Gone with the RFP – How to lose the business in the Final Round
You’ve made through all the down selections into the final round of the RFP for on-site presentations. You came, presented and walked away feeling good. But when you follow up you find your sourcing contact, you find that they have turned into Rhett Butler and are gone with the wind (along with the opportunity)! So let’s sit down for a brief moment Scarlett and review…
1. Your RFP was submitted on time and was clear and complete.
2. During call/email interactions you made a good impression.
3. You provided an innovative solution / highlighted how you outshine the competition
4. All rules were followed and respected
5. You submitted fair pricing with room for negotiations
What happened? (Why are you gone?!) Here are five of the most common mistakes:
1 – Who did you bring / who presented?
Did you bring the CEO/SVP or someone the client will never see again? Did you bring Susan who takes half of the time with trying to set up her laptop to the projector? Is there good team chemistry or are you already fighting in front of us?! These are all MAJOR mistakes.
Every RFP I remind suppliers to bring the people who will be working on the account in person. You can bring tech. support or sales staff that can help make the presentation go smoothly, but anyone else is just not necessary. Especially if I’m not going to get your direct support. So unless the client specifically asks for you to attend Mr. CEO, stay home.
And who presented or spent the majority of time doing so? Were they full of energy excited about the opportunity? Is it someone the client will want to work with? Or did you bring good old Bob because of his tenure and connections? Please leave Bob at home unless he can sing and dance. Literally.
Or did you have a nervous Nelly present? Everyone is now looking at you playing with that stupid paper clip, moving your chair back and forth and you twirling your hair…. so now I have no idea what you are talking about!
You need to sell your proposal at the same time you also must keep our attention! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a monotonous/flat presentation that the entire room quits paying attention after the first 10 or 15 minutes. If the image to your left looks familiar, then *Cue Bob’s personal rendition of “I’m every woman”…*
2. Were you on time?
For all meetings, calls and on-site presentations. When the big day comes, show up 15-30 minutes early to ensure you can get through security, setup, etc. There is not one excuse outside the impending apocalypse, zombie outbreak or aliens taking you for an interplanetary tour that will change our minds. We know there are traffic, late flights and a host of other issues. Plan ahead. No excuses.
3. What did you wear?
This is especially important if you are an incumbent supplier. You aren’t guaranteed business and you should show up to every RFP like it’s your first. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen suppliers walk in with half-assed RFP presentation, a LOT of arrogance thinking they already had the business in a pair of jeans. Remember this – it’s the law of the jungle in RFx events. When the old lions get fat and lazy, it leaves the opportunity for the young to attack. Don’t be your own worst enemy.
Dress appropriately. Don’t show up looking like you walked out of Liberace’s closet. Please shower and when you’re done don’t jump in a vat of perfume. And if you split your pants mid-presentation, make sure your coworker tells you. Yes, it’s happened and it is very distracting!
4. Did you answer all the questions?
I can’t tell you how many times I see presentations just skip entire sections. If you don’t think they are important, put them in the appendix and mention they are available for review. Completely disregarding any portion of the RFP is foolish. They were put there for a reason, so answer them!
5. Did you prepare?
On-site presentations are like job interviews. Did you do your research? What do you know about the company, where it’s headed and how will your solution fit into that? The best presentations I’ve seen have even included pieces of market research that help shape their responses.
Again, we can tell how much time and effort put into the presentation, it shows. Last, know your audience and the industry you’re speaking to (including regulations, best practices, etc.) I’ve seen an agency pitch where they had a creative ad showing big chains holding things in…. despite the patient’s biggest complaint of being “CHAINED” to the treatment. *Insert facepalm here.*
So take a hint from Scarlett’s peril. Check your ego and your dress at the door. And remember, there are just some mistakes that are too big to come back from.