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What is a Meet the Buyer event?

10DR at Meet the Buyer

Jennifer Payne, a Development Officer at the Supplier Development Programme, has contributed a blog to clarify SDP's definitions of Meet the Buyer events in Scotland.

Simply put, a Meet the Buyer event is an opportunity for suppliers (businesses) to introduce themselves to public sector buyers and private sector primary contractors to learn about new projects, contracts, framework opportunities and supply chain opportunities. For buyers, a Meet the Buyer event enables them to increase their pool of potential suppliers and widen their supply chains. Overall, Meet the Buyer events offer suppliers a great opportunity to network.

The Supplier Development Programme (SDP) organises the largest free Meet the Buyer event in Scotland on an annual basis. Additionally, SDP organises a Meet the Buyer North event and a Meet the Buyer South event was introduced in 2023. These events are open to businesses of all sizes.

Whatever the size of a business, Meet the Buyer events are useful to attend when considering bidding for future contracting opportunities, as they are specifically designed to help suppliers with the tendering process. Meet the Buyer events can help suppliers understand what the buyers are looking for, introduce them to innovative goods, works and services, and can give suppliers insight on how bids are and will be evaluated from from a procurement perspective. Meet the Buyer events also offer the opportunity to engage with business support initiatives, such as the Supplier Development Programme, local authority economic development representatives and Business Gateway representatives.

SDP's virtual Meet the Buyer events

Virtual Meet the Buyer events are organised professionally by SDP and utilise a virtual event portal, with a defined main agenda, exhibit hall for one-to-one meetings and separate meeting hub area for networking amongst attendees. The user experience is 100% controlled by the supplier, who can come and go, queue and download brochures from exhibitions, ask questions in live Q&A panels, and much, much more!

External virtual 'Meet the Buyer' type events

However, virtual 'Meet the Buyer' type events are also organised by other organisations and when agreed, SDP promotes many of these to the supply base. Though billed as the same as a virtual Meet the Buyer event, these are most often not on a dedicated virtual event platform and are instead organised via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or similar technology to facilitate supplier communication. Whenever an external event is not utilising a professional virtual event platform with defined areas to visit that are controlled by an individual supplier, SDP refers to these as virtual 'Meet the Buyer' type events to differentiate and define expectations about supplier experience.

What is a Meet the "Real" Buyer event?

Broadly similar to a Meet the Buyer event, a Meet the "Real" Buyer event takes suppliers a step further back into a buying organisation before a contract is let by procurement departments. Networking opportunities are available to directly meet with the actual, real commissioner who identifies the need for procurement in the first instance. Meet the "Real" Buyer events offer the opportunity for potential bidders to discuss upcoming projects and the procurement process with council officers.

What is a Meet the Contractor event?

A Meet the Contractor event is an opportunity to meet with primary contractors and Tier 1 contractors to learn about upcoming supply chain opportunities, and how a business can register their details to be considered for sub-contracting opportunities related to goods, works and services. A Meet the Contractor event can be themed by a specific project or sector, or be like an open day. Generally aimed at a specific pool of suppliers, Meet the Contractor type events tend to be smaller than an actual Meet the Buyer event. Often, Meet the Contractor events are required by an over-arching public sector organisation as part of a large contract award to demonstrate that a supply chain is open to local suppliers and meet community wealth building targets. Confusingly, a Meet the Contractor event will often be called a 'Meet the Buyer' event, and as the premier free supplier engagement service in Scotland, SDP is working with our membership organisations to clarify the terminology for the wider marketplace going forward.

Why aren't all Meet the Buyer events in Scotland advertised by SDP?

If wishing made it so! The Supplier Development Programme works in partnership with all 32 Scottish local authorities and numerous public and private sector organisations to advertise as many Meet the Buyer events to local SMEs, supported and third sector organisations as possible.

SDP encourages public sector buyers and primary contractors to take paid membership of the Programme to adequately support suppliers into bidding and tendering, as well as supply chain and community wealth building opportunities. (This makes sense, to truly demonstrate joined up procurement practices and ensure supply chains are as open and transparent as possible.) For primary contractors, paid membership of SDP is a demonstrable community benefit that can also be showcased within current and future bids.

For non-membership corporate organisations, SDP offers paid advertising packages to primary and Tier 1 contractors to support their Meet the Contractor events.

Finally, subject to capacity and prior arrangement, SDP can exhibit at non-centralised Meet the Buyer events throughout the year.

More information on working in partnership can be found by emailing the SDP Team.

What is a Talking Tenders event?

On a much smaller scale than a Meet the Buyer, a Talking Tenders webinar is SDP's term for a supplier engagement event, to facilitate communication between buyers and primary contractors with a pool of potential suppliers. A Talking Tenders event may be an opportunity to introduce businesses to how a particular buyer procures general goods, works and services. It may also be aligned to a specific tendering exercise, which will explain the process and offer bespoke, aligned training on the tendering process to interested suppliers. Further, a Talking Tenders event can also walk suppliers step-by-step through supply chain opportunities.

Talking Tenders events are highly interactive and offer huge benefits to suppliers to learn what a buyer is looking for prior to bidding for a contract or framework opportunity. They are also hugely successful, with suppliers saying that they are 70% to 100% more likely to bid for an individual opportunity after attending. Read examples of how SDP's model works with the Shared Procurement Service at Aberdeenshire, City and Highland Councils and others including the Ministry of Defence, SEPA and more.

How can I prepare for a Meet the Buyer event?

SDP has prepared a couple of guides for suppliers to prepare for Meet the Buyer and Meet the Buyer North, and these are updated annually. These steps will help you prepare in advance for how to optimise your time on the day, with lots of hints and tips that can be applied to any Meet the Buyer or Meet the "Real" Buyer event your business attends.

Scottish SMEs are also encouraged to get "tender ready" for opportunities featured at Meet the Buyer events by attending SDP's free training and engagement events.

We hope to see you at Meet the Buyer events in the future!

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