Do You Know When To Say No?

As a small agency owner, saying “no” is one of the most difficult things to do--especially when it comes to new business.  

However, I’ve learned that it can often be one of the most profitable (and satisfying) decisions you can make.  Not only can it save considerable time and resources, but it also allows you to better focus your efforts on greater pursuits.

So, after years of optimistically thinking, “This one could be great,” about every RFP that hit my desk, I’ve put together this list of the top five signs that should cause you to consider otherwise.  Whether you’re in advertising or any other service business, these signals should raise red flags: 

1.    “Please answer these 100 questions by the end of next week.”

If prospects have unrealistic expectations of timing and deliverables before you have a relationship, just imagine what they will expect when you do have one (and they are paying you for it).  At the very least, find out what is driving the request(s) and then decide whether it is worth the time to pursue it. 



2.    “We know it’s a lot of work, but this is all the budget we have right now.”

If there is an imbalance between the scope and the budget, determine whether there is an opportunity to negotiate either.  With very few exceptions, once you set a price, the price is set for the future. 

3.    “Send all questions via email to…” 

Relationships are not formed over email.  And, questions are often best answered in conversation (one question often leads to another).  If a potential client doesn’t have time to speak with you, the quality of your work will be jeopardized.  It’s not a good sign of what the future will be like.

4.   “Dear Business Owner”

If everyone who has a horse is invited to the race, the selection criteria are clearly not very high.  And, most likely, neither are your chances of winning.

5.    RFP for “Markting and Comunications”

A poorly written RFP (i.e., typos, grammatical errors, redundancies, etc.) not only shows a lack of respect for the process but, even worse, for the brand they represent.  Is that a brand you want to work with?

Aside from the above, we have an entirely separate set of criteria related to shared beliefs and values.  Those are a bit more personalized to my agency, but I’d recommend all businesses do the same.

1 comment about "Do You Know When To Say No?".
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  1. George Parker from Parker Consultants, August 8, 2013 at 4:07 p.m.

    Jeff... Excellent piece... But, it should not apply only to small agencies. It should also apply to BDA's (Big Dumb Agencies) who are equally guilty of chasing and spending huge amounts of money pitching accounts they should realize they have no chance of winning, and even if, in the unlikely event they do, it goes into review before they have even recovered their costs. Considering the biz is increasingly being run by "bean counters" you would think they would know this.
    Cheers/George AdScam" Parker

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