How to complete Pre-Qualification Questionnaires
What is a PQQ?
Traditionally when procuring goods or services, the public sector issues a pre-qualification questionnaire document to potential suppliers to evaluate if they are suitable to deliver the contract. If a company passes the PQQ, they would then be shortlisted and through to the next stage of the process, the tender stage, from which a successful bidder would be selected to deliver the work. This is known as the restricted or closed procedure.
Now, it is much more common for a buyer to issue both the PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) and tender document at the same time, known as the open procedure. However, the PQQ still serves the same purpose and is broadly a questionnaire to evaluate certain areas of a business’s performance.
A PQQ is also commonly referred to as a Standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ or SSQ), a term (and very similar document) introduced by the Crown Commercial Service in 2016.
The PQQ Process
The PQQ process exists to eliminate companies who are not suitable to deliver the contract, and as such, they will not progress to the tender stage – this was introduced to simplify the process for procurement officers to quickly exclude some businesses from the process. Generally, the PQQ is a document covering what your organisation already does (and the tender stage is what you will do). The PQQ focuses on a few key areas:
- Company information
- Financial, insurance and compliance questions
- A set of minimum requirements
- Memberships and certifications
- Previous experience
- References and case studies
A lot of this is likely to be in a “yes/no” format and is much like a box-ticking exercise, combined with a few narrative responses. Traditionally the PQQ was the smaller of the two documents, with the tender process being more extensive; however, we regularly see large PQQ and SQ documents as buyers want to thoroughly examine a company’s experience – especially if the contract is lucrative.
Completing a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ)
The PQQ should not be overlooked as a simple task! It is vital to get your PQQ document correct and to a high standard if a.) you want to be considered at tender stage, and b.) you want to be a strong competitor for the contract. In our experience you should be aiming to be in the top 3 at PQQ stage, to be in with a strong chance of securing the contract.
Our tips for completing a PQQ are as follows:
- Read the accompanying information
- Look at the contracting authority’s website for more information on them and their policies
- Read the questions through first
- Check that you fulfil all the criteria – if you’re missing anything, it may not be worth submitting (but make a note of this for next time and see if you can improve your offering)
- Make a list of accompanying information you need to provide and start putting copies together
- Make a note of the deadline and create internal deadlines
- Write the answers to the questions, paying attention to word count limits
- Check that you’ve answered all those tricky little tick-box questions which usually appear at the beginning but could be anywhere
- Have someone who didn’t write the text check it over for typos and mistakes
- Check again that you’ve answered all of the questions with relevant information
- Check that you’ve got all the accompanying information together
- Send it off – before the deadline
- Seek feedback. Read feedback. Pay attention to feedback.
PQQ Evaluation and Scoring System
Simply put, you will only be evaluated on the questions set out in the PQQ document. It is important to note at this stage of the process this is all that you are evaluated on. Even if you have a prior relationship with the contracting authority, they have to mark your PQQ on the questions and criteria outlined in the document. The evaluator will not research your company or read between the lines, therefore it is important to fulfil the criteria, and make sure you let the evaluator know that you do.
Make the PQQ evaluation and scoring your main focus when completing the document. Refer back to it at all times and double-check that you meet or exceed all of the criteria and score the most marks available.
Influencing your PQQ Evaluation
Where in a tender the evaluator is looking for reasons to choose you, and through a PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) process they are looking for reasons to eliminate you. You must make sure that you answer all of the questions, in the way they are looking for, and tick all the boxes.
- Make it easy for the evaluator to put you through to the tender stage and award full marks for your PQQ:
- Complete all the answers, even if the answer is “not applicable”
- Make it obvious that you’ve included accompanying information, note where it is and what you’ve called it
- Don’t assume anything – if you answered “No” to question 2 (a), answer “n/a” to question 2 (b)
- Pay attention to the word/page limit or character count
- Organise the information you present in a systematic, easy-to-read way:
- Don’t change fonts
- Don’t use too much underlining, bold and italics, certainly not altogether
- It’s OK to highlight very important information with just the use of bold text, for example
- If listing current clients, do this in date order or size of the contract order
- Emphasise your strengths while making sure you answer all the points in the question, which links to.
- Pay attention to the areas the buyer seems most interested in, shown on their website and accompanying information, the weighting of the points given to each section and/or the number of questions on a particular subject.