By Leah Ludwig
A few weeks ago, I attended a Delaware Valley Law Firm Marketing Group program titled, “RFPs: Meet the Experts.” If you play any type of role in your firm’s communications efforts, I’m sure you have dealt with writing and/or answering an RFP (also known as a request for proposal).
Wikipedia describes RFPs in this way: “An RFP is issued at an early stage in a procurement process, where an invitation is presented for suppliers, often through a bidding process, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service. The RFP process brings structure to the procurement decision and is meant to allow the risks and benefits to be identified clearly up front.”
Many people dread the RFP process. This was echoed by the extensive panel of law firm marketing professionals including: James T. Austin, director of publications at Pepper Hamilton LLP; Cheryl Disch, senior manager of marketing information systems at Duane Morris LLP; Sharen Nocella, director of marketing at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP; and Katherine L. Rebechi, marketing coordinator at Pepper Hamilton LLP.
The panelists discussed how to evaluate an RFP; how the marketing department can help in the RFP process; elements of a winning RFP response; what to do after the RFP; and some common problems professionals encounter during this process. Some of the helpful tips that I took away from the discussion were as follows:
• Read (really read) an RFP in its entirety before deciding if it is a good fit for your firm.
• The quality of the RFP (meaning the incorporated details, the organization of the document and scope of work, etc.) should help your firm decide if working with that company would be a good fit.
• Learn from past experiences and trust your gut. If the company has issued you various RFPs, all which you have not won and that tend to be won by another firm, take a hint and save yourself some time.
• Do not hesitate to call the company requesting responses and ask questions of the company. The answers to these questions will often provide you with key insight which may help your firm in deciding if you will move forward with providing a response.
- Ask how many other firms were included in the RFP process.
- Ask detailed questions about the scope of the work requested.
- Gauge the tone of the conversation, and the spokesperson’s willingness to provide information, etc.
• Make sure that your firm does not have any conflicts with the company before taking the time to respond.
• Create some sort of template system – index standard RFP question responses.
• Respond to the RFP precisely as requested – follow all guidelines and adhere to criteria.
• If you do not win the RFP process, call the company and ask what your firm could have done better – use this as a learning process.
• Record time spent on RFP responses and RFP success percentages and be ready to share feedback with upper management.
I found the DVLFMG program and the panelists’ feedback to be very helpful and I hope that these take-aways help you streamline your next RFP experience.
Friday, April 13, 2012
By Leah Ludwig