How to Decline an RFP

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Effective marketing involves the ability to decline some business opportunities.
Effective marketing involves the ability to decline some business opportunities. (Image: Francesco Scatena/iStock/Getty Images)

When your business is invited to respond to a request for proposal, a prospective customer is inviting you to submit a formal response indicating how you will fulfill a contract. While potential bidders are often not required to officially decline such invitations, you should always communicate your intentions in writing as well as through unofficial channels.

To Bid or Not to Bid

Before a company decides to decline an RFP, an internal review of the RFP is a prudent step. Practical internal reasons to decline include project pricing, scheduling and lack of expertise regarding the requested services or products. However, your company’s external reasons for declining should be stated diplomatically — the possibility of a future business relationship should never be overlooked.

Appropriate Official and Unofficial Responses

Each RFP process can have unique requirements for how to officially decline a proposal submission. For example, some RFPs include a specific “no bid” date — in such instances, you should make every effort to convey your intention to decline participating in the proposal process by the date prescribed in the RFP. This is a particularly important step to handle properly if you initially asked for your company to be included in the RFP process.

The RFP should contain a listing of individuals whom you should contact about declining an RFP, and you should notify one or more of these people by mail. Informal communication methods such as phone and email are also advisable. In the interest of enhancing future business opportunities, you should attempt to say no gracefully — sometimes referred to as saying “no” to the task while saying “yes” to the person. This is a smart approach to take when you are declining an RFP.

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