The RFP Experience - Part 1

  • Published on: 7 August 2017
  • By: Lauren Tennant

The good, the bad, the ugly....

When it comes to outsourcing processes, we've seen it all, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly! At the very heart of what we do is driving successful outsourcing, so we thought we'd share our top tips for suppliers in this new series; be good, not bad or ugly!

Part 1: Supplier presentations - be good, not bad or ugly
The whole experience your client (and advisor) has with you during presentations counts, you may not realise it but from the moment you start discussing arrangements for the presentation to the second you walk out the door, your appearance, body language and attitude influence how we see you. 
Everything from how easy it is to work with you in making arrangements to how you come across in the actual presentation itself give subtle, even subconscious insights about what it might be like to work with you later. At Quantum Plus we like to test this by setting up presentations without agendas to both test how you perform, but also how you culturally cope with the concept - the results are always very telling and sometimes rather UGLY.
Here is our advice for Supplier presentations to clients, especially as part of a selection process;
Initial Engagement; make it easy for the client
Be there, wherever it is, whenever it is. If you're invited to a presentation do everything you can to accommodate the clients request. Sounds silly but this early stage is already showing the client how important they are to you. 
Agenda; understand the outcome objectives of the client
Take some time to understand the real outcome objectives of the client, typically these are not provided, if you're lucky an input agenda will be shared. Politely and respectfully ask the client to help you understand their desired outcomes of the session - essential if you're to achieve this right? 
Preparation; how to cover the desired outcomes
Once you know the desired outcomes, spend time mapping the content to those, the best teams will literally check their content off against the outcomes the client put forward. DON'T be tempted to shove a lot of extra stuff on the agenda because it's important to you, you have some flashy slides on it, or you're trying to sell extra stuff - STOP IT we and the clients really hate that - worse it distracts from your other great content. 

Attendees; who should go, less is definitely more 
We've seen presentations where the Supplier brought so many people they couldn't fit in the room! Take only those needed to present the material you have prepared - if they are not going to present, don't take them in.  ALWAYS ask the client if they have any thoughts on number of attendees, if they tell you, listen, it's really bad if you then turn up with 'just a few more, they won't mind' - we do - if you're not listening now, why will you listen later? 
In person or on the phone?; always in person 
If you have the choice, always attend in person, missing the chance to read body language is a missed opportunity. Try not to have people on the phone if you are in the room, not always avoidable but it's always in the back of our minds we're not important enough that the person wants to be here...  
Of course, if you need global teams to join we get it, in this case set up video conference so the people have a face, they should equally know their role in the presentation and participate - not just sit in silence, otherwise what's the point? Make sure you've agreed up front how they will contribute, when and how it's ok to input, nothing worse than people talking over each other with time lag... definitely UGLY....
Logistics; preparation, planning and perfection 
This is your chance to shine, the best presentations are simple, achieve the outcomes and are fuss free;

  • Check the location, are you sure you know where it is? 
  • Check what equipment is in the room including the technology - have you got the right kit, if you are hosting, does it work - test it!
  • If you are using slides, do they work effectively - take out any automation - especially from slide to slide - although its quite funny watching someone trying to keep on one slide its also not a good look for you.
  • How are you prepared for technology malfunction - do you have your slides on a USB as well as your and a colleagues laptop? Do you have enabled USB to cope with USB dongle connectors (yes we have seen a supplier turn up without this ability between them!)

We've seen very good companies take 45 minutes out of their slot just to get the slides on the screen, this not only gives a really poor impression of you but crashes your available time with the client and is easily avoided, definitely BAD. 
Timing; overrunning is not acceptable 
The best presentations cover the content, meet the desired outcomes and FINISH ON TIME. Don't underestimate the power (and difficulty) of achieving these three things. It says something about you if you don't keep to time, but MUCH WORSE you will end up rushing or missing content, in a competitive situation this will mean loosing marks and could cost you the bid - just for the sake of preparation and timing.

Remember if your presentation is interesting, your client will want to ask questions, you have to allow time for that - we suggest half content, half time for questions if you can.

Set out your content in agenda format, allocate realistic time slots, check these are realistic, have someone else check their realistic... never publish these on the agenda it makes the agenda look busy and we start to time keep for you, we don't want your stress of keeping to time or to judge you because you ran over 2 minutes.

Allow time for breaks, the human brain can only really concentrate for 45 minutes at a time, if your meeting is longer than an hour allow at least one break of 10 minutes (people always take 15), the smokers will be very grateful. We have seen suppliers plan for four hours with no breaks, really?! 
Someone in the room is chair and keeps time (see appointing a chair). 
Appointing a chair; someone has to take responsibility 
This has to be one of the most critical steps you can take, who is responsible for making sure it all goes smoothly, is in charge of time keeping and achieving the desired outcomes?  It allows everyone else to focus on their content, and to be managed if they go astray or over run. 
We find it very reassuring and much less stressful if this person is in the room, moreover it gives the impression of professionalism and that you're competent. Don't make the client's advisor step in on this front - that is really UGLY.
HOWEVER,  we have seen examples of suppliers trying to use this approach, then others on their team ignoring them - is is BAD. Agree the rules up front and threaten certain death to those that disobey. 
On the day; attention to detail and precision 
OK, it goes without saying you should be early, not on time or late. Look professional (what's the dress code where you are presenting? - if it's smart/casual don't all wear suits - scares the horses and shows cultural misalignment).
Think about where you sit, if there is a screen let the client sit nearest so they can see (mentally ask yourself if everyone can see - if not fix it by inviting them to move - considerate - GOOD). Try to arrange access to the space at least half an hour before. Ideally you want to be set up and ready and waiting to start when your time starts.

Check in with the client first about their desired outcomes, are they still the same, is there anything else they want to get out of it? Be ready to adapt - there's nearly always something you hadn't planned on covering so assume this for your timing, and allow time at the end to check if you covered anything - generate questions at the end by stepping through the desired outcomes at the end - this is a great way of recapping and showing how brilliant you've been at meeting the clients needs so it's the last thing they walk away with. Definitely GOOD!


  • Ask them when they want a break, when is convenient? Share what you'd planned - is it OK for them (showing your considerate side once again).
  • Chair the timing - do not allow overrun - just don't. 
  • Leave the client with a copy of your presentation on a USB and in paper format, something physical with your name on it sitting on their desk never hurts eh? 
  • If you are going to do the handing out of business cards thing, don't make it clunky where everyone falls over each other doing it and it takes lots of time... UGLY. 

Delivering the content - watch the body language
If your client has stopped looking at the screen and is doing their email something is wrong, fix it!
Ask them a question to get their attention back to you. The chair should watch out for this and if they step in - presenters must get the hint, agree that between yourselves up front.
The chair needs to watch body language, call a break if everyone is looking tired - they're not listening anyway... maybe they already sat through 6 hours of presentations that day.
Try to listen through the clients ears, if your presentation is unclear or a bit dull it will be both those things to you - do something about it there and then. 
After the presentation - It doesn't stop when you walk out the door!
To make the good impression last - without harassing the client (and if your presentation was good it won't be seen as harassment anyway) its always nice when the supplier touches base afterward for feedback and to see if there is anything else the client needs/wants to follow up on. 

If you took notes or actions during the presentation its good to share these with the client (especially if they promised to do stuff for you!).

How good, bad, or ugly are you?

So these are our tips to be good, not bad or ugly when presenting to your clients and advisors, it sounds simple, but then the simplest things are often the hardest. We work all the time with clients and suppliers during this process and we want the best for you both. If you've read this and thought - yep we might be a bit ugly, we can help you be gorgeous and deliver great results with some training or support.