Are your PQQs up to scratch?

Doug Aris is the head of UK construction at Achilles
Doug Aris is the head of UK construction at Achilles

Doug Aris, head of UK construction at Achilles, urges businesses to take a critical look at their pre-qualification questionnaires, explaining why a tick-box approach is unlikely to make the cut.

We often see many businesses approaching a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) as a tick box exercise. That may have once been appropriate but these days, contractors are looking for more from their suppliers.

PQQs serve an important purpose as the first step in the process of selecting new suppliers for private and public sector projects – for high value or long-term contracts – it’s an effective way for contractors to shortlist suitable businesses.

Often, there are a lot of companies who are interested, so, if you’re going to secure lucrative contracts, you’ll need to invest time and attention into making sure that your PQQs stand out.

PQQs should never be approached as a tick box exercise – while it’s important to have a system in place to make filling out the details as efficient as possible, it’s also important to inject some individuality and make sure that your business stands out for the right reasons.

Are you a business that goes above and beyond for its customers? Do you have a reputation for delivery? Is your image and brand important to you? These are the things that procurement teams will be looking at beyond the box ticking aspects of a PQQ.

A submission that simply dots the i’s and crosses the t’s is unlikely to make the cut in a competitive environment. While pricing is always a big factor in any tender process, businesses shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that keeping costs low is enough to secure a project.

Make the right first impression
When a procurement team looks at your PQQ, it’s likely that they will have no prior knowledge of your business, your history or track record, or what you stand for as a company. Make sure that your PQQ makes the right first impression – is it impressive and does it illustrate the attributes and experience that makes you different from your competitors?

It’s vital to make sure that all the information has been provided, but take the time to make sure it is well presented. Every PQQ should show your business in the best possible light.

Don’t take shortcuts
Completing a PQQ can be time-consuming – it’s one of the reasons suppliers join Achilles because they only do it once. However, whether it’s your first PQQ of the year or the tenth this month, it’s important to make sure that all sections have been completed fully and to the best of your ability. Leaving sections incomplete could mean your submission isn’t considered.

Always ask yourself whether you are the right supplier for the project. If you find that you are missing out large sections or you are struggling to fulfil questions, it may not be the project for you and the time would be better spent in finding more suitable prospects.

Set out to go above and beyond
Go the extra mile and make sure that your business beats the competition. Don’t assume that just meeting the PQQ requirements will be enough. Make it clear how you will support a contractor on the big issues like sustainability and zero carbon, for example. Clearly demonstrate what your business is doing to make a difference.

Remember that contractors’ concerns are your concerns and ensure that is reflected in your own policies and procedures.

Make sure your policies are in place
You will be required to provide evidence for up-to-date policies on a range of issues from modern slavery and bribery, through to health and safety. There are companies that specialise in creating these policies and will work with you to draft them. Don’t be tempted to submit a PQQ with missing policies, as you are unlikely to be successful and it may create a negative impression of your business.

Take a critical approach
You should audit your own business and be critical about its shortcomings. Pinpoint any weaknesses and take action to strengthen those areas. PQQs can be a big job but it’s a great opportunity to consider how you can improve your offer and give your business the best chance of securing lucrative new contracts.

It may be worthwhile appointing an external company to do the audit on your behalf. Suppliers who register with Achilles are audited yearly, which provides valuable feedback and gives contractors confidence that a qualified person has visited and can vouch that it is a well-governed company.

Welcome feedback and act on it
Any feedback should always be welcomed and taken on board to make improvements. Some improvements do take longer to satisfy, so do be clear when submitting a PQQ if that work is in progress.