Winning business in government: 4. We’re unique
There’s a procurement regulation that goes something like this: if you can prove that your service cannot be provided by anyone else then it may not be necessary to go to tender and a contract can be awarded straight away.
Usually when suppliers that are new to government find out about this they think “Brilliant, we’ve found our shortcut round the tendering process, because after all, our product is absolutely unique”.
If you think that selling to government like this is a sustainable strategy, then you’re deluded and you need to have a long chat with yourself.
If your buyer thinks this is a good idea, then they need to have an even longer chat with themselves.
If you follow this approach you need to think about three things. Firstly you’re relying on a subjective assessment of your uniqueness, which means that you need each buyer to believe that you’re unique for you to succeed.
Secondly, are you really unique? There’s no one else in the whole of the country, let alone the rest of the world, doing what you do? No one? OK, if you still think you’re unique, is there anyone doing something that delivers a similar outcome to the one you deliver? If that’s the case, can you honestly explain why they shouldn’t have a chance to compete for the business?
Finally, you need to think about probity. How would it look with a journalist writing a story about the way that the contract was awarded? Which is exactly why procurement managers don’t let it happen.
If a public sector buyer is suggesting it, he or she probably doesn’t understand procurement, and they also seem to think that the rules don’t apply to them, which is a pretty good way to upset your seniors and to bring an end to your career in government.
If you’re sensible, you’ll ask for a proper tender sooner rather than later.