Real tips on selling to government from the council and Advice Cloud

Top tips for tech suppliers on how to strike a chord with buyers - particularly in the public sector.

Last week, Advice Cloud hosted a Breakfast Briefing at the TMRW Hub in Croydon, aimed at suppliers of tech and digital services. The speakers from Croydon Council were Neil Williams, Dave Briggs and Gerard Gough, who all provided our clients with invaluable advice—as well as an entertaining discussion. They talked about the history of digital services within the Council, discussed their current and future goals for digital transformation, and how they procure their services.

You need to be honest and open when procuring government services, and our speakers certainly were in their discussions. They talked with frank humour about how suppliers should approach buyers – here’s a summary of what they covered.

Finding Local Government opportunities

To start us off, Gerard spoke about the best ways to find Croydon’s tender opportunities. Although G-Cloud and DOS are great, it’s important to remember that they aren’t the only market for digital products and services. London authorities such as Croydon Council publish tenders on the London Tenders Portal, so suppliers should register there too.

Croydon Council loves to procure locally because using the services of Croydon-based suppliers boosts the economy. Although not every council may work this way, suppliers may find themselves at an advantage in tendering for opportunities local to them.

In alignment with the government’s goal to use a third of its spend on goods and services with small businesses, Croydon Council is looking to increase the scope of their work with SMEs. More specifically, the Council wants to work with SMEs to deliver components of larger services, rather than working with just one large company that provides everything. It’s definitely worth noting when considering how your services could fit into the Council’s digital infrastructure.

Read the buyer’s Digital Strategy

Next up, Neil showed us Croydon’s comprehensive Digital Strategy. This highlighted their vision, principles and delivery approaches. He emphasised that, for suppliers to gauge which authorities actually require their services, it’s crucial to take a look at their plans for digital transformation.

You can take a look at Croydon’s Digital Strategy (2019-2024). Croydon is one of many London authorities that provides a publicly available Digital Strategy. It’s a helpful tool for understanding where each organisation is at in their digital transformation journey, and—for suppliers—whether your products and services fit into their plans.

How to successfully engage with buyers

Here’s a clue: watch your language. As you can imagine, public sector authorities are regularly flooded with emails from suppliers who are seeking to sell their services. Neil and the team provided us with some great tips on how to get noticed.

Firstly, how can you, the supplier, solve a problem that exists within the organisation?

Croydon Council is not interested in hearing about your Blockchain strategy, chatbot or RPA capabilities. They’re interested in how your solution can fulfil an element of the Council’s Digital Strategy. How can you be the solution to a problem that the authority needs to solve? How much money can you save them in implementing your solution? In short, do the research, and tell them which gap you can fill in meeting their goals.

Our speakers also noted that the focus of their services is to meet user needs. This is absolutely crucial as the goal of a council is to ultimately improve its community’s access to various services, such as social care, housing and schooling. This means that when engaging with buyers, it’s imperative that suppliers refer to the social value that their product or service brings.

But meeting user needs isn’t just a preference of Croydon Council. It’s a legal requirement. As per the Public Services Social Value Act, authorities who commission public services are required to consider the “wider social, economic and environmental benefits” of a service. So, if you’re a supplier who isn’t considering the social value of their services, with specific regards to meeting user needs: what value are you really bringing to the table?

Finally, take a look at the Unsolicited Marketing Service Standard, written by Rob Miller of Hackney Council. He details the best etiquette for approaching public sector organisations to offer products and services.

Smart procurement

At Advice Cloud, we always love to see our clients getting the most out of their support with us. This includes invitations to events such as the Breakfast Briefing (which went brilliantly). We’re excited to see what our clients learn from the event and implement in their own Public Sector marketing strategies. Equally, we’re looking forward to following Croydon Council in their strategic journey, seeking to ultimately improve services for their citizens, as well as maintaining their position at the forefront of Local Government digital transformation.

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