CWS 3.0: July 11, 2012


Take Control of Your RFP Presentations

Supplier presentations can be one of the most engaging and rewarding parts of a RFP process. Whether the team is sourcing for a vendor management system (VMS), managed services provider (MSP), independent contractor (IC) compliance service, a payrolling supplier and so forth, meeting the team face-to-face can provide additional insight into whether the supplier can meet your company’s requirements both in terms of ability and a cultural standpoint. However, it is critical to set supplier presentations with a clear and strategic agenda.

It’s very easy (and common) for companies to let suppliers dictate the presentation agenda. It requires less preparation and a work “break” for the team who may feel like they are on the project’s home stretch and ready for a break after gathering the requirements, creating the RFP and scoring all the responses. It’s one of the last legs of the journey to travel before selecting to the finalists. Some companies consider this presentation to be a supplier’s final pitch before the decision is made.

However, companies may miss addressing key requirements and stakeholder questions if the supplier drives the presentation without appropriate direction. The goal of the presentation should be to discuss company questions stemming from the RFP and for the supplier to demonstrate its ability, experience and fit. Presentations that are driven by the client generally keep the conversation geared toward the company’s  needs. This approach also discourages marketing and sales pitch techniques that can take up valuable time. Further, setting the agenda enables the company to ensure that it is providing an even playing field for all suppliers and that the majority of the discussion revolves around what the client considers most important.

Preparing for supplier presentations typically takes approximately one to two days. This process yields great dividends for the client as well as the supplier. The suppliers benefit from understanding the company’s agenda and the structure helps them present their proposal concisely. The client is able to see all the suppliers’ best efforts on the same topics. This allows for easier comparison.

Following is a list of things to consider when putting together a supplier presentation agenda:

  • Review RFP responses for any red flags or stand-out questions or responses
  • Solicit feedback and questions from stakeholders
  • Hold a quick prep meeting to determine agenda topics:
    • Prioritize key requirement areas and determine what order the topic will be addressed during the presentation
    • For each topic, estimate an adequate amount of time for discussion
    • Establish scoring measurement so the team is able to clearly score each supplier and compare/contrast them
    • Assign a person responsible for time management to ensure that all listed topics are discussed
    • Identify specific questions or requirements that all suppliers must address
  • Send all suppliers the agenda ahead-of-time to allow for proper preparation (at least 3-4 days prior, if possible)
  • Request the suppliers provide a list of attendees and titles to ensure that the appropriate people will be attending (i.e. the list should not contain all sales representatives)

Erika Halverson is an associate at Brightfield Strategies LLC (, which helps Fortune 500 companies with contingent workforce strategy initiatives. She can be reached at


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