The pre-qualification questionnaire stage of the bidding process is the first hurdle when it comes to securing a public sector contract. The PQQ is designed to exclude those not suitable for the contract in question, and to shortlist a handful of companies to put through to the tender stage.
Although a PQQ document can be simple and more straightforward than a tender submission, they are highly compliance-driven, and it vital to ensure you meet all criteria and do not exclude yourself from the process.
We have put together our top five tips for successfully completing a PQQ.
Organise and put together a plan
This may sound simplistic or unnecessary; the PQQ document, however, can be extensive. It can include a number of questions, and require supporting information and documentation. Therefore, it is crucial to understand exactly what is needed in order for your response to successfully proceed through to the ITT stage. Firstly, make sure that you meet all the requirements outlined in the PQQ, including any pass/fail questions, and make a note of any important sections of the submission and any additional documents.
You may need to gather any policies or procedures which are requested as part of the PQQ. Again make a note of anything important in advance and ensure that all documentation is up to date and that it adheres to the relevant and most recent legislation.
Plan how you will approach the submission: answering yes/no questions and compliance checking, writing any narrative responses and gathering any additional documentation, case studies, references etc. which are required as part of your bid.
Become familiar with the standardised PQQ
The standardised PQQ is becoming more common across the board, in an attempt to simplify the bidding process for both buyers and suppliers. It includes set sections and questions to respond to. Familiarising yourself with the typical elements included in the standardised PQQ document will make your bid writing process easier and more streamlined as more contracting authorities adopt this method. It also means you can anticipate what is going to be asked of you and prepare accordingly.
Undertake a compliance check
The PQQ document is very compliance-driven and is aimed at proving to the contracting authority ‘what you currently do’. To expand upon this, the questions in the PQQ will focus on your previous experience, your policies and procedures, company financials and proving you meet any specific contract requirements.
There are typically lots of ‘box ticking’ and ‘yes/no’ answers involved in the PQQ document, which requires a compliance check before you submit your response. It is easy to make silly mistakes or fail due to a non-compliant bid — do not forget that the marking criteria are strict.
Do not assume anything
Unfortunately, the evaluator marking your PQQ is looking for reasons to mark down your submission and exclude your company from the process. This is especially true if there are many companies submitting PQQ documents, with only the top five or so being invited through to the tender stage — competition is likely to be high, which should not be forgotten.
You need to make the evaluator’s life easy; do not assume that they know who your company is or have knowledge of any information which is not presented to them in your PQQ response. Simply, if you do not tell them, they do not know, and cannot award you marks! This also extends to answering ‘not applicable’ to questions. You must clearly outline if you are answering ‘no’ or ‘n/a’ to ensure your submission is compliant.
Try and put yourself in the evaluator’s shoes — would you score your company top marks? If not, you need to identify why and how your PQQ submission can be improved. There isn’t much room for standing out when it comes to the data sections in a PQQ, but areas like case studies can be tailored to match the contract specification and showcase your company’s strengths, capabilities and innovations. Do not be afraid to ‘show off’ your company’s strong points through the use of persuasive contract examples and making the most of any qualitative questions.