You are involved in a four-vendor bakeoff. You have the opportunity to choose whether you present first, last or in the middle - what do you choose?
In the absence of any other data, I always say "go first". Why? Here is my logic. For even more details visit the MTS Website.
Now let me walk you through my reasoning. Firstly I look at the experiences and habits of other very successful sales organizations. The example that comes to mind is Siebel Systems in the late 1990’s – no matter what the situation was, Siebel always found a way to go last. There were often suspicious circumstances surrounding their request due to passing away of some distant relative, travel plans or vacations. However, better than 80% of the time the Siebel sales force went last to show their stuff. This pattern was echoed by Oracle and Sybase in their hey-days. My friends in the consulting and media/advertising business also tell me that they always prefer to go last.
Secondly is the matter of education versus selling. I have often found that the first vendor is often placed in the position of having to educate some of the people in the room about everything, ranging from the general marketplace to specific product functionality. Although that may appear as consultative selling, it detracts from your overall message as it can make your solution hard to use or understand. On the other hand, you can make the point that you get to set the stage and drop competitive landmines for the following three vendors without having to defuse any yourself. Should you have an extremely strong product and are confident of your superiority then going first is the place to be. It allows you to cover off the checklist and agenda items requested by the client, and then add in a few extra credit items of your own. When going first, work with your inside coach to make sure that some general literature is made available to everyone before to mitigate the educational impact discussed previously.
The third point is differentiation. Going last as vendor 4 of 4 means that you need to shake things up and present a little differently. I like the image of Mental Velcro. Can you tune your session to such a degree that it just sticks in the customer’s mind? Proceeding with the standard corporate overview, followed by this is what we know, this is how we’ll fix it, here is the product/solution/services , here are the financials and this is why we are different and unique is NOT going to make you different and unique. So going last will allow you to make points that the other three vendors cannot immediately rebut, plus your pitch, if sufficiently different yet still laser-focused on solving their business problem, will remain in their brains as the selection committee sits down to rank the four performers.
Finally, unless there are exceptional circumstances around timing, customer attendance or your own team’s availability, I have yet to come up with a defensible position as to why you should go in the middle. Good selling!