Politely refusing to respond to RFPs

Here’s a nice example of a company respectfully declining to respond to an RFP with the thought process that the supplier went through, and the letter they sent.

I wonder what the company going through the RFP process thought about this refusal. Ideally they would take it as a possible warning sign that there might be something in their project that needed attention (e.g. executive sponsorship) and also with this supplier not participating they wouldn’t get the overview of the market they (or their management) were hoping for. As a project manager, as soon as I got this I’d call up the supplier and at least have a chat with them to find out if I it was in my interests to make some changes and get this supplier back on board – if nothing else, they’ve shown integrity.

Then again a lot of RFP processes are just going through the internal motions and the preferred supplier is already pre-selected, or in actual fact there’s little chance of the project going ahead. So this response was probably just noted and the process continued as planned.

We’ve declined to participate in RFPs before although not in quite such eloquent language! Sometimes that’s because we’re not a good fit and we said so and wished the project well. More often it was because we saw structural flaws in what they were trying to do, and in almost every case we’ve later heard on the grapevine those projects have subsequently hit serious problems.

Sadly, I’ve never been contacted to ask why we felt it wasn’t in our interests to proceed – perhaps running a proper RFP process is more important than a successful project, so there’s no point in finding problems and fixing them before they doom the project, because that would violate the sanctity of the RFP process!

I’ve often thought about blogging my thoughts on the various RFPs that come past, so that even if the issuing company isn’t interested at least other people might avoid similar problems. Feels a bit wrong though (washing their dirty laundry in public even though it would be anonymous), and I haven’t figured out a way to do it that feels right.

2 Replies to “Politely refusing to respond to RFPs”

  1. Simon,

    I find that the truth of a situation is better said than trying to preserve feelings. I was taught that a true friend tells the truth even when it hurts. Now I know a lot of your thoughts on the rfp process are subjective but that does not make what you feel any less true.

    I say go for it. Blog away and let the truth speak for itself.


  2. I would love to see the sample of respectfully declining! the link is broke. I sell software and we get the occasional RFP out of the blue with a 5 day turnaround time. I don’t sell that way, having never met the business and understanding what they are trying to accomplish is a waste of time and 9 out of 10 times your fodder for a decision that has already been made.

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