BLOG: Supplier Development Programme – Training the third sector in public sector tendering

In the first P4P blog of 2020, Gillian Cameron, Supplier Development Programme (SDP) Manager, discusses the training available to SMEs to find, win and keep contracts. Training is free and is offered in the form of both classroom-style workshops, as well as webinars, that can accessed from wherever you are based.

The tendering process is one that can be daunting for many micro, small and medium sized businesses, including third sector organisations. SMEs may be too small to have dedicated bid/tender resources, so they can often be left to fend with tendering on their own – this can then lead to struggles with the application system, or how to write a successful bid. The end result is missing out on opportunities that would allow income and growth for the organisation, or worse: a feeling that they will be unable to ever make a successful tender bid.

This macro environment can result in many third sector organisations becoming disengaged and not bidding for public contracts – the Scottish Government’s 2017 Social Enterprise Census found that 80% of social enterprises had not put in a bid within the previous 12 months.

This is where the Supplier Development Programme (SDP) can help. Established in 2008, SDP is a business support initiative, in partnership with the 32 local authorities, Scottish Government and other organisations, to train SMEs in the tendering process (for free) so that successful bidding in public procurement can become a reality.

Fundamentally, SDP is designed to help SMEs and third sector organisations find, win, and keep contracts. We train and assist organisations, no matter what their industry may be, through all stages of the tendering process.

Why should my third sector organisation register with SDP?

There are numerous benefits to registering with SDP.  First and foremost, registration is free and gives you access to all of our information and resources. Registration on the SDP website opens up direct lines of contact with both buyers and other supplier organisations, such as opting in to being listed on our Supplier Register, which can be searched and viewed by both buyers and other supplier organisations.

Registration on also allows SME businesses to go to any of our free training sessions that are based at various locations across Scotland, as well as the webinar training sessions – which cover the same training materials as the face-to-face events – that can be attended from the comfort of your own desk.

You’ll be kept up to date with the latest developments in tendering, including upcoming contracts that you can bid for, through our regular e-bulletins.

There is also the opportunity to attend Meet the Buyer 2020 and Meet the Buyer North 2020 events. Our national Meet the Buyer event is the largest free procurement event in Scotland, and attending allows you to network with buyers and decision makers from across the public and private sector. Meet the Buyer also features keynote speakers and workshops that will help you get “tender ready”. Meet the Buyer 2020 is being held on 2 June at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and promises to be the biggest one yet. Meet the Buyer North 2020 will be held on 2 September at Macdonald Aviemore Resort.  If you are interested in doing business in the north of Scotland, Meet the Buyer North 2020 is an unmissable opportunity to meet both public sector and private Tier 1 type buyers face-to-face and learn more about upcoming contract opportunities in the public sector.

What kind of tender training does SDP offer?

Training is free and comes in the form of both classroom-style workshops, which span the whole of Scotland, and webinars that can be accessed from wherever you are based.

We offer courses at three levels, dependent on your organisation’s experience with the tendering process. You can self-select your training level based on what is most appropriate for you, and move up as your knowledge and experience with tendering grows.

There is a broad range of topics covered in training, from our “Introduction to Tendering” course, to “Improving Your Bid Score” and “The Supplier’s Role in Contract Relationship Management” as well as many bespoke sessions that relate to specific contracts that are soon to be tendered. Whatever the next step in your tendering learning process is, SDP offers a course to provide support.

There are more training and supplier engagement events to come in 2020 than ever, so make sure to register and attend the training sessions that are relevant for your organisation.

How has SDP training benefitted third sector organisations?

SDP has helped numerous third sector organisations in the past with training sessions that are suited to their needs, such as the “Understanding Community Benefits and Sustainability” course – this covers issues such as sustainable procurement, procurement for the third sector, and being a “best practice employer.”

Third sector organisations can move toward a greater understanding of the tendering process and how to win contracts through SDP training. For example, in October 2019, The University of Dundee Nursery Ltd. staff undertook SDP training in conjunction with Dundee City Council’s Early Learning and Childcare 1140 hours framework opportunity.

Jacky Jones, a member of staff at the nursery, commented: “Though I feel much more confident, I didn’t realise there would be as much work involved with this tendering process as there is. We really appreciate the advance support the Council is providing through the Supplier Development Programme. It will be helpful to have the additional information that was provided during the training to reference when we are filling out our tender next month.”

How do I get started with SDP?

Registering is simple. All you need to do is go to and hit the “Register Now” button, and give some details on your business.  Be sure to tick the box that you’re a supported business!

After you register, you’ll be able to access the full range of resources we have on offer. You can sign up to attend the training sessions and our special Meet the Buyer event, as well as receive support from the SDP team.

What are some top tips for tendering?

  1. Evaluate the training level your organisation needs to help you get tender ready – if you’re unsure, get in touch with SDP and we can help you choose an appropriate course.
  2. Look at the course listings on the website for that training level, and register for the training sessions.
  3. Attend the free SDP training sessions and gain knowledge and skill in the tendering process.
  4. Take advantage of our networking opportunities, such as being listed on the Supplier Register and attending Meet the Buyer 2020.
  5. Bid for the contract (and hopefully be successful!)
  6. Tell SDP about when you win your first contract, so that we can feature you in a good news story!

If you’re planning to do business with the public sector, registration with SDP is a must. Visit for benefits and support, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.