What is the Standard Selection Questionnaire or SQ?
The standard selection questionnaire, or SQ for short, was established by the Crown Commercial Service in 2016, to standardise the first stage of the bidding process. Traditionally, the PQQ was the first stage of the restricted (two-stage) procedure when procuring goods or services, but there was no standard version of a PQQ that a buyer had to use. This resulted in a whole host of, sometimes onerous, PQQ documents.
Now, the SQ is a series of set questions in a set format, which a bidder must complete so that a buyer can evaluate the bidder’s suitability for a particular contract. If the bidder passes the SQ stage, they will then be invited to the tender stage, with a handful of other suppliers.
What about the SQ in the open procedure?
A buyer doesn’t have to use a two-stage procedure, and they can just use one stage of evaluation. In the case of the open procedure, a buyer would ask a bidder to complete both the Standard Selection Questionnaire and the tender at the same time, and from this they would evaluate and select the most suitable company to deliver the contract. In this case, it is likely the SQ will be even smaller, as the narrative questions will be covered in the tender part of the bid.
Is the SQ document difficult to complete?
The whole idea behind the selection questionnaire is to simplify the first stage of the procurement process, so the SQ document, in theory, should be much simpler than some of the previous PQQ documents. The Standard Selection Questionnaire is all about complying with any mandatory requirements for a contract, your company information and then a few specific questions about the contract you are bidding for.
The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 also released regulation 107 for full transparency on guidance for completing an SQ and how the process works.
How long does it take to fill in?
Typically for public sector contracts using the restricted procedure, you will have a window of about four weeks from publication of the contract notice to the deadline date for your SQ document. As the document is now standardised, we know it is not particularly lengthy to complete. Prior to this, we sometimes experienced PQQ documents that were two or three times the size of a tender!
Once you are comfortable with the SQ process and what is included, the majority of the questionnaire should be simple to complete, with focus required on the narrative questions that are specific to the contract you are bidding for. This should always be persuasive, fresh narrative that meets the specification and evaluation criteria of your buyer – copy and paste from previous SQ documents will not suffice for this section.
The Standard Selection Questionnaire template
You can see a full outline of the three parts of the Standard Selection Questionnaire here, to understand the template that CCS formulated. This is also in line with the ESPD document.
Does my score at SQ stage matter?
Yes! It is very unlikely you will come top at tender stage if you have not scored highly at SQ stage. It is vital not to dismiss the SQ stage, as it sets the precedence for the rest of your bid, and is the first insight a commissioning authority has into your company. Make sure you are compliant and tick all the boxes, and produce compelling narrative to secure the most marks available. If you come top at SQ stage, it is highly likely you are the front runner for winning the tender.
For support completing a Standard Selection Questionnaire document, find out more information here or contact our team today to discuss how we can help. We see and complete SQ submissions daily on behalf of hundreds of clients, and can support you to win more contracts.