If you just jump into a proposal review with no preparation, you'll end up with a generic review. If you really want the best proposal possible, then you need to think through how you're going to review it before you even start writing.

Generic proposal reviews do not lead to successful proposals

Consistently effective proposal reviews must start long before the document is even written. They should start by developing review criteria that are based on how you define proposal quality and what it will take to win. If you wait until a draft of the proposal has been written and then review it based on “best practices” and “experience,” what you will get is a generic review. The same shallow review that any other proposal would get.

What you don’t get is a review that is based on what it will take to win this particular bid. If the reviewers attempt it, what you are more likely to get is second guessing of your bid strategies by reviewers who are just now thinking about it and haven’t done their homework. At best what you will get is second guessing your bid strategies after the proposal has been written.

Part of the problem is that you should split the review of your bid strategies from the review of the draft. If there are flaws in the bid strategies, you really want to know that before you start writing. This means you really need to have more than one review. Having only one review can be worse than have no reviews at all.

If you want to make sure that you will have the information you need to develop effective win strategies, you might want to review your progress in collecting the intelligence you’ll need to formulate those strategies. We call them Readiness Reviews and they are a key part of the MustWin Process and are performed before the RFP is even released.

In between your bid strategies and the draft proposal, you really should do some thinking about what should go into your proposal. If you turn that into a written plan and review it, then you not only lower your proposal development risk, but you also provide those who review the draft proposal with a benchmark to review the draft against.

There is a flow of information that becomes the proposal. If you want to end up with the right proposal, you need to validate that the flow of information is on track to take you there. You need a series of reviews that validate the right things.

But many of those things are specific to the particular:

  • RFP
  • Customer
  • Competitive environment
  • Offering you are proposing
  • Qualifications and capabilities of your company at the time of the bid

While what you need to validate will be similar on every bid, it will not be the same. With every bid, you should reconsider what you need to validate to ensure that the proposal reflects what it will take to win. This consideration, along with defining the series of reviews you need to perform the validation, should be at the heart of your review process. For the MustWin Process we created a methodology called Proposal Quality Validation that guides people through what their review criteria should be on each bid.

The result is that instead of a generic review, you get a review that measures the proposal against what it will take to win that particular bid. This is what leads to reviews that are not only worth the time and effort, but that consistently improve your chances of winning.

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Carl Dickson

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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