SMEs warned to ready themselves for public procurement changes

SMEs need to prepare now for the UK government’s anticipated move from Most Economically Advantageous Tender to Most Advantageous Tender evaluations, to avoid missing out to larger businesses on their share of the £290bn the public sector spends annually.

The move, outlined in the government’s response to the Transforming Public Procurement Green Paper, would allow elements other than cost to have increasing weight as part of the tender evaluation process, such as social value, environmental factors, and prompt payment of suppliers.

However, while the changes proposed in the Green Paper are intended to help unleash opportunities for small businesses, our research revealed that 30% of SMEs are currently unaware of them.

Furthermore, some responses to the consultation on the proposals raised concerns that moving away from the term “economically” would reduce the focus of the evaluation on value for money and might create barriers for SMEs who might not have the capability or capacity to invest in projects in a way that would score well against a Most Advantageous Tender evaluation.

On the other hand, the changes present new opportunities for SMEs who have previously found themselves frustrated by the public procurement process. The research we carried out found that 34% of SMEs believe their small size has proved a disadvantage, 20% have been concerned that the incumbent supplier or contractor is likely to win, and 41% have found the requirements too prescriptive.

In order to help SMEs keen to start winning more public sector work, leading public sector bid specialists AM Bid has developed Ultimate Tender Coach, an online training programme which covers the end-to-end bid process. It is made up of flexible online video modules that they can work through at their own pace and is supported with live weekly coaching calls with a Bid Director and a private LinkedIn members group, providing the opportunity to network and share information, ideas and opportunities.

David Gray, managing director at AM Bid and creator of Ultimate Tender Coach, commented: “The upcoming changes should be seen as a positive step, reducing the importance of price alone being the deciding factor and addressing the often perceived ‘race to the bottom’ in public sector procurement.

“However the changes will require businesses to closely examine their operations and consider how they will be able to demonstrate their value if not simply through attractive pricing. The good news is that this should enhance public procurement and contracting, potentially improving efficiency, sustainability and profitability for suppliers.

“And with large private corporations increasingly prioritising environmental, social, and governance within their supply chains, small businesses that focus on developing their own ESG initiatives should find themselves in a stronger position to win both public sector and private sector contracts.

“Importantly, businesses will also need to ensure their responses to public sector tenders appropriately highlight their strengths with the new criteria in mind. It may be sensible for SMEs to seek out professional bid writing training or support to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills required to write effective tender responses.”

Ultimate Tender Coach offers SMEs the skills and knowledge they need for successful bidding packaged up into a 25-hour online training programme, access for three years to use the training as an in-house bid resource, an invite to join a one-hour weekly coaching call for the first year and access to a private group sharing news, insights and opportunities for the first 12 months. For more information visit