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The Mad Clientist

Crafting a Killer Proposal

By February 4, 2015April 16th, 2020No Comments

You’ve learned how proposals get no respect or love—hurting your chances of getting new business, and how to strategically select the RFPs which do merit your love with BTI’s RFP Go/ No Go checklist. After reviewing the checklist and deciding a proposal is worthy of a response, all you need now is a killer proposal, especially for those strategic must-wins.

The killer proposal begins with your client: Your proposal isn’t about you. It’s about your clients.

An Artisan Approach—At Least for the First Paragraph

Start the very first paragraph—the very first sentence—with your clients’ name and their problem, issue and/or situation. Prove you understand what your client is trying to accomplish. Few things are more important than articulating you know exactly what you are getting into—and understand your (potential) client.

Now Add a Healthy Dose of Insight

Build on your compelling first paragraph by adding your best thoughts, ideas and insights into providing a solution, context or observation. Prove you can deliver by putting your ideas up front. The more you offer the better your chances. Clients are looking for evidence you will bring good ideas—and not just a list of skills—to their issues.

Clients will hire the firms whose ideas they trust and like and ignore firms who don’t give them a sneak preview of their thinking. Every ounce of insight and context you add translates into 10 pounds of advantage.

Partners are best positioned to write these insightful introductions as they are best suited to blend the legal and business insight clients relish.    

Talk Benefits

Clients want to know what they will gain by working with you and your firm. Most firms talk about their vast resources, experience in similar matters, and attorneys. These firms presume the client will see the benefit. Clients know you bring great resources and skills. What clients don’t know is how you will make the leap to using these resources to their advantage.

Talking about benefits proves you understand your client’s situation—especially when you link the benefits to your client’s issues. How do you know what the client’s issues are? Research the client. Don’t assume the RFP tells you everything you need to know about the client. It doesn’t. Talk to the client. Even if the RFP says not to call, make the phone call. General counsel have told me time and time again they don’t know how a firm can respond in a meaningful way without a conversation. Think of the statement precluding phone calls as a tool to screen the tenacious from the rest of the pack.

Just talking about your qualifications proves you understand how to get the work done—important, but not killer.

Follow the 1 to 3 Rule

Only mention your firm once for every 3 times you use the client’s name. This ratio ensures you are focusing your proposal on your client instead of just touting your firm.

Cut the Length, A Lot

You’ve crafted a custom introduction and talked about benefits. Now make it shorter.

Hire a ruthless editor and shrink the proposal down to size. Decide how many attorney and practices profiles you will include before starting work on the proposal and stay within your limit. Develop a word budget.

It is easy to make a long proposal and hard to make it short. It’s worth the effort.

Few firms take the time and energy required to develop client-specific context in their proposal. The artisan approach will often fly in the face of the proposal machines designed to crank out qualifications, statistics and standardized descriptions of firms and practices. But, it’s all worth it when you deliver the killer work—which comes as the result of a killer proposal.


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