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How to Spin an RFP Withdrawal into an Opportunity

By April 17, 2024No Comments

Several months ago, I was coaching Kim, a successful Strategic Account Executive. Kim started the coaching session with a deep exhale, saying,

“I’m certain I will lose yet another unsolicited RFP this week. We will lose on price. This always happens to our team, but we’re proud of our company. We want prospects to know how good we are, so we keep crafting excellent responses and hoping for wins that never come. I’m so frustrated.”

I replied,

“You’re not alone. Our studies show that the win rate on unsolicited RFPs is around 5%, and price is the top reason for losing.”

Kim sighed and said,

“The prospect doesn’t even know me or our company. They’re missing out on so much by making this important decision on price.”

I asked,

“Can we look at this another way?  If you spoke with this prospect today, what would you say? What do you want them to know about your company besides your price? What if you and your pursuit team put that pride you mentioned into a withdrawal letter that asserts what the prospect is missing by not choosing you?” 

Kim and her colleagues took the initiative to list the unique capabilities they wanted the prospect to consider, and she sent the letter of withdrawal. This action, which freed the team from the constraints of requirements favoring a competitor, not only energized them but also allowed them to communicate with the confidence and authority of a market leader.

Three months later, a terrific surprise occurred! The prospect called Kim and admitted the installation with the chosen provider had started poorly and worsened. They acknowledged their regret over how singularly focused they were on price and how they handled the whole RFP process.

The prospect said they were intrigued by her letter and asked if she could bring a team to discuss the capabilities and intentions of the letter further. The prospect quickly awarded the project to Kim and her company. The installation was a success; the prospect’s end-customers are giving the solution high Net Promoter Scores, and more projects are being awarded to Kim.

This story is among dozens we at Revenue Storm have heard or coached—stories where disappointed prospects cast aside a poor-performing, price-based competitor in favor of reliability and quality.

Kim’s letter jarred her prospect’s mind away from price by asserting the unique benefits beyond price that her company could provide. Her withdrawal letter actually propelled her and her company into a more influential position with the prospect.


  1. A CRISP, CONFIDENT INTRODUCTION: This content has emerged as a popular template among clients I have coached. It can be used to decline bidding on an unsolicited RFP or withdraw from an ongoing bid process.

“Hello_____: Thank you for the opportunity to compete in your _________. After careful consideration, we respectfully withdraw from the project. Had we continued with the project and been selected as your provider, we would have been proud to deliver the following benefits to you, your solution’s end users, and your customers.”

  1. A COMPELLING, BOLD NARRATIVE: Give the prospect a vivid image of what they could experience with you as their provider. Be blunt yet respectful. Use fact-based assertions that are so powerful and persuasive that they plant seeds of doubt that could grow into full-blown Buyer’s Remorse for a prospect who made a critical project decision solely on price. Here is a collection of narrative elements I’ve seen used successfully. You will want to create your own.
      • Robust support resources in the region.
      • Deep expertise in the technology domain.
      • Relevant partnerships and alliances.
      • Testimonials highlighting unique reliability, dependability, end-customer satisfaction, and Total Cost of Ownership benefits.
      • Track record of continuous advances in new technology and solution explorations in this space.
      • Keen interest in developing a joint case study that would distinguish the prospect in industry conferences and summits.
      • Willingness to jointly sponsor a User Group, differentiating the prospect among peers.
      • Widely known reputation as a company with admirable Environmental, Social, and Governance values beyond technical and business excellence.
  1. WIDE DISTRIBUTION: Send the withdrawal letter to everyone in the prospect organization that you think is involved or impacted by the project, either as decision-makers in the bid or as functional users of the solution. One individual or a small group might lead the prospect’s aggressive focus on price. You want others in the prospect organization to see what they will miss by not choosing you, so include them. With the wide distribution of your letter, you might even start a groundswell of support for using factors other than price in the decision, thus possibly changing the rules in your favor.

By including strategic withdrawals in your array of Competitive Approaches, you can minimize wasting your company’s precious bid creation resources and your own time. Consider the benefits of a world where you mostly ‘play by your rules’… going far beyond just a low price. Imagine removing yourself and your company from thinly veiled charades by prospects intent on merely using your hard work to fill in needed price comparison check boxes. Ask yourself, do you really have anything to lose by carefully chosen strategic withdrawals?

Personal Challenge: Reflect on your recent experiences with unsolicited RFPs or bids that appear rigged for a competitor. Visualize what you would candidly say to a prospect in a conversation over coffee. Then, convert those thoughts into a strategic withdrawal letter. As a company with many benefits to offer your clients, you have good cards in your hand other than low price; decide on the most effective way to play them.



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