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A PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) which has been superseded by the SQ (selection questionnaire) is essentially a set of standardised questions to fairly and transparently assess if the supplier meets minimum standards.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 where buyers need to complete the questionnaire – this occurs before an invitation to tender (ITT).

PQQ Meaning: What does it stand for? What does the process involve?

The PQQ meaning- what is it? 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for a certain contract, they need to evaluate the potential companies via a bidding process Whilst the PQQ has been superseded by the SQ, it is still a commonly used phrase and used interchangeably by both suppliers and buyers.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 general PQQ meaning is that it’s 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 pqq procurement process, and is most commonly used in public sector pqq procurement.

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.

What is the purpose of a PQQ?

A pre-qualification questionnaire document focuses on your company information and what your company already does. The questionnaire design is laid out as a basis for a buyer to judge your current undertakings, or to exclude those who do not meet certain requirements, for a contract. They are designed to act as the first stage of vetting, ensuring that a potential supplier is financially stable, meets the buyer’s requirements and has the necessary experience and ability to deliver works.

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. Identify 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. Follow the correct processes 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. Review the PQQ/tender documents before beginning your application to verify that you can deliver the contract and that you meet minimum requirements.
  4. Put together a project team to complete the questionnaire – the team should involve both the management team and people involved operationally who can provide insight and material for case studies.
  5. Make a list of all the documentation requested: certificates, policies, processes and references.
  6. Break down the PQQ meaning and complete the relevant sections – typically a data section and narrative questions.
  7. Review the documentation and accompanying materials.
  8. Have 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. Submit the completed PQQ, by the right date/time, in the right format (posted/emailed as attachments/submitted online).
  10. Receive 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.

How to be successful in the PQQ process

Although a PQQ document is typically more straightforward than a tender submission, it is compliance-driven. As a result, it is crucial for a supplier to ensure they meet all criteria and do not exclude themselves from the process. Our top five tips for PQQ success include:

  • Organise and put together a plan
  • Become familiar with the standardised PQQ meaning
  • Undertake a compliance check
  • Do not assume anything
  • Evaluate

To find out more about how to be successful during the pre-qualification questionnaire process, see our Five Top Tips for a Successful PQQ.


What can you expect to see in a PQQ?

A PQQ will always include a number of data-driven dichotomous (or multiple), 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. You will also find additional areas that are profiled in a PQQ, such as business status, financial information, and supplementary quality/health and safety questions.

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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