Getting On A Supplier Panel
Regardless of whether you are a small, medium or large business, sometimes there is only one way to sell your services to a government or private sector organisation – and that is via the supplier panel. These panels only open every few years – government panels are generally five years in duration, whereas some of the newer panels can be up to ten years in length. As a result, if you miss your opportunity to get on the panel, you will probably have little chance of selling your services to that organisation for as long as the current contract is in place.
So what can you do to increase your chances of getting on an organisation’s supplier panel? Here are some tips for businesses of every size:
Develop your panel knowledge
One of the first things to do is contact the procurement division of the organisation you wish to sell your services to and find out how they purchase their services and what panels they have in place. If you don’t already know the name of the panel you should be applying for, make sure you ask which one is most appropriate for the services that you sell. When you have this information, find out when the panel is going out to the market and how many businesses are currently on the panel. Also try to find out any plans for the panel, such as:
- Is the current panel serving the needs of the organisation?
- Are there plans to change the structure of the panel?
- Will there be a need for more or less suppliers next time?
- Is there likely to be an emphasis on suppliers from the local area in the next panel?
Essentially, ask as many questions as you can about the panel you will be applying for so you have a base level of knowledge about what the organisation is looking for next time they go to tender for a new group of suppliers.
Conduct research on the panel’s existing suppliers
As part of their probity requirements, most government organisations publicly list who is on their panels. State governments across Australia usually include the names of businesses that have been appointed to panels on their procurement websites. Some local government organisations also list the names of suppliers for their larger panels on their websites. If you can access this information, conduct some research on the current panel suppliers including:
- Who are the current suppliers?
- What types of services do they offer?
- How long have they been in business?
- Who are their other customers?
- What kind of projects have they worked on?
Most of this information can be collected from reviewing the websites of these businesses. This information will be helpful in understanding what experience and expertise you need to win a place on a future panel. It will also assist you in identifying what differentiates your business from other suppliers and developing messaging about why your business should be on a future panel. You can use this messaging in your future bid.
Start collecting evidence of your experience
When the panel tender goes out to the market, you will most probably need to demonstrate that you have provided similar types of goods or services previously in your written submission. You may even need to demonstrate that you have delivered goods or services to a similar type of organisation. As a result, start developing a list of your experience including, but not limited to:
- Who was the client?
- What goods or services did you provide to them?
- When did you provide these goods or services?
It is also a good idea to collect testimonials from these clients so you can use them in the panel tender. These testimonials should be concise – only a sentence or two - and communicate the value that you provided to your clients. When you are collecting testimonials, it is recommended that you obtain approval from your client before using them in a tender or other marketing collateral.
Make sure you are compliant with industry standards
Many panel tenders require tenderers to demonstrate they have particular qualifications, certifications, systems and processes in place that are a requirement of that industry. For example, for a trades panel you may have to provide copies of the Work Health and Safety (WH&S ) Management Plan or System used by the business, copies of workplace safety inspection records, and certificates in key work activities such as heights work, confined spaces and hazardous manual tasks. Therefore, rather than waiting for the panel tender to be released, make sure you get your systems up to date and compliant with what is required in your industry beforehand. This will make the bid process easier as you will be able to quickly access any documentation you need to demonstrate your compliance rather than refocusing the time you should be developing your bid on getting your systems in place.
Be ready to prepare your bid
If you know when a panel tender is going to be released (by subscribing to our services our comprehensive notifications we will notify you whenever a panel is put to public tender, register today if you aren't already), start getting organised so you can prepare your submission. This can include:
- Thinking about pricing and conducting some pricing research
- Reviewing your workload so you have time to develop your bid
- Considering the hire of a bid writer if you don’t have the time or skills to develop the bid yourself
You are likely to get between 2 and 3 weeks to develop your bid once the panel tender is released. Make sure you use all of that time to prepare the best submission that you can.