LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Conference Recap: Driving Top Line Growth with a Killer Proposal Strategy

Content Pilot Founder and CEO Deborah McMurray co-presented with her colleague, Content Pilot Vice President Keith Wewe, on how law firms respond to the request for proposal (RFP) process at the 2019 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Conference. The presenters’ main point: law firm marketing teams need to view the RFP process as part of revenue generation—and taking control of the process could lead to a variety of revenue opportunities.

Content Pilot’s Flash Survey summarizes a variety of statistics about how attorneys interact with clients, and what business development teams do (and don’t do) to develop client relationships. McMurray and Wewe explained how attorneys often commit “little acts of murder:” they break promises, fail to meet clients’ expectations, and fail to communicate effectively.

According to the Flash Survey, 63% of all law firms respond to 75% of all the RFPs they receive. However, firms should consider the reasons why they have not succeeded in winning work. These reasons may include pricing concerns and limited relationship equity between the firm and client (or perhaps no prior relationship in the first place). In other instances, the response simply isn’t aligned with the client’s needs, nor does it properly state the client’s long-term objectives. Business development teams should shift their focus to the three R’s: Reputation, Relationships and Revenue.

Business development teams need to use a multi-faceted approach to design a winning proposal. They should consider whether or not the RFP is worth their (and the attorneys’) time. They need to compose an effective pricing plan, a staffing plan and a service plan that all meet the prospective client’s needs. The firm’s and attorneys’ experience need to be spot-on with the RFP’s requirements. Business development professionals must ask themselves, what will our competitors propose? Then they must also ask, why are my ideas better than theirs? In asking these questions, legal marketers should be wary of throwing the whole kitchen sink into the response or of being too verbose. Be direct, concise, and make sure the content matches the RFP.

Business development teams need to follow each RFP exactly. They must avoid anything generic and be critical of their own content. Every potential client can (and will) see right through the generic material as a response that’s just slapped together for the sake of responding.

McMurray and Wewe offered recommendations for making each response unique, such as including an executive summary, using a branded template to stand out, relaying experience that’s specific to the RFP, explaining how the firm plans to address the client’s concerns, and identifying which lawyers will directly be involved in the work. Firms absolutely must have equity, diversity and inclusion; beyond not mere lip service, firms must show in the response what the firm is actually doing in that space.

In preparation for face-to-face presentations, engage the attorneys in two or even three dress rehearsals. Draft a script or put together a storyboard presentation of how the attorney-to-client meeting should go. Attorneys ought not regurgitate the RFP response; the client has already read it and wants to hear something new. Legal marketers should use dress rehearsals as an opportunity to view obstacles. After the in-person presentation, legal marketers and their attorneys should discuss what went right and what went wrong.

McMurray and Wewe summarized their presentation by stressing the need for legal marketers to have a plan and stick with that plan. Understand the potential opportunity and do due diligence on the prospective client—before meeting with the attorneys. The plan must include drafting the in-person presentation and coaching the attorneys through every step.

By Adam Hopkins, Senior Marketing & Business Development Coordinator, Dechert LLP

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