News

Charity First for SII (NI)

The Northern Ireland branch of the Sales Institute of Ireland has adopted Marie Curie Cancer Care as its first ‘Charity of the Year’.

Over the next 12 months, the Institute’s 200+ NI members will work collectively to raise funds for this important charity, which provides care and support to people with cancer.
“We are delighted to announce this charity partnership,” said Noel Brady, NI Chairman of the SII. “Cancer touches so many lives and affects all communities so it is fitting, that as a business-focused organisation with members spanning the entire province, we can work together to support Marie Curie in its important fund-raising campaign.”

The Institute’s Marie Curie appeal will officially kick-start in September with an ‘end of summer’ BBQ. Other fundraising events planned for the year include raffles, quizzes and a sponsored relay challenge in the 2006 Belfast Marathon.

For further information contact Claire Bonner, Morrow Communications
Tel: 028 9039 3837

Announcing the fund-raising partnership between the NI branch of the Sales Institute of Ireland and Marie Curie are (from l-r):
Pam Daly, SII, Sharon McCann, Marie Curie Staff Nurse, Noel Brady, SII (NI) Chairman, Anne Hannan, Corporate Development Manager, Marie Curie and Alec Barclay, Regional Fundraising Manager, Marie Curie

Business Tendering For Success

New guidelines for small & medium enterprises targeting public sector contracts

Small and medium sized enterprises on both sides of the border now have a much greater chance of success when tendering into the public sector for new business following the publication of a new booklet – Public Sector Tender Submission Guidelines. The practical Guide has been written by well known local ICT consultant Noel Brady, in association with InterTrade Ireland, Momentum and the Irish Software Association.

The Guidelines are set out in a user-friendly and informal fashion and try to reduce the complexity of bidding for tenders. Amongst a host of other useful information, the Guidelines list the main reasons why tenders into the public sector fail and details the steps that can be taken to address these failings

Noel Brady, Managing Director, Consult Nb1 Limited said: “Following a series of discussions between interested organisations such as InterTradeIreland and Momentum, the body which represents Northern Ireland’s information, communications and technology (ICT) industry, it became apparent that there was a need for a comprehensive, non-jargon Guide for SMEs that have experienced limited or no success in tendering for public sector business. In fact, while the Guidelines are mainly aimed at the ICT market, they will be useful to any company operating into the public sector, even the larger, more experienced organisations will be able to leverage some useful tips.”

Grant Gilmore of InterTradeIreland said, “This is an excellent initiative and a very important business publication for companies on both sides of the border who want to improve their hit rate into the public sector. Noel has managed to bring his considerable experienced of dealing with the public sector to bear on a booklet that’s full of really useful information, advice and tips. I would encourage any business who is serious about winning public sector tenders to get it, read it and put its contents into practice.”

One of the many useful pieces of advice which the booklet provides is that for anyone trying to penetrate the public sector marketplace, a certain degree of effort and expenditure must be put into building a company’s profile and creating an awareness of its products and services.
“It would be foolish – or at best wishful thinking – for a company to expect that they can respond successfully to a public sector tender if the Department or Agency to which they are tendering has never heard of them”, comments Noel Brady. “On the unique occasion this approach might work but the odds are stacked against it. In these Guidelines I have also given some advice on the elements within a business that may need to be looked at for building and planning an awareness campaign”, he adds.

Dr Ian Graham of Momentum said, “While a lot of our members are well versed in engaging with the public sector tendering process there is always room for improvement and this tailor-made Guidline is an excellent reference manual for members to ensure that they are presenting their business case in the best possible light. I think companies will find it extremely useful as it has been written by someone who has a considerable amount of success engaging with the public sector generally and tender procedures specifically.”

Some of the key sections addresses in the Guidelines are:

•how to identify and evaluate whether or not it is worthwhile submitting a bid for a particular contract,
•bid planning and management,
•formulating a proposal checklist,
•the importance of including an executive or management summary in any proposal
•the response to mandatory requirements in proposals

The guidelines also include a list of useful contacts and sources of information on the tendering process.

Ulster Business

“When Opportuiunity Knocks” So what are the steps involved in helping a business to grow? Ulster Business, Volume 17, Number 13, April 2005.

