This is Part 1 in a series of articles on managing client RFPs. I read the BTI Consulting’s ‘mad clientist’ blog with interest this morning, about the predicted rise of RFPs in 2019 among the largest law firm clients.
I read the BTI Consulting’s ‘mad clientist’ blog with interest this morning, about the predicted rise of RFPs in 2019 among the largest law firm clients.
I have to say, I’m inclined to agree. As we move into February there are portents that this is going to be the year of the RFP, with daily articles in the legal press that big multinationals are planning to come out to market.
As I catch-up with old procurement friends, it seems they’ve never been busier, with ambitious tender plans afoot.
We held our first Validatum breakfast forum of 2019 a couple of weeks ago and a clear theme emerged in questions - preparing for and handling the predicted onslaught of tenders. Just how do you go about the planning and positioning, and then deciding whether it’s a ‘real’ opportunity when they land? Hard questions for 9am. In the relative quiet before the storm, a lot of our clients are pondering this whilst putting on their stoical faces in readiness for the year ahead.
Business Development teams are nervously looking at their resourcing and finance teams are budgeting ever increasing amounts for tender response activity. People are concerned and rightly so. Tendering is expensive and places huge pressures on the response teams.
So, what to do in preparation? I can envisage a Business Development friend smiling ironically as I write this (you know who you are…). Planning is key. If you leave the preparation until the tender is issued then you’ve probably missed the boat (and are going to be hard pushed to answer a tender well in what’s probably an unreasonable timeframe).
Months of planning goes into tender preparation by clients - defining the objectives of the process, deciding who to invite and why agreement of selection criteria and critical success factors and translating them into intelligent questions designed to differentiate firms. Then there’s the selection of the evaluation team (all of whom will have slightly different objectives from the process and are trying to do their day job at the same time).
And don’t forget the writing of the actual document itself, not always made easy by e-procurement tools. Hmm, no wonder we procurement folks are a highly-strung bunch.
I often find that law firms underestimate the amount of effort and planning that goes into these processes from the client side but take it from someone who’s run quite a few… they’re never undertaken lightly and there is a lot of ‘cat herding’ involved. Months of planning go into a successful RFP and clients expect law firms to take it seriously too.
To give your firm the best possible chance of winning that coveted spot, you need to be doing the same level of preparation as the client. In this the first of three related blogs, I’m going to talk about selecting a team for the process, moving on in my next blogs to pre-tender preparation and triaging bids as they come in.
When approached to help with tender preparation for our clients, I always start with the same question - who is on your tender team and why? In an ideal world you’d have a core team consisting of:
- Business Development/marketing to lead the bid process
- Finance and/or MI specialists to provide client revenue data, profitability metrics, and targets
- Client Relationship Partner/s to give insight into client strategic needs and historical context
- Fee earners across multiple grades that do substantial work for that client, to provide insight into operational ways of working, goals and any challenges
For new clients, the proposed people to lead the relationship and fee earners who’ve delivered similar types of work for other clients should form part of this planning process.
Once the core team has been agreed, a tender preparation workshop explores key themes that are likely to emerge in the tender, discussion and agreement of client retention goals and strategy for getting there.
Generally facilitated by a firm’s business development/marketing specialists, the initial workshop should be held well in advance of when you’re expecting the tender to land. The client relationship team and fee earners bring context and insight to the discussion and formulation of potential client strategies for the next period.
What has the client signaled as their objectives in running the process? Are you going for retention at all cost? Maintaining the status quo or modest fee gains? Significant revenue increases? Wholesale service transformation? Having this initial discussion well in advance of the tender issue allows time for the analysis and for internal agreement of the strategy.
When asked to facilitate these workshops for clients, we work through a checklist of questions designed to develop the tender strategy and the outline project plan from which we are able to identify work that can be completed in advance of its issue. I’ll be covering those in my next blog.
Steph Hogg, Validatum Head of Procurement, Bid & Tender Consulting
044 (0)7772 761 154