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How to impress with your RFP presentation

How to impress with your RFP presentation

The RFP presentation is a make-or-break element of the vendor selection process. Learn how to really impress and win the business!

Category: Tag: Sales enablement support

How to impress with your RFP presentation

How to impress with your RFP presentation

You just got the word ⁠— you made it to the shortlist. You’re ready to celebrate your new status as a finalist when you suddenly remember the RFP presentation. If the thought of it makes your mind race and your stomach drop, you’re not alone. 

The RFP presentation, sometimes called the oral proposal presentation or RFP finalist presentation, is a live presentation of your proposal. It’s a make-or-break element of vendor selection that can solidify your position and seal the deal. On the other hand, if it goes poorly, the RFP presentation could blow your lead.

This blog will explore what you need to know about RFP presentations, tips to help you prepare and common RFP interview questions.

What you need to know about RFP presentations

After completing a lengthy RFP and evaluation process, you might wonder why a business would need to conduct RFP presentations. What more could they possibly need to know? While holding RFP interviews of shortlisted suppliers isn’t universal, it’s essential for some projects. For instance, in government, creative, construction, technology and other large-scale projects, the RFP presentation is the last step of the evaluation process.

What they’re looking to learn from the RFP interview

The RFP process is designed to help businesses select the right partner. In some cases, written answers can’t paint the full picture of what a vendor or supplier can offer. In addition, for long-term partnerships that result in close working relationships, some intangible elements are also important.

The RFP interview can reveal:

Team chemistry
How well do your key players communicate with one another and work together?

Experience and expertise
Can your subject matter experts answer in-depth questions from key stakeholders?

Culture fit
Do your companies value the same things? Will you be able to work well together?

Commitment and passion
How much does earning the business mean to you? Are you prepared and enthusiastic?

Types of RFP presentations

Preplanned or on-demand RFP oral presentations

When it comes to the RFP process, oral presentations are either planned or requested only if required. If the presentation step is a standard part of the customer’s RFP process, the original RFP should clearly outline the RFP presentation timeframe and expectations. 

For example, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange issued guidelines for RFP presentations with their RFP. The guidelines offer specific topics and scenarios that the presentation should cover. In addition, it notes how the presentations will be scored. 

Check the example out here: Maryland Health Benefit Exchange RFP presentation guidelines

Alternatively, the customer may request ad hoc presentations if the RFP evaluation and scoring doesn’t produce a clear winner. These on-demand presentations are less common, but do happen from time to time as a tiebreaker ⁠— so be prepared.

RFP presentations in person or via video conference

When you’re asked to create an RFP presentation, it will either be in person or via video conference. Due to the growing availability, popularity and affordability of high-quality video conferencing, traditional in-person presentations are becoming less common. Though some businesses will still invite in-person presentations for large-scale, strategic projects. Regardless of what form the RFP presentation takes, it is key to make a human connection.

5 tips to prepare your RFP presentation

1. Start by asking the right questions

As soon as you’ve been notified that you’re a finalist, it’s time to prepare. Before you start though, you’ll want to gather some key information. Reach out to the RFP contact and ask these questions. 

  • What are the top reasons why you were selected as a finalist?
  • Are there any specific concerns or scenarios the customer would like to be addressed in the RFP presentation?
  • Which stakeholders from the customer’s business will be a part of the presentation audience?
  • Which of your competitors also made the shortlist?
  • How long will each presentation be and how will they be scored?
  • What is the timeline and process after the final presentations?

2. Have a leader, but be a team

Whether you present in person or via video, having a primary point of contact is wise. This should be the person with the most knowledge of the customer’s needs. Generally, they should provide the bulk of the presentation.

After the presentation, there will likely be an interview portion. This is where your team can really shine. Invite subject matter experts and team leaders to answer these questions. Not only will the client appreciate hearing directly from the experts, but it also allows you to showcase your team. In addition, consider including others that will work closely with the customer like an account manager or customer success manager.

One of the benefits of bringing additional team members to the presentation is improving your chances of sparking a connection with the evaluators. Mark Denton, Founder and Principal at Content & Context, a brand and communications marketing firm advises:

“Every client team is made up of different personalities, and you never know who from your office might have a communication style, personal background, or sense of humor that resonates with one of the decision-makers. Bringing more people to the table increases your chances for scoring big on these intangible factors.”

