• Kate Robinette and Kathryn Ness

Saying "No Go" Impacts Your Growth and Your Team

In our previous blog posts about “saying no go” to undeveloped pursuits, we highlighted how you can say “no go” and still offer value to the client. We also showed the financial benefits to your bottom line when you say “no go” to pursuits for which you are not well-positioned. In this post, we’ll show you the benefits to your company growth and personnel for saying “no go,” and reveal some hidden costs of saying “yes” to undeveloped pursuits. It may seem counterintuitive but saying “no go” is essential to meeting your company’s long-term goals and to attracting and retaining great employees.

Saying “no go” supports your company’s long-term growth and strategy

Your company invested significant time and effort to develop a strategy that:

  1. was in alignment with the culture of the company,

  2. provided measurable goals for growth over time,

  3. emphasized the strengths of the company (markets, technologies, geographies, etc.), and

  4. could be supported and implemented by the employees – leaders, managers, technical staff, marketing – everyone.

Now we’re in one of the most uncertain economies of our lives. It is only natural to change direction and go after a broad range of opportunities. Right? Well… maybe not. In our second post, we shared that each proposal can cost around $10,000 to produce, and triple that amount if the process includes an interview (it is of comparable cost in labor hours for either in-person or virtual). Multiply this cost by the number of opportunities your company is pursuing for which they have not positioned. Is that a reasonable expenditure in uncertain times?


There are compelling benefits to following your strategic plan:

  1. Quicker return on investment – The investment in the strategic plan is returned when the plan is implemented. Setting it aside, even for a short time, delays the return.

  2. Measurable progress toward strategic goals (growth, market, etc.) – Working the plan guarantees progress; something that your competitors might miss out on if they are chasing everything else while you remain focused on achieving your goals. It also means you will be positioning for the work you really want, and when those projects come back (and they will), you will be ready for them.

  3. Demonstrated support of and to your clients – Clients remember who stood by them when times were tough. If you want to position yourself for the big project after the recession, help the client with the smaller projects now. Or offer review services, or a webinar, or advice or guidance that they would value and that costs you much less than a proposal to give.

Chelsea Pozar, CPSM, Marketing & Business Development Manager, Associate at BCA Architects has demonstrated that all the above is true:


Deltek®’s Oct-Nov pulse survey on marketing and business development changes during COVID revealed that 33-percent of all the firms surveyed developed new service offerings for their existing client base and 31-percent offered existing services to new clients. Of the firms surveyed, 48-percent saw growth or held steady in revenue during COVID. This verifies that emphasizing existing strategies, e.g. existing clients and services, produces success and growth even during a period of worldwide upheaval.


Saying “no go” attracts and retains employees

When companies “walk the talk” – do what they say they are going to do – they attract potential employees who want to be a part of that. When you make strategic pursuit decisions, you are expressing confidence in the plan and goals for the company. You are demonstrating an ability to look through the “noise” of the market to focus on what you need and want for the company (and by extension, its employees). Employees who want to help you achieve those goals will find you. Employees who participate in decisions about and delivering those goals will stay. Here’s why:

  1. Stability and unity for the company – Staying as focused as possible on the pursuits that fit in your plans strengthens your position in the market. You continue to deliver the projects that make sense for you and your company, allow your team to do the work they know and love, and galvanize them around pursuits and projects that feel familiar. All of that stabilizes and unifies the company.

  2. Continued improvement and success – Giving staff ample time, training, and resources to complete their assignments helps them perform better and be more productive. By doing fewer proposals, you can take the time to improve your internal processes, increase the quality of the proposals, and develop staff’s skills, which will lead to more successful pursuits.

  3. Reduced stress and burnout – Work-life balance is consistently ranked in the top reasons employees leave a company (TINYpulse). Pursuits and proposals are hard work under good circumstances. Doing many proposals on tight timeframes, or proposals that have little-to-no-chance of winning, has detrimental effects on the physical, mental, and emotional health of the entire proposal team (technical and non-technical staff). Doing fewer, more strategic proposals helps increase engagement and reduce stress and burnout.

Lindsay Diven, CPSM, founder of Marketers Take Flight, discussed proposal workload and burnout with her Facebook workgroup this spring:

Saying “yes” to undeveloped pursuits has hidden costs

We’ve been hinting at the hidden costs of pursuing projects for which you are not positioned. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Time – proposal deadlines average two to six weeks, depending on size and complexity. And while it may not take every moment of the day to complete the proposal, that is time that cannot be spent on other work, billable or not. Weigh the time expenditure against other priorities before saying “yes”. What will you be giving up doing that proposal? Is it worth the exchange?

  2. Turnover – The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that it can cost roughly one-third of an employee’s annual salary to replace him or her, depending on the skills and level of the position. That is just the recruiting/replacement costs. That does not include onboarding, training, and equipment. And it’s not just marketing staff who are at risk when saying “yes” to too many pursuits. The demotivating experience of losing multiple proposals puts the entire proposal team at risk. And if you win those unplanned projects? Then workload balance for the whole staff might be at stake.

  3. Credibility and integrity – If “walking the talk” builds credibility, then professing a value and not acting on it degrades credibility. This creates an integrity gap, a divide between what the company professes and what it does. The presence of an integrity gap erodes employee confidence, which can trickle to clients and out into the market. If the decision to pursue could be posted on a billboard and no one would cringe, go for it. If not, will there be internal fallout? What will your competition think when they see your proposal?

  4. Quality – Just as with work products, proposal quality suffers when there is insufficient time or resources to review the documents. We have heard horror stories of proposals submitted with the wrong client names, missing forms, typos, and worse. With competition increasing, quality proposals become an important differentiator and a reflection of the quality of the work the client can expect from your team.

We get it – it’s hard to say “no go” to potential work. Economic flux and uncertainty do not make it any easier. But the evidence is compelling. Saying “no go” to undeveloped pursuits provides financial, recruiting/retention, and strategic benefits that are significant and sustainable. Success starts with articulating what you want and saying “no go” to anything that doesn’t help you get there. At GO Strategies, we say “go" all the time – it’s in our name, after all – and we use it with the reverence and restraint it demands. Saying “no go” to undeveloped pursuits is a crucial step to saying “yes” to what matters most.


From all of us at GO Strategies, we wish you the strength to say “no go,” and a prosperous 2021.

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