Bring Your A-Game
You are now in the final round of the RFP selection process—the in-person interview. The big picture is to prepare for an honest conversation amongst equals—all seasoned business professionals. Your interview team must be ready to demonstrate that your law firm can meet the client’s success goals through the prism of your legal bench and operational excellence. The interview is the most “personal” phase in the selection process so it is also important that your interview team demonstrates that they are people that listen, care and are team players.
The suggestions below take both the professional and personal components of the interview into consideration and highlight some ways to connect the two to persuade the client that your firm is the right choice.
Select Your Interview Team
In addition to the law firm relationship lead, the members of your team should mirror the client’s team. Using a “match-up” approach is a powerful tool to engaging different members of the client team and building your credibility. Some possible match-ups are:
- In-house counsel and law firm lawyers to cover legal subject-matter issues
- In-house procurement and law firm pricing lead to cover pricing alternatives
- In-house operations and law firm operations lead to cover staffing models, knowledge management, project management, technology, and process improvement issues
Matching allows for conversations that are most effectively handled amongst those with deep experience in specific areas. This level of conversation can build trust early and meaningfully. It can also transform what can be a sterile “interview” into a vibrant conversation around expectations, challenges, and strategies on both the overall relationship and the matter-specific levels.
Prepare the Content
Prepare a list of talking points and questions that you want to deliver that consistently drive the message that you understand the client’s needs and can deliver solutions to those needs. In developing the talking points and questions revisit the client’s RFP, your Go/No Go decision analysis, your proposal, the client team dossier, and the conversations you’ve had with the client and members of your firm who know the client. Here are some tips:
- The talking points should be brief and client-centric.
- The questions should be open-ended and cover a range of topics that touch upon the expertise of each member of the client team.
- Select the members on your team who take the lead on each topic.
- Select the members of your team who will take the lead on each talking point/question
- Both the talking points and the questions should foster a give-and-take conversation amongst the group.
Also, prepare a list of questions that you anticipate the client team will ask you. Select the person on your team who will respond to each question. Unless the client requests a powerpoint or other form of visual presentation don’t go that route. However, before the interview do send the client a document that has the pictures, name, and title of each member of your interview team. Lastly, prepare your closing statement. This is the part where the relationship partner asks for the business and clarifies next steps.
Practice, Review, Repeat
During the interview, the verbal and non-verbal interactions amongst the participants on both teams will establish the tone of the interview. The attitude your team brings in delivering the talking points, asking and answering the questions is crucial. Doing your part in making the exchange a conversation—an exchange amongst equals with different strengths can be profound. As natural as the process may appear it’s not and it takes practice and a video camera to get it right. Think of these “mock” interview sessions as the road to hitting a home run. Here’s how to approach the process:
- The mock interview needs to replicate, as reasonably as possible, the actual interview.
- Select an individual who will play the “voice of the client.” It’s not a small role since he/she will play each of the client team members. An excellent “actor” is your firm’s director of client relations or another senior member of the business development team.
- Develop an “individual performance scoring card” that identifies verbal and non-verbal communication factors such as eye contact, poster, and language fillers such an “um”, for each team member.
- Develop a “content scoring card” that measures the effectiveness of the talking points, the questions, and the answers to the questions.
- Videotape the session and play it immediately afterward so the team can see what went well and what needs work. Have the group complete both the scoring cards and schedule the next mock session (as soon as possible but allowing for one-to-one coaching, and changes agreed upon based on the content scoring evaluation.
The mock interview sessions can be soul-jarringly difficult, but they are essential. The reward of all the effort will reflect in a client interview that will be client-focused, interactive, and polished. The immediate reward will be the feeling each of your team members will have from a job exceedingly well done. The long-term reward will be the call you get from the client saying, “We choose you.”.
THE RFP: WINNING THE BIG ONE
A Five-Part Series
# 1. Evaluation—Play To Win Or Pass
# 2. Proposal—A Look @ The Overlooked
# 3. Value Delivered—The Secret Sauce
# 4. Design Elements—More Than Words Can Say
# 5. In-Person Interview—Bring Your A-Game