3. Practice keeping your talking points customer-centric

In the same way that the RFP cover letter, executive summary and proposal focus on the customer, so too should your RFP presentation. Talking about yourself and your own goals is an easy habit to fall into, but resist! Remember to put the customer’s needs, concerns and goals at the center of your presentation.

As you prepare, consider:

  • How do your differentiators make you a good match for the customer?
  • What unique experiences give you insight into how to help them achieve their goals?
  • Why should the customer care? What benefit will they see?

Practice delivering your oral proposal presentation to your team. Have members of your team play the role of the customer and ask, “So what?” 

4. Build trust and don’t guess

When you consider what a customer is trying to learn from RFP interviews, it really comes down to one thing ⁠— trust. As a finalist, you know you’ve said the right things and now you have the opportunity to show the customer why they should believe in your business. 

In a LinkedIn post, Kyle Majchrowski, a construction project executive who has sat through many RFP presentations recounts the most memorable. The story features a construction superintendent who relays an anecdote about accidentally setting fire to a site. Admittedly, this story isn’t something you’d normally volunteer during an interview. However, the man managed to use it to impart a lesson learned, relay a commitment to the customer and build trust. Majchrowski summarizes saying:

“The young man owned his mistake. He displayed vulnerability in front of a prospective client. He also, without a prompt, told us what he learned and how he has applied it since. Fourth – he earned our trust.”

As the customer begins asking questions, be open and honest. If you don’t have an answer at hand, don’t guess. Certainly, you don’t want to undo the trust you’re working to build with a poorly timed, incorrect answer. Just let the customer know that you’ll get back to them. Better yet, let them know who on your team has the answer and offer to connect them directly for an in-depth talk on the subject.

5. Outline next steps and follow up promptly

In your presentation, include information about what comes next in the process. Generally, if you can help your customer imagine themselves working with you, it makes them much more likely to want to. Consequently, it’s a good idea to outline what the customer’s next steps are, who they will work with and how quickly they will see value.

Also, remember to follow up with any additional information that was requested promptly. Ideally, you should get back to them within 24 hours. If you can’t have a definite answer that quickly, send a note restating their question and letting them know that you’re working to get the most complete and accurate answer possible.

Common RFP interview questions

You may find that the RFP interview asks fairly common vendor questions. Alternatively, they may ask questions as they come up throughout. Either way, this list of RFP interview questions will help you be prepared for whatever comes. 

  • Why are you interested in working with us?
  • What is your biggest differentiator? Why are you better than the competition?
  • How will you provide us with superior service and ensure we meet our goals?
  • What previous experience do you have with a similar company? What did you most enjoy about that project?
  • Who will we work most closely with?
  • What will you need from us to be successful?
  • How much of your service and process is outsourced to other parties?
  • Tell us about a time you made a mistake.
  • What process is in place to resolve challenges?
  • How do you determine success?

When it comes to the RFP presentation, it’s important to remember that the end is in sight. With the right preparation you will be well on your way to winning the business. And of course, Responsive RFP software makes collaborating with SMEs and creating presentations easier than ever.

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

“I don’t get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield

At RFPIO, we often say that proposal managers are the unsung heroes of their organizations. Proposal teams spend hours, weeks, and even months crafting perfect responses, yet who gets credit for the wins?

In siloed organizations, both proposal and sales teams have vital roles to play in the response process, but it’s often the sales team that gets credit for sealing the deal. Why is that? How can proposal managers prove their worth in a siloed organization? Can sales and proposal teams set their rivalries aside and recognize that their goals are not just aligned, but identical?

Don’t get me wrong; I would never throw shade at sales teams. They’re critical to any business, including ours. However, if an organization regularly receives RFPs, RFIs, RFQs, or RFTs, a dedicated proposal team with a professional proposal manager frees sales teams to make more contacts and close more deals. In other words, everybody wins.

Still, like the late, great, Rodney Dangerfield, proposal managers often don’t get a lot of respect. Oftentimes, their ideas are dismissed as uninformed or out of touch, if they even get a seat at the table – after all, it’s sales who has their collective ear to the ground.

