Planning for the RFP Storm… part 2 (first published by Validatum)

by Richard Burcher

In part 2 of this 3-part weekly series, Steph Hogg, Validatum Head of Procurement, Bid & Tender Consulting, will get into more detail on what that checklist looks like and why. Last week, the 3-part series began with what is seen as a major, systemic and permanent rise in the use of RFPs which many firms are struggling to adequately resource yet still achieve acceptable win rates and margins.

We concluded part 1 with an explanation of how we run a tender preparation workshop to explore key themes that are likely to emerge in the tender.

Beginning with a general introduction about the client, we work through a checklist of questions designed to develop a tender strategy and an outline project plan from which we are able to identify work that can be completed in advance of its issue.

1. Why do you think the client is coming out to market?

Is it a governance requirement? Do they want to reduce the number of current firms they work with? Do they have cost challenges? Do they have service issues? Has a change in senior personnel kickstarted a change in approach?

The answers these can help you begin to formulate a strategy for how to approach the tender.

2. Why do you want to win or retain this work?

Is it a core part of your business? Is their work aligned with your wider client or sector strategy? Will it attract other clients? Is it profitable?

These are key discussion points in deciding whether you really want to invest in responding to the tender.

3. Who are the key influencers and decision makers in the upcoming tender process?

Do you know them? if not how can you meet them to start building personal relationships? Can you ask them what they’re looking for in a successful relationship? What do you know about them as people that can help you understand their personal as well as their business priorities for this tender?

It goes without saying that you need to be mindful of the client governance process around the upcoming tender process.

4. What is your relationship like now – honestly? Do you think they are going to appoint or reappoint you?

What has your revenue been and what are the trends for the past 5 years? If it is falling, why? Do they prefer someone else? Can you be easily replaced? If your revenue has steadily grown, what’s great about you that you can build on? If this is a prospective new client, why would they want you and who do you aim to replace across their current firms?

Exploring these questions is critical in deciding your commercial strategy for the tender.

5. What’s the client’s business strategy for the next 3 years and what legal support might they need you to deliver it?

Client annual reports and strategy documents give great pointers as to when, where and what type of legal support they are going to need for the upcoming appointment.

6. What’s the client’s financial position and what cost challenges do they have?

If they are in a particularly challenging market place, there’s every likelihood that you are going to have to focus on creative cost management solutions.

7. How has the client behaved historically with regard to work placement, law firm management and ease of doing business?

Some clients can be challenging to work with, expecting huge investment in ‘value-add’ with little return on your investment. Is this one of those clients and do you really want to retain the work, or would you be better focussing elsewhere?

8. What are the likely evaluation criteria for this client and what types of questions do you think they might ask?

Evaluation criteria are generally based around capability, quality, cost, social responsibility and ease of doing business. Client discussions as well as press coverage of business direction changes, growth strategy, cost challenges and wider political matters that are affecting them can all give clues as to the types of things they are going to want to see in their tender responses.

9. What does your client data show you about their work profile and how can you use this to provide cost insights and innovation, and propose different ways of working?

Every law firm tender response I have worked on over the past 3 years has had questions about ongoing cost reduction and the role of innovation and technology in enabling this. Is there anything about their work that lends itself to different delivery models? This analysis doesn’t need to wait until the tender comes out – you can take it as read that the client will expect you to answer these points.

Now obviously I am not suggesting that you run through this level of preparation for every client tender but for those key clients that you are determined to retain, or those new clients that you are desperate to win, then our experience shows that the upfront time investment and planning is critical to being able to produce a compelling client proposal

And for those of you who are thinking that this is all very well, but no-one is going to commit to this amount of upfront effort when they are trying to do their day job, then I find a strategically timed email can be useful. Something along the lines of

‘I was just wondering whether you’d give much thought to Client A’s upcoming tender’ 

…with a few of the above questions included, generally improves enthusiasm and chivvies people along.

Next time, why triaging tender opportunities thoroughly is imperative…

To contact Steph Hogg, you can call 044 (0)7772 761 154 or email

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by Richard Burcher




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