If all of your proposals are not passing their reviews, then you are conducting your reviews the wrong way. It's a sign that you are figuring out what your proposals should be after they are written.
The way most proposal reviews are conducted is like putting a blindfold on someone, asking them to hit a target, and then finding fault with them when they miss. In fact, it’s worse than that since most reviews are conducted at the last minute, with no time left to take another shot. Why do people set themselves up like that?
If you want better proposals, try taking the blindfolds off and showing people the target they are supposed to hit. The way you do this is by giving both the writers and the reviewers the same set of criteria that defines proposal quality. If you skip that step, then not only will you get inconsistent reviews, but the writers won’t know what to do to pass the review. You get changes in direction after the review which should have been communicated to the writers before they started.
If you can’t articulate to the writers exactly what they need to do to pass the proposal quality review, then proposal quality is undefined. Leaving proposal quality undefined means that your staff can't see the target. Or they are making up one of their own.
And the same is true for the proposal review team. You may have some experienced staff who can recognize good proposal attributes, but if they are not all working against the same set of criteria, then who knows what they will find? You won’t know until you conduct the review and then it will be too late to do anything about it. Reviewing without being able to define what a quality proposal is cannot produce a quality proposal. Based on the strength of your staff, you might achieve good proposals, but you won't consistently achieve great proposals. Instead you are far more likely to get conflict subjective opinions and last-minute changes of direction.
If you define what a quality proposal is and then give those criteria to both the writers and the reviewers, the writers will know what they have to do to pass their reviews. The focus of the reviews will change from catching mistakes or making random suggestions for improvement to making sure that the planned goals have been achieved in the best way possible. You will begin your proposal reviews with a better quality draft, and get more consistently constructive feedback from reviewers.
Defining your proposal quality criteria can be better than training
The discussion that you have about what it should take to pass a proposal review will do a better job of training your staff than any class you can take. It is a discussion that needs to take place before the proposal starts, with all stakeholders participating. It is a discussion that should not end until the answers are written down. What should the reviewers look for? What should they ignore? Which decisions should they second guess and which decisions should they accept and focus on how well they’ve been implemented?
If you describe the criteria at too high of a level or in a way that’s too subjective, how can the writers know what’s required to pass the review? Getting this right and getting both the writers and the reviewers on the same page will do more to improve your chances of winning than anything that happens after the RFP is released.
The MustWin Process contains a complete methodology called Proposal Quality Validation. It defines proposal quality and the criteria necessary to validate it. It gives writers a set of goals to achieve and brings structure to the review process to ensure that the focus is on the right things. While the full set of documentation for how to implement Proposal Quality Validation is only available to PropLIBRARY subscribers, you can check out the two white papers we wrote that started the ball rolling and ended up with us creating the MustWin Process.
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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com 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.
In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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