How NOT to review a proposal

Mistakes reviewers make and what the proposal team needs from them instead

Read the proposal and make it sound better.

The end.p.s.

If you are not precise and careful, making a proposal sound better can actually hurt your chances of winning. Changing the wording of proposal headings and requirements can get you thrown out for non-compliance without even being read. Even if you don't get thrown out, it can hurt your score when customers search for keywords or strings in the RFP and can't find them in your proposal. Their words may be archaic or awkward, but they need to be there. Especially in the headings.

See also:
Proposal quality validation

When you mark up the draft proposal and change headings that were based on the RFP, people will see that you didn't even read the RFP. That could bring the credibility of your other changes into question as well. The same holds true when you make changes to keywords inserted from the evaluation criteria or other sections of the RFP. This not only confirms that you didn't read the RFP, it also shows you didn't attempt to read or score the proposal the same way the customer will

When you replace the wording of focused bid strategies with nice sounding pieces of fluff that you think have broader appeal or less risk, you may be watering down your proposal to the point of making it meaningless. Everything in a proposal should be based on what it will take to win. Everything should make a point related to RFP compliance and be worded to optimize the evaluation. If you can make it sound better while doing that, great!

When you make recommendations to add things to a proposal that is already over the page limit without identifying something to take out, you're not thinking about how to win, you're just putting that burden on someone else. Backing into the proposal by editing it down is a bad strategy and a sign of a review failure. It is much better to build the proposal from the beginning with intentional trade-off decisions based on what it will take to win, scaling it to fit the page limit. Don't add things on the assumption that they can somehow survive the editing that will be required to bring it all back down to the page limit. And whatever you do, don't assume that if you start with a bunch of recycled narrative, the strategies and points that matter to this bid will somehow be discovered through editing.

Here's what people really need from you when you review the proposal...

The proposal team needs validation of specific things. They need to confirm decisions regarding strategies. They need to know whether what's being presented is the best offering the company is capable of. They need to know whether they've left anything out or overlooked anything. They need to know whether they've achieved RFP compliance and if what they wrote is optimized to get the highest evaluation score. They need to know if the proposal reflects all of the customer insight the company has and whether the competitive positioning can be improved. They need confirmation that the proposal is written from the customer's perspective instead of simply being descriptive.

In short, they need to know whether the proposal reflects what it will take to win. Is there anything about what it will take to win that isn't adequately addressed?

Text corrections, tweaks to the wording, and random improvements are secondary. Wordsmithing is best done by a professional editor and not a senior review team.

But validation is a critical part of creating a proposal that reflects what it will take to win. They need your strategic double-checking and second-guessing of the bid strategies in order to produce a proposal that will beat all potential competitors. 

The proposal team doesn't need your opinion about the writing. They need you to show up prepared and having read the RFP. They need your due diligence and above all they need your proposal quality validation. And will greatly appreciate receiving it.

 

Premium Content for PropLIBRARY Subscribers

The MustWin Process includes a methodology for reviewing proposals called Proposal Quality Validation. It explains how to figure out how many reviews you should have as well as how many reviewers you need. And it can be implemented as a forms and checklist driven review process. It also provides sample criteria to use for proposal reviews.


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A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.


Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, 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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