The Worst of the Worst Pitches

The last we checked RFPs issued by clients were at an all-time high. This means a peak in presentations by law firms. A small number were truly excellent—blowing clients away and gaining new work for these law firms. Clients describe most as between acceptable and numbing. But, these potential clients saw a number of law firms embarrass themselves. You can understand why based on the experiences these top legal decision makers shared with BTI:

“In the middle of the presentation a slide appeared out of nowhere; it took me a minute to get oriented, but the slide showed the view of a football field—which they then told me is from the firm’s box. They told me at least one playoff game would come with these seats if I hired them.”

— General Counsel, Large Healthcare System

“They (the law firm) showed us another client’s actual work product.”

— Chief Legal Officer, Large Financial Services Firm

“On one of the first few slides they made reference to our company being ‘founded many years ago.’ They couldn’t look this up? Is this the thoroughness I should expect in litigation?”

— Division Head, Global Professional Services Powerhouse

“They started naming the judges they play golf with.”

— General Counsel, Rapidly Growing High Tech Company

“Somebody came in with 12 white men, when most of my people at the time were women and minorities. Obviously they hadn’t done their homework. I asked if we could get a more diverse team. The asked me if I wanted to win or be diverse. I told them: this is something you say to each other after you leave. Not to me.”

— EVP, Very Large Manufacturing Company

“As they were presenting, I was following along looking at their proposal; they announced a fee which was substantially higher than the fee in the proposal. I immediately asked why there was a difference, to which they responded, there was no difference. I elected not to pursue the issue.”

— VP and General Counsel, Global Industrial Equipment Company

Giving a bad pitch is dangerously easy. Success demands you not only understand core needs, but also understand the culture and chemistry of your potential client. As we discuss when identifying the law firms with the Most Marketing Mojo, the winning firms over-prepare and over-understand. In addition, the pitches going badly remind us of the safety and wisdom in talking about nothing but clients and their needs—before, during, and after the pitch.  


Crafting a Killer Proposal

You’ve learned how proposals get no respect or love—hurting your chances of getting new business, and how to strategically select the RFPs which do merit your love with BTI’s RFP Go/ No Go checklist. After reviewing the checklist and deciding a proposal is worthy of a response, all you need now is a killer proposal, especially for those strategic must-wins.

The killer proposal begins with your client: Your proposal isn’t about you. It’s about your clients.

An Artisan Approach—At Least for the First Paragraph

Start the very first paragraph—the very first sentence—with your clients’ name and their problem, issue and/or situation. Prove you understand what your client is trying to accomplish. Few things are more important than articulating you know exactly what you are getting into—and understand your (potential) client.

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Dragged Kicking and Screaming to the Perfect RFP

Law firms work 4 times harder than 5 years ago to get a new dollar of business. This trend makes the following statements we’ve heard about chasing proposals and pitches all the more frightening:

“This company is so big you don’t really need to have an existing relationship with them to get the work.”

“He just accepted my LinkedIn invitation—I think that’s a really good sign.”

“I practice law. Writing proposals and bids aren’t part of my job.”

“We don’t bother responding to RFPs; it’s a waste of time. The only way to develop business is to network.”

“Our marketing and business development department has a standard response for RFPs—I’m not sure why we don’t send it out to all potential clients.”


Proposals, pitches, and pursuing new opportunities get no respect. 

For the most part, law firms drag partners kicking and screaming into the bid process or take a cookie cutter approach to their RFP responses. Very little strategic thinking or effort is put into the process. This attitude results in a paltry 31% win rate for law firms.

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