The idea of the pre-qualification stage is to test the bidders' experience, capacity to handle the size of the contract they are tendering for and to assess their financial capabilities. This is executed through a test where candidates fill up a questionnaire. From there, the government will be able to produce a shortlist of tenders whom it feels are the most qualified to execute the particular contract it has in mind and under a specific timeframe.
The invitation to tender sent out to all interested companies are aimed at ensuring there is a vast pool of applicants for the client (the UK government) to choose from. The pre-qualification stage, on the other hand, aims at critically reducing that number. What constitutes this stage depends on what is needed in a particular public contract. Passing this stage is crucial especially for small businesses with little or no experience in public sector contracts. While the government is opening up to small business, it is also essential you prepare well for it.
Take the exam seriously:
Again, although the government is making the process, especially this stage simpler, you still need to take it seriously. This is as the agency conducting the procurement process has to answer for every decision it makes. Therefore, ensure you appear your best on paper and be clear when answering all the questions.
Play up your strength:
This is the stage you get to introduce your company, therefore, everything matters. Even with the government abolishing the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire, you need to find every way to make an impression as that is crucial for passing this stage. One other way to do that is to play up your strength. If you are a small business owner, you can emphasise how flexible you are (which is what SMEs are known for according to studies). However, how playing up your strength, ensure you back up every claim with proof so that you set yourself apart from everyone else.
Submit early and attend to all questions:
The tender submission deadline is strict. Once it is closed, you wouldn't get to this state let alone passing it. Therefore, part of positioning yourself to pass is to submit early, be thorough in answering all questions and don't leave any requirement out. For instance, if a bidder uploads their bid on time but makes a mistake. They would want part of that bid or a missing document to be accepted even after the end of the deadline. The acceptance is usually unlikely. The same applies to leaving out some questions. It is better to follow every instruction in the public sector tender documentation instead of hoping that they become lenient. It is usually unlikely, especially at this stage.
The government aims to ensure that at least, 25% of its procurement directly or indirectly goes to SMEs. As a small business, you will have a better chance of landing a public contract. Success in that begins with passing the Pre-Qualification state.