If you’ve ever prepared for an RFP, you’ll understand the frustration that comes along with it. Prospect companies’ often request for pitches from numerous agencies to shop around for ideas, shortlist the best value-for-money firms and eventually award the contract to a lone winner. It’s a quick-and-dirty way to pick the best vendor with the most value efficiently.
Here are five elements of a winning RFP presentation, to help you when preparing for an RFP or bidding for projects sized $20,000 to $500,000 on ThunderQuote, as well as other platforms like Sesami or GeBIZ.
In our experience, past presentation design and presentation training clients that participate in these exercises sometimes spend close to 3 months compiling ideas, eliciting feedback and providing face-time only to emerge with very little to show for if they don’t win the RFP. If you’re going to participate in a RFP anyway, it pays to be strategic with your approach.
Preparing for a RFP typically requires two important parts for consideration:
- A written proposal
- A live presentation to relevant stakeholders.
Firms are typically adept at preparing written proposals. Problem is, they make the mistake of developing their presentations the same way they’d put together a detailed proposal – both made for very different purposes.
Written proposals are meant to inform and detail the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of your offerings (i.e. Capabilities of your company, services provided etc.) so that prospects understand in detail, while presentations are meant to communicate the ‘why’ and sell them the solution.
If you’d like to increase your chances of winning an RFP, you’ll have to start developing your presentations to be more persuasive rather than informative – you already have a proposal for that.
- Highlight Benefits, Not Features
You could say this is something that’s fundamental in trying to sell anything. Yet, firms often get carried away in showcasing capabilities during the presentation and the result is a never-ending list of bullets of self-praise.
What firms need to do is to call attention to how they can help their prospective client get the result they’re after.
Instead of saying:
We provide service #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5
Based on your firm’s needs, we’d recommend service #1 and #3, which will help you accomplish XYZ and ABC
- Effective and Impactful Visual Aids
It goes without saying that we judge people and companies by appearances. Overhauling that dated template from the 90s can do wonders to boost your company’s credibility.
Using a simple 3-part guideline you can improve your existing presentation slides: Clear – Contrast – Consistency
Remove anything extraneous that you can elaborate on with speech and keep it brief. Your audience can read for themselves what’s on the slide on their own, it’s your job to explain.
Decide where the focus on the slide should be and respect hierarchy of headings. Is it on a specific word or image that you want to draw their attention to drive your message home? Make sure it’s visually clear.
Use the same colors and keep text aligned. Avoid using presentation visual aids as a crutch when it’s meant to help you communicate better.
Or if you decide you’d like it done professionally, look for a reputable presentation design company or freelancer with a good track record.
- Clear Differentiation
Most of the time, you’ll be up against 4-5 other industry competitors when putting together an RFP. You may also face an incumbent firm.
In industries where offerings are usually homogenous and the nuances are not well understood by the prospect (e.g. Relocation), it becomes exceptionally difficult to stand out.
If you play the game of ‘who has more features’, you might lose out to a bigger competitor. Instead, what you want to do is play to your strengths and highlights the main benefits of picking your firm that adds value to your prospect.
Instead of saying:
We provide service #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5
We specialize in providing service XYZ for <insert industry> companies just like yours with our proprietary XYZ method.
After all, you don’t need to win every pitch, only the ones with the clients you can serve best.
- Social Proof and Case Studies
Naturally if you’re pitching your company to a prospect, you’ll want to paint the perfect picture. Some even go as far as to sneak in some superlatives (we’re the BEST in this). It’s great if you’re passionate about your work and firmly believe in the value you provide, but not everyone is going to buy into your brand as easily.
Instead of tooting your own horn, why not let your customers do it for you? Customer success stories and testimonials add legitimacy to your claims and let your prospect live vicariously through your customers’ experiences.
Prospects want to know that they won’t be taking a gamble with their careers by picking your firm. If you have a track record of delivering exceptional results for similar companies, they’ll be more at ease with you as their choice.
Have you served clients similar to your RFP prospect in the past? Did they say nice things about your company? If so, your live presentation is a good time to start sharing these positive customer stories and case study examples.
- A Well-constructed Solution
Remember what you’re pitching for. This isn’t show-and-tell for companies but a session for you to convince your prospect that you’re the best vendor to solve their existing problems.
Firms often use a standard presentation template that showcases their capabilities, but few go the extra mile to put together and sell a customized solution along with an action plan or timeline.
Leave no doubt at the end of your presentation by including action-steps that will be taken once they select you as a vendor. This way, you’ll communicate that you’ve done your due diligence and have a plan to deliver on the contract.
Something as simple as a timeline for execution can work wonders to imply your firm’s reliability and pro-activeness in servicing your clients.
There you have it, 5 actionable enhancements you can make to your next RFP Presentation with material you might already have within your company’s collateral.
Can you name more elements in successful RFP Presentations?
Eugene Cheng is Creative Lead at HighSpark a strategic presentation training and consulting company serving Fortune 500 companies like Panasonic, Dentsu, Nike. A self-confessed presentation obsessive, he relishes in building compelling visual content for his agency’s channel and his personal channel on SlideShare and is also a Keynote Author (top 1% of SlideShare).
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