November 12, 2015
We're Going in Another Direction

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If you work for an organization that issues RFPs to consulting companies, I have one humble request for you:

Please stop using the phrase "we're going in another direction" when it comes time to letting consultants know you've decided not to engage their services. It may seem like a small thing, but it's not.

"We're going in another direction" is not a very meaningful communication. It's a euphemism that delivers no useful information or feedback to the person to whom you are communicating.

If you've asked a consultant to take the time to engage with you, learn about your company, and take the time to submit a proposal, the least you can do is find a more meaningful way to deliver your feedback.

You know the phrase "political unrest?" Of course you do. It's all over the news, but just like "We're moving in another direction," it's vaporware -- a watered down representation of the truth.

So... instead of informing consultants that you are "going in another direction", consider offering them more useful feedback. Everybody wins. You get to speak your truth and they get the kind of honest feedback they need to help grow their business.

Alternative phrases to "We're going in another direction"?

1. "Your fees were too rich for our blood -- about 30% more than we are willing to pay."

2. "It was obvious, from your proposal, that you didn't fully understand our needs and our culture, so we selected another service provider. Thanks, anyway."

3. "We've decided to do it (the conference/keynote/workshop) ourselves, since we are under very tight budgetary constraints."

4. "We chose someone who lives in our city. Makes sense for us, since we don't have to pay for travel and accommodations."

5. "We've decided to go with a long term consultant of ours who already knows our business and our culture."

6. "Our CEO is only comfortable with professors from Ivy League universities. And besides, he's never heard of you before."

7. "You missed the deadline by 48 hours. We needed the proposal by Friday, but we didn't receive it until the following Monday."

Of course, I realize you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by delivering bad news -- but bad news, delivered in an honorable way, is much more preferable than not sharing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Make sense?

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What they say

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at November 12, 2015 02:24 PM


Thank you for this Mitch. You are spot on. Honest, constructive feedback is always better then being "blown off." Even worse than "we're moving in another direction" is when prospective clients don't even bother to respond to follow-ups at all! Every consultant has encountered situations where a lot of upfront work has been done for a potential client, but then the client simply stops responding. Let's show some mutual respect for time well spent :-)

Posted by: SpeakingDotCom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2011 03:40 PM

Yes! Yes!! and more Yes!! What seems to get lost in the shuffle of business and the client/consultant relationship is that we're all people underneath our carefully coiffed heads and straightforward polite responses can sure go a long way.

I would imagine that in our hyper politically correct world and hyper litigious society (especially in Western cultures) many feel apprehensive about being straightforward because of a feared repercussion but I believe if your response is in alignment with the integrity of who you are --- you will be okay. Like the previous commenter said so well, "let's show some mutual respect for time well spent"!

Posted by: Lynn Kindler [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2011 04:35 PM

I know you're looking for feedback after such a vigorous rant! All I can say is that when it comes to rants about consulting, we have slowly been....moving in another direction. And "It was a tough choice" and "you were definitely a finalist" and "we'll certainly get back to you if things change" and so on.

I now write RFPs instead of responding to them, so thanks for the insights Mitch.

Posted by: Gary Ockenden [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2011 04:45 PM

As a small consultant, while I apologize to my Clients, I have no "pre-sales money" to write proposals for them. In my early days, I gave "free consulting". Do all the work to understand the problems and write a proposal. That proposal became a blueprint for some executive to "deliver". Sorry, but the Client has to pay for that service. They do any way. The big firms with their flashy proposals build their pre-sales costs into their rates. I keep my rates low by being smart about pre-sales.

Posted by: FJohn Reinke [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 16, 2011 08:34 PM

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