Winning the Business

4 tips for managing RFPs during the holidays

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Everybody looks forward to the holidays. The good cheer and bright lights, shared moments with loved ones — time spent working on those end-of-the-year RFPs.

Of all the things you might like to see arrive in your inbox a week or two before you transition into full holiday mode, an RFP on a tight deadline may not be one of them.

APMP Fellow Kristin Dufrene, CPP, strategic capture, executive director at CACI International Inc., says, “It seems to happen on every holiday. It’s the nature of the business.”

It was around this time two years ago that Dufrene shared her frustrations with this scenario via LinkedIn after receiving an RFP right before Christmas that was due the first week of January. And she quickly found that she was not alone. Nearly 100 people shared their stories (or even just their sympathies), proposing a number of ideas on why this happens: It shows the bidders’ level of commitment; there’s the urgency of “getting it out the door” before the year is over; or even that customers are just “going through the motions” when they prefer the incumbent.

Regardless of the reason, there are things you can do to ensure you and the team make the most of working around holiday time. Dufrene offers these four tips to keep in mind.

1. Prioritize the team’s time with loved ones.

“It’s really important to make sure that people have time with their families,” Dufrene says. She explains that for the RFP she and her team are currently working on, they built their schedule to accommodate true time off for employees. “We may have a minor amount of work going on [during that time], but it isn’t full time and it doesn’t involve multiple people. We worked backwards from the due date and allowed for Christmas Eve, Christmas and the day after for people to spend with their families.”

2. Plan ahead.

Dufrene says that it’s important to build a work schedule early enough for people to know when they’re expected to work and still make plans to celebrate the season. “On the actual proposal schedule, we ask that people put the times they’re going to be unavailable, so we can count on them until we can’t. It’s really about managing time and not expecting everybody to work 100% [on their days off].”

3. Be flexible.

While planning ahead is crucial, there still needs to be some level of flexibility, especially if your team is working remotely in some capacity. “It’s important to make sure you have the commitment from everyone because it can be easily distracting, and you want to put forth your best effort.” She says to make sure that contact lists are created for team members who won’t be in town and that there are back-ups for everyone, just in case.

4. Remember to have fun.

After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Dufrene says if you’re working inside a war room, bring the holiday spirit with you. “For the classified proposal I’m working on this holiday, we are in a SCIF, so it has to be on location. We are going to have Christmas treats and festive decorations. Make it as fun as you can if you have to be onsite.”