I’ve been on both sides of them. Trying to win immediate or future new business by impressing a prospective client, or evaluating vendors who are on the other side of the table.
This week one of my (pharma) clients asked a great couple of questions about these presentations. Because my response will be a bit involved, and because I’d like your input as well, I thought I’d just turn it into a blog post.
What has been your experience with vendor capability presentations? I am really interested in your perspective about the “standard”. Do you see this as a pure review of competencies or should there be an element of “sales and salesmanship” associated?
What I have seen is that, quite often, expectations are not clearly spelled out – so vendors are left to guess (a bit too much, usually) about what they should be presenting. I’m going to put the onus to improve this situation mainly on the client side; but vendors should not be shy about trying to lay the groundwork upfront as well.
Here are the questions I think you should answer for yourself, before reaching out to vendors for a presentation:
- 1. Is this presentation for a specific near-term definable project, or are we looking (in general) to add to our suite of potential providers for future projects?
- 2. What are the top three things we are looking for in a short-term or down-the-road provider? What are the next three things that matter most?
- 3. What are “showstoppers” that would eliminate a potential provider from contention? Can we find out that information up-front, before everyone invests a lot of time and effort into a face-to-face presentation that is a lost cause?
- 4. Can we screen for a smaller pool of potential providers by having a series of on-line presentations that will cover the basics?
- 5. If there is a specific project on the table, and you are looking for a short-term provider for that project;
- – have you created an RFP to clearly spell out the parameters for the project? (see this tab on the Impactiviti site for resources on RFP creation)
– is the capabilities presentation a follow-on to a submitted proposal?
– in the presentation, what are you mainly looking for? General company overview? Re-cap and explanation of proposal? Creativity of provider? Consultative discussion? Price negotiations? Company culture/chemistry? New ideas? Interaction with a full development team? Song and dance and balloons? Actually TELL the prospective providers what you want to see and do in the meeting, and structure an agenda that maps to your plan.
– consider creating a “scorecard” for your (client) team so that everyone is evaluating similar specific capabilities, as well as giving more general, subjective opinions.
I do recognize that there are different “standards” in different industries or divisions. In pharma, for instance, capabilities presentations for Training tend to be more cerebral and factual, while in Marketing there is generally more flash and glitter. I’d like to see training providers amp up the creativity a bit, frankly – some of the capabilities I’ve had to sit through were snoozefests. All of it is a form of “selling”, of course – but I find that the consultative approach, by and large, is far more effective than the hard sell when doing these types of presentations (ask me sometime about the unorthodox consultative “capabilities presentation” I decided to do one day!)
Be aware that it is quite costly, in time and dollars, for vendors to come on-site for capabilities presentations; and it is an investment of your (client) time as well. Take every step possible to make sure that only well-matched vendors are brought in for live presentations, with clear expectations and directions given up front. Marching a bunch of vendors through a room who don’t have a clear grasp of the goals of the meeting is a frustrating experience for all involved. The more pro-actively you map out what you’re looking for, the better-targeted the presentations will be.
What have I missed? Add your input in the comments – both client-side and vendor-side!
And, yes, I do consult with pharma/biotech clients on vendor selection strategies and RFP design, if you want to improve your vendor relationship practices!
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Robin Sanders says
Great article Steve and you make some good points. We have found the most effective approach to be a call with the prospective client to understand their specific needs or requirements of a vendor partner before we come in and do the capabilities presentation. This small investment of their time upfront ensures that we can tailor our presentation to meet their specific needs and can maximize the value of the interaction for both parties.
Of course this doesn’t always happen so sometimes the PowerPoint slide deck has to be brought out. In these cases we have worked hard to minimize the number of slides (under 10 is ideal IMHO) and reduce text and maximize visual elements. We are also working on a project to do away with PowerPoint completely. I know this is a bold move but we have some cool digital tools that we’ve developed for our clients that we plan to leverage. The idea is to move away from a static, linear presentation to a highly visual presentation format that organizes and presents relevant capabilities content that is driven by the vendor/customer conversation.
Jeff Tucker says
Our group has a practice of conducting as much upfront research and due diligence as possible before a capabilities presentation or RFP response. This research is a combination of searching through information in the public domain, talking with client resources, and querying our colleagues to see what they might contribute.
It can take a considerable amount of time and financial investment to respond to an RFP so it is imperative that we position ourselves to understand the client, the business issues, required results and how those results will be measured.