Pitch perfect – how to deliver a quality presentation in a competitive tender
So you’ve put the significant time and investment into responding to a tender, managed to submit within the deadline, but how prepared are you going to be when the client likes what you have put forward and invites you to the tender presentation stage?
Firstly, pat yourself on the back for this great achievement and feel reassured that the client is interested in what you have to offer. However, too many organisations do not appreciate the criticality of the presentation, and that all the time and investment allocated prior to the presentation can be won or lost by your next performance.
The reality is that the task ahead is also a considerable one. Your presentation needs to follow the same lines as your written one: clear, relevant and focused on the client’s needs. The difference here, however, is that now you are going to meet your potential client face-to-face and have the opportunity to expand on what you have already proposed on paper. You can demonstrate that you are the perfect supplier with whom they should build a long-term relationship.
It’s daunting and there is a lot at stake, but you also have a huge amount to gain. So it is well worth putting in considerable time and effort to get your presentation spot on. Here are a few tips on how to handle client interaction at each stage:
The pre-tender meeting
Bidders with the best success rate start working on their client from the very beginning, using every opportunity to meet the client face-to-face or maintain regular communication. A pre-tender meeting offers you the chance to highlight your brand and expertise. You can also get a feel of the competition. Choose your position in the room wisely and prepare relevant and concise questions that may also enable you to highlight your expertise in that area. Always introduce yourself and your company before you ask your question. Having support is also recommended, as you need someone to take notes and observe the room whilst you concentrate on the client.
The formal interview
This is where you can’t afford to take a chance, and the mantra 'Prepare - Prepare - Prepare' should always be followed. Shortcuts could be your easiest way to lose the contract.
Ensure that you know the basics – location, time of interview, time allowed with client and prepare the logistics accordingly.
Establish what the client wants to know, not what you want to tell them about yourself and try prepare a few bullet points that can be expanded on. Avoid buzz words, acronyms and jargon and keep it engaging because, in a long day of interviews, you need to be the one that stands out (for good reasons). If given the opportunity, ask to be first, or ideally last, as these two slots are generally the most memorable in a client's mind. The client needs to find out things they don’t already know and will often welcome examples of what you have achieved elsewhere. Avoid language or references that might offend.
Control the length of your presentation and allow time for questions at the end. If everyone is over-running you may be asked to deliver a shorter version, so think about that beforehand too. Rehearse you timings and know where you should be time-wise at certain points in the pitch.
Consider who to take with you very carefully as everyone should have a role to play in the presentation. If you need to bring an expert to answer questions, introduce them at the beginning and include them in the conversation to fully utilise their expertise. However, ensure everyone you take has read the response fully and totally understands your proposition.
Produce good quality PowerPoint slides and keep it as simple as possible so that technology doesn’t put a spanner in the works and fail on you. Take a back-up on a laptop and USB stick and take printed hand outs, but don’t distribute these until the end, so that the panel have your undivided attention from the start.
Practise, breathe smile and use the nerves you will inevitably have to be passionate about your subject. Take your time and stop if you need to, and always have notes to hand to refer to if necessary.
There are a lot of experts out there who can provide presentation advice and how to battle pubic speaking nerves – both on the web and in person, so it is worthwhile searching for some basic advice before you start planning.
If you really don’t rate your chances of delivering an effective presentation, but know that you have the skills and expertise to provide a first rate service to a potential client, you can get support from a tender management consultancy. They can guide you through the whole process and even deliver the presentation for you. eXceeding have been successful as a formal interview partner in numerous pitches and have coached organisations to create professional and winning presentations.
The thing to remember is that to be pitch perfect, you don’t need to be a perfect presenter, you just need to be a good one. Prepare thoroughly, learn from mistakes and work as a team.
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