Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (or PQQs) are widely seen as the first hurdle you will face when completing a public sector bid. Viewed as the preliminary vetting process for the buyer, the PQQ is crucial in saving money and increasing efficiency when it comes to procuring a product or service.
But what exactly is a PQQ? How does it differ from other stages of the procurement process? And more importantly for our clients - how do you successfully complete one?
In this blog, we will look at a brief definition of a PQQ, understand its importance in the wider context of the bidding process and discuss helpful tips to completing a PQQ with minimal stress and maximum success.
What is a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire?
A Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) is a document used in the procurement process to assess the suitability and eligibility of potential suppliers or contractors before they are invited to submit a formal bid or tender.
It serves as an initial screening tool to shortlist qualified and capable candidates. Typically, if successful at this stage, bidders would be invited to the ITT (Invitation to Tender) or RFP (Request for Proposal) stage.
The PQQ commonly consists of a series of basic questions and requests for information regarding the organisation's capabilities, qualifications, experience, financial stability, policies, and compliance with relevant regulations. The aim is to evaluate the bidder's capacity to meet the requirements of the contract and demonstrate their competence in delivering the desired goods, services, or works.
The purpose of a PQQ is to streamline the procurement process by eliminating unqualified or unsuitable candidates early on, saving time and resources for both the procuring organisation and the bidders. It helps ensure that only those who meet the minimum criteria and possess the necessary expertise and resources progress to the next stage of the bidding process, such as the ITT or RFP.
What's the difference between a PQQ and an SQ (Selection Questionnaire)?
We often receive questions from clients about the difference between the PQQ and SQ (Selection Questionnaire). At a basic level, the SQ was brought in in 2016 with the intention of replacing the previous standardised PQQ template and simplifying the bidding process, particularly for SMEs.
The SQ system now includes more contemporary requirements such as the incorporation of questions surrounding the Modern Slavery Act and Apprenticeship schemes and can be tailored to specific industries with the inclusion of elements such as steel sourcing and construction practices.
However, the term PQQ is still widely used and accepted across the industry; we see it used across many portals and buyer sites for example as interchangeable with the term SQ. Buyers can use the SQ template to select questions which are most relevant to their requirements in order to save both themselves and the bidders time and effort at this early stage in the procurement process - a bit like a pick and mix for swiftly categorising bidders.
Completing a PQQ requires careful preparation, a thorough understanding of the requirements, and effective communication of relevant information and evidence. Successful completion of a PQQ can open doors to lucrative business opportunities and establish a favourable impression of the bidder's capabilities and professionalism.
What information will I need to provide within a PQQ?
Typically, and as mentioned above, we would expect to see similar information required within a PQQ, regardless of the buyer. This could include but is not limited to:
Company Information such as addresses, contact information, business structure, registration information and key personnel.
Financial Stability measures including a submission of financial statements, details of the company's creditworthiness and information on insurance coverage.
Experience and References including a description of past projects or contracts of a similar nature, client references or testimonials and details of any relevant certifications, accreditations, or industry memberships.
Health and Safety Policies including documentation of health and safety policies, procedures, and certifications.
Quality Assurance Processes including a description of quality management systems and processes in place, certifications or accreditations related to quality standards.
Environmental Policies such as evidence of compliance with environmental regulations and standards and information on waste management practices and initiatives.
Declaration of legal compliance with laws and regulations.
Disclosure of any legal disputes, litigations, or regulatory violations.
How to prepare your PQQ response
Although you can never know exactly what a buyer will request within a PQQ, with the introduction of the SQ and more standardised procedures, it is possible to prepare for this procurement stage and get ahead of your competitors.
Firstly, make sure you are registered to the appropriate portals. This sounds simple but those of us in the know understand what a minefield portals can be, particularly for the inexperienced bidder! Keep all your logins up to date and saved somewhere which is easily accessible to all members of the team who could need them - this will save you huge amounts of time and stress later down the line. Portals such as ProContract, Delta E-Sourcing and Sell2Wales are ones we commonly see used by buyers.
Ensure you have registered interest to the opportunity on the portal and have downloaded all of the associated documentation. You would be amazed at how many bidders forget to check for any clarification documents during the procurement process and thus miss crucial pieces of information when crafting their responses. Going through the documents closely will allow you to identify any gaps in your offering too - are there policies or quality assurance certifications you could apply for which would save you time when completing future PQQs? Are there elements which would automatically exclude your business from applying and being successful on this tender?
Pay close attention to the timeline set out within the PQQ. Not only will there often be evidence of the formal timeline for this stage within the procurement procedure but we often see the timeline for the entire contract set out within these documents. Are you able to adhere to this? Are there areas you need additional time to collate or understand?
Looking at the clarification deadlines is also crucial as this is the window you have to ask any pertinent questions which could increase your understanding of the requirements and thus your chances of progressing to the ITT/RFP stage
Creating a cheat sheet of all basic company information you encounter in PQQs is another top tip; having a record of details such as registration numbers, up-to-date qualifications and certifications lists, any company CVs which could be required and insurance details will once again improve your efficiency and time management when it comes to completing future tenders.
Think about how your previous experience could help buyers understand your ability to complete this contract. Keep a record of previous contracts and divide these into work types to keep it simple when filling in PQQs and looking for similar contracts to discuss. Stuck on how to create case study documents or need support in showcasing your experience in the right way? Contact our bid team here to learn about the different levels of support we can offer.
How Thornton & Lowe can help you win PQQs
We know that our clients have what it takes to win, and we champion the SMEs that make it happen. With a success rate of 75% and 90% client retention, get in touch and let us be the voice that wins PQQs today.