Recently I had a discussion with a customer about scheduling supplier presentations. The question arose as to which supplier should go first, second, last, etc, and how the customer might benefit from the presentation order. You see, many suppliers feel that going last puts them in the most favorable position, as their presentation is the freshest in the mind of evaluators. It also gives them the most time to prepare, and also gauge from their audience (that have been through multiple presentations before theirs) about where they stand by the end of the meeting.

Over the years, I have seen customers use many different methodologies to choose the supplier order. Some give the incumbent preference and allow them to pick their place. Others choose at random (such as drawing names out of a hat) or simply making the order alphabetical.

As a best practice and a general rule of thumb, I try to turn everything into a point of leverage, and supplier order for presentations is no exception. Most times, presentations come at the end of an RFP process – and I can’t count how many times I have had suppliers ask for an RFP extension. One way to tighten up the RFP timeline is to allow suppliers to pick their order in presentations based on when their proposal is submitted. For example, the first RFP received gets first dibs at choosing their time to present, given a fixed list of potential times. Using this methodology, the supplier that submits the last RFP submitted would get the least preferential time period, which I would argue, is second.

Defining that the suppliers with the quickest turnaround times get preferential treatment motivates sales people to push those RFP’s along in their respective organizations, gets RFP’s in early, and prevents suppliers from late submittals. This can cut the turnaround time on RFP responses substantially, sometimes by 50% or more!

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Joe Payne

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  1. I'd argue that 50% of the time it works 100% of the time!!!!