The way most companies do their proposal reviews is broken
Conducting a proposal review with little or no preparation beyond printing the proposal and a copy of the RFP can be worse than not doing any review at all. You shouldn’t conduct every proposal review as if they are all the same. If you focus on having one major proposal review, you are probably making both of these mistakes. Passing proposal reviews should not be about trying the same ineffective approach only harder this time.
Part of the problem is that most proposal reviews are based on obsolete proposal review methodologies that people follow instead of thinking through how to effectively apply quality to proposal development.
How do you know if it's worth the effort to change your company's approach to proposal reviews? Here are 10 signs that it's time to reengineer your approach to reviewing proposal quality.
Your review process is your proposal process
Your proposal process should be driven by how you are going to review your proposals to validate their quality. If all of your proposals are not passing their reviews, something is wrong with your proposal process. It helps to focus on the right things. You can’t deliver quality proposals if your proposal team doesn’t know what the reviewers expect.
An effective review process will help you escape having silly disagreements over about proposal writing style and help you get to the arguments that you should be having instead. It will also clarify who decides if a proposal is any good.
Achieving a consistently effective proposal review process
The foundation of a consistently effective review process is something that almost every company lacks: a written definition of proposal quality that can be turned into criteria to be used during proposal reviews. It is such a simple and obvious thing, but almost every company we encounter still uses outdated, subjective, unscoped review practices.
When we created the Proposal Quality Validation methodology for the MustWin Process, we provided a written definition for proposal quality that links the pre-RFP pursuit, the content planning phase of the proposal, and proposal reviews. It providers proposal reviews and proposal writers with the same criteria and set of expectations regarding proposal quality, while establishing traceability to what was discovered about what it will take to win during the pre-RFP phase of the pursuit.
Proposal Quality Validation separates what you review from how you review it. What you review matters more than how you review it. Your proposal process should surface the criteria you need to define quality based on what it will take to win. Then you have as many reviews, conducted in whatever ways make sense, at whatever times make sense, to validate that the proposal fulfills the criteria. The details for doing this are accessible to PropLIBRARY subscribers.
How to make your proposal reviews an effective part of how you win
Achieving consistently effective proposal reviews requires the proposal writers and reviewers to be working from the same expectations regarding proposal quality. Achieving this in turn requires defining the criteria your reviewers will use to assess proposal quality before the writing starts, so that the writers know what they need to deliver. Those criteria should reflect what it takes to win. When you put all that together, it not only defines your proposal process, it enables you to make achieving consistently effective proposal reviews checklist simple.
There is more than one kind of proposal review
While you get your best results from carefully thought through criteria-based reviews, sometimes you need to be able to conduct a review on the spot. We call this proposal sight reading and it is a way of providing quick feedback when needed. But sight reading does not maximize your chances of winning as much as Proposal Quality Validation. Sight reading is essentially what most people do now. But even that can be improved by introducing simple criteria and learning how to tell if a proposal is well-written.
In addition to reviewing proposals prior to submission, it can be a good idea to conduct a review of prior proposals, either to set standards in anticipation of starting a new proposal or to set a baseline for all future proposals. When we conduct these reviews, we find that companies have habits, and bad habits reduce your win rate. In the heat of an active proposal, people know they make trade-offs and compromises but they do the best they can. This perpetuates the bad habits. You have to systemically change the process, changing the way people approach their proposals from the beginning, in order to break bad habits.
Another consideration for your proposal reviews is whether to make them part of the collaborative process or to make them an objective review to discover defects. The break/fix model for quality control doesn’t work that well for proposal development. In most companies you can improve quality more by cancelling the reviews and focusing on designing quality in from the beginning instead.
One alternative we’ve found that works better for developing winning proposal organizations is to make reviews about guidance instead of detecting defects. Proposal reviews should be a teaching moment that helps lead to continuous improvement in your win rate.
The MustWin Process provides the details and a set of generic criteria for implementing Proposal Quality Validation:
- Introduction and description of Proposal Quality Validation
- Defining proposal quality
- Proposal Quality Validation implementation
- Creating Your “What it will take to win” List
- Completing Your Proposal Quality Validation Plan
- Proposal Quality Validation Plan Review Checklist
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The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.
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