Opening the supply chain to SMEs is a two-way street

Phil Machin
24 March 2014

24 March 2014 | Phil Machin

Phil Machin is director at Bridge ProcurementIt is becoming increasingly evident blue chip organisations are trying to include SMEs in their sourcing strategies.

While the recent blog Five tips to make procurement accessible to SMEs provides an empathetic springboard for big companies to better understand the workings of the SME, it is just as important for small firms to be up to speed on how best to interact with the procurement processes of large organisations.

Time is money, even more so for an SME. If there is a sniff of big business revenue, the SME's senior management will be all over it for fear of the wrong response being submitted. But in many instances fundamental pre-qualification questions are not asked, and a lack of engagement with the decision maker from the outset often renders the SME’s shortlist and selection aspirations unachievable, costly, and time intensive dreams.

If asking some prequalifying questions helps tease out the type of partner the big business is looking for, and whether the project will actually progress upon award, then it is certainly worth doing so before the MD invests precious time. This line of enquiry demonstrates interest and professionalism, and should be welcomed by the sourcing manager, and not seen as unreasonable or delaying the process. A few examples of reasonable prequalifying questions to ask before bidding might be:

  1. What are the reasons for the RFP (will this cover new or existing products/services)?
  2. What are the evaluation criteria and project priorities?
  3. Are the budget holders part of the evaluation/approval panel?
  4. What type of partner are you looking for to deliver the goods or services?

There will be many more questions to ask that may help glean whether there is a good chance of being shortlisted, or whether it is better to walk away, saving hours of precious time.

Once SMEs establish they are in with a chance of actually winning the contract, they often fall down at the next hurdle - interpreting the tender documentation and providing the right documentation to satisfy the needs of legal, audit, security, IT etc. Having standard documentation such as IT policies, standard service levels and CSR policies available, and template proposals ready to adapt dependent on the industry will not only look better prepared and more professional but will save the SME hours of time recreating what can be relatively static templates. And most importantly, give the firm an even greater chance of success.

☛ Phil Machin is director at Bridge Procurement

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