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Quantifying Proposal Quality

If you're not measuring it, how do you know whether you've got it?

The way most companies do it

Most companies have one proposal review, which is often worse than having none. Some have more than one, but still base them on milestones making them more progress reviews than quality reviews. This is especially true since almost no one actually defines proposal quality. The result is that quality is not quantified and they commit the worst sin in proposal development.

The way everyone aspires to do it

See also:
Proposal quality validation

Everyone loves the idea of reviewing and scoring the proposal the same way the customer will do it. Unfortunately, this is easy to say and nearly impossible to do. It is a rare RFP that has enough detail to enable you to actually score the proposal. It is a rare company that has enough customer insight to score it the same way the customer will. The result can be a quantifiable assessment of quality, but not an accurate one. Because it is not reliable, it can be part of the mix, but should not be your only way of defining, assessing, and quantifying proposal quality.

Define it and measure against your definition

Proposal quality should be defined. Then you can use criteria to determine whether your proposal fulfills the definition. Few companies have the discipline to do this because you must define proposal quality before you write the proposal, and not fall into the trap of writing and rewriting until you think you’ve got it figured out. Few companies have the discipline to do this because it makes the job of the review assessing the narrative against proposal quality criteria and not simply reading and judging. Few companies have the discipline to do this because creating criteria that are sufficiently objective enough to become measurable is not easy.

Combining them all

Milestone reviews are necessary to prevent getting ahead of yourself. If you start writing narrative based on an outline that is invalid, you are creating the potential for a quality disaster. The outline needs to be reviewed before proposal writing starts. There is a similar issue with bid strategies. You can't write to substantiate the points you are trying to make, if you don’t know what they are before you start writing. Then there are bid/no bid and proposal readiness reviews, pre-final production, ready for submission, etc. Once you have identified your proposal quality criteria, you can allocate them to milestones in order to assure that proposal quality builds over the life of the effort.

You can also make emulating the customer and scoring the proposal as the customer might one of your criteria defining proposal quality. Scoring is just one way to assess whether the proposal reflects the customer’s point of view and gives them the information they need to conclude that your offering is their best alternative.

We use a combination of our Proposal Content Planning and Proposal Quality Validation methodologies to combine all these elements and quantify proposal quality. We start with a baseline set of sample proposal quality criteria and look at over 60 quality considerations that we then customize around what it will take to win each pursuit. In addition to quantifying proposal quality, this provides traceability from the proposal narrative to your bid strategies and what it will take to win.

Combining them all enables you to assess proposal quality as it progresses through its phases of development. When you score your quality criteria, such as with a simple red/yellow/green or a scale of 1-10, you can chart the progress of your proposal. Do it across all your proposals and you gain a benchmark and can assess what correlates with your win rate. You can turn proposal development from an art into a science.

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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.

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