RFPs -requests for proposal- are often used by procurement to choose suppliers. They are now a very common and accepted tool in legal services. However, participating in an RFP takes a lot of time and effort. Lawyers often ask how they can tell whether or not to participate in a particular RFP.
I strongly believe that few legal procurement-issued RFPs are “wired” — as in promised to someone else already: Even if the company already has a preferred firm in mind, clients can be won over if they get more compelling offers. Legal procurement’s corporate mandate is not to support particular suppliers, but to make choices more objective and get the best price. Procurement hence likes to regularly bring in new suppliers.
Having said that, how can you protect yourself against tire-kicking? Here are 7 red flags that tell you that you may not have a good chance to win this RFP:
- You are not allowed to contact staff in case you have questions.
- Very short and inflexible deadlines. This can favor an incumbent firm who is expecting the bid.
- Evaluation is outside the norm. For example, if pricing is typically weighed at 40% and on this RFP it’s at 10%. What’s the reason?
- Too much detail that makes the RFP overwhelming.
- Page limitations that make it impossible to respond to all of the requirements. Only an incumbent firm will know what to focus on and what they can skip without being “noncompliant.”
- The RFP asks for a fixed fee but refuses to give appropriate information for proper scoping.
- “Processes” specified in the RFP can’t be mapped unless you have worked with the company before and know how they work.
How can you protect yourself and avoid wasting your time? Have a solid, strategic go/no-go approach to RFP participation and stick to it.
If you want to know more about legal procurement and RFPs, attend the BUYING LEGAL COUNCIL conference in New York on 2/2/15. Click here for more information on the program.