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A PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) which has been superseded by the SQ (selection questionnaire) is essentially a set of standardised questions to fairly and transparently assess if the supplier meets minimum standards.

When a buyer is looking to procure a supplier for a certain contract, they need to evaluate the potential companies via a bidding process. The initial stage in this process is known as the PQQ/SQ, which typically comes before an invitation to tender.

What is a PQQ? What does PQQ stand for? What does the PQQ process involve?

What is a PQQ? A PQQ is a pre-qualification questionnaire. When a buyer is looking to procure a supplier for a certain contract, they need to evaluate the potential companies via a bidding process. Whilst the PQQ has been superseded by the SQ, it is still a commonly used phrase and used interchangeably by both suppliers and buyers. With that in mind, we will continue throughout this page to refer to PQQ with the intention of this encompassing both PQQ and SQs.

During the tendering process, the initial stage is known as the PQQ or pre-qualification questionnaire, which typically comes before an invitation to tender. The meaning behind the PQQ is that it acts as a sieving or pre-selection process to remove any companies from the whole tendering process that are not suitable to advance forward. This is an effective tool in any procurement process, most commonly used in public sector procurement.

A pre-qualification questionnaire document focuses on your company information and what your company already does – it exists as a basis for a buyer to judge your current undertakings, or to exclude those who do not meet certain requirements, for a contract. If you are successful at PQQ stage, you are invited through to the tender stage.

In recent years, buyers’ preferences appear to have shifted towards a one-stage process whereby the PQQ and ITT are completed as one submission, and assessed together. This in some ways makes it more crucial to check your suitability, as, if you do not pass the PQQ stage, the work done for ITT stage has been wasted.

The PQQ Process

You need to complete certain tasks in your own PQQ process in order to get through this hurdle successfully and move on to the next stage of the bidding process.

The PQQ process involves:

  1. Identifying contracts to go for. You may need to use industry-specific alerting services or free to use public sites such as Find a Tender, Contracts Finder and Public Contracts Scotland to find public sector contracts.
  2. Following the correct procedure to obtain the appropriate PQQ documentation, which is likely to be via an online portal where you must register your interest to access the tender documents.
  3. Reviewing the PQQ/tender documents before beginning your application to verify that you can deliver the contract and that you meet minimum requirements.
  4. Putting a project team together to complete the PQQ which should involve both the management team and people involved operationally who can provide insight and material for case studies.
  5. Making a list of all the documentation requested: certificates, policies, procedures and references.
  6. Breaking down the PQQ and completing the relevant sections – typically a data section and narrative questions.
  7. Reviewing the documentation and accompanying materials.
  8. Having everything checked by an outside agency, or at least by someone in your company not involved in the process, to make sure everything is compliant.
  9. Submitting the completed PQQ, by the right date/time, in the right format (posted/emailed as attachments/submitted online).
  10. Receiving confirmation of receipt. Hopefully, if you meet the minimum requirements, have completed forms correctly, submitted all required documentation, and produced bespoke quality responses you will receive an invitation to tender (if it is a two-stage process), confirming that you are through to the next stage.
  11. Whether you receive an invitation to tender or not, make sure you request feedback and when you receive it take it on board, good or bad, for the next stage, or any future submissions. If possible, we also suggest holding a team review internally to debrief, review feedback, and put the outcome of the review into practice before the next alert starts off the PQQ process all over again.

If you follow the process above, you’ll have a good chance of at least submitting the right documentation with the right accompanying materials, at the right time and to the right people. And, most importantly, you will have a good chance of learning from the process and streamlining your procedure for next time.

What can you expect to see in a PQQ?

A PQQ will always include a number of data-driven questions, basic company information, finances, and is generally more of a ‘tick box’ exercise. This is typically paired with a few narrative quality questions, possibly asking for case studies, which will be specific to the contract you are bidding for.

A PQQ is often referred to as an SSQ or SQ, a standard selection questionnaire, which has exactly the same function as the PQQ, and was introduced in 2016.

PQQ writing support

Are you struggling with the PQQ meaning or PQQ writing? Talk to us about outsourcing to our proven experts in completing PQQs and tenders. At any stage of the bidding process, our team of bid writers can support your organisation to successfully complete PQQ, SQ and tender documents.

Or you can see our PQQ writing services for more information on how we can help.

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