Getting onto that Elusive PSL

August 14, 2018
Elusive PSL

The Preferred Supplier List PSL, or Framework, can be a major barrier to success for SMEs. We approached Fiona from Brunton Bid Writing for her hints and tips to breaking down this ‘barrier’. Luckily for us, and you, she was more than happy to give us her top five tips on getting onto that ‘elusive’ PSL:

Tip 1

Public sector organisations are obliged to tender for any business with a value of over £118k (in line with EU procurement legislation). This means all public sector tender opportunities must be advertised via OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) and can be found on TED (Tenders Electronic Daily), or by using a paid tender notification service.

Don’t be put off if you’re an SME.  Most public-sector tenders are accessible to SMEs and the Government is actively encouraging SMEs to bid for public sector business.

Tip 2

Companies have a Preferred Supplier List PSL for many reasons – one of them is to manage cost, but other reasons include ensuring all suppliers are working to the same terms and KPIs and building mutually beneficial relationships with a small number of valued suppliers who really know their business. Preferred Supplier Lists are a good thing – if you are selected. They will give you access to business that is protected from agencies that are not approved to supply and formal contracts will increase the value of your company.

The old line of “sorry, we have a Preferred Supplier List PSL” may be true, but many of our clients receive calls from agencies, sometimes in the hundreds each day – so it is also often used as a way of getting people off the phone quickly. When you receive this feedback from the client, rather than being put off, I suggest you try to find out as much about the PSL as possible. Continuously trying to get in through the back door is frustrating for clients, so why not explain that many of your customers also have PSLs and that you completely understand the value and benefits of them.

Ask what disciplines does the PSL cover?

You’ll sometimes find that the sector that you supply may not fall under the PSL you thought, and that the customer is able to purchase staff with certain skill-sets directly.

If this is the case, then you can continue with a traditional sales approach. A company that uses a lot of office/call centre staff and has a PSL to cover this, however, is able to purchase executive level recruitment services outside this agreement.

Build a pipeline of business for the future

If the services/disciplines you are selling do fall under the PSL, try to gather as much information about the PSL as possible to help you build a pipeline of business for the future.

Once you’ve gathered the following information, load it onto your CRM system and schedule further contact at the relevant times. Questions you should ask include:

  1. When is your Preferred Supplier List PSL up for review?
  2. Who is responsible for managing the PSL/procurement process?
  3. How do we go about registering interest in any future tender activity?
  4. What is working well/not working well with your current PSL?

Tip 3

When you have found an opportunity to bid for business, make sure that you answer the question asked (not the question you wish you had been asked, or indeed the question you were asked in another tender on a similar subject!)

If you use copy and paste, make sure that your base material is strong – avoid waffle and “marketing” speak. Provide factual, compelling responses that answer exactly what has been asked – no more and no less. Check the evaluation criteria for how your answer will be scored and use this to help direct the content of your answer. Beware of using copy and paste without customising the text to fit the current requirement. Sorry – there is no quick way of doing this. If you want to win, then you must put the time in!

Tip 4

Make sure your tenders are full of evidence; facts, figures, case studies, examples, testimonials etc.  You need to inspire confidence in the evaluator, and there is no better way of doing this than showing that you’ve provided similar services successfully to other similar clients/contracts.

For every sentence you write, you need to think “how can I make this tangible?” and then add in the relevant facts and figures.

Tip 5

Remember that writing a proposal, bid or tender is a form of business development. All too often it is seen as “form-filling” or administration work. You will often need to spend several days completing the tender documents, but it will be worth it when you win the business and enjoy the benefits of having the contract for several years.

This isn’t a job to be passed to your administrator – that’s simply not fair, nor is it good practice! Bid writing is a job for an experienced person, who has in-depth knowledge of the business.


If this is an area that you’re struggling with, please feel free to contact Fiona at Brunton Bid Writing for help with your next tender. Learn more via the visit at

Thanks again, Fiona!

Preferred Supplier List PSL


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