Saying ‘No Thanks’ to Pitch Requests

saying noChargeable hour targets can feel daunting and partners can be tempted to take whatever work they can find. But just because you get invited to pitch for some work, doesn’t mean you should automatically accept the invitation.

The process of pitching takes up a huge amount of time. Your response has to be good. After all, your reputation is at stake. There may be better uses of your time, such as targeting more appropriate work.

Many firms would like to turn down certain pitch opportunities but are nervous to say ‘no thanks’, particularly if the work is for an important current client. Partners are fearful that the client might be offended. So I offer a default script to help you get the message communicated in an appropriate way.

But first, how do you decide whether to pitch or not? Rather than using gut feel for such an important decision, I recommend getting a few partners together to use a more rigorous process, such as a scorecard such as the one below.

Factor Explanation Weighting Score
Importance of the client Consider if it’s a key account or top 10 client 30
Likelihood of winning the work Consider if you think there is a good chance of your firm winning the work 30
Strategic importance of the project Consider if the work is important to the client – if it is you’re more likely to get a higher recovery rate 20
Usefulness of the knowhow Consider if the learning you’d get from the project will help you win good work from other clients 20
Busyness of the team Consider if the team is twiddling their thumbs with only a few leads in the pipeline 20
Other potential work Consider the likelihood of follow-up work 10
Cross border or office activity Consider if, by taking on the work, the firm will form closer links between offices 10
Total Say ‘Yes’ if the total exceeds 80 and ‘No’ if the score is below 60. Consider other issues if the score is between 60-80 140

The factors and the weighting of the score may vary. The pitch might be for a place on a panel or might be for a specific matter – this affects the factors you need to consider.

If the outcome is a ‘no thanks’, here is my suggested model script. It will need tweaking depending on the nature of your current relationship, the nature of the pitch and the context.

Thank you very much for inviting us to pitch for [    ].

We have spent some time considering the matter. Unfortunately we have concluded that we would not be the best firm for what you need in this instance and we don’t want to waste your time (or ours). [Provide a more precise reason to justify your conclusion].

We know other firms better placed to meet your particular needs who we could recommend if you’re interested….[Plug a non-competing referral firm, on the basis that this firm would then owe you a favour].

I hope you understand our position on this.

[Point out other areas relevant to the pitch where you would be more suitable].

[End with a positive message].

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