Ask the Expert

Digital Marketplace – Getting through the first round

Question by: Dave James

Hi Sarah,

We occasionally respond to DOS opportunities on the Digital Marketplace, but have never got through the first round. Is there a magic formula for writing the 100-word responses?


Hi Dave,

I often get asked this question and I always give some context first. I tend to think of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) framework like Pandora’s Box. It promises a level playing field, lots of opportunities and a well-defined process for applying, but it is actually a low probability, high effort game.

My first advice is to stick to sound sales strategy and qualification principles. Remember there is still strong evidence that most buyers will select a company they know regardless of the procurement route they choose.

So, if you know the customer that is advertising the DOS opportunity, you were expecting to see it and are in a good position to win, then fine.

If not, don’t treat DOS as a primary prospect source. Even if the DOS opportunity is right up your street, consider how likely you are to win over your competitors if you don’t know the customer. Instead, target the public sector organisations you want to do business with. Plan how to make your company visible and valuable using a variety of marketing and sales techniques. A well-aimed DOS Stage1 could play a part in that plan.

If you decide to go for a Stage 1, there isn’t a magic formula – sorry! Scoring a 3 is the Holy Grail. However, based on my experience of writing and reviewing hundreds of Stage 1 answers, there are several techniques for crafting answers that are more likely to score highly. The top five are:

1) Make sure you have a strong answer to every question and treat the Nice-to-Have questions as Essential – they are often the tie-breaker.

2) Stick to the Situation, Win, Results formula and sequence with one relevant example (unless the question clearly asks for more, in which case ask a clarification question).

3) Spend time planning your answers before writing them, thinking carefully about each one – consider why they are asking it and what they want to know as well as what messages you want to get across.

4) Quantify the results with concrete evidence wherever possible.

5) Create a concise well-written, carefully balanced response – throw out unnecessary words in favour of solid detail.

Hope that helps.