Business Development - Making a Good Tender Presentation

Making a Good Tender Presentation
Getting to tender presentation stage is a big achievement. You should feel reassured that the
customer is interested in what you have to offer, but also realistic about the task ahead. A good
face-to-face presentation should be a lot like your written one: clear, relevant and focused on
your customer’s needs.
But meeting your customer face-to-face gives you a chance to do what paper can’t – to interact
with your client and prove to them you are the sort of responsive, intelligent company they
would welcome working with long-term.
There’s a lot at stake, but a huge amount to gain – so effort spent on getting your presentation
right is one of the best investments you’ll make.
The pre-tender meeting
The most successful bidders start to build their lead right from the start. That means using every
opportunity to meet your customer face-to-face. Handled wisely, the pre-tender meeting can
offer a valuable early chance to raise your profile and market your brand and expertise.
Pre-tender meetings can be large affairs where you’ll share the floor with several fellow
tenderers. It’s a time when you can gain useful insights into the customer’s thinking and get a
feel for the competition. To get the most out of the meeting it’s a good idea to:
Choose a good position in the room. Not too close to the client – the tender panel will want
to maintain a visible sense of fairness and may feel uncomfortable about focusing on the
company closest to them.
Prepare questions which demonstrate your company’s expertise – keep them concise and
relevant, and if possible, drop in a small detail or example which shows you are skilled in
that area.
Stand up to ask your question if the room is crowded and always introduce your company
and yourself clearly at the start.
Take along another person to make notes and capture any valuable information which may
improve your final bid. If you are looking for the right opportunity to speak, it’s often difficult
to take in everyone else’s comments.
The formal interview
Your formal interview presentation is a crucial stage in the tendering process and it’s normal,
even useful, to feel some degree of pressure. The ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ approach isn’t
likely to work here and successful bidders know that the three ‘Ps’ – plan, practise and perform
– are the only routes to a winning presentation. Seeking a shortcut at this stage can cost
It sounds obvious, but don’t neglect the basics such as confirming the date, time and venue of
your interview, as well as the amount of time you will have for your presentation on the day. And
remember to allow a generous amount of travel time in case of unexpected delays.
When it comes to planning your presentation, instead of asking yourself what you want to say,
ask yourself: ‘What do I want my audience to know?’
Capture this in 2-4 key points and build from there.
Avoid simply repeating your tender – the panel will be looking for new information and
convincing reasons to choose you as their supplier.
Stick to everyday language. You may need to use some acronyms and technical references,
but steer clear of weary buzz phrases like ‘deliverables’ and ‘core objectives’.
It could be a long day for the panel, so help them to stay awake! Use examples and instances
wherever you can. Even localise them to your client. You could say: ‘….so that’s a potential
weekly output of 15 million radial bearings’ and add ‘enough to fill the Leeds International
Swimming Pool five times over’. Quotes and humour are fine – but only if you’re sure these
aren’t likely to offend.
Always build in sufficient time for questions at the end of your presentation and even be
prepared with a shorter version in case the client tells you they are over-running and need to
make up time.
Think carefully too about who to take along with you - everyone should have a clear role to play.
If you do need to take experts to answer specialised questions rather than to present, tell your
client this at the start so they don’t think you’ve brought along a wallflower, or worse still, that
your staff have time to waste.
Be ruthless about your visual aids – a sophisticated electronic presentation may appear slick,
but there is a risk of technology failure or incompatibility, even if you have checked in advance
that the interview room should be able to support your requirements. Make sure you have a flip
chart or access to a whiteboard, as a back up.
Take printed handouts of your slides to give out – at the end so the panel doesn’t start reading
while you are speaking.
Along with planning, rehearsal is the other secret to smoother, more convincing presentations –
not to mention calmer nerves all round on the day. If you do have a chance to rehearse at the
client’s premises, take it. Not only will you be able to troubleshoot any problems (do you need a
longer power cable to reach the power source for instance?), but familiarity with the venue will
make you more relaxed come interview day.
Time each run-through two or three times to make sure everyone can make their points within
the right timescales. Make sure too that all your team is well rehearsed – not just you.
