Top tips for healthcare businesses on building a pipeline for 2019

Debbie MacKenzie, general manager at Proactis, offers some top tips for businesses in the healthcare sector looking to build a healthy pipeline for 2019 in a market tipped to be worth £129billion

Now is a good time for businesses to break into the healthcare sector

Small businesses operating in the healthcare sector can find it a daunting prospect to build a fresh new pipeline of work for the new year.

Many will spend months developing a strategy on how to approach new clients, while their competitors are out there actually winning business.

With public sector spend in England on health expected to increase to £129 billion, now is the ideal time for small and medium-sized businesses in the health sector to consider the plethora of opportunities that could be available

With the NHS and other public bodies providing the bulk of total healthcare spend nationally, public contracts clearly offer the most-reliable route to building a healthy pipeline.

The problem is, many SMEs can find it a real struggle to compete in the public sector.

With over £125billion of public sector spend in England on health in 2017/18 - and this expected to increase to £129 billion 2018/19 - now is the ideal time for small and medium-sized businesses in the health sector to consider the plethora of opportunities that could be available.

For many smaller operators, bidding for public contracts is seen as too much of a challenge, or way beyond their means.

This has been backed up by a recent survey we did with some of our clients where we found 54% of businesses felt they needed more need training around bid writing, while 39% said they feel they need more support around creating a healthy tender pipeline.

Although it can be daunting for SMEs who have not thrown their hat into the public sector ring, we believe there are some simple steps that can be taken which will ultimately help to build a healthy new business pipeline for the year ahead.

1. Be in it to win it

It’s always frustrating to learn a rival company has secured a coveted business opportunity, especially one that was never on your radar, and this can be particularly true of public-sector contracts.

Although it can be daunting for SMEs who have not thrown their hat into the public sector ring, we believe there are some simple steps that can be taken which will ultimately help to build a healthy new business pipeline for the year ahead

Signing up for a tender alert service not only ensures you are aware of opportunities that are relevant to the services you offer, but also makes it easier to meet deadlines and submit successful bids.

One thing that is evident is that there are a lot more opportunities available to SMEs in the healthcare industry compared to a few years ago.

With so much more emphasis on community healthcare in recent years, rather than centralised hospital provision, there is a significant flow of smaller-scale projects that are more accessible to SMEs.

It’s also important to be mindful that the NHS has a big focus on collaborative procurement due to the large number of individual bodies within it and the cost savings achieved. This means that frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems are more common, so it’s vital that businesses are quick off the mark in finding them and identifying upcoming opportunities as far in advance as possible in order to build a good pipeline.

2. Understand and learn the lingo

Understanding the terminology used in public-sector tendering can be difficult, so it’s important to grasp the purpose and process involved with all the relevant documents so that you can create a compliant bid.

From PQQs and ITTs to SSQs and social value clauses, there is a lot to figure out before you’re ready to bid successfully.

Getting your head around these is time well spent – the documentation and resources you create will form the basis of your tendering activities in the long term.

3. Brush up on your writing skills

There are some great courses and webinars which can help you develop your tender content to ensure you score well on the meatier questions

Not everyone is a natural born writer, and with multiple sections and strict word counts, public sector tenders can be a big turn-off for smaller healthcare companies who might not have a dedicated procurement team.

The first thing to do is to consider training – there are some great courses and webinars which can help you develop your tender content to ensure you score well on the meatier questions.

4. Utilise free resources

There is a wealth of resources out there to help with everything from how to communicate your CSR initiatives in your bid submissions to how to understand the process of working with multiple suppliers on a joint bid.

5. Don’t give up

It’s easy to be put off if you don’t win the first tender you go for, but it’s important not to give up at the first hurdle.

You are always entitled to feedback from the buyers so always seek a detailed assessment of what you can improve on so you can nail the next one.

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