RFP Responses for Small Business: Step One

Every year in Canada, governments and private companies buy about $30 billion in goods and services in competitive procurements. At any given time, there are thousands of active tenders and requests for proposals (RFPs). How does a small  business win contracts? Follow a four-step action plan. Today, Step One.

Step One is finding opportunities. 

For government opportunities, start by checking the free online bidding sites. The Government of Canada publishes their opportunities on buyandsell.gc.ca. Provincial governments and, often, major cities in that province, have their own procurement sites. Big institutions (health, education) usually have helpful pages. Finally, you can consider a subscription to a bidding service, like MERX.

For private sector opportunities, again, start with the internet. Some big companies manage their tenders online. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, call their procurement departments to find out how they advertise their opportunities. Talk to your current customers to find out about other opportunities they have.

But don’t stop there.

Stay up with the business news. When you see new projects announced in your region or your industry sector, contact the company involved to get added to their list of potential suppliers. When you see new national contracts announced, contact the winner to see if they need local content that you can provide cost-effectively.

Are the opportunities too big for you to tackle on your own? Talk to larger companies to let them know about your capabilities in supplying goods and services and in being a good member of a proposal team. Do they pre-qualify suppliers? Find out how you can get on their approved list of bidders. Participate in industry associations, both for what you’ll learn and to help establish relationships.

Finally, remember that the tender or request for proposal is the outcome of a long, rigorous process in the client’s procurement cycle. The earlier you’re aware of that process, the better your chances – both to influence it and to win it.

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