More clients are using more RFPs to hire law firms than any point in the last 15 years.
56% of corporate counsel issued RFPs for law firms in 2015, up from 45% in 2014. We now face a majority of clients using RFPs to hire new law firms. The increase is due directly to the rock-like drop in client service performance clients are experiencing.
We are witnessing a combination of more demanding corporate counsel responding to new pressures from management, and a new generation of corporate counsel simply having different expectations of their law firms.
These clients hope not only to meet new law firms but also get new ideas. The key issue for law firms is twofold:
1. Stop the onslaught of competitors who are being invited into your client base
2. Make sure you win the clients you really need to hold on to
Stopping the Onslaught of Competitors
You can take immediate steps to stop the onslaught—or at least slow it down. This is when talking to your client tips the scales in your favor.
Ask clients about their RFP plans—you face a better than 50% chance your client is headed towards an RFP. Even if your client isn’t planning to issue an RFP—develop an unsolicited new proposal chock full of new ideas. Think you are already delivering your absolute best approach—ask your client for feedback on what you can improve and how they would like to see things differently—use this as a core part of your proposal. Probe clients for the business issues they are being asked about—how management want your client to contribute. You just can’t learn this insight on your own.
In addition to the client feedback—search for the business implications of the key issues your clients face. You can ask your clients about business pressures and concerns, review their business plans, read every word of every SEC filing—twice. You will find one or more business issues your corporate counsel client faces.
Start with all you know about your clients—add to it, build on it—create a new and better approach.
Plan to present your proposal (solicited or not) in a discussion format. Ask clients for their input and counsel. Working to craft the proposal with your client not only customizes your effort but offers you insights others simply will not have. Advantage you.
Winning the Clients You Really Need To
Your second challenge will be to allocate resources to ensure existing clients come first. Sounds easy—but, the RFPs will not come in a logical sequence. Inevitably, your client’s RFP will come in right after a giant prospect with whom your firm does little work. The only tools to correct for the inopportune timing of RFPs is to approach your clients before they issue an RFP and steel-edged discipline when non-client RFPs pop up.
Success will require more energy, more focus and more investment in each RFP to win. Use your RFP Go/No Go checklist, brush up on crafting a killer proposal, developing a more strategic and effective proposal strategy, and understanding why the RFP process is neither fair nor objective to help you win the work.
We are witnessing the highest level of RFP activity in the last 15 years—and the stakes for each firm are higher than ever before.