The Five W's of Law Firm BD: Using Navigator to Put Your RFP Response Ahead of the Competition



...digging into questions not asked in the RFP will set you apart from the competition and give you the necessary edge...

After my last post, a collection of #samsales tip for lawyers and business development professionals, I received more outreach than expected with tactical questions about each of the tips I'd shared. The majority centered around the idea of the Five Ws in sales, so I thought I’d give you a bit more insight into how this concept can work for you.

In that Five Ws tip, we dealt with a common scenario: you've received and are responding to an RFP from a top prospect. Your team has already checked all the boxes, culled the most accomplished and diverse client team, written (and rewritten… and rewritten…) the narratives, and you feel awfully confident that your firm is the best fit to win the business.

Guess who else is doing the same exact things? That’s right: many of your competitors!

Most of the representative transactions included in their RFP responses have all the same makings as yours: similarly impressive results, attorneys that hail from the same pedigree of prestigious law schools, and proposed pricing structures that mirror the industry standard for your market.

Ouch. Well that’s defeating!

Rather than give up, why not ask what truly differentiates your firm from the others when much of the experience included in an RFP response can often appear redundant? Think of it as you did when you applied for your first competitive job: everyone wanted the same spot and on paper you all looked identically impressive, to stand out?

Taking the time to go above and beyond, and digging into the questions that aren’t asked in the RFP, will set you apart from the competition and give you the edge necessary to win the client’s trust and confidence.

Let’s revisit the Five Ws through this lens and see how Navigator can help. Remember, this isn’t a call to action to do all of these things, but rather to arm you with at least a few tactics that can significantly differentiate your next RFP response.

1. Who?

First, create a Saved Leads List in LinkedIn Navigator that includes each of the contacts who will receive the RFP and one for the company itself.

Use the list to monitor the behaviors of those individuals, and take note of other key decision-makers within the company who may not have directly received the submission, but surely will be involved in the decision-making process.

Do your homework and sweat the details.

Can you find a common alma mater, close mutual connections, or someone who previously worked for the same employer? Don’t be shy to ask your common connections for any useful information that could help you position your responses. Your focus on details not typically known about the company - for example, an evolving diversity & inclusion effort not already listed on the company’s website, or an impatient CEO who would be impressed by a carefully phased timeline - can go a long way to help you stand out.

2. What?

Now that you have the list compiled, dig into what exactly these individuals are posting about on LinkedIn, which pressing news sources are quoting them, and what they consider important enough to comment on - ultimately helping you to (wait for it…) show them you know them! When I say “them” I don’t mean only the individuals who are receiving your response, but also the industry at large.

Read about what types of issues keep your prospects up at night, try to spot any changes coming down the pike that would affect the company’s overall trajectory, and try to understand what pitfalls you could help them avoid beyond what is scoped in the RFP. Your Saved Lists in Navigator deliver this information to you, on your preferred schedule.

Positioning yourself as a thought leader on the topics that resonate most with yout prospects will ensure that they feel you are becoming a part of their team if they engage with your firm.

3. Where?

If the prospect is local, you likely have many connections in common on LinkedIn; the real value often shows itself when there are commonalities from afar.

Oh, the prospective client is headquartered in Atlanta? It just so happens that I lived there for a bit while in a previous role - so I’d have lots to small talk about (is my favorite restaurant still open in Little Five Points?! Let me tell you about the meal I had there…). This lends a human element to breaking the ice during a follow-up pitch meeting after submitting the RFP, or to kick off a pre-submission call with a personal touch.

Nothing puts people at ease like talking about their hometowns, and having this in your back pocket shows the prospect that you not only relate, you also cared enough to do the research.

4. When?

Every RFP has a deadline, but posing clarifying questions can help you craft your response: why, in particular, is this one scheduled on that date?

Does the company function on a non-traditional fiscal year? Is there anything you can glean from digging into the behaviors of your Saved Leads as the deadline draws closer? Are they posting more often about an industry trend that would cause an increase in legal work, such as an impending change in legislation or a rumored acquisition on the horizon?

If you can spot the correlation between the specific matter spurring the search for new representation and a pressing issue in their world, you show them that you are capable of reacting adeptly to their needs. Navigator helps you keep track of those nuggets that show the prospect you truly understand their business before it’s your “business” to do so, and they will see value that won’t show up on the bill.

5. Why?

The “why” is perhaps the most important question - and the culmination of the first four.

Help the RFP response reflect thoughtfully on why you will be a trusted advisor for that client, why you have taken the time to understand the drivers of decisions within that company, the pressing issues in that industry, and the unique differentiators that help you to connect with the decision-makers at that company.

After all, the “why” is what shows the client that your response is about them, not about you. If you strategically use the competitive intelligence that Navigator provides to show that the voice of the client is paramount, you greatly increase your chances of standing out from the crowd.

How have you used Navigator to add value to your RFP responses? Tell me your success stories and I will include them in my next post.


[Samantha McKenna is Head of Sales, Enterprise, NYC at LinkedIn. Follow her for her latest writings on law firm BD on JD Supra. Connect with Sam on LinkedIn to see how Navigator can transform your firm's growth efforts.]


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