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What do you mean when you say “review” a proposal?

What people look for in a proposal review varies all over the place

It’s hard to write a proposal. There are so many things that need to be considered and factored into the writing. This also makes a proposal hard to review. How do you consider and double-check everything during a review? 

The answer is, “you don’t.” It’s not possible, unless you want your review to take nearly as long as the writing took. 

Do you really need to double-check EVERYTHING? My answer to that is only the things that are important for winning. And there should be nothing in your proposal that is not important for winning. Quality half-measures is not a winning strategy. A partial review is not better than nothing if it misses something that results in a loss.

This means it’s not so much a question of “what should I look for” during a proposal review, but rather how to structure your proposal reviews to check EVERYTHING.

This is a problem, because you can’t review:

  • RFP Compliance
  • Bid strategies
  • Messaging
  • Writing, style, consistency, and grammar
  • Graphics, layout, and presentation

all in one sitting. And even if you could staff the review and give it the time needed, it wouldn’t make sense to review all that as a snapshot in time.

What do you mean by "proposal review?"

See also:
Proposal quality validation

So the first thing you should realize is that you’re not going to review EVERYTHING in one sitting. This means you’re going to need more than one review. In fact, it’s vital to have more than one proposal review

If you have multiple reviews, then each review should have a different focus, and you need to define the scope of each review. A proposal review without a defined scope is a safety net with holes, relying on luck to catch the problems.

The best way to define the scope of your reviews is to start by defining what “everything” means. Identify “everything” that needs to be validated. Then allocate those things to as many reviews as it takes. 

Along the way, you’ll find that the things you need to validate fall into categories and phases of the proposal’s development. But don’t make the mistake of organizing your reviews around moments in time. Don’t look at the calendar, decide to have a certain number of reviews, and then decide what they should focus on. This tends to result in multiple un-scoped reviews

How do you define the scope of a proposal review?

Instead, start with what you need to validate. What you review is far more important than how you review it or when you review it. You might have multiple teams validating multiple things at the same time. You might even have some things that can be validated while the proposal is still being written. Some things need to be validated before others can start. Some things can be reviewed by someone working on the proposal, while others might require some distance and objectivity. If the proposal is small, you might have one person validate an item. But if the proposal is valuable, you might require a team of people to validate the same item.

So start with what you need to validate. Then allocate it to reviews, reviewers, and the calendar. This enables you to make sure that everything that needs to be validated gets addressed, and that you do it at the appropriate level. This becomes the scope for each review, giving your proposal reviews specific purpose, greater accountability, and more reliability.

When you reach this level, there are several benefits that result. The first is that you can define your review criteria before the writing starts, so your writers and reviewers are on the same page. You can also turn the process of identifying criteria and allocating them to reviews into a forms-driven process that not only makes it quick and easy, but also enables you to review how you are going to review the proposal. This enables you to tailor the review to the needs of the proposal, while validating that it still meets the needs of your company for oversight. This takes you to much higher levels of proposal quality and improved win rates than simply having an un-scoped, un-defined proposal “review.”

To accomplish all of this, we created a methodology called Proposal Quality Validation. This formalizes how to identify proposal quality criteria, allocate them to reviews, use them to define the scope of reviews, and even how to validate that you have sufficient validation.

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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, 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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