The Tendering Process: Pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) and tender submissions – how to stand out from the crowd.

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With the public sector bracing themselves for sweeping budget cuts to be announced later this year, 2011 is likely to be another difficult year for suppliers to local councils. Throughout the remainder of 2010, local authorities will likely be tripping over themselves to complete major projects while they still have the budget allocation to do so, and companies searching for a lucrative council tender will have to ensure that their tender bids are delivered as professionally as possible if they hope to proceed to tender invitation.

But before the invitation to tender, suppliers will of course be faced with the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ)

Pre Qualification Questionnaire’s should be treated as an effective marketing tool, and as such be given the adequate time and necessary resources required to maximise the impact of your submissions. It is often the case that time is against us when completing a PQQ, however with contracts becoming all the more scarce in the current climate, and the competition harder than ever, it is vital that every contract tender is given the maximum amount of time and resource to make your business is taken seriously.

A corporate, professionally presented PQQ and tender submission demonstrates to the contracting authority that you are dedicated not only to continued effective promotion of your company, but more importantly that the tender invitation has been given a high degree of focus and that you are serious about winning the contract tender.

PQQ’s and the subsequent tender submission tend to drain valuable resource whilst being completed, endless meetings to agree potential content and the constant refining of the submission takes time, and with the majority of organisations running as lean as can be, staff are often stretched to the limit as is, without the additional burden of pulling together a hefty PQQ submission on within a tight deadline.

Recently there has been the release of a few online services that on the surface appear to be the answer to the problem, one stop on-line PQQ databases where you store generic responses to PQQ’s and pull the responses back to respond to the next contract. The theory being, do the work once and the next submission becomes much easier because you have answered the question before, right?

Not necessarily.

If there’s one thing you will always learn from the public sector buyers and experts that attend the many procurement events up and down the country, it’s this:

MAKE EVERY BID RESPONSE SPECIFIC AND BESPOKE TO THE TENDER OPPORTUNITY

Generic responses simply do not do this, and although basic information like company details, accounts, and copies of certification should be stored conveniently in one central place, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that once you have the information centrally located that subsequent submissions will not require significant resource, and associated costs to complete, it simply will not work like that.

Each and every bid response you submit needs to be tailored exactly to the needs of the contracting authority, which means that somebody still has to do the work and make your tender bids relevant to the council tender on offer.

Let me give you an example of how responses to the same question may vary across tender bids.

Let’s say the a construction contractor has a proven track record in both new build housing construction and also the planned maintenance of social housing stock. The contractor wishes to bid for two contracts, one to build a number of new build dwellings, the other to maintain and refurbish housing stock as required.

Although the construction element of the work is essentially the same, governed by the same Quality, Environmental, Sustainability and Site Waste Management Policies and Procedures, the way in which the work will be delivered will be completely different. For a start the working environments and procedures required to ensure customer satisfaction are poles apart, and the response must reflect how the company will address this throughout each element of the PQQ. A ‘generic’ answer which partially answers both PQQ’s simply will not deliver the depth of response required to satisfy an assessment panel and ensure progress to the invitation to tender (ITT)

It’s clear then that there is much to consider throughout the process of bid development.

* How should the response be structured to this particular Pre-Qualification Questionnaire / Tender?
* Who will be responsible for pre qualification questionnaire / tender management?
* What information is the Contracting Authority really asking for in the technical response?
* Who provides professional tender services that could refine our submission?
* How should I best present the tender documents to maximise impact?

The list goes on.

Preparation, and understanding the time and resources required within bid writing and tender management are key. Never, ever, leave a tender response until the last minute. Allow the time to plan the submission, identify the key staff required and highlight the key information they are required to provide. Ensure they have adequate time to collate the relevant company information that is required to build a robust response.

Outsourcing the bid writing and project management of the submission can be an extremely cost effective option, not only do you free up your staff to complete their main roles effectively, but by outsourcing you draw upon the knowledge and experience of people who know how to make your company information compelling to an assessment panel.

Simply MarComms managed tender bids for SME clients last year worth over £40 Million GBP. It makes sense therefore to discuss your requirements with experts, and understand what it takes to give your tender bid that competitive edge.

Whichever route you take, the one thing you need to take into account is the provision of adequate time to complete the technical documentation robustly. Whether outsourced or completed in-house, a last minute pre qualification questionnaire or tender bid may not deliver the full potential of your organisation.

Like all marketing activity carried out by the company, bid writing needs to be well thought through, researched effectively and given time to be refined, ensuring a punchy delivery of your company’s message. If the contract is important to your business, it makes sense to talk to the experts.

Simply MarComms offer a range of bid writing and tender services, from proof reading and critiquing your existing documents through to full bid management, including:

· Tender alerts

· Centralised storage of your company information

· Copy writing technical responses

· Creation of company profiles and case studies

· Corporate CV’s

· PR Photography

· Graphic Design of all documentation including diagrams and charts to support the submission

· Print Services

Why not contact Simply MarComms or give them a call on 0870 199 4044 for PQQ Help and to see how their tender services can help your pre-qualification questionnaires and tender submissions stand out from the crowd.

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