Public sector frameworks can be a valuable source of business for suppliers, but it’s important to understand how to navigate this complex market. From monitoring performance to building strong relationships with buyers, suppliers need to be prepared for a range of challenges. Here are five things you need to know to thrive in this market.
1. 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 framework you’re listed on, you may find yourself not meeting the criteria or breaching the terms and conditions of the framework. 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
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. The market
Suppliers on a framework should have researched their market and have a good understanding of the need 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. How to communicate with buyers
It’s all well and good being on a framework, but if you’re not making the extra effort to build strong relationships with buyers, you’re risking a lot of contracts. Suppliers should be prepared to work closely with public sector clients to ensure they understand their needs and expectations, and to communicate effectively throughout any contracts they are awarded. Developing strong relationships with buyers can be key to winning contracts and securing repeat business.
4. How to be flexible and adaptable
If you’ve been supplying to the public sector for a while, you’ll likely know it can be subject to changing needs and priorities. Framework timelines can change, and requirements and ITTs can be adjusted – so suppliers should be prepared to be flexible and adaptable.
Buyers may also run into complications of their own. There may be changes in the market, emerging technologies, or supply chain disruptions to name a few. It’s important to understand that these things can happen, and you may need to expect some changes here and there!
We also understand you’ll likely be juggling other work within your organisation alongside making a success of a framework. Frameworks and contracts typically have tight timelines, and suppliers should be willing to adjust their schedules or allocate additional resources if need be. This will often be the difference between meeting the buyer’s expectations, or just missing out and not being considered for future contracts.
5. How to monitor your performance and when to seek feedback
Regularly monitoring performance and seeking feedback from buyers can help suppliers to identify areas for improvement and ensure they are meeting buyer expectations. This can also help suppliers to build stronger relationships with buyers over time.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) can be set to help suppliers measure and track performance against agreed-upon benchmarks. You should work with the buyer to agree on these and ensure the KPIs are relevant and meaningful. The first step here, of course, is to get a clear understanding of what the buyer has asked for in the contract. This can include requirements around pricing, delivery, quality control, reporting, and performance metrics, among other things.
Suppliers may also use customer surveys to solicit feedback from the buyer. The survey should be designed to gather specific feedback on areas of performance that are most important to the buyer and should be conducted at regular intervals.