Winning the Business

Making Positive Use of Downtime

6 ways to turn a professional rarity into valuable experience

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Recently, I experienced some rare downtime. Our team is typically inundated with various RFI/RFP assignments, so this free time was quite unusual. Having the professional and personal attitude of always being on the move, I searched for avenues to not only keep my mind active but also assist my team.

Special Projects

My leader requested that I spearhead developing a unique proof point for a new service offering that my company is pursuing. I jumped at this opportunity. The experience allowed me to stretch out of my comfort zone and branch out into uncharted waters within my firm. I collaborated with subject matter experts I had not worked with before and crafted fresh material that my team can use in the future.

Industry Webinars

Web-based learning is a great way for proposal writers to hone their skills and absorb new ways to combat issues we all see in this profession. My free time allowed me to attend discussions focusing on:

  • Presentation skills (appropriate hand/body language, emotional intelligence best practices, confident speech habits)
  • Graphics enhancements (moving away from text-heavy responses to images that tell the reader a story)
  • Procurement’s proposal perspectives (when to “no-bid,” the emergence of third-party procurement firms, and ensuring only customer-focused content)

Web-based learning is a great way for proposal writers to hone their skills and absorb new ways to combat issues we all see in this profession.

Proposal Recycling

During the downtime, I was able to step back, take a breath, and truly analyze my recent proposals. This allowed my fresh eyes to hunt down newly created material for future use as well as determine areas that needed to be strengthened.

Industry Reading

I caught up on industry blogs and articles from our profession’s top thought leaders, including Shipley Wins, The Proposal Guys, and the vast array of APMP publications available online.

Being a Steward of My Team

Proposal reviews for my peers, assistance with performance evaluations, and intensive one-on-one sessions with my colleagues on best practices for APMP certification were just a handful of initiatives I took during our team’s slow period.

Effective Follow-Up of Recent Proposals

Probably most important, I kept lines of communication open with my sales partners to determine the next steps of recently submitted proposals. We advanced with several proposals, and I was free to assist with complex oral presentations and best-and-final-offer proposals.

Whether you’re a seasoned proposal veteran or new to the role, you know we’re all typically swarmed with work in this profession. Downtime—while infrequent—is a wonderful opportunity to sharpen skills outside of the daily proposal manager responsibilities. I encourage you to work with your leadership and decide on impactful and creative ways to make the most of this valuable time.

Vincent Overmyer is a senior proposal analyst at Kforce, a Tampa, Florida-based professional staffing firm. He can be reached at

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