Planning for the RFP Storm… part 1 (first published on Validatum)

by Richard Burcher

This is part 1 in a series of articles on managing client RFPs, written by Steph Hogg, Head of Procurement, Bid & Tender Consulting at Validatum.


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 am 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 have 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 have probably missed the boat (and are going to be hard pushed to answer a tender well in what’s probably an unreasonable time frame).

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 is 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 do not 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 are 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 am 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 would have a core team consisting of:

For new clients, the proposed people to lead the relationship and fee earners who have 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 or 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 signalled 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 will be covering those in part 2, please click here to read more.

To contact Steph Hogg, you can call 044 (0)7772 761 154 or email steph.hogg@validatum.com.

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by Richard Burcher

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