Some random unrelated thoughts:
1. I suspect that "week later" thing means your analysis is correct: they are the favorite son.
2. If the plant is powerful, you may be toast no matter what you do.
3. Focus on your product's benefits and features, not customer political intrigue.
4. "Proving the inside link" does nothing for you. (Defeating the inside plant would, however.)
5. If I were to put some bait in the presentation, it would be to try to get them to put a lot of emphasis on "outwest doesn't do X and we do." You could then come back an hour after their presentation and say "good news, X and even XX is in our new release, out next week."
Categories: Sales and Distribution
We all know how fun presentations are. I would like to get some feedback on what some of you would do in the following hypothetical situation:
Let's say you've submitted a Proposal to an RFP. It has been narrowed down to you and 2 other vendors. You have some insight that one of the other vendors may have a true champion (aka plant) on the customer's selection committee. Let's call this vendor with the plant Vendor X. All three companies have been asked to perform a presentation of your product. Your company and the other company will be presenting the same day to the customer. Vendor X however has been given the opportunity to present a full week later. This will give vendor X the ability to huddle up with their plant and tweak the presentation.
My question is - What would you do in this scenario? I could think of a few things myself, one would be to intentionally put some bait out to the plant so you could prove the inside link. I'm sure there are other options as well. Please feel free to comment.
Some random unrelated thoughts:
Charles suggestions are what I would do. You can't control all the political stuff, but you can control how you present your product. I would also add testimonials to the presentation or how other customers are using your product and loving it. If you try anything like bait it will probably backfire on you somehow. I also wouldn't criticize the competition. Just highlight areas in your product where you beat them.
As a strategy, you can change the problem. Once that happens, the competition may not be capable of providing the solution. But, you would certainly have to provide the solution.
What are your distinctive differentiators and capabilities?
Recognize that every paradigm has holes or non-linearities. Then, compete on filling the holes. Service firms do this all the time. Since you have a product, it may not be worth your time to do so. Is this customer a sale, or a gateway to a vertical industry, or a meaningful case study. Is the vertical industry large enough to support a product focused for it?
Since you apparently don't like presentations, I'd suggest Weissman's Presenting to Win. Every thing you say must tie back to the WIFFY, What's in it for you (audience member). And, don't put the details in the slides, only the outline. You are the content. And, you want them to listen to you rather than read the slides.
I am not sure if this is a trick question or a typo, but your situation states that:
"All three companies have been asked to perform a presentation of your product. "
If all three companies are presenting YOUR product then you win regardless of what you do! - Back out and let the most politically well aligned take the business....
Now if you meant "all three companies have been asked to perform a presentation of their OWN product", we have a different situation. Can you clarify?
This may or may not pertain to your scenario, but since you appear to be behind the 8 ball maybe a bank shot is called for.
Do you offer your product through a reseller Channel?
What I'm getting at is this ...if you do - and, if you have a local reseller you can add to the presentation team - you may be able to tilt the table to your advantage.
We often find an increased level of confidence and unspoken bias for the home team . I've seen a number of lost deals recovered because the customer liked having somebody with a positive local reputation to maintain, knowing that their money stays "in town", they have multiple product integration skills and can deliver more than this one solution in the future, they live and go to church here, and have not just flown in to look flashy and close "the deal" with city-slicker finesse. Mild exaggeration, but you get the point.:D
If the size of this deal warrants the extra effort, you might want to poke around a bit to see if they already have a "favored local son" and go-a courtin'
Without intending to open the debate of Direct versus Indirect sales advantages, sometimes it just makes sense to buy from someone local, especially when they see the Vendor and their regional partner presenting side-by-side.
Keep us posted...
Ken Beam, The VAR-City -- "Channel Start-Up Specialists since 1995" Phone: 972.240.8793 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A great question: the lack of details combined with the all-too-familiar nature of your circumstance offers all kinds of responses.
A psychology prof of mine once said that the entire world is divided into Spocks and McCoys.
As Mr. Spock, I'd want to know more details about the deal before I decide what to do: How big is it? Where are they in your sales process? (You do have a clearly articulated process, right?) How high in the foodchain is your champion? (You do have a champion, right?) How competitive are you technologicially? And on price? And on service? How far away are they? Do you have other clients to visit in the area? (i.e., can you amortize/excuse the travel costs?) In other words, I need more data, Captain, before I can decide on a plan of action.
Then as Dr. McCoy, I'd want to know how badly you want the deal: Is it an important feather? Will it make a killer case study? Is it an industry you're dying to get into, and can thus forgive a loss leader? And, how badly do you want to beat the other guy? In other words, Jim, do you want this deal so much that it hurts?
If all of the above comes up Yes -- i.e., it makes both logical and emotional sense to go after it -- then I'd pull out all the stops. If you think the other guy is playing games with the schedule, say so: Tell the buyer you have an issue with that much elapsed time, and would prefer the shootout take place in the same corral.
I'd also ask the buyer what I have to do to win. As bluntly as possible, where am I strong and where am I weak? What do they need to see in my presentation to put me on top?
Related to what Ken said, I'd also look for partners in this deal, high and low. Is there a hardware vendor? A consulting firm? Buddy up with them ASAP, and do your presentation with them, if you can, to show that you've thought this thing through. Worst case, they may be able to give you good competitive info.
Another kind of partner could be found in your existing customer list: I once did a presentation in which I spent two minutes in intro, then popped a tape in the VCR, and showed 45 minutes of real customers (ours) talking about real issues (theirs) and how we solved all their woes, saved them bazillions of dollars, walked on water, etc. etc. The video was not professionally done; the main point is that we picked out customers that would resonate in that particular pitch. We then finished up by handing them several presentations from our user conference -- all glowing, of course, with real facts and figures about our advantages. (Yes,we got the deal.)
However, this still gets back to Mr. Spock: Before doing any of this -- even so much as buying a bus ticket -- I'd want to be sure the value is there. If we're only talking about ego -- i.e., you're miffed because you're being treated unfairly and you want to beat the crap out of the other guy -- well, then, you should walk. Number one, there's no profit in ego (unless maybe you're Larry Ellison.) Number two, you don't need customers who play games -- they'll always be a pain.
dave 45000 had it half right... i had this exact scenario happen to me a number of years ago - and ... with careful work you CAN divide from inside!
find out "religious" affiliations in your proposal (unix-wintel); (java-VB) or discover by calling in your network of vendors/insiders.
That key information can help you propose a little more "out of the box", highlighting the religious aspects and getting someone who may be shy about their opinions be a little more vocal in scoring the RFP. Also, ask where the purchasing manager, controller or CFO is in the decision path, sometimes they (by giving you new info) can help you decide if it's even worth it to bid.
cold technology superiority is also excellent! if you can get detail diagnostics or data about the problem space ahead of time, your presentation can have anecdotes inside it that seem eerily like the conversations they are having about the problem.
If insider X is doing $$$ kickbacks, forget your chances totally.