Foraging under the radar

Foraging under the radar or how to win business from public sector organisations, but with little or no competition. Most potential suppliers have radars that alert them with automatic email alerts, but only when purchasers advertise contract opportunities. When a purchaser doesn’t advertise the radar doesn’t see the opportunity and can’t send an alert.


Under the radar

You can find out about what opportunities a purchaser doesn’t need to advertise by reading their Contract Standing Orders. These rules govern how they purchase, you’ll normally a copy on their website. Purchasers write their own rules, although they sometimes hire me to do it on their behalf. If they don’t comply with their own rules it is a disciplinary offence.

Spend thresholds, the amount they estimate they will spend over the duration of a contract, are the predominate determinant of when a purchaser has to advertise. Thresholds also determine how many quotes or tenders the purchaser must attract. Here’s an example of typical spend thresholds found in Contract Standing Orders when a purchaser is unlikely to have to advertise.

  • Estimated spend under £3,000, sometimes under £5,000 – the purchaser doesn’t need to advertise, only needs one quote, could be verbal, and they can purchase directly without any competition, as long as they can prove value-for-money. This is a meaningless abstract expression, as I explain in another Blog post.
  • Estimated spend from £3,001 or £5,001 to £20,000 – the purchaser doesn’t need to advertise, only needs three written quotes, sometimes two, which results in relatively informal and limited competition.


Spend thresholds vary

I’ve used thresholds that are pretty typical in the above example, but they can vary considerably between similar organisations. For example, one district council could have a £1,000 threshold as their lowest threshold whilst another, perhaps even next door, might have it as £5,000. It depends on, amongst many other things, councilors views and knowledge on risk, competition, purchasing, priorities and how they think the electorate would view their decisions.



Quotes are normally relatively informal in comparison to tenders and some may even be verbal. But, as you might expect, what purchasers require in a quote will vary. Some over zealous purchasers put a huge amount of effort into perpetuating the public sector’s stereotypical bureaucratic image.


Forage under the radar when:

  • You need the experience of supplying public sector organisations, often to enable you to compete for larger contracts
  • You need specific experience supplying specific organisations, for example, cleaning schools is different to cleaning council offices
  • Supplying requires little or no capital outlay, or if it does you’ve already made the investment
  • The business you could win gives a worthwhile return, not necessarily a direct or short term return, at least initially
  • It’s easy for a purchaser to buy from you and you can position what you supply as different to that available from other organisations


The benefits of foraging include:

  • Profitable business, although not necessarily from the customer or customers you supply initially
  • Close relationships with customers, because there’s no or little competition
  • Providing more value through under the radar work for the same or similar customers
  • Valuable references that will help you win more business, larger contracts
  • Leads from potential customers who don’t buy but know of those who need to or might need to in the future
  • Referrals to potential buyers in the same or other similar organisations
  • Testimonials to evidence and promote your expertise and success
  • Purchasers calling you, just you, when they have a need


To forage successfully:

  • Find out who (organisations and individuals) buys what you supply
  • Focus on higher spend thresholds for quotes
  • Let purchasers know you exist and what you can achieve
  • Give purchasers evidence of a valuable rate of return
  • Don’t take when you meet, provide value, it’s all about them not you
  • Develop mutually valuable relationships

If there’s no apparent value then don’t waste each other’s time. Always try to provide something they will value, remember it’s all about them, but costs little or nothing, in money terms. For example, enable them to solve a problem, make their life easier or help them look good in front of colleagues. Most valuable of all is advice that emanates from your experience, which isn’t easily replicable. This is your investment to develop a valuable relationship.

Foraging under the radar is not difficult, although many aren’t aware and overlook its value. It takes a little time and discipline, and generally there are no instant results. But if it is worth doing and, you work steadily and thoroughly you will benefit. What are you missing out on that you don’t see, because it’s under your radar?

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