A Gamechanger in Professional Services: Pursuit Process Checklist

Jennifer Tomlinson
Written by Jennifer Tomlinson / Jan 23, 2023

As Executive VP of Marketing, I work to identify business needs and help QorusDocs’ clients generate revenue more effectively and efficiently. I spearhead efforts to increase brand awareness through digital marketing and client engagement.

Is your pursuit process producing the results you want? At QorusDocs, we’re on a mission to help you win more business—more efficiently, easily, and consistently. To this end, we’ve built a stable of tools to help professional services firms close new clients swiftly, sustainably, and without the frustration of collaboration roadblocks that can often plague the pursuit process.

Most notably, we’re pleased to introduce our new guide: Pursuit Process Checklist for Professional Services. Whether you’re an accounting firm, staffing and recruitment specialist, consultancy, or legal firm, our step-by-step checklist will guide your organization through the pursuit process to make the most of new client opportunities and ensure your next pursuit is a winning one.

What is a pursuit? 

In professional services, the end-to-end sales process is called a pursuit. The process often starts with a client conversation or receipt of an RFP and progresses through to a client decision. The proposal is at the center of the professional services pursuit process but, given the importance of the client relationship in awarding new engagements, the activities surrounding the proposal document are critical to the success of the bid.  

While the proposal document is definitely key when selling professional services, it won’t win the work on its own (although it has been said that it has the power to lose the bid). In addition to the proposal or RFP response document, factors such as building relationships, chemistry between teams, references, prior work completed for the client, and other elements integral to the pursuit process will assist the client in making the final decision when selecting a service provider. Sustained effort throughout the pursuit is what drives wins.  

Understanding the who, what, and how 

The team working on a pursuit in professional services is typically comprised of numerous people from various departments. These multiple team members will contribute their input to the document, as well as participate in the activities before and after the document is delivered. The pursuit team may include the lead partner, client services, business development, and pitch team members.  

So, what does the pursuit process look like and how can steps in the process better contribute to the proposal document? The process can vary in length, from days to months, partly based on the nature and depth of the client relationship (e.g., existing vs. new client).  

In broad strokes, the pursuit process can be broken down into three stages:  

  1. Pre-proposal – The activities taking place before the proposal document is started
  2. Proposal – The activities related to the actual writing and delivery of the proposal document
  3. Post-proposal – Activities taking place after the proposal document is delivered to the client

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the first stage and review what pre-proposal activities are involved in a typical pursuit process.

Pre-proposal activities

New opportunities can arise with new or existing clients through several avenues:

  • Client issues an RFP (or RFI or RFQ, requesting advance information for ideas)
  • Client meeting takes place with discussion of the opportunity
  • Firm has an idea for engagement at client and discusses ideas with client

Regardless of how an opportunity comes about, the first sign of potential business should prompt the pursuit team to get organized around the pursuit. Before work begins on the proposal document, some or all of the following the steps typically take place:

  1. Receipt of RFP/notice of RFP forthcoming/opportunity discussion with client

    Begin by assembling the pursuit team to discuss what is known to date about the client and the opportunity.

    • Lead partner assembles strategy leader, proposal writer, and other key senior team members, including firm leadership in some cases
    • Client account manager pulls all relevant information about the client
    • Determine the viability of the opportunity and go/no go

  1. Kick-off meeting

    Tip: In advance of the kick-off meeting, the proposal team and client account manager should coordinate and gather relevant information background information about the client and competitors. 

    The kick-off meeting should begin by reviewing the background information that has been compiled. The latter portion of the meeting should discuss and confirm the following:

    • Determine differentiators and strategy; discuss any themes, visuals, etc., that require signoff or input from the team as a whole
    • Agree team and roles in the pursuit process, as well as engagement
    • Assess competition
    • Propose preliminary pricing strategy
    • Determine preliminary assignment of RFP questions to pursuit team members
    • Create a group calendar to track availability for meetings, proposal document review, etc.
    • Map meetings with client stakeholders/confirm team members to attend each

  1. Meeting with the client

    The forthcoming client meeting is the most important outcome of the kick-off meeting. The client team should determine meeting topics, based on the RFP or other existing information. Clarification, additional details, floating of approaches, etc. may be needed. Remember that ongoing engagement with the client throughout the pursuit process is key.

    Prepare an initial list of client representatives you want to meet with, along with the client team members who will attend the meeting. The team should also decide what materials to take to each meeting and how meeting results will be communicated to the broader pursuit team after each client meeting. Because the information received in client meetings, as well as the client response to information provided, will factor into the proposal document, proper dissemination and discussion is critical. 

Next steps: proposal and post-proposal activities 

We’ve discussed the basics of the first stage of the pursuit process and outlined the essential pre-proposal activities. For additional details, in-depth explanations, and pro tips about pre-proposal activities and how to organize your pursuit team for success, we invite you to download the Pursuit Process Checklist for Professional Services.  

To find out how to navigate the vital second and third stages of the pursuit process—proposal and post-proposal activities—our Pursuit Process Checklist for Professional Services walks you through all three stages to ensure your next pursuit is a winning one. This handy guide will help you and your team: 

  • Understand and execute the three stages of the pursuit process 
  • Learn the detailed steps and activities to optimize your pursuit process and generate favorable results 
  • Discover the key ingredients for developing proposals, pitches, and RFP responses that convert 

Still hungry for more info, tools, and resources for professional services firms? Have you checked out the QorusDocs Professional Services Resources Hub yet? This curated collection of resources is tailored to the unique needs of professional services organizations and includes a proposal management guide, a range of downloadable templates, presentation tips, and more. You’re welcome!