Tendering for success … or failure?

29 Apr 2013

Why do law firms repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot?!

Despite the steady rise of competitive tendering in recent years, many professional firms have failed to ‘raise their game’ and may not be winning their fair share of opportunities for new business.

Consider this:

  • A surprising number of professional firms do not have a pre-agreed tendering process in place and can ‘reinvent the wheel’ every time!

  • Firms may not understand the various stages of a tender process and therefore lose marks which they might otherwise gain

  • Most firms do not start the tender process early enough – even when one is identified well in advance

  • Some ‘basics’ can let bidders down, eg: policies and procedures may not be ‘fit for best purpose’ or fully aligned to the requirements of the procuring party, team composition and roles may not be clear, client/quality satisfaction may not be measured or communicated

  • Firms may not make the most of the ‘scoping’ period to ask questions, often resulting in guesswork and assumptions

  • Research shows that firms spend almost 2/3rds of their time in a tender on ‘procedural’/administrative questions and answers …yet….

  • Parties conducting tenders place highest emphasis/scoring on business and commercial aspects, including ways to add value, pricing mechanisms, evidence of market or sector expertise, outline delivery plans, innovation, etc

  • Decision-makers assessing tenders say that the most commonly made mistake by professional firms is failure to answer tender questions fully or accurately (especially multi-part questions)

  • Less than 40% of bidders follow up with a debrief, even when one is voluntarily offered.

Professional firms which are most successful in tendering (winning 2 out of 3 or more) are characterized by:

  • Having an agreed process in place before tendering begins

  • Training in tendering skills in place for key fee earners/business support staff

  • Recognition that time spent in preparing tenders is valued and important (at all levels of fee earner and support staff)

  • Good competitive intelligence, enabling the firm to make informed decisions on its team, pricing model, points of differentiation, etc

With tendering spreading into virtually every aspect of professional services, few firms are immune from rigorous procurement exercises as a means of retaining or acquiring clients. Public sector or private sector, tendering is here to stay and buyers are increasingly demanding and sophisticated in their expectations. “Transforming Legal Aid” is imminent – the tender process is announced for Autumn 2013. Is your firm ‘tender ready’?

Carolyn Roberson – Carolyn Roberson Consulting http://www.carolynrobersonconsulting.co.uk/