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Pitch perfect: How to deliver a quality presentation in a competitive tender

Top tips on preparing for pitch day
By Leigh Hatfull on 19 December 2020

So, you’ve put the significant time and investment into responding to a tender and managed to get it all in within the deadline. Well done, that’s the first stage complete.

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, you should pat yourself on the back as it is a great achievement, and you should 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. In many cases, all the time and investment prior to the presentation is won (or lost) by your performance.

The reality is that the task ahead is also a considerable one. Your face-to-face presentation needs to be along 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. You have the opportunity to do what you can’t do on paper. You can now demonstrate to them that you are the type of supplier they would like to build a long-term relationship with.

It’s daunting and there is a lot at stake, but you also have a huge amount to gain so it is well worthwhile putting in considerable time and effort to getting your presentation spot on.

Top Tips on delivering pitch perfect presentations

Here are a few tips on how to handle client interaction at each stage:

Firstly, at the pre-tender meeting.
We’ve found that bidders with the best success rate will start to work on their client from the very beginning, using every opportunity the client presents to meet them face-to-face, or to talk. Here’s how to make the most of that first meeting:

    1. A pre-tender meeting can offer you an early chance to highlight your brand and expertise.
    2. Always introduce yourself and your company before you ask your question.
    3. Take the opportunity to get a feel for the competition.
    4. Choose your position in the room wisely – you want to be comfortable but also have a sense of presence.
    5. Prepare relevant and concise questions, where you may also be able to drop in a mention of how you have expertise in that area.
    6. Having support is also recommended as you will need someone to take notes and be able to observe the room whilst you concentrate on the client.

Then, at the formal presentation
This is where you can’t afford to take a chance and the mantra prepare, prepare, prepare should be followed. Think of this as a formal interview and prepare well – shortcuts will cost you the contract! So here are a few pointers to get you through the presentation stage:

  1. Preparation: Ensure that you know the basics – location, time of interview, length of time with client and prepare the logistics accordingly. If given the opportunity ask to be first, or ideally last, these two slots are the most memorable in the client’s mind.
  2. Listening: Start off by asking what the client wants to know, not what you want to tell them about yourself, and try to get these down to a few bullet points that can be expanded on.
  3. Clarity: Avoid buzz words, acronyms and jargon and try to keep it engaging because in a long day of interviews you need to be the one that stands out (for good reasons). Avoid at all costs language or references that might offend.
  4. Proof: The client will want to find out things they don’t already know and will often welcome examples of what you have achieved elsewhere.
  5. Timings: Tie the delivery of your presentation down to a reasonable length and factor in time for questions at the end. If everyone is over-running you may also need to deliver a shorter version so think about that beforehand too. Make sure you rehearse you timing and know where you should be time wise at certain points in the pitch.
  6. Participants: 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 then introduce them at the beginning and try to bring them into the conversation to fully utilise their expertise. However, ensure everyone you take has read the response fully and totally understands your proposition.
  7. Tailoring: Don’t be tempted to roll out the same presentation as you have delivered to other clients. Revisit the evaluation criteria and tailor your presentation and supporting material, to the needs of this client.
  8. Tech: Produce good quality slides in PowerPoint and try to 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.
  9. Breathe: Practise, breathe and 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.

The primary theme running through all of this is planning. Preparing for the presentation the night before is not going to win you the contract. Think carefully about who you take and ensure that you have the right information to prove to the client that you are the best fit based on their specific requirements.

What can you do if you simply aren’t good at presenting?

There are a lot of experts out there who can provide presentation advice and how to battle public speaking nerves – both on the web and in person, so it can be 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 who will 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.

If you’d like to speak to us about preparing for pitches you can book an appointment with one of our bid consultants here or by clicking on the panel at the bottom of this page.

Leigh Hatfull

Leigh is an experienced business developer and recruitment professional with a history of sales and delivery success in sectors including IT Services, Management Consulting, Outsourcing & Software. Prior to joining eXceeding he spent a decade in the Executive Search industry.

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