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.
One of the best ways to improve your tender and PQQ (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire) submissions is to learn from the mistakes and merits of your previous efforts. You can do this by requesting feedback on your performance during the tender process from the awarding authority.
Do you find yourself scrambling with every tender the day before the deadline, frantically gathering your tender documents and cutting and pasting 75% of the tender together? It might be time to put together your Bid Team. Putting together a great tender is more than one person’s job, however in a busy working environment it tends to fall on the laps of busy people who already have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Take a stand! Start your Bid Team today!
Let’s start with this essential piece of advice:
Do not make the mistake of going after every tender!
It can be appealing to start off on this footing when you see a flood of tender notices coming through, all of which apparently match your business area. But are you remembering how high bidding costs can be and have you really thought about your chances of winning? Companies who bid for everything are not normally the most successful. Bidding on the wrong contract can be a waste of resources if you have no chance of winning so you need to think about things a bit more strategically and start targeting specific opportunities to make the most of your time and resources. Don’t just enter to make up the numbers.
Have you ever come across a tender that looks interesting but you just don’t have a clue what it’s talking about?
Buyers, often with the best intentions, sometimes include terminology that is quite frankly harder to understand than ‘The Theory of Everything’ by Stephen Hawkings. If you’re new to public sector tendering, here’s a simple jargon buster of some of the most commonly used terms that may just save your PC from being thrown out the window…!
With its wildly different culture, risk adversity, rigid processes and sometimes outright incompetence, is it any wonder that so many suppliers are put off working with the public sector? Probably not.
So, you should just forget it right? Getting into the public sector market will involve hard work and perseverance. You will have to spend a bit of time understanding the public sector procurement processes and pick up some new skills. You will more than likely face frustrations along the way, you might even have to change some of your preconceptions about this elusive market. Sometimes it’ll seem like it’s just not worth the hassle so you don’t bother pursuing it.
But could it be worth a second look? Is it worth getting your company geared up to do business with the public sector? If you supply a product or service that the public sector demands then here are a few things to inform your decision:
– The UK public procurement market is worth over £175 billion a year;
– Public sector organisations are not going to go out of business any time soon, this means a level of security and certainty that you won’t get with a lot of private sector organisations;
– Public sector clients tend to make prompt payments;
– There’s a high chance of repeat contracts;
– Processes are (largely) open, transparent and fair.
Now, if you’ve had a negative experience with a public sector buying organisation, you might well disagree with this last point. However, the first thing you need to remember is that no two public sector purchasers are the same. This can be a difficult thing to get a handle on to start with. On opposite sides of the spectrum you could have one organisation keen on innovation, communication and strategic partnerships and another still firmly operating in the master and servant mindset. It is up to you to do some digging, find out what’s what, then decide which organisations you want to work with. Tricky, but worth it perhaps?
If you have ever attempted to read the public procurement directives then you will know there are a number of regulations governing the advertising and award of public sector contracts.
Contracts that fall below the EC procurement thresholds are not subject to these directives. Below threshold contracts are subject to the rules and principles of the EC Treaty (including non-discrimination, equal treatment, transparency etc), and European Court of Justice case-law has indicated these contracts should be ‘sufficiently’ advertised. However, aside from these rather ambiguous guidelines, there are no real rules regulating these contracts.
OJEU tenders are required to follow specific regulations on timescales to allow suppliers adequate time to respond to tenders, not usually less than 22 days. Below threshold tenders, however, often have much tighter deadlines. To make this situation worse, below threshold contracts are found in literally hundreds of places, including websites, local and national newspapers, and trade journals, meaning that they cannot always be identified as soon as they are advertised.
It is therefore particularly important to respond to these contracts as soon as possible. In fact, regardless of whether it is a below threshold or OJEU tender, it is advisable to make initial contact with the awarding authority as early as possible. This can only increase the time you have to prepare your bid or Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. It also means that the authority should keep you informed of any changes or further information relating to the tender. Responding to the tender notice does not bind you to bidding for the contract, but if you miss the deadline, then you have missed your opportunity. As the old saying goes “you snooze, you lose!”
Selecting the right contracts to go for is critical to the growth of your business. So often we waste a huge amount of time responding to tenders we are destined never to win. It can be due to a lack of resources, limited experience or it simply just doesn’t fit with your core business.
Here’s a quick and effective checklist for deciding whether you should go for a contract or not.
Rank your response from 1 to 5, with 1 as the most negative and 5 as the most positive answer. If the total score is below 20, you should seriously consider whether it is worth proceeding to Step 2.
1. Were we aware of the opportunity before it was advertised?
2. Do we know the decision-maker(s)?
3. Do we have a significant technical or other competitive advantage?
4. Have we done an effective job of pre-selling for this project?
5. Do we have a champion in-house who is motivated to win?
6. Have we allowed enough time for preparing the proposal?
Answer yes or no to the following Qualitative Factors:
1. Will our price be competitive?
2. Does the opportunity match our target market area and services?
3. Does the project present us with an unusual opportunity to break into a new market?
4. Will the submittal effort be proportional with the expected fee?
5. Is the project consistent with our minimum/maximum project size objectives?
6. Can we make a profit doing this project?
7. If we cannot make a profit, are there any prevailing reasons to want the project?
8. Do we have qualified staff available to perform the work?
9. Do we have the staff and time available to prepare a quality proposal?
10. Do we have the track record/experience for the project?
If you have answered ‘no’ to more than two of these questions, you should seriously consider whether this is the right contract for you.