We Respectfully Decline …

By Tom Searcy

A client once decided to say “no” to an RFP opportunity. It was tough. It was a big company, a huge opportunity and a great chance to get a foot in the door. They said no because of their Red Flag Dozen.

The Red Flag Dozen (read more here) is a list of the must-haves in order for the company to invest in responding to the RFP. One of the red flags in this situation was that my client had to have an executive sponsor before they could answer an RFP. Another red flag was that my client would have needed to have done business with the company before. Finally, my client needed access to information during the RFP process — access that the company would not grant.

Three strikes: no sponsor, no past history and no access.

Below you’ll find the letter they sent to say no. I’ve made the letter more generic than what was sent, but this will give you a good template to follow.

Dear Mr./Ms. RFP Sender,

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your Request for Proposal for the XYZ project. That said, I would like to inform you of our intent to not participate in this process. This decision is not based on your process, which is fair and balanced, but rather on our own internal opportunity review process.

Specifically, we require client executive sponsorship and a thorough understanding of the guiding business initiative. This requirement is based on exhaustive experience that indicates that the success of complex projects hinges on executive sponsorship, relentless focus on the underlying business value and trusted partnership between the business and the solution provider. While I’m certain that you fully understand this reality and would never proceed on an important project without such assurances, I am not confident that we currently enjoy this level of relationship with you.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to submit. Please direct questions or comments to my attention.

Executive in Charge

Non-Responding Company

This response stands on its own. It is not a move.

That said, the letter does create the opportunity for the RFP company to come back and make a strong request for your to participate. What should you do?

  1. Make a simple request. “Who will be my executive sponsor?” (See my “Executive Sponsorship Agreement” article.)
  2. Make a second simple request. “I would like a phone call review of the RFP document for the sake of more complete context on some of the items.”
  3. Do one more thing. Go back through your Red Flag Dozen before you decide to respond.

One of the keys to winning in the RFP game is to say “no” early and often. Establish your best practices and stick to them.

The founder and CEO of Hunt Big Sales, Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account selling and has made a career out of doing big deals and creating explosive growth. Read more about Tom here.
Originally published: Jan 19, 2012