Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The RFP: What We Need to Know

It’s so exciting to get an RFP from “Mega Name Brand Corporation” that most law firms will charge headlong into creating a response without a second thought. Don’t let your dreams and ambition replace common sense and good planning. Not every RFP is winnable nor is every opportunity a good fit for your firm. Before marshalling resources and beating your battle drums please take a moment (actually many moments) to consider what you’re about to pursue. I use the list below to help me decide if in fact I will be in the chase, and if so, what will be my best response.
  1. Who are the other firms proposing? Knowing the competition can really help tighten the focus of my team.
  2. Why did they contact us? Are we a name out of a hat or is there actually a relationship at work here? If my firm does not already have a relationship there with a high level decision maker or influencer it is always my inclination to pass on the opportunity.
  3. Is there a theme that surfaced in our talks we can flow throughout the proposal? Did the prospect talk a lot about some initiative within his/her company, or changes they are trying to affect beyond just finding new counsel?
  4. Where do they fall within in our existing client base? Is this a client that we would normally pursue? Do they fit our practice and resources? It may be exciting to have a shot at “Mega Name Brand Corporation”, but winning that business may cause mega long term difficulties.
  5. What is the criteria for selection and the relative importance of each? RFP’s are notoriously broad. Find out which criteria are the pivotal issues.
  6. Is there one important point that could make the difference?
  7. How will their decision be made?
  8. What individuals/titles will make the final selection recommendation and final decision?
  9. What does the prospect expect from my firm if we win the business? An RFP only asks for the professional qualifications of my firm. The actual working relationship with the prospect if we win the business will be an entirely different animal.
  10. 1Does the prospect have any specific concerns about a changing their legal counsel? Or, if they are adding a legal skill set to their outside resources, do they have any concerns about how attorneys from different firms will collaborate?
  11. Is a transition plan important to them?
  12. Are we meeting with the decision makers?
  13. Do we have a sponsor within the company? Will that individual review a draft of our proposal?
  14. Were there difficulties with prior attorney or law firm relationships?
  15. Have there been any persistant and repeating legal problems over the years?
If, after working through the questions above, you still feel certain the opportunity is winnable – Go for it! By the way, responding to an RFP you know you will lose IS NOT "good way to get our name exposed."

I could not write anything about responding to RFP’s without mentioning Harry Beckwith’s response technique; He chooses not to. To find out the stunningly simple method he uses that wins RFPs without responding you’ll have to read his book, “The Invisible Touch.”