As a service industry professional, my first interaction with prospective clients is upon receipt of an inquiry/request for a quote. While I of course hope that I can provide what the prospect is seeking and convert them into a happy customer, as with any business, this is not always the case – in fact, despite enjoying a great degree of success, I actually get turned down quite a lot. Someone may elect not to retain my services due to:
- The boss/committee preferring something different
- Overall change in event goals, format or timing
- Scheduling conflicts
- Budgetary constraints
What I’ve discovered in nearly 15 years in the events industry – the last 5 of which I’ve spent operating my own company offering team building activities in NYC and beyond – is that there is a right and wrong way to turn down a vendor’s business. How a person chooses to decline an RFP says an awful lot about them personally, as well as the organization which they represent.
Here are some recent examples I have experienced:
The Wrong Way
When someone who has requested a quote/proposal chooses not to retain my services, it’s disappointing – however, when they do so via one of the following ways, it’s infuriating:
- Dropping off the planet/ignoring repeated attempts to follow up
- Sending a curt 1-line Email, which offers zero explanation
- Making multiple requests for extra information, referrals, proposal modifications, etc. – then ultimately declining, without reason or apology
- Not seriously looking to hire me to begin with (you’d be surprised how many transparently fake “inquiries” I receive from competitors trying to feel me out – a time-wasting, and frankly immoral, practice)
Declining a vendor’s business in such a way is not only rude and disrespectful, but is completely inconsiderate of the vendor’s time. Perhaps the ultimate example happened earlier this month. I received a request for more information, and after several Email exchanges and a lengthy phone call, I provided the prospect with a detailed proposal. A week later, I received a brief Email stating that the company had decided to produce the event themselves – but could I provide them with the contact information of my celebrity hosts, as well as refer them to companies which rent the same equipment I use?
To paraphrase: “We’re not hiring you, but can you give us your proprietary information so that we can do your job ourselves?”
The Right Way
Last week, I received an inquiry for a potential corporate holiday party activity, NYC style – however, the event would be in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to multiple phone calls and a detailed proposal, I was also asked to provide several references for them to speak with – a good sign! Unfortunately, they ultimately decided not to retain me – but check out how they did it:
First of all, my Email didn’t ping – my phone rang (!). On the other end, a gentleman in a sweet Southern accent sincerely thanked me for all of the time I had put forth – but regrettably, due to circumstances beyond his control they would unfortunately not be able to work with me this time around. However, he greatly appreciated both my time and my efforts, and let me know that my references had all been glowing – they would also certainly be reaching out to me again in the future.
I hung up the phone, and you know what? I actually felt GOOD! Here’s a guy who respected and valued my time; even though he wasn’t going to hire me, he wanted me to know that he appreciated my responsiveness to his inquiry, as well as the work I committed to our communications, crafting his proposal, and everything else in between.
The point I wish to emphasize is this: when you make an inquiry to a service provider and request a response – be it an Email, phone call, proposal or in-person meeting – you are making a request for that person’s time. If he/she is an entrepreneur like me, then they’ve already got a ton on their plate to begin with – however, they will quickly drop everything in order to respond to a new business request, devoting the requisite time and attention necessary to convert you from a prospect into a satisfied client.
If you choose not to hire that person, that’s okay – however, please do so in a way which shows the same courtesy and respect as you have been shown.