Bidding anxiety? Maybe it’s a good thing...
Guest post by Fiona Bliss Quiroli
The question everyone wants to know, when they are working on a pitch or bid process from the "inside", is what are our competitors doing? Are they better than us? Are we doing it right? What can we do better? Unfortunately, such intelligence is frustratingly hard to come by.
Bidding in the legal sector is like many other industries, a difficult process to get right. There are so many factors involved - some controllable and many uncontrollable. There is a lot of intense competition and the market in general has become more complex.
Some years ago, there was an assumption that other sectors outside legal services were somehow more dynamic, more innovative, jazzier in the production of their bid responses, and had better resources, but the reality is that it is a challenge whoever you are, big or small, regardless of sector or industry.
Due to increased pressure on costs, and greater answerability to procurement functions and senior management, businesses everywhere are required to tender for services more frequently, even if their incumbent adviser is historically the preferred one.
This has generated more bid and proposal activity and a requirement for dedicated, professional resources to produce higher quality responses; more edgy, visually appealing pitch materials that encapsulate the sales message in a succinct and digestible format.
It has also made winning less certain.
Specific challenges in legal services
With the mass globalisation of business on one hand, commoditisation of certain legal services on the other, combined with a growing number of niche service providers emerging in the form of boutique law firms, the market has become a matrix.
It's an immense challenge for a law firm to differentiate itself, find the right market position, and offer something unique and compelling. If you throw pricing into the mix, it is an even harder scenario.
Professionalising the bid management activity
Whatever the market you are in, legal or otherwise, a professional and well executed bid response, will make a client sit up and take note. To achieve this end result, requires significant commitment in time and resource.
Here are a few high-level pointers:
1. Approach. Always approach your bid from the view point of the client. Resist the temptation to write only about you and your firm. Consider how the services and expertise you offer will help them. Anticipate some of the hurdles and obstacles they will face and demonstrate your understanding of their problems and how to solve them.
2. Price. It is not always about the lowest price. What is important is being able to explain why the price you are quoting, is the right one. Be as transparent and detailed as you can, so that the client can conclude for themselves why the price is right.
3. Visuals. Even though it is the content that counts, a visually appealing bid makes a difference. If all else is equal – and it often is – then the offer that looks good in a relevant way, comes across as more professional.
4. Evolve. Markets and economies are not static; so, the way companies and law firms respond to RFPs needs to align with that. Producing a bid document is an evolving art. There is much to learn in every bid or tender process – evaluate each process, chase that feedback from clients, and try your best to learn how other market players are bidding.
5. Experience. Engaging a bid and proposal expert is a smart thing to do. Not only can our bid management professional be totally focused on the bid project, but also share valuable lessons learnt from other bid processes, as well as offer a wider cultural and industry perspective.
The RFP (Request for Proposal) is not disappearing any time soon. The Anglo-Saxon model of doing business through competitive tendering, with a formal process attached to it, is more and more widespread, resulting in a growing professionalism in bid and proposal management functions.
Law firms, as much as other industry players, need to listen to and learn from their peers, competitors and clients, on how to make winning proposals, and take every opportunity available to them to do that.
Anxiety keeps you on your toes. You don’t have to think that firms with deeper pockets make better bid responses, but you do need to evaluate continuously if you can do it better. In an increasingly competitive landscape, bidding anxiety is a good thing. See it as a way to strive for the best, and maximise all the resources you have access to, to win that bid.
Fiona Bliss Quiroli is an experienced bid and proposal management specialist with considerable knowledge of the legal services sector.
She was European Bids and Proposal Manager at Baker McKenzie for seven years and EMEA Bid Manager at SDL, Web Content Management division, for a further three years.
Prior to that she worked in business development and marketing roles at Allen & Overy, Field Fisher Waterhouse and McKinsey.