There hardly seems to be a day that goes by that doesn’t see a law firm partner assert that “we need to focus on our USPs” [Unique Selling Points for those of you who have been spared the finer details] and then sit back in a self-assured manner as if he/she has just made the point of the century.
This is particularly true when a firm is pitching for work from a major or decent sized client and includes formal tender processes as well as less formal opportunities to pitch for work.
So, USP’s; what are they … NOT? Well let’s start with the assumption that the key part is the ‘U’ – ‘unique’ – a unique selling point. How many law firms have a unique selling point? What is your firm’s unique selling point? Tricky isn’t it? – especially if we take out all of the old contenders such as,
- Partner led
- Less expensive than the magic circle
- Better IT than anyone else
- … etc
None of which are remotely unique and all of which are used by people inside law firms (partners and internal business development teams alike) to convince themselves that they have found that USP.
The point is that you don’t have a USP and you aren’t going to get one any time soon – so time to move on and try to figure out what you can do to win that pitch.
This brings us to the tie-breaker – often referred to in pitches by law firms as the “Added Value.” If you aren’t careful, your added value can go the same way as the USP; a list of fairly dull add-ons that, at best, are no different from anyone else. At worst, the client doesn’t even want them anyway.
As you read the rest of this article – think of the firm acting for a pub/restaurant chain who offered to ‘sponsor’ the taxi trips home for late night staff – what a justifier…what a tie breaker!!
In the USA – from where I am writing this blog – the tie-breaker is sometimes referred to as ‘the justifier’. This is a useful term as it gives a good clue to what you need to achieve. You need to add something to your pitch which not only gives you the tie-breaking edge over your competitors. It should also allow the buyer – not the organisation, but the individual or small team within the organisation who is responsible for the buying decision (often referred to by law firms as the one “with the gift of instructions”) – to justify the buying decision by demonstrating to his/her own people (usually the boss) that he/she has not only made the right decision but has also won something of value for the organisation from their current or future lawyers.
So what sorts of things are we talking about?
Well of course it will be different for each prospective client – the point is that we are trying to get away from a pre-defined list; not create a new one. There are however means by which you can get the prospective client to do the work for you. For example, engagement during the pitch process is vital. Ask the client questions like “What keeps you awake at night?”; “What are the worst things about Monday mornings?”; “What are their top 3 priorities?” etc (if you have time in the process it may even be worth creating an electronic questionnaire/survey using a tool such as Survey Monkey).
Then try to find solutions and offer them as part of your added value, tie-breaker, or justifier. Remember – they don’t need to be ‘legal’ solutions – they can be anything.