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Tenders in Germany and Austria: How to participate properly?

Updated: May 19, 2023

Public contracts in German-speaking countries offer unbeatable advantages, especially for companies from Eastern Europe. Foreign companies can generally achieve much higher prices than those awarded in their home countries and at the same time remain competitive. Thus, larger revenues for the same work in an economically strong market with a high number of orders are enticing. Acquiring top-class German and Austrian contract references, optimizing capacity utilization and making better use of the company's own capacities are further arguments in favor of contracts in Western Europe. But how do you successfully participate in a public tender in Germany and Austria? Here are 7 things you absolutely have to consider in order to be successful in winning contracts in German-speaking countries.

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1. Search for orders

Before you can participate in a tender, you must of course first find one that suits you. There are a number of search strategies you can use here. However, due to the diversity of tender and company subjects, there is no single approach. Probably the most practical option for most is to search for contracts via public online platforms. One example of this in Austria is the Austrian Register of Tenderers (ANKÖ), while the German counterpart is the tender section of the online service service.bund.de. The latter can be used free of charge, while an annual fee is payable for the Austrian version. This starts at present with 420 euro net, whereby the portal is characterised also by a far broader function pallet. On both portals, suitable jobs can be filtered out of the database using keywords, industries, locations and many other criteria.


2. Strategic considerations

When searching for orders, you should definitely also make strategic considerations before deciding which tenders to invest time in and submit a bid. Different types of contracts, industries, required criteria as well as services that are normally listed in the specifications can greatly influence the chances of winning a contract. In German-speaking countries, a distinction is usually made between construction, service and delivery services. Especially in the case of the last two, the boundaries are often blurred, making a clear classification difficult. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make any generalized statements about the chances of winning a particular type of contract. This depends on a number of factors. In simple terms, it can be said that especially in the case of supply services involving mass-produced goods, such as electronic products, the competition is usually high and the price leeway is small. The lowest price is largely determined by which supplier has the best contacts with the manufacturer or was first to respond to the invitation to tender. For other types of supply services, such as in the paper, packaging or jewelry industries, on the other hand, the field of bidders is often very small and the probability of winning a lucrative contract is correspondingly higher. The more specialized the company and the subject matter of the contract, the better your chances of being ahead of your fellow bidders in terms of price. For Eastern European companies, it is also true that the chances of success are drastically increased for services that require a higher degree of human capital, i.e. human labor.


3. Required deadlines

You should pay special attention to the deadlines specified in the tender documents. Here, the following 5 are usually to be highlighted:

  • Deadline for bidder questions: this specifies the deadline by which bidder questions must be submitted in the event of any uncertainties so that they are answered in time by the contracting authority. Be sure to meet this deadline, otherwise some contracting agencies will not provide information.

  • Bid deadline: This specifies the deadline by which the bid must be received by the contracting authority. In the case of written submissions, you must therefore usually take into account the time required for postal delivery. Punctual submission is absolutely essential, otherwise you will be excluded from the procedure without exception. It may be possible to extend the bid deadline in the event of errors or irregularities in the bidding documents, as long as you have drawn attention to this in a bidder question.

  • Binding period: This determines until when your bid and the prices set in it are valid. If you have a long binding period, make sure that you provide for any price increases. This can be done either by including a price buffer in the bid or by contractually agreeing price adjustments, for example to the consumer price index.

  • Award period: This specifies the deadline by which the contracting authority must award the contract, and is often identical to the binding period.

  • Contract period: This specifies by when or in what period a service must be performed by the contractor.


4. Required documents

In order to check your capability, contracting authorities require certain documents and evidence for each tender. This is done either with the submission of the bid or after the submission deadline upon request. The amount and type of documents required varies greatly depending on the type of contract, the client and the anticipated contract volume. For our customers, these are usually easy to provide and present only a minor obstacle. Examples may include:

  • Extract from the commercial and trade registers

  • Confirmation from tax office and social security that you have no outstanding debts

  • Extract from the criminal records of the directors

  • Declaration that you act in compliance with the sanctions against Russia of the European Union

  • Proof of business insurance

  • References about comparable orders

  • Minimum turnover of the past years

  • Certificates or attestations

As already written, not all of these points are required for every tender. The scope varies greatly from none to all proofs. If you wish, we can find exactly the right public or private contract for you, whose requirements you can fulfill. For some of the requirements mentioned, such as those for minimum sales, references or certificates, there are often ways to circumvent them so that you do not have to provide them yourself. Here, too, we will be happy to advise you strategically and help you out.


5. Communication with client and translations

The vast majority of all tenders and their required language of negotiation over here is German. This means that all communication with the client must be in German. Any supporting documents must be translated in certified form. Experience shows that this is usually the biggest obstacle for foreign companies, especially since there is often no German-speaking employee available. As in all other aspects of the tender procedure, we can help you and solve this problem. Our professional and local interpreters translate tender documents, required certificates and take care of the communication with the client. For construction contracts, we provide expert local translators to assist you in construction discussions and meetings with the client. So you don't have to speak German yourself or hire German-speaking staff, and still benefit from the advantages of German and Austrian contracts.


6. Precise working method

Throughout the tendering process, we recommend that you work carefully and do not over-read anything. Every detail of the tender documents usually becomes part of the contract in the event of an award. First and foremost, the specifications should be mentioned here. Prices submitted are binding and any calculation errors due to misunderstandings will be interpreted in favor of the contracting authority. This also includes the content of bidder communication, i.e. the answers to questions. Assuming another bidder asks a question and the contracting authority answers it, the content of the answer also applies to you and is binding. Therefore, you are obligated to keep yourself informed about the procurement process and possible changes. You should also take a close look at any additional contractual conditions referred to in many invitations to tender. There you will often find passages on payment terms, contractual penalties or similar. In general, the following applies to Eastern European companies in particular: Study all documents carefully, work precisely and meet requirements and deadlines. There is often a big difference in mentality between Eastern and Western Europe in this respect, which in the best case can quickly lead to exclusion from the award procedure.


7. Bid submission

Once you have followed these steps, calculated your offer and have all the necessary documents ready, you can submit your offer. In most German-speaking countries, this is now done online. An electronic signature is often required for this, which you should apply for some time in advance due to possible processing times. It is also advisable not to wait until the last minute before submitting a bid and to take full advantage of the submission deadline. Questions or uncertainties often arise during the bid submission process that need to be clarified. We have even experienced cases where maintenance work on the servers of the tendering platforms prevented the very short-term submission. In such a case, you generally have no claims against the contracting authority, as timely arrival of the bid is your responsibility.


Conclusion

Participation in public tenders in Germany and Austria promises many opportunities for Eastern European companies. Lucrative profits, high-quality references, optimized capacity utilization and transparent award procedures are just some of them. Participating and winning these may seem complicated at first glance, but then turns out to be a logical and recurring scheme. However, especially the foreign language and lack of know-how are usually barriers for foreign companies.


At AV-LEAD, we make it easier for foreign companies to participate in tenders and win contracts in German-speaking countries. Our highly qualified and local staff will find you suitable private and public contracts that really suit you, support you in communicating with the client and translate all relevant documents. We will also advise you on the preparation of an offer and submit it on your behalf. This allows you to concentrate on fulfilling lucrative orders in a more relaxed manner. Learn more about our contract brokerage services or contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

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