Maybe, but a good proposal manager is a fountain of knowledge. In many cases, they know more about their company than the founders. Additionally, the RFPs themselves offer essential insights into customers’ priorities and pain points that sales may not be aware of.

So, now that you know how valuable you are, how can you convince the rest of your company? What role does a proposal manager play in their organization?

In my upcoming May 19th webinar, I will talk about the steps you can take to prove your worth. In this blog post, I’ll outline some of the challenges the proposal managers we work with face, and I will give you an email template with the information your boss needs to see to validate your position.

Are proposal managers part of the sales team?

The short answer to whether proposal managers are part of the sales team is, maybe. The longer answer is that it typically depends on the size and structure of their company. In most small and medium-sized organizations, proposal managers answer directly to the director of sales, business development, or marketing.

In larger organizations or enterprise companies, the proposal manager could be part of revenue management or finance.

Do you feel like you’re pushing boulders by yourself?

We’ve all heard the story of Sisyphus, the ancient Greek king, who, as the legend goes, was punished by Zeus for cheating death. The punishment was to push an immense boulder up a hill, only each time, the boulder rolled back down the hill right before Sisyphus reached the top.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to Sisyphus. While your boulder is metaphorical, it’s every bit as frustrating when you’re trying to do the heavy lifting but you aren’t getting the support you need.

When sales hands the RFP off to proposal management, all too often, they wash their hands of it. Sales, however, should remain part of the process. Perhaps a salesperson or pre-salesperson was the catalyst for the RFP – in that case, they’re a subject matter expert on the customer.

Sales should also help craft the proposal, and ensure that all the customers’ priorities are met before submitting the final bid.

How to bring sales and proposal management together

In too many cases, sales teams forget about RFPs the second they are handed off to their proposal management team. But isn’t sales as vested in the outcome as anyone? A win for the proposal team is a win for the sales team, and vice versa.

I will get into more detail in the webinar, but fostering communication and de-siloing the sales and proposal management teams will help create more wins for the teams and the company as a whole.

How to convince leadership to keep you in the loop

Communication is the cornerstone of response management processes. As a repository for a company’s past and current content, RFPIO’s Content Library can automatically generate answers for up to 80% of an RFP’s queries.

But what about the future? Perhaps there’s an exciting new acquisition that would make your company more appealing to the customer, or maybe the company is downsizing and can’t deliver on the requirements.

Perhaps there is something that is a bit less newsworthy but still impacts the response to an RFP. For example, the company might have switched vendors, affecting the costs. Let’s go with an example that isn’t so hypothetical: The worldwide supply chain crisis could potentially affect every aspect of an RFP, yet if a response manager doesn’t know how the company is addressing supply chain issues, it’s nearly impossible to formulate an accurate response.

And it’s tough to imagine that the sales team wouldn’t want to be part of the pricing discussion. Additionally, proposal managers need reports on their teams’ efforts as much as sales managers do.

If you aren’t quite sure how to convince the sales manager to invite you to sales meetings, here is an email template that has worked for several of our customers:

Hi {boss name},

I’m writing to request an invitation to the sales team’s weekly sales huddles and pipeline meetings. 

As the proposal manager, I’m responsible for crafting a compelling proposal that solves our clients’ problems. The sooner I’m clued into the status of open opportunities, the sooner I can start researching our client—and the more compelling proposal I can write.

To put a number on this:

      • Total dollar value of proposals won in [last year]:
      • Total dollar value of proposals lost in [last year]:

By joining sales conversations early on, I’m confident I can increase our proposal win rate—and help push deals deeper into the sales cycle.

Looking forward to seeing you in the first meeting!


Your Name

If you are feeling left out of the conversation, join me on May 19, 2022, as we discuss challenges and methods for bringing the proposal team back into the fold.

How to manage a sales team with a mindful approach

How to manage a sales team with a mindful approach

A lot of salespeople we talk to are moonlighting as RFP responders. These classically urgent tasks are thrown on top of everything else your sales team is already doing. Pretty soon you’re staring at a serious case of burnout.

After surveying 7,500 employees, Gallup uncovered the top five reasons for burnout in the workplace:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

Since your sales team is moonlighting as an RFP responder, you may have heard statements and questions that align with these burnout triggers.

