What is a PQQ?
When a supplier or contractor is new to tendering, they have this wide-eyed view that the playing field is level. They cross their fingers as they click the send button. Their bid will be inspected with the same frame of mind as the next, so they have a chance amongst the rest, right?
Then, four weeks later the news breaks that they fell at the first fence, the PQQ stage. PQQ stands for Pre-Qualification Questionnaire and forms part of a two-stage tendering strategy that is used where the tenderer expects a lot of suppliers or contractors to bid. The easiest way for them to manage the process is to have a first stage, which checks and benchmarks quality. In theory, the wheat gets sorted from the chaff and only the best quality contractors are shortlisted.
Most companies that have tried tendering bang their heads against the tendering glass ceiling at PQQ stage. They desperately want to progress to round 2 but the pesky PQQ seems to sucker-punch them to their knees every time. Damn, why don’t they get lucky once in a while?
Why have a PQQ?
Only clients see the advantages of a PQQ. In a former life, when I advertised contracts, we could find up to 100 suppliers or contractors that wanted to submit a return. That’s good isn’t it? Well, believe it or not, no. Among the hoards of keen applicants will be chancers, those micro companies based in Truro wanting to have a go at their first national contract! There will be the cleaning company that thinks it’d be interesting to have a go at fire extinguisher servicing or a software company that wants to branch out and sub contract fridges and freezers. I’m not kidding here, these are typical examples of what I’ve experienced!! Among this lot are the chancers that also want to risk a throw of the dice to submit a really low bid in impossible circumstances and see if it works. All these spell danger to a client with money to spend.
The PQQ is an easy way of marking or scoring companies at the first stage. This will allow the ones that are the most appropriate in terms of size, set up, the ones that have the right policies, insurances and locations to deliver what is required. After all, imagine if that Truro company got all the way to the last hurdle before the client started asking about how they were going to deliver the service? That would be unfair on all parties.
How to Cross the Line
As a Tendering Consultant, I have never failed to get a willing company past PQQ stage. Why? Because I tell them what is required and we ensure it’s completed before taking the plunge. Without turning this paragraph or two into a tome, I suggest searching for a large tender, any large tender related to your line of supply and registering your interest. Get your hands on the PQQ and see what questions they ask about your industry! I will warn that PQQs differ widely, some PQQs I’ve completed are a LOT more onerous than many tenders!! But, hang in here.
Now you can see what they want, make a note of their requirements. Loosely they might be:
- Experience of similar contract/work
- Accreditation to certain bodies
- Quality Management systems (ISO 9001)
- Environmental systems
- Key Policies
- Qualifications of key staff, inc CVs
- Last 2 or 3 years Turnover
- Insurances (policies and levels of insurance)
- Health and Safety details (method statements, training, accident reporting)
That will read like a real ball-ache to you, and you’re right! It will put some of you off tendering, I’m sure, but those who run sound companies will not be fazed. Doing work to achieve this standard is less daunting than you think, so go with it and you’ll learn and grow!
If you need help with any of the above, there are plenty of people out there who will assist. Business mentors can provide help, Consultants, Directors of larger organisations are also keen to show you how keen and knowledgeable they are.
Follow Your Gut
When you’re ready to tender properly, look at the contract and ask yourself ‘is this the direction that I would like my company to go?’. Also, ask ‘if I won a contract like this, would it sit right with me?’. If the answer is ‘no’, then the chances are that the client, or the contract, is wrong for you.
Make Time, Quality Time
The best PQQs and tenders are written when quality time has been set aside. Many Company Directors complete them at 6am or after 8pm, but let me assure you they won’t be as switched on as you will be when you ring fence an afternoon with strict instructions to staff not to disturb you! (Dire emergencies excepted of course)
Don’t Fear the Fear itself
The PQQ is complete, your heart is pounding and the document is waiting to go. What next? Read it again! This time, trawl over it with a tooth-comb and make sure you have answered as fully as you can. There are no badges for best mistakes or errors. When you are happy, then send. Most Directors get a bit sweaty palmed at this point: it’s a big contract and ‘are we doing the right thing?’.
Having read the title above, most will read this paragraph with a bit of bemusement. Nobody likes rejection. In tendering rejection can be your best friend. You’ll learn more from losing a tender than winning if you’re shrewd. Ask the client for feedback and make sure you ask questions around low scores. After all, you need to improve client scores, so try and see it with their eyes not yours. No matter how much it hurts, or how much it cuts against the grain, follow their golden nuggets. What you may find is that the way you’ve always liked to project your company may be a mismatch to what the client is looking for, and let’s be frank, its clients like them that bankroll your outfit!
The last point is to learn resilience. Companies get better at tendering by tendering. It’s a skill in itself and never be tempted to drop it if you see it as a part of the future of your company. Dropping it will definitely result in failing to win every tender you could have gone for.
Learn to enjoy tendering as a healthy part of growing your business. Good luck, but then again, you won’t need it now!