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The write stuff

Public sector contracts are the holy grail for many small businesses, offering the prospect of a significant amount of business without concerns about spending months chasing payment.

The most recent data from the Office of Government Procurement shows that in 2018, more than half of total public service procurement expenditure was with small and medium sized businesses with the typical contract worth around €100,000.

However, these contracts are subject to strict rules around how the procurement process is handled. The government’s guide to tendering for public sector contracts notes that for any purchase worth more than a few hundred euro quotations are normally required in writing.

Take your time

Once you decide to bid for a contract and receive the application materials, start by making sure you understand what information you are being asked to provide. If the buyer doesn’t think you understand what they are looking for your bid will fail.

If there is supporting material provided, read it thoroughly as this will give you an insight into what the organisation running the tender is looking for. There may be an opportunity to ask questions about specific elements of the process, so if anything is unclear ask for clarification as early as possible.

Don’t be tempted to answer questions that haven’t been asked as you won’t get extra points for providing unnecessary information.

Words matter

Bid tenders can be daunting, but you should view them as an opportunity to make a pitch for business on a level playing field. So much business is done by word of mouth or between acquaintances, so look at the tender document as a chance to explain what makes your business good.

Don’t be tempted to exaggerate as any statements you make will be checked if your bid is accepted. Don’t reference competitors or their products – this is about explaining the strengths of your proposal. If you are the current supplier, don’t assume that puts you in a stronger position than the other bidders.

Finally, don’t forget who will be reading your proposal. Think about the purpose of each question and make sure your responses are easy to understand.

Helping hand

Writing a bid document can be a time consuming process. It can also be difficult for the person or persons tasked with producing the document if colleagues are bombarding them with ‘advice’ and/or the owner of the business is telling them that the future of the company lies on the success of their pitch.

For this reason, companies may choose to engage a dedicated bid writer. These external specialists can use their experience of producing successful pitches to identify the elements of the bid that are most important to its success and create a ‘story’ that is most likely to appeal to the people who will be evaluating it.

Whether you outsource the process or do it yourself, don’t lose sight of what the organisation you are pitching to is looking for – as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Whether you decide to write your own bid or hire a professional writer, the quality of the data you are working with is key. Having access to the correct financial figures by using a product like can significantly help in the application process


Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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