For Canadian business people wondering where to find government contracts they might bid on, for years there's been only one answer; MERX.
Now there's a second option, Buyandsell.gc.ca.
And you're definitely going to want to use it if your business wants to do business with the federal Canadian government.
A Key Tool for Selling to Government
Buyandsell.gc.ca is a website created and maintained by the government of Canada. It is the official Government Electronic Tendering Service (GETS) as of June 1, 2013.
Its purpose is to make buying and selling goods and services to the Canadian government easier for businesses by giving them open access to government procurement opportunities.
Advantages of Using Buyandsell.gc.ca to Find Government Contracts
It’s free. Unlike MERX, which is a paid subscription service, businesses can search for and view Government of Canada tender notices for free – and without even registering if they like.
Search features make it easy to find new opportunities and follow an unlimited number of opportunities.
Buyandsell.gc.ca makes it easy to stay on top of whatever tenders of interest you have found; you can subscribe via a Web feed to the particular tender notice you're interested in right on the tender’s web page. You can also set up email notifications of any new amendments on the tenders you’re following by using web-based services such as Blogtrottr and Feed2Mail. (Both of these are free as of time of writing.)
The new website offers access to Procurement Data so you can find out which companies have active standing offers and supply arrangements and which have supplied particular goods and services to the government in the past.
How to Sell to the Government
This is important because there are different procurement processes and supply methods that you need to be familiar with to use the system effectively.
You need to be aware, for instance, that Buyandsell.gc.ca, also known as the Tenders minisite, only lists/shows bid opportunities “above the dollar thresholds of (various) trade agreements”. In practice, this means contracts up for bids are above $25,000 for goods and above $78,500 for services.
This is because federal contracting officers are allowed to use other procurement methods for contracts that fall below these thresholds, such as using other databases such as ProServices or Supplier Registration Information.
2) Register as a supplier.
While you certainly can browse the available government tenders without registering your business, as the government advertises, if you want to actually bid on any contracts, you need to register. You can’t do business with the government of Canada without having a Procurement Business Number (PBN).
Also, when you read through the information about the procurement process, you'll notice that having businesses bid on tenders is only one way that government contracts are awarded. F contracts with requirements below $25,000, for instance, contracting officers often just select suppliers from the Supplier Registration Information system – which your business won’t be listed in unless you register as a supplier.
3) Promote your business’s products and services.
It's often the known entity that gets the contract, so it’s important that you make efforts to let the federal government know what goods and services you can supply and why you should be their supplier. The government of Canada suggests promotion strategies you can use, including researching and targeting the departments and agencies that use your goods and services.
They even offer a list of questions to ask when you contact potential buyers.
4) Bid on opportunities.
As you would expect when dealing with an organization as large as the government of Canada, the bidding process can be aggravatingly rule-bound – and the rules for pursuing one contract may be different than the rules governing the pursuit of another.
The federal government has a great deal of detailed information on the bidding process on their Buyandsell.gc.ca. You will definitely want to read through it. And as they say, “Every bid solicitation is unique, so read it very carefully. If you have questions, follow the process specified in the bid solicitations.”
Meticulous preparation of your bid is important because missing any of the requirements or not following through properly will kill your bid.
5) Attend a seminar.
The Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) offers free seminars to businesses interested in learning about the procurement process and how to sell goods and services to the Government of Canada. See the schedule of seminars and webinars here.
What's Happened to MERX?
The federal government’s contract with MERX ( a subsidiary of Mediagrif Interactive Technologies Inc.) to host its Government Electronic Tendering Service (GETS) expired on May 31st 2013.
MERX is still operational and will still be showing Government of Canada tenders, as anyone can now. But Buyandsell.gc.ca is the official government source for this information.
MERX accounts are still valid for suppliers who continue to use other services offered by MERX.
If you are a current MERX user new to Buyandsell.gc.ca, Transitioning from MERX to Buyandsell.gc.ca will help you learn how to use the new website.