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6 key things that are needed from proposal reviewers

Is it too much to ask?

Proposal Review Need #1

I need people who show up having already read the RFP. It sounds like a small thing, but proposal reviews often rely on single staff with many things competing for their attention. Preparing ahead of time doesn’t always happen. The reason this is important is that if you don’t already understand the instructions, evaluation criteria, and contract, pricing, and performance requirements before you start to review the text, the review is more likely to be based on vague rules of thumb and personal opinion instead of what it will take to win this particular proposal.

Proposal Review Need #2

See also:
Proposal Quality Validation

I need people who understand how to win in writing and how to validate its presence to participate in proposal reviews. I don’t need subjective opinions about how the proposal sounds. Proposals are not read. They are evaluated. I need reviewers who will focus on whether the proposal has the information the customer will need to give the proposal the top score. I need reviewers who know what the customer will need to see in order to perform their evaluation of the proposal.

Proposal Review Need #3

I need reviewers who understand that proposal quality should be defined in writing and assessed against written proposal quality criteria. If they can help define those criteria, that will be very much appreciated! If they don’t I’ll still need them to stick to the criteria. I need reviewers who can determine whether the customer will see what they are looking for and be able to make a decision in your favor over all the other alternatives that will be presented for them. 

The most senior people in your company may or may not be capable of these things. Reviewers who show up without having already read the RFP are definitely not capable of it. All they can do is sight read and render opinions. The goal of the proposal process is not to please internal staff, even if they run the company. The goal of the proposal process is to lead the customer to make decisions in your favor.

No one at your company, not even the person in charge, is the final authority on whether your proposal is any good. The only person who gets to make that determination is the customer. I need reviewers who understand how the customer makes their decisions and can read the proposal from the customer’s perspective.

Proposal Review Need #4

I need this so badly, I want training for the proposal reviewers. They need more than just experience. And I don’t mean some proposal class they took back in the day. I want them trained within the last year on review team procedures and achieving proposal quality that’s based on what it will take to win. I want them to be able to review at the professional level and not just assume their decades of experience means they already know.

Proposal Review Need #5

I need reviewers whose experience and expertise enables them to perform the validation required:

  • If we’re validating that we have the right solution to propose, I need reviewers with the subject matter expertise and customer awareness to validate that.
  • If we’re validating RFP compliance, I need people who understand what “compliance” is and may need subject matter experts who can validate that what we are proposing meets the specifications required.
  • If we’re validating that the proposal reflects what it will take to win, then I need pursuit strategists with customer awareness that includes understanding the customer’s evaluation process.
  • If we’re validating that our proposal is good enough to beat the competitors, I need people who understand the competitive environment.

In most reviews this will mean having reviewers who can cover most or all of these.

Proposal Review Need #6

If you want all of this, don’t dump it all on the proposal manager to implement. Assign a review team lead. Have the review team lead recruit the members, implement the procedures, provide the training, and oversee that the reviews provide the validation needed. If you have your proposal manager do all the review setup, they won’t be managing the proposal, they’ll be managing the reviews.

How important is it that these needs get fulfilled?

Is reviewing your proposals deliberately and professionally worth the commitment and time?

Is this too much to ask? If it is, then I kindly ask how much the increase in win rate that results is worth? I suspect that it is worth a couple of orders of magnitude more than the effort costs.

I might also humbly inquire whether we are seeking a review that is good enough or whether we’re willing to invest in winning. If we’re not going to try that hard, I might also be wondering why we are bidding. 

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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.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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