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Guest post: Writing pitches and proposals can be the bane of a busy lawyer’s life. But by following some simple steps they can be a pain free gateway to profit, says Mike Jones of Intrinsic Value. As published in The Solicitors Journal – March 2011. Part 1.

There is not a minute to waste if you want to gain competitive advantage. The longer the request for proposal (RFP) sits in your inbox, the less chance there is of winning. But – never launch into it without first making contact with the client. You almost certainly don’t know enough about their needs to make it compelling at this stage.

Be selective. Even in these tough times, don’t just pitch for everything. One firm’s research found that if they pitched for every opportunity that “flew in through the window” their success rate was one in eight. When they introduced a criteria-based selection process, their success rate rocketed to one in three within a year and their overall income from the pitch process increased significantly. Their most important question was “Do we have access to the decision makers?” If the answer was no, there was a strong chance the firm would have declined the proposal opportunity – nicely of course!

Get into the client’s shoes. Invest time to uncover their business strategy and brainstorm how this might impact their legal needs. Start to think about the process from their perspective rather than yours. If you were the client, what would you look for when appointing new lawyers and how would you differentiate them?

Build rapport. People buy from people. So why do we spend all our time and energy on the proposal document? Get out there and spend time with the decision makers. Get to know them as people and allow them to get to know you. If you leave this until the final presentation, it simply will not work.

Everyone has buying criteria. You need to uncover it. You cannot influence the decision if you don’t know how it is being made. Some adopt sophisticated selection processes, others are far more relaxed and intuitive.

Once you know it, you can form your strategy and the headings for your document and presentation are ready made. Now you can start to differentiate.