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Legal Data & Metrics

Custom & Advisory: The value to law firms of post-pitch feedback

Elizabeth Duffy  Senior Director / Global Client Services / Thomson Reuters

· 7 minute read

Elizabeth Duffy  Senior Director / Global Client Services / Thomson Reuters

· 7 minute read

How can data-driven post-pitch feedback programs improve the way law firms interact with their clients and more successfully sell their legal services?

Today, more than ever, the business of law runs on data and information. Law firms are making great strides toward using the vast amounts of data at their fingertips — concerning clients, matters, billing & pricing, their own operations, and much more — to greatly improve how they interact with clients, sell their services, and operate efficiently.

Yet, for many firms, one key nugget of valuable information often seems out of reach: Post-pitch feedback is generally regarded by firm leaders as the hardest stream of feedback to obtain. This can be easy to understand. When a firm has been unsuccessful in its pitch on a certain matter, it may be quite uncomfortable asking the client why the firm was rejected. Conversely, when the firm has been successful in winning the mandate, the work often has to start right away, which leaves little time to ask why the firm won over the competition.

With careful planning, however, post-pitch feedback can be captured widely without straining relationships or feelings, and then can deliver incredibly valuable competitive insight to the firm and improve its chances on other matters going forward.

Tracking the pitch

Law firms often know which other firms they are up against when they pitch each time and with almost every client. After all, it’s a small world, and legal specialization, matter specificity, and geography make it all the smaller.

Firms should start with readily known insight and create a pitch-tracking database that includes information on clients, the firm’s pitch team, likely competitor firms, whether the pitch outcome was successful or not, pricing structure and price point, sector expertise, and presentation methods, among other factors.

With this information, a firm’s pitch team can be better prepared by studying what has happened in the past. That way, the next time the firm is pitching to a specific client or against a specific competitor, the firm will know their win rate and also their relative strengths and weaknesses. These insights can help focus the pitch team’s efforts on maximizing the firm’s strong points, getting an edge, and increasing its win rate much better than could a competing firm without such detail.

You can hear Thomson Reuters’ Lizzy Duffy discuss the benefits of a client feedback program on the latest Thomson Reuters Institute podcast, here

This kind of information — easily gathered and invaluable if used — may be a good first step in improving pitch success, but it is not the last. In fact, this initial round of internal data-gathering should be seen as the jumping-off point for gathering more insightful data that will ultimately allow a firm to build a post-pitch engagement process that yields big benefits.

Turbo charge your pitch data and your win rate

While most firms are tracking the detail of what they did to try and win a pitch, few are successfully capturing what clients thought of these efforts and how they came to their decisions.

For those firms that are asking clients directly for feedback on their proposals and presentations, this insight captured offers a turbo-charge to their pitch intelligence database by placing clients’ perspective alongside the tangibles.

Post-pitch feedback takes many forms — phone, web survey, email, etc. — and it is good to offer clients the choice of how they prefer to provide their feedback. It may be best to keep feedback requests short and stick to core metrics, such as asking clients to rate firm performance vis a vis other firms, and limit the number of open questions to the most crucial ones, such as why clients came to the decisions they did. This way, a firm can capture a little data from a lot of clients and quickly build a dataset that can enable their pitch teams and partners to identify what is working best and where the firm’s weak spots might be.

How to build engagement with post-pitch feedback

Gathering post-pitch feedback from clients is among the most difficult tasks in law firm data collection, simply because it may bring law firms and their lawyers into difficult conversations with their clients around issues of performance, pricing, and satisfaction.

As with all types of client feedback — periodic relationship reviews, post-matter debriefs, client service surveys, etc. — the individual partners who manage those client relationships may feel either good or bad about asking for and receiving feedback that relates directly to their performance. Let’s call it a feeling of vulnerability.

Yet, post-pitch feedback, like all kinds of feedback, is about collecting insight to improve the firm’s performance and especially the firm’s business development team’s efforts to support the pitch and proposal process. That team works night and day to meet the exacting demands of partners and gather the meticulous detail required by the client’s procurement team against crushing deadlines. To receive news that efforts have been successful is always welcome, but how does it truly help the team replicate the win without knowing what exactly led them to it? And hearing that a pitch was unsuccessful is disappointing for all involved, and an even harder pill to swallow if the team does not know where the firm missed the mark or how to avoid that miscue next time.

While most firms are tracking the detail of what they did to try and win a pitch, few are successfully capturing what clients thought of these efforts and how they came to their decisions.

By collecting and sharing more detailed information — about such critical factors as how the firm stood out or fell short; what specific factor of pricing or staffing was a winner or a problem with clients; or even direct, frank reasons on why the firm won the mandate or lost out — firms will be able to arm their support teams with better information to play their crucial role.

One added bonus? Strategic use of this information also goes a long way to motivate and retain the best people within the organization. Indeed, by softening the blow of a loss by being able to identify the factors that resulted in it, and being able to recognize and reward the strengths of individuals or a team will demonstrate to lawyers and staff members throughout the firm that management is actually looking for ways to improve the firm’s chances of success, and not necessarily point fingers or assign blame.

Indeed, this type of post-pitch feedback serves a far greater purpose to the support team than the lawyers out front — and it would be wise for firms to position it as such. For example, firms could seek feedback on all aspects of the pitch process, such as quality of the documentation provided or clarity of communications. In this way, there is no need for individual partners to feel so scrutinized nor for team members to have to guess why a client’s selection went their way or didn’t.

Moving past the potential barriers to a successful post-pitch program requires a firm to create a commitment and accountability to capturing this feedback from the off. The request for post-pitch feedback should be built into a firm’s pitch service-level agreement from the start, and it should become a de facto part of that firm’s relationship management process with clients. Simply put, law firms should let the client know in their initial intent to pitch that they will be asking for feedback — and firms should then let their partners know that a pitch can’t be closed out without completion of that feedback step.

This may seem unlikely or impossible for some law firms, but those that are serious about gaining competitive advantage must think creatively and challenge the status quo — the benefits are too great to ignore.

Learn how to build a client feedback program within your law firm, here.

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