This morning, I attended a mandatory pre-bid conference for a client. The project is a massive undertaking—one of the largest of its type in the country. As I sit in the airport waiting for my plane home, I thought it might be interesting to describe some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years on attending pre-bid conferences such as this one. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Get there early.
You never know exactly what you’ll encounter with these types of meetings. Parking may be tight. Facilities and seating may be limited. Get to the meeting at least 30 minutes prior to stake your claim at the table. Interrupting the session because you are late is not the way to make a good first impression.
Even though you are not making a presentation, dress as if you are. Again, first impressions count (for prospects, potential partners and competitors). It may not make or break a deal, but why not command the most respect possible and let them know you're serious?
Strike up a conversation. Work the room.
It’s interesting to watch how people act when competition is thrown together in a small room. Many people choose to keep to themselves or huddle solely with their own group. Break the mold and introduce yourself. Sure you might be talking to a competitor. Who cares? You may realize some benefit down the road of making the connection. And, if you are looking to serve as a subcontractor, don’t be bashful. Stepping out is a great way to identify teaming opportunities.
Have questions ready.
Asking intelligent questions illustrates you’re prepared, serious and knowledgeable (of course, asking stupid questions probably has the opposite effect). Do your homework with the RFP. Even if you never get the opportunity to ask, you’ll be prepared.
Be prepared to submit your questions in writing after the meeting.
Some pre-bid conferences will go into detail and allow deep technical questions. Others will stay at a high level and expect you to submit questions in writing (the latter is particularly true when prospect agencies are not comfortable with the project). Don't be frustrated with this process. Craft your questions carefully and you'll be prepared either way.
Don’t ignore junior people in the room.
When scouting for teaming opportunities in a pre-bid meeting, it’s often easy to bypass the young, junior professionals in favor of the seasoned senior-level people. You might find, however, that the younger representatives are more forthcoming with information (or at least lead you to a great introduction). Such a moment occurred today as I noticed a young man wearing the logoed shirt of a company that could make a great potential partner for our client. I snagged him as he walked by and told him why we were there. Within minutes, my team was being introduced to the company’s lead account executive. Our client is well positioned to fill a needed gap thanks to a junior-level guy.
Don’t make the buying organization look bad due to oversights in the RFP.
Invariably, mistakes in the RFP document will be made, or confusing--possibly conflicting--statements may be made. Do not hesitate to ask clarifying questions (if given the opportunity), but watch your tone and demeanor when doing so. Some vendor representatives seem to delight in surfacing these inconsistencies. While I suspect their motive is to appear knowledgeable and discerning, they come off as being critical “know-it-alls.” The lesson: don’t let your ego outpace your brain.
None of these tips on pre-bid conferences are earth-shattering. However, applying them just may open new doors or provide a competitive edge. We could all use a little more of that.
All the best,
Rick and Lorin help companies increase government sales and marketing effectiveness through their firm, Galain Solutions, Inc. For a FREE report entitled “Five Sales Rules to Break when Selling to the Government” email email@example.com or visit www.galainsolutions.com.