Proposal Quality Validation: Criteria based proposal reviews

Tools and guidance to help you review the quality of your proposals

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 It is such a simple and obvious thing, but almost every company we encounter still uses outdated, subjective, unscoped review practices.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

It takes more than just reading a draft to achieve a quality proposal. Here are 15 ways to review a proposal if you are seriously trying to win. 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.


Subscribe to PropLIBRARY

Unlock our premium content, including the recipes, forms, checklists, etc. that make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. 

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of and PropLIBRARY.

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. 

Carl can be reached at

To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.


Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.

It all starts with a conversation. You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.

Our review services will show you the difference between a good proposal and a great proposal. We'll show you how a few simple changes can make a big impact and improve your win rate. We do reviews that are formal, detailed, and criteria based, as well as quick reviews just based on our experience. Either way, we focus on more than just personal opinions. We’ll show you what it means to assess a proposal against what it takes to win, and how to look at things from the customer’s perspective. What you learn from our review of this proposal can benefit all the proposals you produce in the future. It's one of the most cost-effective ways to use our consulting services. Click the Concierge Button to ask us more about it.