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What is a pink team proposal review and how do they contribute to winning?

With 5 goals you can measure yourself against

What is a pink team proposal review? We define a pink team proposal review as an assessment of whether what you plan to write will produce the proposal that your company wants to submit, before you write it. This ensures that people know the points they need to make in order to win, and sets the stage for reviews that lead to improvements instead of re-writes. A simpler version of this would be to determine whether you are ready to start writing the proposal.

Unfortunately, at a lot of companies, instead of figuring out what the proposal should be and then writing it, they throw together some quick draft writing to see what they've got and instead of a quality validation review, the pink team review ends up being a subjective progress review of the draft that sets the stage for the whole proposal to be thrown out at red team because it didn't turn into what people think the proposal should be. If you define your pink team review as a review to make sure you are on track for having a successful red team review, your pink team review is likely to degrade into a draft review. This turns the pink team review into an exercise of trying to discover what you want in your proposal by tripping over it. This in turn contributes to a red team review that is a purely subjective attempt to decide whether you like the proposal that was written. A pink team review like this results in the expectation that you will do rewrite after rewrite until the proposal is due and submit whatever the proposal happens to be at that point. 

What should an effective pink team proposal review accomplish?

An effective pink team review validates what you intend to write before you start writing it so that you can write it once and improve it from there. An effective pink team review is not of a draft proposal. It is of the plan for the proposal. A plan that leads to a first draft that already reflects what it will take to win, because you've verified that you know how to do that before you start.

In reality, “pink team” is really a category of proposal reviews and not a single event. There are a number of things you need to assess to determine if what you are going to write is correct before you start writing it. Think about what you should accomplish before you start proposal writing:

See also:
Proposal Quality Validation
  1. You need to be able to articulate what it will take to win. You simply can’t write a proposal that reflects what it will take to win until you can articulate it. Writing to discover what to write is not a winning strategy. It’s a time-wasting effort-expanding strategy that will reduce your win probability.
  2. You need to know if the proposal outline will meet the customer’s expectations. You should also think through any structure (subheadings, tables, etc.) that you’ll use at the subsection level and whether it will help the customer perform their evaluation. If RFP compliance is an issue, then you should start with a compliance matrix that shows which RFP requirements should be addressed in each proposal section. Before you write, you should verify that you know what to talk about where in order to achieve compliance and to maximize your evaluation score.
  3. You should know what points you want to make in each proposal section, if not in each paragraph. This is important if you are going to make your proposal about substantiating the points needed to make your proposal the customer’s best alternative.
  4. Any win strategies or messaging developed before RFP release should be mapped to the post-RFP release proposal outline and reformulated based on the evaluation criteria. A list of themes is not sufficient to drive your messaging into the document. You need your messaging to correspond with the structure of your proposal and how the customer will evaluate it.
  5. You should have a written definition of proposal quality. This should establish a standard to be used by proposal reviewers. It should provide written proposal quality criteria not only for the proposal reviewers, but also for the proposal writers to use so they can determine if their efforts are delivering what is expected.

How many of these do you think you can skip and still win consistently?

How many of these can achieve if you skip having a plan before you write?

You not only need to have these things before you start writing, you need to be able to rely on them being correct. This means you need to validate these things before you start creating a proposal based on them. If you don’t, you risk having to rewrite portions of the proposal because you changed your mind. You know, the kind of thing that frequently happens between an ineffective pink team and an ineffective red team.

You can’t reliably assess all of these in a single review. Perhaps if you have 5 or 10 reviewers, with 1 or 2 assigned to each. A series of validation efforts is often far more effective than one big, disruptive, formal proposal review that can't possibly assess everything it should. A pink team "review" really needs to be a review of all 5 items above.

Is it worth it to change?

The bottom line is that everything you do on a proposal should be prioritized by how much of an impact it will have on your probability of winning. What does starting proposal writing with a plan that addresses all five items listed above contribute? Prioritize your effort according to that impact. If the alternative is to skip the plan and quickly pull together a draft, how does that compare?

If the way you are conducting your pink team is just because that’s how it’s always been done or when you tried to herd the cats that’s where they ended up, and you’re wondering whether it’s worth the effort to change, make your decisions based on what will impact your win rate. Improving a 20% win rate by 10% leads to a 50% improvement in revenue. How much effort is that worth?

Make all the discussions related to “what to do about the pink (or other color) team” about win rate instead. If you are going to argue, then argue over what impacts win probability the most. You only need to change if the way you are doing things is producing (or is likely to produce) a low win rate. 


P.S.: Color team labels are traditional and cause more trouble than they are worth. They are meaningless. Ask 10 people what a “pink team” is and you’ll get (at least) 10 different answers. The name has no relationship to the goal or scope. It’s meaningless. Give your reviews purpose. And then give them a name with meaning and a single definition. Otherwise you will watch your review effectiveness degrade over time, just like we see with blue teams, red teams, green teams, and all the other colors.


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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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