Love them or hate them, RFPs are a necessary evil for any legal marketing or business development team trying to grow a firm’s book of business. Every firm faces similar challenges: a laborious process with oftentimes quick deadlines, disorganized content and busy contributors.
The American Lawyer’s 2018 Legal Compass report found that 47 percent of the largest firms in the nation named business development — RFP responses and pitch pieces — as the No. 1 responsibility of their marketing departments. Consequently, many of them revealed that as much as 30 percent of a law firm’s marketing budget can be consumed by RFP-related expenses. While no one disputes the importance of RFPs, certainly there’s value to be gained from a more efficient response process.
Luckily, RFP technology is gaining traction by helping firms create better responses, complete proposals faster and do so in a more collaborative way.
What does RFP technology do?
Gone are the days of mining through emails, trudging through disparate folders and tracking down information from attorneys to complete a proposal. RFP software centralizes the process into an easy-to-use platform where content is saved, responses are optimized, workflows are managed and subject matter experts (SMEs) can weigh in from your office or remotely halfway around the globe.
RFP technology allows firms of all sizes a far more efficient, effective and repeatable process for managing requests. The tool enables users to collaborate, store information and knowledge, automate certain tasks and stop “recreating the wheel” with every RFP that comes in the door.
Here are three reasons RFP software should be in every legal department’s technology stack.
Do more for less
A 2016 Above the Law article reported the average law firm “handles more than 200 RFPs a month, to the tune of 10,000 hours of work annually” with the best law firms enjoying a win rate of 30 percent. The hard reality is you can’t win ’em all, which leaves upwards of 7,000 hours being invested in proposals that aren’t successful.
There are many reasons why a firm may or may not win the business. Often, it may be a factor that is out of your control like a legacy relationship or the firm is too small to handle the work. However, responses that are poorly written or badly designed with information that is too generic can also be to blame.
Regardless, if you respond to RFPs, you can combat the cost by being as efficient as possible with your approach. With the average proposal requiring around 30 hours to complete, firms have to pick and choose by weighing the opportunity cost. But, software can make short work of these proposals and, in turn, allow your firm to do more with less.
For instance RFP technology, on average, cuts the number of hours in half, which theoretically would allow firms to double the number of opportunities they respond to. And while volume can influence overall results, simply responding to more requests doesn’t guarantee results — the proposals also have to hit the mark.
RFP software makes hitting the mark easier, too by leveraging the firm’s content library where past proposal responses and firm knowledge are stored. So, while each prospective client has specific needs, this technology allows you to develop, tag and save proposal content so that it can be recalled and tailored to each RFP.
For example, a high-tech business that needs intellectual property counsel may require a firm with inter partes review expertise. Proposal content addressing the firm’s capabilities and any related statistics from similar requests in this area would be readily available through its knowledge library.
Take advantage of automation
A firm might have a hundred different RFPs, but generally each of these RFPs will ask a version of the same questions a hundred different ways. That said, RFP software can detect the intent of these repetitive questions and leverage artificial intelligence to automatically identify the best answers. All you have to do is review.
From a technical standpoint, AI within the platform analyzes and identifies keywords and phrases in an RFP’s questions and suggests answers that can then be carefully customized to address the client’s specific needs.
As a firm’s content is constantly improving and evolving, pairing it with AI makes the knowledge easily searchable, and the firm can more readily use it to demonstrate their value and understanding of the potential client’s business and needs. In addition, reviewing past proposals and projects in the RFP platform will also allow you to provide concrete examples of where you’ve made a difference, shown a cost savings or added value for other clients.
Improve teamwork and transparency
Collaboration is necessary for success, as responses require input from multiple stakeholders like business development, marketing, accounting and attorneys.
In its current format, RFP collaboration can be a challenge, given the number of people within the firm giving feedback during the review process. In addition, all of these people deal with competing priorities of their own.
RFP software allows for real-time, centralized collaboration that enables users to provide updates anytime, from anywhere. What’s more is that proposal managers can track changes and progress to quickly see who has completed their assigned tasks. Then, they can also send gentle reminders to those who haven’t yet contributed.
By communicating within an RFP software platform, attorneys are able to spend more time focused on their current clients and less time creating proposal content.
RFPs aren’t going away, but the way law firms respond is being disrupted in a positive way. By leveraging technology, law firms can reduce the time it takes to complete proposals and focus on addressing the specific needs of the client to earn their trust and business.