PQQs – A Guide

What is a PQQ?

Simply, PQQ stands for Pre-Qualification Questionnaire and were traditionally used across private and public commissioners. The public sector however, now uses a standard based Selection Questionnaire SQs), which can vary in technical requirement depending on the Buyer and services/products required.

PQQs are often used as an initial filter by Buyers when purchasing goods or services through a tender process. PQQs are designed to ensure that those suppliers that do not satisfy the most basic requirements of a tender cannot progress into the more detailed stages of the process.

Success at PQQ stage means that you are invited through to tender.

What does a PQQ look like?

PQQs and SQs can take on a variety of forms, but essentially they are data-driven and will usually cover the following:

  • Organisational information such as:
    • Name of company
    • Type of company
    • Registered address
    • VAT number
    • Parent company details
  • Financial information such as:
    • Details of company turnover to meet thresholds
    • References evidencing company stability, such as bank references
    • Audited accounts
  • Compliance with legalities such as:
    • Payment of taxes
    • Corruption
    • Anti-bribery
    • Modern Slavery
    • Criminal offences
  • Staffing information relating to the contract such as:
    • Roles involved
    • Qualifications and training requirements
  • Detail regarding key policies that are important to the awarding organisation, such as:
    • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies
    • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies
    • Health and Safety Policies
    • Payment and Reward policies such as Living Wage
    • Staffing and Recruitment Policies

Note, often the awarding organisation will wish to see evidence of these policies, so be prepared to provide policy statements.

  • Quality Assurance information such as:
    • Evidence of operating to recognised industry quality standards e.g. ISO
  • References, Testimonials and case studies from previous or existing clients who have purchased similar products or services from the organisation.
  • Technical and Professional standing such as:
    • Technical methodologies

Why Use PQQs / SQ?

From a Buyer perspective, PQQs help to separate the wheat from the chaff. Because PQQs tend to be fact based, they often contain simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions which help the awarding organisation to quickly assess whether a Supplier satisfies the very basic requirements for award.

So, for example, if the Buyer requires the Supplier to operate to certain industry defined quality standards, and the Supplier cannot evidence this, then the Supplier will simply be eliminated from the tender process on that basis.

PQQs therefore speed up and simplify the purchase process for the Buyer so that only those Suppliers that have passed the preliminary stage are considered for the more time-consuming stages of the tender process.

PQQs can also help Suppliers to better understand their suitability for certain types of contracts, enabling them to identify and remedy areas that would continually prohibit them from being successful in tender processes for that sector or industry.

What is the PQQ / SQ Process?

Organisations will need to:

  1. Identify the contracts they wish to apply for. Industry-specific alerting services and online portals such as Find A Tender can support this process, as can a specialist bid company such as BWS Bid Writing Service.
  2. Request PQQ documentation.
  3. Read documentation carefully and make an honest assessment about whether your organisation truly fulfils the brief.
  4. Prepare supporting documentation required to evidence that the organisation hits the standards required. This could be HR policies, ISO certification etc. Always make sure that your policies and procedures are in date and in accordance with current legislation.
  5. Complete the PQQ as fully and openly as possible within the format requested.
  6. Review the completed PQQ internally and then again by a second individual to ensure that content has not been missed or that evidence is lacking.
  7. Make any final adjustments and submit PQQ documentation in line with the procedure outlined and well in advance of the deadline.

How to Optimise Your Chances of PQQ / SQ Success?

PQQs / SQs should not be rushed. If you take the time to complete them fully then you give your organisation the best opportunity to be shortlisted and invited to tender (ITT).

Read the PQQ Carefully Before Putting Pen to Paper

Be absolutely clear that you understand the brief by reading the PQQ carefully. If there is any ambiguity regarding the requirements, it is perfectly acceptable to seek clarification. The PQQ should provide detail on who to speak to, and by what method at this stage.

First Impressions Count

A PQQ submission can be let down by poor attention to detail. When completing the PQQ ensure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Present the information in a format that is as accessible as possible. For the Narrative elements of the PQQ make sure you hit the word counts (never exceed them) and present the information in a style that pulls out the key points; bullet points are helpful, as is highlighting important concepts.

Ensure Supporting Documents are Up-To-Date

Supporting evidence is only relevant if it is in date and in line within current legislation. If your policies are old fashioned, out of date or irrelevant, they will not be positively received by the Buyer. Within your answers ensure that you fully reference supporting documents within your PQQ submission to make it easy for the Buyer to locate evidence that authenticates your claims. An appendix (if accepted by the awarding organisation) can help ensure that your supporting evidence is easy to find and accessible.

Use the PQQ to Reinforce the Merits of your Company

Much of the PQQ will be in the format of tick boxes and will be numerical or data-driven. But there is usually an element that is dedicated to narrative, such as client testimonials or case studies. It’s important that where there is the opportunity to exemplify your achievements, USPs and outstanding areas of your business that you do this professionally and succinctly. A bid writer can take key information and support you to take your submission from ordinary to outstanding.

Satisfy all the Requirements

It may sound simple, but make sure that you have fully completed the PQQ. If you fail to complete just one component of the PQQ it’s entirely possible that your whole application will be rejected. So even if the question isn’t relevant to your organisation, use ‘N/A’ to ensure that the Buyer doesn’t erroneously conclude that you didn’t concern yourself to fully complete the PQQ in its entirety.

Remember, PQQs are designed to save Buyers time – they will not contact you to seek verification or highlight missing content, you’ll simply be withdrawn from the process.

What Happens After Submitting your PQQ / SQ?

The Buyer will usually have stipulated anticipated timeframes for feedback on the PQQ stage within the original documentation.

If your PQQ has been successful you will usually receive an invitation to tender (ITT) as formal confirmation.

It’s important that you hold a formal review of each PQQ to ensure that lessons are learned, so always get feedback. If your PQQ was successful, you can understand what particularly impressed the awarding panel and be sure to include such content in future PQQs. If unsuccessful, you can then take steps to rectify errors for future PQQ applications.

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