Often the biggest problem in delivering a good presentation performance is nerves. The key is
to accept them – they’re all part of our natural ‘fight or flight’ responses. If you expect them, you
can be ready with coping strategies that work for you.
Dealing with nerves is mainly about technique and this needs to be practised little and often.
There’s a world of self-help literature available, most easily through the web, and you can
explore these for more detailed help. But some top pointers include:
Practising using your diaphragm (the muscle under your lungs) to breathe, not your upper
chest. This has a calming effect as well as firming up your voice.
Spending a little time each day exaggerating your lip movements when you talk (do this
alone if you like!). It’s a useful tone-up for the mouth muscles.
Think about your posture – keeping your head, shoulders and body aligned in a relaxed but
straight position. Drop your shoulders a little and use your diaphragm for breathing.
Even before you take to the floor, your ‘performance’ has begun. Greet the panel with a smile
and an outstretched hand. Make eye contact with each one when you introduce yourself and
your team – let your eyes linger for a moment making each individual feel appreciated and
Good eye contact is also crucial as you deliver your pitch:
While you are settling into your presentation, it can be useful to make early eye contact with
someone on the panel who is giving reassuring nods to what you are saying – this boosts
your confidence.
Be inclusive. Use eye contact to engage everyone in what you’re saying. Even the most
junior looking person on the panel could be influential in the final decision.
Avoid the usual body language pitfalls – such as folded arms, or burying your hands in your
pockets. Studies claim as much as 90% of all communication has nothing to do with
Don’t give your audience a licence to turn off. Vary your voice, introduce different tones and use
brief pauses to change the pace. More confident speakers sometimes introduce simple
involvement techniques such as asking the panel to vote. Remember if you make a mistake
correct it quickly and move on. Don’t hope that no one has noticed, because someone always
A good pitch is about listening as well as speaking – so remember to pay close attention to
questions and ask the panel member if you’ve answered their question fully before moving on.
Look interested when your team members are presenting – even if you’ve heard their part a
dozen times before.
And finally… smile, thank all the panel and don’t be afraid to end on a positive note – for
instance by saying how much you’d value the contract if you were successful.
The negotiation meeting
With complex bids, post-tender negotiations may be necessary and performing well here is
again about planning your proposals and being able to communicate them effectively and
persuasively. All of the techniques you used in your presentation will apply, but ultimately,
success at this stage will also depend on:
Doing your groundwork – think about the genuine interests of your company and your
customer, what’s your common ground?
Being ready with proposals and options which reflect these shared interests – prepare more
than you think you’ll need so you can be flexible on the day.
Role playing possible scenarios so you can have your ideas challenged and be ready for
difficult questions. Try to use someone outside your tender team for this to give a fresh
Preparing your proposals in writing – if the decision makers can’t be at the negotiation
meeting, they’ll have a clear and accurate summary of your ideas to hand.
Follow-up and debrief
Appearing keen but not pushy is a delicate balance but it’s perfectly reasonable to contact your
customer a few days after the presentation to ask if they need any more information.
If you’ve promised more information at your presentation - keep your word and get this to the
client as promptly as possible. It can be a good idea to build up a portfolio of some of the most
commonly asked-for information on your website - where it’s instantly accessible.
Be proactive about asking for a debrief from your client. There’s no better way of strengthening
your next pitch performance. Set up an internal debrief with your team to assess your strengths
and weaknesses. For both sessions, it’s a good idea to use a checklist so you can cover all the
important areas and use this as a benchmark for measuring improvements later on. It could
cover quality and relevance of information; effectiveness of speakers; clarity of visual aids and
so on.
Even if you’re not successful, contact your client after a few months to maintain your profile and
identify any new opportunities which may have arisen in the meantime.
Remember, to make a successful pitch you don’t have to be a perfect presenter, just a good
one. Bear in mind that no one is likely to be as critical of you or your performance as yourself.
You’ve got through to presentation stage because the client wants to hear what you have to
say, and they are human beings too. Most of them will have stood in your shoes and be glad on
this occasion that it’s not them on the hot spot. Prepare thoroughly, learn from mistakes and
work as a team.
Acknowledgment: This information has been supplied by Business Link. For more information