Category Archives: new business tendering / pitching

18 ways for lawyers, accountants and other professionals to credentialise themselves

Why do professionals need to credentialise themselves?

Clients have a choice – they get to decide who they engage on particular projects, matters, cases or deals and who they spend their money with. According to research conducted by BTI Consulting in 2009 into the top ways clients select lawyers, personal recommendations are key followed by online searches (I assume this would be similar for selecting other professional advisers).

I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive but think it likely that, if someone recommends a professional to a prospective client, the prospective client is then likely to do a web search on that person prior to contacting him/her (although there will undoubtedly be lots of instances of people finding professional advisers online).

If a professional has sought to credentialise himself/herself then evidence of this will appear online – both on the person’s website, via their social media profiles, blog or third party sites (such as journals/newspapers/conference organisers). This all helps prospective clients to choose to do business with someone – it makes them feel good about their decision.

How can advisers credentialise themselves?

  1. Produce case studies outlining the client’s problem, what you did, and the results you achieved
  2. Obtain client testimonials talking about the benefits you delivered
  3. Speak at, and attend, relevant conferences/seminars and follow up!
  4. Run seminars at a client’s premises
  5. Run webinars and record them for attendees and those who couldn’t make it to view later
  6. Sell in article ideas to relevant publications
  7. Get to know relevant journalists and position yourself as a commentator
  8. Set up a blog and post regularly – if you hate writing consider a video or audio blog
  9. Produce guides, tips, or how-to’s and share these with your target audience(s)
  10. Host roundtables on topical issues
  11. Bring together clients with mutual interests and facilitate discussion
  12. Produce thought-leadership pieces
  13. Produce video-alerts or news-alerts on topical issues and the key things your clients need to consider
  14. Author an eBook or other book
  15. Initiate and comment on discussions on social media networks and on blogs
  16. Re-tweet or share good articles/blogs written by others that will be of interest to your target audience
  17. Ask and answer questions on social media networks
  18. Seek to demonstrate your expertise and capabilities through your bio – both hard copy and online

While this seems like a long list of ‘things to do’, we recommend selecting one or two subjects or topics and leveraging your interest and knowledge to credentialise yourself using the various channels (e.g. conferences, seminars, blogs etc). This will help you to build profile in a specific market or grow your standing as someone with particular expertise.

What other ways do you think professionals can/should evidence their abilities? 

Positioning your firm to win tenders before they come out

This is the second in a three part series about helping your firm increase its tender success rate. Last time we looked at how to evaluate tender opportunities. This time we cover what you can do to identify opportunities and position your firm before an RFP is released.

How do you know if a client will be putting work out to tender?

  • If you are on an existing panel, make sure you have diarised when the panel arrangements will come up for review. Ensure everyone who works with the client knows. Using your intranet and/or client management space are great ways to do this.
  • Talk to major corporate targets / government departments that either have panel arrangements, which you are not part of, or that have no formal arrangements, about how they procure legal services. Find out their future plans and what you would need to do to position yourselves to win their work in a particular area.
  • Understand any thresholds or practices around tendering regimes that your targets/clients have (e.g. has to go to tender over a certain dollar threshold). Talk to them about what projects they have coming up, and what their objectives are.

What questions should you ask?

Irrespective of whether you are, or aren’t,  a current provider, you should ask the same basic questions:

  • What is the person, his/her team and the wider organisation looking for in a service provider?
  • What is important to them? (from both a personal and company perspective)
  • What are the decision making criteria likely to be?
  • Who will be making the decision? And who will be influencing it?

And, if you are known to them:

  • What you do well and what you could improve?

Or, if you aren’t a current provider:

  • What are their perceptions of your firm, experience and people?
  • What do their existing providers do well and what could they improve?

You should never assume you know why an organisation is going to tender. You should also keep in mind that what they tell you may only be a part of the story. Depending on how strong your relationship is, how well you know the organisation and how probing your questions, you may come away with more or less of the full picture.

How do you position your individuals/firm prior to RFPs being released?

  • Having asked the questions, you need to respond. Work out what is important to the target/client and think about how you can demonstrate your expertise.
  • Develop a plan! What work do you want, who will you target, what are the issues in their industry, how will you position yourselves and how will you get to know the key people within the target organisation?
  • Make sure you demonstrate your expertise online and offline, thinking about the media the client uses/interacts with – for example placing relevant articles/thought leadership pieces in trade journals and newspapers, asking and answering questions and commenting on appropriate discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups (i.e. those to which the client belongs), Tweeting useful articles/other content both that others and you have generated, commenting on the client’s blog posts (if and when opportunities arise) and posting relevant content on your blog and website.

What else would you recommend firms do to increase their likelihood of winning RFPs?

How do you position your firm to win tenders before they have come in the door?

Does your firm properly evaluate tender opportunities?

It seems as though tenders arrive at firms’ doors in waves. It is not unusual for there to be 10 or more tenders, pitches or proposals being developed at any one time in some firms. This stretches resources and can result in less rigorous processes when it comes to assessing whether the firm is well placed to pitch, and in delivering the tender.

There are three stages which, if followed, will  increase the percentage of tenders you win:

  1. before the tender is released
  2. when the tender arrives at the firm and
  3. writing the tender.

We are going to start with the middle part – what to do when a tender arrives at the firm. In future blogs we’ll look at what you can do prior to a tender being released, and tips for developing the most compelling tender response.

The purpose of this discussion is to help you apply some rigour to the process, rather than simply reacting to every opportunity that arises. Before you even start writing the first word of an RFP response, be honest and rate your chances.

Should we submit a tender response?

This can be a highly pressured time and decisions need to be rational and have some level of objectivity to them.

We recommend having a preselected team who makes the decision, for example a CEO or Managing Partner, plus a practice area or industry sector leader. The team who make recommendations should be wider than this and include the partner who is responsible for the client / sector / main area of work, and a senior marketing or BD member.

Often, the best way to assess whether or not your firm should tender for a particular piece of work is setting up a system that enables you to rank each opportunity on a scale of 1 to 5. You can then decide what total makes a ‘definite yes’, ‘definite no’ or requires more consideration or conditions for tender. Some areas that you should always consider in deciding whether to submit a tender are:

  • how well do we know the key players – those who will be making (or influencing) the decision?
  • how do they perceive us as a firm?
  • how well do they know our expertise in the relevant area?
  • how well-resourced are we to do the work?
  • how well do we compare to our competitors (according to the target or others in the same industry)?

In addition, other things to consider include:

  • did we know the tender was coming? This can help answer some of the questions about how well you have positioned yourselves to be in the running for serious consideration.
  • is the tender a serious process? Some organisations have a built-in process whereby they must tender for service providers on a predetermined basis. This may mean there is little internal desire to change, but they must ‘go through the motions’ and are almost certainly going to reappoint the incumbent. If you are the incumbent you must take the process seriously.
  • have we worked with them before? If not, how do they know you? Have they seen your work? If you have worked with them before, how do they perceive you? Have you conducted any client or project reviews?
  • are we conflicted? You also need to understand what the organisation”s sensitivities to conflicts are.

There are always those tenders where it is important simply to be seen to tender. There may be influential people at the target who are important to your firm, or it is a small market and you need to tender for this particular role.

Whatever the reason you tender, make sure you have a process which ensures you are using your valuable internal resources wisely.

What other criteria do you use in deciding whether to tender?

How well do you think most firms approach this?

How often is it a case of he/she who shouts loudest gets the support?