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Why a Killer "Decline to Bid" Can Open a Door Instead of Close It

In my previous entry, we talked about the "spray and pray" method where your organization participates in RFPs from anywhere and everywhere, every time one comes in. Instead of going down this road where it takes a lot of effort to yield little results, do something your competitors aren't brave enough to try: the Decline to Bid.

I know it sounds crazy - how can you win business by declining to participate in an RFP? Easy - by using a crummy opportunity to your advantage by building trust instead.

Imagine a scenario where you receive an RFP from a customer and while your organization is suited to do what they're looking for, they've given respondents a very short time-frame to respond. It could be that the customer has extenuating circumstances for this procurement, forcing the timeline to be so short. Or, it could be that that the customer just doesn't have a good idea about how much time it takes to put together an RFP that includes everything they want to see.

It's a sticky situation and one that happens often. As with all strategies, declining to bid is a calculated risk, so take the time to consider your odds of winning through the proposal they're requesting now, where you know you're at a disadvantage from the start, or your odds of beginning a conversation that leads to an opportunity to bid at a later time where you're in a much more favorable position with the customer.

The fact is, all of your competitors will also have the same disadvantage of not being able to produce a great proposal in the given amount of time. It may be that the customer isn't entirely sure about what they need, so the RFP is a little all over the place too.

Instead of being reactive to a fuzzy or disadvantageous request, use the opportunity to connect with the customer on a more human level, and 9/10 times the customer is receptive. In fact, I've even seen customers respond that they're reissuing the RFP after considering what we had to say.

Sample Decline to Bid Letter

Thank you for considering our [product / service] for your project. Having reviewed with interest your RFP for [product / service] and considering the timing of the required response, we do not believe we could adequately respond to the request with the attention to detail required in the time allotted by [customer]. It is with regret that we decline to bid.
We are hopeful that we will have an opportunity to work with [customer] on future opportunities. [Customer] and [Supplier] share many of the same values and a passion for [benefit of your solution]. In common with [customer], [supplier] continues to excel in [whatever solution your company delivers] because our core values guide our products, services, hiring practices, acquisitions, development, and client care; and our teams across the nation to live these values daily.
[Take the time to align your shared values here]
We are very interested in remaining on your list of possible vendors regarding upcoming [customer] [product / service] opportunities where [supplier] can lend its expertise in [whatever awesome thing you do] of [customer's] initiatives.

It's the last line that wraps everything up in a bow. Offering your organizations expertise gives you the chance to help solve whatever issues led to this RFP, and puts you in a more favorable position of preference with the customer.

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