Dispelling 7 Myths about Pre Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs)

Pre Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) have been through some changes in recent years. So, it’s worth dispelling some common myths and misconceptions around PQQs in the bid process.

1. It’s just a tick box exercise with a bit of cut and paste.

Whilst this approach may have got you through some PQQs 10 years ago, it is completely the wrong perspective to have today. In many cases, PQQs have become more complex and even the tick box elements can contain some elephant traps e.g. all questions on a page may have Yes answers, but there is one in there that should be answered No. Clients have found ways of weeding out the contractors who have adopted a tick box mentality. ‘Cut and paste’ can usually be sniffed out by clients at 100 paces!

2. We are the incumbent / our reputation / our client relationship will be enough to get us through.

This type of assumption smacks of a casual attitude – there really are no guarantees. Taking this approach is likely to be reflected in the quality of your submission. Simultaneously, many of your competitors will be tailoring their responses to the client and the opportunity. PQQ failure may be looming here!

3. If we use our strongest evidence now, what will we have left for the tender?

What are the PQQ questions asking for? You must answer the questions that have been asked, not the ones you hope will be asked at tender stage. Increasingly, clients are looking for case studies and evidence in the PQQ. At tender stage, they have different requirements e.g. how will you deliver on this specific contract, rather than a rehash of what you’ve done before. Your main focus for now needs to be on passing the PQQ – when invited to tender, the focus will then be on answering the tender questions. If the evidence is relevant and answers the question, then it could be used at both PQQ and tender stages.

4. You should not ask clarification questions during a PQQ process.

Strangely, many people think that clarification questions can only be asked at tender stage. However, if the submission requirements / evaluation criteria of the PQQ are not sufficiently clear for you, or you have questions which will help you decide whether to bid for this opportunity, then go ahead and ask them. The answers may / may not be shared with the other bidders. Sometimes this can go in your favour – the client’s response may influence other bidders not to take part in the process!

5. Business Development cannot do much to help the Bid Team at PQQ stage.

We recently came across a Business Development Team that had no involvement whatsoever with PQQs – they only got involved at the tender stage. This was bizarre as the BD Team are usually closest to the client and the market. They should be involved in a PQQ Kick Off Meeting / Call. They often have very helpful contextual information to provide about the client, the external market, the competitors and the current opportunity. If they don’t have this information, then you may wish to give them some homework to do! Waiting until the tender stage to get involved could well be leaving it too late!

6. If we cannot meet the Pass / Fail criteria, then we should not apply.

On the face of it, this would seem to be a ‘no brainer’. Who would want to do abortive work? However, it is still worth a call to the client as they may be able to use some discretion. You may even suggest or be asked to submit a clarification question on this and the Pass / Fail criteria may be relaxed. The call with the client may provide helpful information on the reason why there is this Pass / Fail criteria. This information may be helpful in getting the internal approvals needed to meet this criteria in future e.g. ISO 9001 or CHAS accreditation.

7. You cannot ask for feedback on a PQQ.

Whilst clients do not have statutory obligations to provide the same level of feedback as with tenders, in practice many clients are happy to give verbal or written feedback. It is always worth requesting feedback including on successful PQQs as this can often be helpful for the tender, as well as for future PQQs.

We are very interested in hearing your PQQ observations and experiences. AM Bid Services Ltd will also be happy to quote for reviewing / editing / bid writing your PQQs.