PQQs (Pre-Qualification Questionnaires) are issued by awarding authorities, as part of a restricted procedure, in order to short-list suitable suppliers before inviting them to tender. Suppliers are assessed according to pre-set criteria based around financial position, ability to deliver, quality standards, and the company’s policies on health and safety, sustainability and equal opportunities.
Public sector contracts tend to be very competitive. It is likely that more suppliers will meet the basic criteria than the authority wish to invite to tender, therefore, it is particularly important to achieve the best score possible in order to be amongst the highest ranking, and so pre-qualify.
It is worth preparing all the paperwork you might need in advance, such as your financial documentation, details of your company’s policies, insurance levels, any accreditations, etc. This information is then to hand each time you respond to a tender.
It may seem like an obvious point, but you should read through the PQQ and all accompanying information carefully, and ensure that you follow all of the instructions accurately. If you don’t it could result in you being rejected before you are properly considered. Often the authority will include information on the weighting applied to each question, highlighting the areas they consider most important.
The PQQ should not be treated as a tick-box exercise, you need to demonstrate added-value in order to stand out from the crowd. You should research the authority (a good way to do this is via ‘selling to…’ or ‘doing business with…’ pages on the authority’s website), this can help you to identify the authority’s ethos and values. You should also tailor your case studies and references to the requirement(s) and specifications of that particular contract, highlighting a track record in that type of work.
The PQQ will often be the first impression the authority has of your organisation, so take care over the presentation and layout. It is also worth keeping a copy of the completed PQQ so that you can refer back to it if the authority requires any clarification.
Many suppliers have complained that each PQQ is different making the process more complex and time consuming. As a result of this the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) have been working on a standardised PQQ. While familiarity with the type of questions and the format will help, each PQQ will still need to be tailored for that particular contract, will need you to put forward a good case and will require attention to detail.