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5. Harnessing the Power – Vendor Presentations

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The manner in which a vendor presentation is received can make a significant difference in the final outcome. The simplest and most convenient method is to have each vendor send in his written presentation and then let the group make its selection based upon what it perceives to be the most favorable. At the other end of the spectrum is to have each vendor come before the entire group and make a face-to-face presentation to the members of the group. Typically, three vendors would be selected to make their presentation, each having about 30 minutes of the group’s undivided attention. While this method is less convenient and more time consuming for all concerned, it is likely to yield better results than if no such meeting had taken place. A vendor will probably put more effort into its proposal if it knows it is going to have to face the group in person. There is also something about a vendor seeing his competitors in the hallway waiting for his presentation to be completed, so that they can have their turn. Extra concessions are more likely to be given on the spot, during a face-to-face meeting. Furthermore, as the members have a chance to ask the vendors questions, they can get a better feel for which one will best serve the group. Sometimes price point is not the final determining factor. Shipping performance, quality of goods, service and other factors enter into the equation as well. The members can discuss all of these factors as they deliberate which vendor to select. Some groups choose to do more than have only written proposals submitted, but to do less than have the vendors meet in front of the entire group. Instead, they may elect to have the vendors make their presentations in person either to the full-time staff of the group or to a special committee selected from the membership of the group. The staff member or the committee would then make their analysis of the proposals and present them to the membership for a discussion and a vote.

For the competitive process to be fair, even-handed and productive in the long term, absolute confidentiality is a must. If the members begin discussing proposals of a vendor with its competitors, the other vendors can gain an unfair advantage. If a vendor has reason to doubt that his highly confidential and proprietary information will not be kept sacrosanct by the group, he is going to be less likely to put forth his best proposal. On the other hand, if the group is close to deciding on a vendor but its proposal falls short in a few areas in light of the proposals made by the vendor’s competitors, there is nothing wrong with pointing out to that vendor where he needs to strengthen his proposal in order to win the bid. One advantage of having the vendors at your meetings when these proposals are being considered is that often additional concessions can be obtained from them during breaks, cocktail receptions and dinners. They know their proposal will be voted on while they are at the meeting and will feel the pressure to give their best offer.

The next installment in this series will discuss additional measures the group can take to increase the rewards to their membership.