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How to bid successfully: Business Development and Marketing Subcommittee guide, July 2021

Friday 23 July 2021

Linsay Leslie
MD Communications, London

Qualify the opportunity

It is tempting to bid for as many work opportunities as you can, particularly if they are high value or for a prestigious client. Lawyers tend to underestimate the time and resources required to submit a winning bid and deliver an outstanding pitch. So, before diving in, qualify the opportunity.

Having a well-defined set of qualification criteria that must be met before committing resources to a tender will focus resources and improve your win rate.

So what does a robust set of qualification criteria look like? It will be different for each firm, and must be tailored to your specific needs, business objectives and resources. But essentially, you need to break down the key ‘must haves’ before giving the green light to go for the tender. For example, is the opportunity aligned to the firm or a practice area’s business plan? How well does the target client know the firm? Do you know what your competitors are pricing for this type of work?

It’s not about you – know your target

Lawyers often go wrong in bids by focusing on their firm, their people and what they can do. Remember, a bid or pitch is not about you – it’s all about the target client’s needs, and the solution that offers best value to them.

The most important work you will do to win a bid should take place before you get the actual bid documents. Aligning bid strategy to your overall business plan will help you target potential new clients well in advance of the bid stage kicking off.

Firms that have a high bid win rate, focus on the target client often months before the bid stage. Get to know the key decision-makers if you can: research the target client’s business, market and your competitors. Find out as much as you can and start building relationships as early as possible. Then when the bid document finally comes in, you have all the information you need to identify a strong (and hopefully) winning bid solution.

Value over price

The assumption is often that winning work is really about price. While pricing is obviously a critical element, value is often what wins a bid.

What does value mean? By researching the target client, speaking to your contacts and network and working out what this particular client’s specific challenges, needs and objectives are – what problems they need you to solve – you can work out what a best value solution is for them. Think of this in terms of what values and benefits you can deliver (often over and above pure technical legal advice) that will make your bid or pitch of more value than your competitors.

Value is almost never the lowest cost solution for a client.