Why having proposal reviews is not enough to achieve proposal quality

However you define proposal quality, they won't deliver it alone

Congratulations! You've reached the point where you always have proposal reviews. You may even recognize that only having one review can be worse than having none, and have several reviews.

But while your reviews make clear improvements, reviews alone are not enough to achieve quality proposals.

It all comes down to how you define your proposal quality criteria. The odds are you don’t have any. Most companies don't have written quality criteria (and there is no other kind). Most reviews are performed by getting experienced people around a table with little or no advance preparation and having them sight read a draft of the proposal and give their opinions about what should be changed. A collection of people, no matter how gifted and wise, who think they know what quality is when they see it is not a quality methodology. If your reviewers just show up and render an opinion, then your definition of proposal quality is based on a whim. Sometimes many whims. That often conflict.

So where do proposal quality criteria come from? 

See also:
Proposal quality validation

It turns out that they're the same as the guidance you should be (but possibly aren’t) providing to your proposal writers.  If the instructions you give your proposal writers reflect your definition of proposal quality, the instructions can be converted into quality criteria for use by your reviewers. We created a methodology for providing instructions to proposal writers called Proposal Content Planning and a review methodology based on converting them into quality criteria called Proposal Quality Validation.

If you plan to convert the instructions in your Proposal Content Plan into quality criteria, you really should have a review to validate those instructions.  And if you do this, that review will become as important as, if not more important than, the review of the draft proposal that comes later. Yes, your organization's decision regarding how quality will be defined for the proposal will do more to impact the quality of the proposal you submit than the review of the narrative draft if that definition is used as the blueprint for building the proposal.

These instructions will need to reflect what it will take to win. And knowledge of what it will take to win will require customer intimacy, which will in turn require relationship marketing. You also need a way to design the winning offering that does not amount to engineering design by writing about it.

To achieve proposal quality validation, you need more than reviews. You need quality criteria that derive from the instructions you give to your writers and are based on a flow of information that extends back in time to before the proposal even starts. In other words, to achieve proposal quality validation you need to integrate the steps that produce your quality criteria and not just simply have some reviews. Quality results from an integrated process and not from a step that occurs near the end. 

In many ways, the proposal process is not a writing process. It is a process of defining and achieving proposal quality. Since most companies don’t bother to define proposal quality, you can gain a significant competitive advantage and improve your organization's ability to win what it bids by being the one who does.
 


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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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