In the majority of my engagement with clients, one variant or other of the same question always arises, “How can we grow our business?”
Its a dilemma which can arise in new, established, small or large companies. For example, when a business has been trading for some time, it’s quite easy for it to settle into a pattern were it relies heavily on existing customers and tried and tested products and services. It isn’t unusual in this pattern for the business to drift along for two or more years attaining the same level of performance but not growing in any real sense of the word.

“The Modern Day Luck Penny”

The ‘luck penny’ is a notion in business that would be more familiar to our fathers and grandfathers as a mechanism for closure of a deal or agreement between vendor and purchaser. It has existed for hundreds of years in trade. This type of sales incentive reminds me of one of the best bits of business advice I ever received for my beloved
father-in-law, namely, “always leave a bit in the deal for the other fellow”. How many times have we heard leading business gurus tell us to adopt a ‘win/win’ strategy with our
customers? It would appear then, that the ‘luck penny’ and my father-in-law’s advice are the forerunners to many of the customer care theories we use in business today.
My personal experience in customer relationship management stems from 17 years in the public sector and 13 years in the private. The lessons learned in dealing with the populace in the public sector and customers and partners in the private sector have left
me with a number of incontrovertible facts about customer care……..

• A tiny piece of information gained in an encounter can lead to a major development later; try to remember and record as much as you can.
• Treat the little guy as you would the boss. Someday the former may be the
latter and they will remember your treatment of them.
• Always listen. You learn when you listen, when you are talking you are
not learning.
• Trust people; If they disappoint you, you will learn a valuable lesson and it
will make you stronger and wiser.
• Be straight with people; they will respect you for it.

Customer relationship management and contact management are very much at the forefront of activity in business today. These techniques and products can be used by businesses of any size. However, given the preponderance of SME’s in the Northern Irish economy, it is worth noting that the typical SME can actually derive greater benefits from CRM than their bigger counterparts.

CRM and its components help SMEs gain market reach with their products and services, reduce their sales and marketing overhead and allow them to gain a much better understanding of the needs and culture of their customer base.
We have all had good and bad experiences of contact management and CRM services. On the bad side, I recently had occasion to make an enquiry about my mobile phone service (the service provider shall remain nameless to protect my sanity!). Having been subjected to a multilayered IVR system, the final robotic voice said, “to report this problem ring the number on the top of your
statement”. The line then went dead. The number on the top of the statement was the same number I had rung in the first instance! To counter this I have had many good experiences buying over the net – a slick process, with attractive options to choose from, a secure payment process and goods delivered within 24 hours. I return time and time again to these sites because it’s a good buying experience and as a customer, I believe the organisations concerned clearly understand my needs and work hard to keep me as their customer.

The growth of customer care, contact management and CRM in
the private sector continues to bring increased pressure on the public sector to provide similar services to its customers, the citizens. In this regard, the public sector in Northern Ireland is to be applauded for its efforts to meet this growing demand. Recent projects and initiatives are taking a strong lead in the area of e-government when compared with similar efforts on the mainland, www.onlineNI.Gov.uk is an excellent example of this. The range and depth of this website continues to improve and plans for the future will ensure that citizens will have access to a composite range of information and practical applications that will greatly improve the interaction between citizen and government. Northern Ireland continues to churn out market leaders in the areas of CRM and contact management. Lagan, with its customer interaction
management software products has had major successes in the public sector, both here and in GB. In regard to contact management, Belfast-based Gem has major international public and private sector clients for its unique variety of business processbased customer contact management services.

In addition, there are other organisations with a wide range of products and services which offer great potential for future employment and the improvement of the economy in the province.

If your organisation is embarking on a customer relationship or customer care strategy, I would like to offer some advice in that regard:-
• Put the customer or the citizen first; they are your final arbiter;
• Know your business and understand your proposition; clarity leads to
success;
• Focus on your market and avoid distractions which appear to offer potential; they are what they are – distractions;
• Relationships are key; treat people as you would wish to be treated
yourself;
• Punch above your weight; forget about the bar it’s an imaginary
restriction and;
• Have fun doing what you do; life’s short; it’s the only fact we can really
be sure about……….
Finally, in returning to the “penny” theme, Margaret Thatcher once said,
“Pennies do not come from heaven. They need to be earned here on earth.”

Noel Brady is managing director of Consult Nb1 Ltd. His company provides
executive support services to national and international clients. He has 30 years, experience in business in both private and public sectors and is also Chairman of the Sales Institute of Ireland (northern branch) and sits on the main committee of the Institute of Directors.