Pitch Presentations and RFP Submissions

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 , 0 comments

pitch-sellingIn a bid situation, what should the relation be between the tender (RFP) response and the pitch presentation? Should the presentation act as a summary of the written response, present highlights of the written response, or something else entirely?

The RFP response needs to be tactical and detailed, and the presentation cannot be. Some bid responses need small vans to deliver them to clients; they can take months to prepare and would take a single person 40 hours to read non-stop; much of the material is specialised, and highly technical. Even when a tender response is modestly-sized, it is almost certainly too large for one person to absorb. Where a team is responsible for evaluation, the temptation will be for individuals not to pay a great deal of attention to parts they believe others will be reading.

This means that it is highly unlikely that any one person on the prospect’s bid evaluation team will read everything in the RFP response. By contrast, there will be several people on that team who listen to everything in the presentation.

While ultimately both the written response and the presentation are needed to sell a solution, they ought to serve essentially different purposes. One of the biggest mistakes bid teams make is to assume that the presentation and the bid response serve the same purpose. They do not. The written response describes the solution, and the presentation sells it.

Perhaps because most procurement teams have had to sit through endless hours of tedious presentations, these are typically limited in duration to a couple of hours or less. Pitch teams are therefore limited in what they can cover. This means that detail should be kept to an absolute minimum. The key in a pitch presentation is to sell the solution, not to make the prospect understand it.

The prospect’s evaluation team doesn’t need to understand the solution – they need to understand what it will do for them. Those in the team who really need to understand the solution can read the detail in the proposal. The pitch presentation should be about the benefits of the solution, particularly versus the competition, and not about how the solution works.

Bid Managers may now be jumping off their seats saying that the Executive Summary is designed to sell the detailed RFP response. Yet, while it is true that the Executive Summary should focus on the competitive advantages of one solution versus the competition, it isn’t at all clear that all members of the procurement team will actually read the Executive Summary. We know how many members of the team will be at the presentation – all of them. Even when everyone does read the Executive Summary, a powerful presentation ought to be more compelling and memorable than a couple of pages of text read in a hurry.

The RFP response and pitch presentation need to be consistent in terms of core messages, look-and-feel, and supporting diagrams – but ultimately, the content should aim to achieve different things. The pitch presentation should be shorter, more strategic in scope, look to sell by stating benefits and proving value, and create dialogue and engagement.

The major exception to the above is where the purchasing organisation has listed questions they want answered – particularly where these require technical detail. Here, these should be handled first. But even where technical detail is needed, the presentation should still try to relate detail back to benefits and proving value, and ultimately attempt to sell, rather than simply regurgitate detail that is already clearly provided in written form.

In summary then, the pitch presentation is your best chance to influence all of those involved in the decision making process. Having invested heavily to get to the final shortlist, it is worth the extra time, money and effort to make your pitch stand out from those of your competitors.

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