Our procurement experts share hints and tips to help you successfully run pre-tender market engagement remotely.

Many public sector organisations and suppliers are now working remotely in response to COVID-19 – something that could remain the case for some time. This means that when you’re planning to run a procurement using a CCS agreement, any pre-tender market engagement exercises you do to gain valuable feedback from framework suppliers are more likely to be run virtually. 

If doing this virtually is something you are unfamiliar with, or if you’re looking for some tips and tricks to improve your process, our procurement experts have shared their advice. 

Why conduct pre-tender market engagement?

  • understand your requirements better
  • explain your requirements to suppliers
  • write clearer requirements to publish to suppliers
  • understand how much the product or services you need could cost
  • understand how long it might take to implement the product or service
  • write a better business case for internal approval (governance) or spend controls 
  • encourage competition
  • ensure a good number of applications
  • ensure better applications 
  • stimulate innovative solutions to what you are trying to achieve through the procurement

What stage are you at?

Pre-tender market engagement or early market engagement can be carried out in a few ways, but generally falls into 2 categories: 

1. I don’t have draft requirements  

I want to gain a better understanding from the market about what is possible.

Things to consider: 

  • is there something already in the market? 
  • how have other public sector organisations solved a similar problem or addressed comparable requirements?  
  • how much is it likely to cost? 
  • what resources (such as staff, products or equipment) would be needed?
  • how long could the work or supply of products take? 

Invite all suppliers on the agreement(s) you’re considering using to engage – see the supplier lists for various agreements. Keep an audit trail of all communications.

2. I have draft requirements 

I want to warm up the market and give suppliers an understanding of my requirement.

Things to consider:

  • ensure all details shared state ‘DRAFT’
  • is there a different approach suppliers can suggest to the technical solution or product specification? 
  • how much is it likely to cost?
  • how long could the work or supply of products take? 
  • is the requirement to get best value for money? 
  • what essential criteria must suppliers have? 

Invite all suppliers on the agreement to engage – see the supplier lists for various agreements. Keep an audit trail of all communications.

Next steps

Choose a platform to contact suppliers

Email 

You could use your existing email platform or create an account on GOV.UK Notify. To do this, you will need to:

  • have a group mailbox for suppliers to respond to
  • invite other team members to activate your Notify account

eSourcing tool

You could use your organisation’s eSourcing tool if you have one, or we have a free eSourcing tool you can use for running procurements under our agreements. Using an eSourcing tool also allows you to ask suppliers questions in advance of a webinar or conference call with them in a more formal way that ensures transparency. 

Create a template email

You can email suppliers inviting them to attend a webinar or conference call as part of the engagement process. In your email, you should:

  • describe the type of suppliers you want to engage with – for example, what essential skills must they have and/or what product specification must they be able to offer?
  • provide a reasonable time limit for suppliers to respond 
  • provide any limitations on number of attendees, for example, first 500 suppliers to register

Webinar or conference platform

Consider your requirements for the engagement session when choosing your platform. Would running polls to gather quick feedback be helpful and does your existing or potential platform have this functionality? Would you want to split the attendees into groups? If you’re looking for a conferencing service, our previous guidance on this subject might help

Help and support

For further guidance and support email us with details of the product or service you are looking to buy and outline the type of advice you are looking for.