant industry events, conferences, and trade shows to network face-to-face and demonstrate thought leadership through sessions/presentations.
- Provide helpful educational resources and information like whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, and blog content that positions your company as an authority.
- Participate in associations, user groups, and professional organizations to build connections in the community.
- Follow key individuals and organizations on social media and engage with their content to increase familiarity.
- Send personalised emails and messages to provide value – share an article, highlight an important update, congratulate them on something.
- Set up Google alerts for public sector news relevant to them and reach out when you see procurement plans or developments.
- Look for opportunities to provide pro bono work, advice, and support that builds goodwill.
The goal is to build trust, familiarity and mindshare with key contacts over time through multiple positive touchpoints, not just sales calls and emails. When procurement processes eventually begin, they will already be acquainted with your brand and offer more access.
5. Have a sector-specific strategy
It’s crucial to have a sales and marketing strategy tailored specifically to public sector buyers if you want to succeed in this space. Too often, suppliers try to repurpose their generic private sector strategy and fail to gain traction in the market. You need to understand who your customers are, where and how you can best reach them through both offline and digital channels, what messaging will resonate, and how you’ll spread awareness and actively engage that audience. Without a strategy aimed at the exact public sector audience you want to reach, you’ll struggle to gain mindshare and buy-in. Conduct in-depth research into your specific buyers – their needs, challenges, and motivations – and customise every aspect of your strategy to match.
While selling to the public sector market brings unique challenges, with the right strategic approach, your organisation can become a preferred provider.
Want to evaluate and improve your public sector buyability? Take our free 3-minute Buyability Assessment here. You’ll receive a score and custom tips based on your responses. Get started now to benchmark your current Buyability™ and uncover areas for improvement.