SME clients often contact us, panicking about the deadline for a tender, only for us to discover that it is in fact a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ ) — the first stage in the bidding process. We look at PQQ and tender documents to explain the key differences between the two.
Typically you need to complete a PQQ document to be shortlisted through to the tender stage, from which the buyer will select a company to work with: this is known as the two-stage process or the restricted procedure. It is also very common for a buyer to have a one-stage process or open procedure, whereby the PQQ and tender elements are evaluated at the same time. It is important to check which version of the bidding process the buyer is using, to understand which documents need completing.
PQQs are bit like an application form: think of them as a sort of organisational CV to showcase what your company already does. They will not get you the job but they should get you the interview.
A PQQ will ask for all your organisational information:
- Type of company
- VAT number
- Registered addresses
It will also ask how you manage your business:
- Do you have ISO? Or other suitable certifications?
- If not, what systems do you have in place?
- Do you have an environmental/sustainability/employment/equal opportunities/health and safety/etc. policy?
You will be asked to provide your accounts from between the last three to five years, as well as references, and you will usually be asked to outline the experience that you have had in delivering the type of work to which the PQQ pertains.
Each document is different, but those are the main elements that are likely to be included.
PQQs are a combination of pass/fail and weighted questions although, they sometimes do not include the weighting element. Pass/fail will be on things like defaults on previous contracts, ongoing or past litigation etc. The weightings will come in on the policy side. Are you environmentally friendly? Do you have a robust health and safety plan and risk assessments in place etc.?
Why have a PQQ?
PQQs save both parties a lot of money. They help to sift through the companies who can genuinely deliver the project and those that cannot – they are designed to eliminate those unsuitable at the PQQ stage, who will not then be invited to tender.
Tendering can be expensive both in terms of time and money. A PQQ makes sure that you do not have to bear the expenses that tendering can bring if you are not (in the eyes of the client) able to deliver the job. They also help the client to shortlist the companies that are most likely to meet their needs without having to evaluate dozens of tenders.
Following the PQQ, tenders are more about explaining how you are going to deliver the project and why the client should select you.
They will only want a brief description of your organisation, instead focussing on added value, social value, operational capability and core competence. You will draw out your experience and demonstrate why you should win the contract. It is your opportunity to be innovative and to prove why you are different from the other companies submitting a tender.
Tenders vary widely in format. Some are very similar to the PQQ, being prescriptive and in sections, with clearly defined questions and a clearly defined marking criteria. As with PQQs, tenders can be submitted via an e-portal or hard copy.
Other tenders are very loose. They present the question in only very loose terms and allocate marks in blocks. Here is an example:
“Provide acceptable quality solutions to the requirements detailed in the specification and demonstrate full understanding of the requirement.” (50% weighting)
The above is taken from a government tender document, and while it gives you lots of freedom to be innovative it also gives you lots of room to go off in the wrong direction completely. An important part of completing a tender document is to understand the buyer’s specification and align your responses with this so that you answer the question in the way the buyer wants, and score the marks. Do not write the tender how you want to write it: write it how the buyer wants to evaluate it.
For support with both PQQ and tender documents, contact Executive Compass’s team of bid writers to discuss how we can help release the burden of bid writing whilst improving success rates for your company.