Dear GMC: Requesting Extensions

Does asking for a due date extension reflect poorly on your company? 

When I first entered the proposal profession, I worked for a well-known Fortune 500 company. The RFP team culture had no qualms about asking for another week or two. “What do we have to lose by asking?” 
But when I switched to a smaller company, that team reacted with concern to my casualness. They didn’t want to be the company that appeared to need an extension—ever. Do prospects judge harshly any vendor who asks for more time? Does this vary depending on which market or field the prospect is in? 


Mark P. 

Dear Mark P:  

Ah, to get into the mind of the customer. What are they thinking and feeling when they aren’t scheming up incredibly confusing and contradictory RFPs meant to keep us up late and working weekends?  

Of course, I say that in jest. The truth is, procurement is hard work. Procurement professionals, just like us, have their own best practices, associations, and certifications. They bring their own unique value to the organization and offer an essential service that companies need. They probably might even have their own hopes and dreams if you get to know them well enough.  

So, what does this have to do with deadlines? Well, most likely, there is a reason their deadline exists. They need to work backwards from an important date just like we do to ensure critical products and services are available to their organization when they are needed. For example, they may need to present proposals at a board meeting, or get something done before the current contract ends. Not receiving proposals in time could be anywhere from a minor annoyance to a major catastrophe. 

And to the argument that they can just say “no” when an extension is requested? That is certainly true. But they are as motivated to receive quality proposals as you are to provide them. If responders are asking for an extension, they may be concerned their timeline was not appropriate and pinch their own internal processes to accommodate. 

To add to the complexity, this is all going to vary by industry, RFP complexity, and individual customer. Maybe they take a laisse faire attitude to everything and bake an extra three weeks in, just in case extensions are granted. Maybe they run a tremendously tight ship and see any request for an extension as a personal affront and criticism to their process.  

The only way to know is to ask—but rather than asking for an extension, there are other questions you can consider. Perhaps see what the customer relationship managers in your company have to say. They may have insight specific to your company and industry that can help solve the age-old question of how your customers interpret a request for extension. 

Another question to ask is what is driving the need for the extension. Is it because the prospect didn’t include essential information until the last minute? Did they not provide the standard amount of time that is expected to prepare a proposal in your industry? Or, is it because your internal processes are not keeping up with the market demands? 

Perhaps this doesn’t provide a definitive answer, but it does offer food for thought for all you valiant proposal professionals pondering the big stuff, like whether to extend, or not to extend. That is the question. 

Do you have a proposal problem? A sticky situation with a submission? Send your questions to Dear GMC using our online form here

Just a little disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column is not intended to replace or substitute any financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. This column, its author, and APMP GMC are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions. 

Heather Finch first encountered the acronym “RFP” when seeking ways to diversify funding sources for a human services company in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Since then, she’s moved on to lead proposal teams in both the commercial and government sectors, refining processes and developing efficiencies along the way.