  1. You didn’t tell me how to do this unmanageable workload.
  2. Hey, this is more than I can handle.
  3. I had no idea I would be responding to RFPs when I took this job.
  4. I’ve made suggestions to change our process, but nobody is listening to me.
  5. This RFP needs to be done in two weeks and I can’t get to it.

RFPs still need to get done on top of all of your sales team members’ responsibilities. So, how do you manage expectations and help your team succeed? By being more mindful as you change your sales leadership approach.

1. Manage expectations upfront

It starts before your salesperson even gets hired. This team candidate already has an impression of your organization, based on Glassdoor reviews or word-of-mouth. Their first impression of your organization is out of your control. But, the interview process is where you take control.

Interviews are an opportunity to manage expectations upfront, so the candidate knows exactly what you are hiring them to do. You will encounter people who are overqualified and underqualified for the position you are hiring for.

Be honest about that person’s qualifications during the interview. If they are overqualified, tell them that, and discuss how they will be better suited for another role when the right opportunity comes up. You will eliminate some of the churns and “burnouts” by making the conversation about the working relationship clear before they sign a contract and join your team.

2. Communicate and coach regularly

Burnout is influenced by your sales leadership style. There needs to be a certain amount of authentic interactions with each individual every day. Even if you have an open floor plan where everyone is in plain sight, give everyone a “touch” (i.e. a one-on-one check-in) on a daily basis. Otherwise, communication will slip through the cracks.

When you walk by one of your team member’s desks—assuming they are not on a call—stop and chat with them for a bit. We’re all busy, and it’s surprisingly easy to let simple communication opportunities pass us by. If you’re starting to lose someone, regular personal interactions might be the tipping point that wins them back.

Also establish a regular coaching rhythm, whether that’s once a week, every other week, or once a month. Having these coaching sessions will yield higher performance from your sales team, as long as you stay committed and consistent.

Your attention is undoubtedly being pulled in different directions…sometimes even polar opposites. If your team doesn’t receive the attention they expect from you, they will replace your influence with something or someone else.

Schedule regular one-on-ones and stick to that schedule. Avoid rescheduling these one-on-one meetings as your team will feel like you do not prioritize them. Plan on running through a list of five bullet points during each meeting. Prep beforehand, so your team member receives the undivided attention they deserve.

3. Equip your team with the best tools

When you step into your new leadership role at an organization, you inherit a set of sales enablement tools. You may like them, you may not. Your team will feel the exact same way.

The symbiotic relationship between you and your team starts with asking a question aloud: Which sales enablement tools do we really need? Follow that up with: And, why do we really need these tools?

Don’t fall into the “set it and forget it” mentality. Check in with your team to make sure the current tool/tech stack is getting the job done well.

Another thing to look at is technology consolidation. The software market continues to expand and evolve. Can you simplify your stack with a more robust solution?

Look at the sales initiatives you have planned for the year so you understand what your team needs. During this process, you will identify inefficiencies among your current tool stack and hear relevant feedback from your team.

Perhaps RFP responders are using 5-7 different tools (with most of them being workarounds). In this case, eliminate and consolidate into a data-driven RFP management solution that truly supports your team and your organization’s initiatives.

4. Work out your mission

We are all fortunate to live in a time of great abundance, but that abundance comes with drawbacks…like distractions.

As a sales leader, you face infinite distractions. There are many inputs fighting for your time, pulling you in different directions. If you’re struggling to stay focused on your goals, it’s worth listening to what Charles Wagner said in The Simple Life.

“By dint of action, and extracting from himself strict account of his deeds, man arrives at a better knowledge of life. Its law appears to him, and the law is this: Work out your mission.”

Keep in mind that Wagner published The Simple Life back in 1895, so when he talks about “man” he means “everyone.”

Working out your mission is about your personal mission…not your organization’s mission. What gets you out of bed each morning? What are you working toward? To become an effective sales leader who leads others to success, you have to know your why.

It all comes back to the expectations you set with your sales team upfront, before they ever join your team and step foot in the office. From there, it’s about supporting and equipping team members with consistent, personalized communication. Through it all, you need to work out your mission and stay true to it. Then, you will find success and so will your team.

Equip your sales team with the best RFP management solution. See how RFPIO aligns with your sales initiatives.

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