Helping SME's supply the NHS

8 January 2014 | Julian Trent, SMEs, Suppliers | Comments (0)

By Julian Trent | Managing Director at Peto

Bill Crothers, the government’s chief procurement officer, has argued that the “oligopoly” of large suppliers for contracts across departments excludes some of the country’s most innovative companies from the public sector supply chain. Nowhere is this more true than the NHS.

NHS procurement has traditionally been seen as a leviathan: draconian procurement policies lending advantage to big corporates with entrenched contacts. For too long, lack of innovation and flexibility has locked small businesses out of the NHS. So has the new NHS procurement review and strategy broken down these barriers? Not really, but the market is overtaking the policy makers and technology and digital channels are starting to open up this colossal market to smaller businesses. Why? New digital channels offer SMEs the opportunity to be genuinely proactive; they can promote their products alongside the usual suspects rather than just waiting to hear about opportunities through tenders.

With pressure on Trusts to save, now is the time for SMEs to exploit the new digital channels that will provide them with unprecedented access to procurement departments and budget holders.

There are incredible opportunities for proactive small business in the NHS – from supplying printer paper, to uniforms, to specialist medical products. SMEs should consider what they can offer, especially as it could be at a fraction of the cost levied by larger companies.

Small business has, in the past, been hindered by procurement processes but now the tide is turning and opportunities are opening up. Here are some of our top tips for SMEs looking to break into the NHS and get ahead of the curve.

  1. Know the market
    As NHS procurement has been the domain of big business for a long time, it is important to know who you are up against, who is leading the market and what you are benchmarking yourself against. This allows you to determine how you are different, how competitive your prices are and what you can offer NHS trusts. Do not underestimate the importance of investing in market research. It is important to know the customer and understand their needs. For example one of the most import considerations for a procurement team, is the ease of switching, as much as it is the unit price.
  2. Breaking the status quo
    Inertia in NHS procurement often means that contracts are renewed with current suppliers despite the running of tender processes. Therefore, you need to make a value proposition that will shake up the status quo. Give them an offer that will make them think twice.

    Employing the gaming technique can help:
    Give a description of how your product is better than the leading brand, for example same quality but 20% cheaper.
    Spell out the benefits, accurately and succinctly, such as improving quality of service to patients or helping to deliver real savings.
    Use real customer and/or patient feedback where possible – it’s better for a new customer to hear how good a product is from a customer than a rep.
  3. Selling
    Breaking into a new market can be daunting but it is important to speak directly to as many potential customers as possible. The product won’t sell itself and communication is key. Don’t underestimate the effort needed to build and maintain relationships with NHS trusts and the procurement departments. An open dialogue with customers allows you to respond to their changing needs and get feedback. If face to face meetings are the norm, you need to use other methods to get noticed like forums, social media or search engine optimisation.
  4. Digital
    Having an online presence is now essential for driving business development and sales. It is a cheaper and less time-intensive method of putting your product in front of the consumer. But businesses must make sure any online activity incorporates and supports your broader objectives.

    Encourage online reviews. Word of mouth is much more trustworthy than advertising and positive feedback speaks for itself. These endorsements should then be prominently displayed across all online platforms.

In today’s environment, if you know you have a great product that will improve patient outcomes and/or save the NHS money, you must shout about it. Behavioural inertia in the public sector is the biggest barrier to new entrants. To overcome this a tenacious approach is needed that will keep you and the opportunity you can offer in mind in a sustained but low cost way.

Julian Trent is managing director of Peto

This article was first published on

Redefining your sales strategy for the Digital age

27 November 2013 | Digital, Peto Marketplace, Sales | Comments (0)

Suppliers, we recently asked you: What channel do you find most successful for sales?

It was not surprising to see 55% of you favoured Digital as the channel for sales success. Face to face sales still proved to be a contender with 33% of your vote. However whilst it can convey a personal touch, it is a channel that arguably requires a considerable amount of time and resource to reach only a small audience. Only 11% of you felt telephone sales were most successful for your business.

With increased use of mobile and digital technology, and a demand for constant access to information at a consumers own choice and pace, many companies struggle to find the best channels  to position their business and to broadcast sales messages. So where to start? Ensure you incorporate a cohesive strategy that utilises multi-channels but puts digital at the forefront to maximise reach and best convey your message.

Why Digital?Peto Marketplace Online Digital Sales and Marketing

o   Using Digital sales channels is a cost-effective way to expand your reach to targeted prospects

o   Enables direct contact with both current and potential customers

o   You have the opportunity to gain and then maintain a long-lasting positive brand impression

o   Freedom to implement changes to digital content and campaigns in real time

o   Integrates with the social space of your targeted customer – more time spent online now than ever

In the future it is expected that purchases will predominantly be made online or through mobile devices, with catalogues supporting these main channels (ICS). Research from Bluefin Solutions found more than 80 per cent of businesses were not prepared for the digital age. With a focus on short-term profitability there was neglect shown when looking toward new business models centred on delivering long-term business value. New technologies must be adopted despite the cost and tough to predict returns on investment because the technology takeover is here.

“One of the main challenges small businesses face in terms of influencing—or even joining—the online digital conversation is that there is simply so much information out there. It’s difficult to know where to start, where to focus, and where to invest the money and time you have. And as you may suspect, the stakes are fairly high: If you don’t connect with consumers in the right ways and invest in the right channels, your efforts could very well have no impact—or worse, a detrimental effect—on your business.”
- Annie Tsai: Grow your company's online presence

Making a start:

Make sure you are present online: Build your own website, set up social media profiles, join directories, advertise, write content.

Listen: Keep on top of your customers’ buying behaviour and habits. Adapt to their needs, do they want to hear about your products face to face, on the telephone or do they receive them more positively when they can process the information online?

There is a need nowadays for easy access to information. This is what we aim to provide through Peto Marketplace. A platform for suppliers of all sizes to display their brand values and product range integrated into a tool that Public Sector buyers can use to search for products, send queries and take action. Whilst this may only be one part of your sales and marketing strategy ticked off of your digital checklist, it's one more avenue for buyers to find you and your products.


Peto Marketplace Competitors Digital
Image source: Enterprise East London Infographic

Highlighting opportunities for NHS buyers and Peto suppliers at HCSA

30 October 2013 | Conference, HCSA, Peto News | Comments (0)

Peto is supporting the Health Care Supply Association’s (HCSA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester for the third year running.

Members of the Peto team will be detailing the range of free services we offer the NHS to help them identify opportunities for efficiency, and handing out ‘bags full of savings’ for NHS Trusts. We’ll also be showcasing Peto Marketplace and our supplier community that is supporting transparency and delivering value and innovation to the NHS.

Attending HCSA?
If you’d like to discuss in more detail how Peto can support your team or organisation, simply email and we’ll get in touch to agree a time to meet on the stand.

Peto Supplier?
Make sure your profile and products are up to date so we can show you in the best light when demonstrating Peto Marketplace. If you’re a Marketplace member and feel you’re offering excellent value or innovation, maybe you could be featured in our ‘physical shop window’ on the stand. If you think you qualify then email to find out more.

About HCSA
Now in its 43rd year the HCSA Conference provides delegates (procurement practitioners from across the NHS) with the opportunity to hear from a wide range of NHS procurement experts, understand how the NHS landscape is changing and its impact on procurement and network with a highly influential audience of health care procurement professionals and suppliers. To find out more about the conference and book your place please visit

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