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How to reject a proposal

a little stamp that says, "sorry, but..."

It's not easy to reject someone's proposal, which is probably why so many of us take the "just rip it off" tack and say, "Sorry, we decided to go with someone else". I get it, really, I do. But I'm asking you to give that up. Here's why.

We're not as sensitive as you think. Seriously. We get rejected all the time for stuff, from story pitches to lunch locations to conference speaking opportunities. Sure, there's a feeling of disappointment. But we are resilient folk.

We're also, you know, business owners, who want to understand as much about our pricing, services, customers and prospects as you do. And you probably know from your own experience how getting a flat rejection without any context is as unsatisfying as it is unhelpful.

We all know you have a reason, so just share it. [If you don't think it's a very good reason, maybe you should re-evaluate the decision before notifying people?]

Here's an example. We were asked to bid on the content side of a site rev project. Right in our wheelhouse, so we jumped on the proposal. A couple weeks later, I got the email. It was pleasant and not a form letter, but it gave no context for the decision. I know we turned in a great proposal and wondered why we didn't get the gig. I wrote the prospect back. The determining factor, it turns out, was price. That's straightforward enough to put in the original email.

Giving a little bit of context helps vendors know what you care about most, informs our pricing on future projects, or lets us know we're not a good fit for each other. That make the proposal process better for both sides!

a red REJECTED stamp

Next time you're sending out rejections, ask the evaluators for one reason the proposal was a no (or scrape that from the system if you're using an digitized review solution). Then you can share what led to the decision and provide some insights on what was missing or could be done better next time.

Sure, if you never want to work with the vendor again, just send the same old letter. But if you're looking to build a stable of reliable agencies and professionals, why not put a little more skin in the game and help us do better for you on the next bid?

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