We talked to a contractor recently and what they said, broke our hearts.
“We had our review with the client yesterday,” they told us. “The feedback received was really positive with respect to our proposal. The client stated it was well written and professional – they said that is why we were shortlisted and invited to present, so we are grateful for your hard work on getting us to the shortlist!
“Apparently, the presentation and the Q&A session is where we let ourselves down. We did not demonstrate or provide further benefits from the original high-quality response. As a result, we scored poorly in the presentation session, which left us behind the successful tenderer in the overall scoring.
“We have to face the fact that we didn’t sell ourselves enough in the presentation and convince them that we were the best ones to do the job.”
Contrast the above (an actual example) with a client who acted on our advice where their team presentation highlighted their investment in diversity and social outcomes, and the authentic backing of their leadership and technical competence. Crucially, the management team took a back seat for significant sections, giving centre stage for their operations staff to tell their own powerful, personal stories.
They knew they had nailed it when they saw a tear in the eye of one evaluator as one of their front-line supervisors finished sharing her inspiring journey – and through it, reinforcing a proof point in the submission. Shortlist presentations are to sales pitches, what tender submissions are to marketing collateral, and they are quite different things. Marketing collateral mostly focuses on what you have to offer.
A great tender shows that you understand what your target client is trying to achieve and the risks that concern them. It provides compelling evidence on how your solution will meet their requirements and manage their risks – better than any of your competitors. Remember – people want to do business with people.
Tender evaluators generally want to see the teams who will do the work – the ones behind the relevant experience, relevant skills and innovation proof points you spoke about so convincingly in your submission!
Here are some tips
Be authentic, you don’t need a ‘slick sales pitch’, (and in fact that can backfire!)
One comment we heard from an evaluator was “they all feel coached”. It was not a compliment. A lot of trainers will try to heavily coach you. They’ll focus on your body language, words and phrases you should use, non-verbal signals made to others in your team and to the evaluators. That’s all fine, but whilst we recommend practising (see below), don’t lose your authenticity. For example, on the off-chance your QS is not an ebullient ‘people person’ – don’t try to train them to be otherwise – introduce them to the TET, explain their role and their style. Use their input as a technical expert, and don’t expect them to impress with an animated performance! The panel will be looking to see how and what you can deliver, not how good a ‘salesperson’ you are.
Ask about the agenda
And what content they want to see? Who do they want to attend? How much time is available? What presentation format do they want? Who will they have attending, and what roles do they have? Will there be a Q&A session?
Develop your presentation around that agenda
In this, remember your win themes. They should inform how you develop your presentation just as they informed the primary message and the proof points in your submission. Starting off with an overview of your business is fine. But be concise – you have already been invited through the door, so those credentials are just hygiene factors at this point. What the tender evaluators want to hear about is how your bid will help them. It must be about benefits i.e. what’s in it for them. The people present must be the human face of the evidence used in your submission which got you to the table in the first place! Remember – “people do business with people”.
Agree on a leader, then practice, practice, practice!
This person’s role is to direct your team – to be the focal point to receive and distribute questions to the right member of your team. For all attendees you must agree: why are they there? What will they say? Who will answer which type of question?
Finally – practise!
Rehearse the draft presentation – ideally in front of colleagues who will give honest and well-informed feedback! Be sure to design a powerful start and a powerful finish – that’s upbeat, inspiring and exudes confidence. Review the feedback, finalise the presentation, and rehearse it. Then, your next challenge can be closing the contract!