It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but streamlining your proposal management process starts by writing down your proposal quality criteria. In fact, it’s the quickest and easiest way to launch your process. It works better than starting at the kickoff meeting and trying to chart the steps.
Just simply having proposal quality criteria gives you a way to:
- Provide guidance to your proposal writers
- Enable reviewers to validate the quality of what your writers produce
- Inform the activities before the proposal starts about what information will be needed to successfully complete the proposal
- Ease into proposal content planning by establishing a framework it needs to accomplish. People can attempt proposal content planning without any other guidance beyond the quality criteria, and mature the planning process over time.
- Enable performance metrics and the discovery of what impacts what it will take to win the most
Basically, having proposal quality criteria makes every step better and can be implemented before you’re ready to formalize all the other steps. That’s the sophisticated-sounding way of saying that in the beginning you can make do without having any other process details, if you’ve got your proposal quality criteria figured out.
What do you need to get started?
To create proposal quality criteria you must:
- Have a written definition of proposal quality. You don’t know what to achieve if you can’t define it. And oh by the way, proposal quality is not defined by whether it wins. That is out of your hands and can’t be used to guide the people preparing the proposal.
- Be able to articulate what it will take to win. If you do want your proposal quality criteria to be based on what it will take to win, you’ll have to discover that and be able to itemize the components of it. But if you can’t do that, how are you going to be able to prepare a winning proposal other than by luck?
- Use that to validate what you’ve written. This means you have to get The Powers That Be who participate in your proposal reviews to accept the quality criteria and use them to conduct a review that is not subjective. Hint: You might want to get them involved in creating your proposal quality criteria.
Incidentally, the MustWin Process on PropLIBRARY is built around defining proposal quality and having quality criteria. It has all the details needed for immediately implementing a proposal management process that does all these things.
How does this streamline your proposal process?
Having proposal quality criteria sounds sophisticated, but turns out to be easy to implement and acts as an accelerator for other parts of the process:
- Your proposal quality criteria can be presented as a checklist. This checklist is usable by proposal writers and reviewers to accelerate and improve performance in both areas.
- Your proposal reviews are planned by allocating quality criteria to reviewers and dates. This is something that can easily be turned into a form, producing a written proposal review plan in minutes.
- With slight modifications your quality criteria become a set of pre-RFP goals. This can also take the form of a checklist. Doing this helps ensure that the information you need to fulfill the quality criteria is delivered to the beginning of the proposal effort.
- With some other changes, your quality criteria become worksheets for planning themes and win strategy development, proposal section planning, offering design, and more. The things required to fulfill the quality criteria can be turned into worksheets for proposal writers. This provides a little structure that helps ensure what they write passes the proposal reviews.
- It shows what the proposal content plan should result in, providing a defined scope for the planning. Between the checklists and worksheets, you can accelerate proposal content planning, which accelerates proposal writing, and helps ensure you get the proposal right on the first draft.
It makes all the other parts of the proposal management process easier to implement. But the most important thing having written proposal quality criteria does is:
- It enables the people doing the work to know when they’ve succeeded.
- It increases the likelihood of passing quality validation on the first draft, eliminating unnecessary revision cycles and saving far more time than it took to create the quality criteria in the first place.
- It pays for itself many times over by improving your win rate. If defining and achieving proposal quality doesn’t improve your win rate, you have the wrong proposal quality criteria.
If you want to streamline proposal writing in addition to the proposal process, focusing on reducing revision cycles will save far more time than increasing the amount of proposal text reuse (which can actually increase revision cycles).
So why is it that…
Nearly every company out there with a proposal process has it backwards? Why do they have the steps, but no written definition of proposal quality and conduct their reviews without any quality criteria? Like I said, it’s counterintuitive. When someone asks you to create a process, people naturally start with the steps. However, in this case, it’s better to start in the middle. The steps should be driven by itemizing what is required for success. When you start with the steps, you get a process designed to make a submission. When you start with defining success, you get proposals designed to win.