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Why you should use proposal quality criteria during writing as well as during reviews

For the writers, it combines what to write with how to know when the proposal has been written correctly

It’s good to use quality criteria at the back end to review your proposals. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to only use quality criteria after the proposal is written. Or to create your quality criteria after the proposal has been written. It’s much better to put the effort into creating your quality criteria at the very beginning so that proposal contributors receive the quality criteria when they receive their writing assignments. This enables them to create a first draft that meets the quality expectations.

This shifts the proposal effort from trying to stumble across what it will take to win, to consciously figuring it out so you can design your whole proposal around it.

Doing this transforms your proposals. It turns proposal reviews at the back end of the proposal into minor quality surveillance reviews that are really just double-checking for overlooked defects. It makes the review of your quality criteria at the beginning of the proposal, before the writing starts, of primary importance. It shifts the proposal effort from trying to stumble across what it will take to win, to consciously figuring it out so you can design your whole proposal around it. 

Defining your quality criteria in advance and giving it to your writers isn’t just transformative — it’s also a competitive advantage. While other companies struggle to figure out what their proposals should be when they grow up, your proposals will arrive already reflecting what it will take to win, with time left in the schedule for polish. This makes it worth getting everyone on the same page at the beginning.

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You can accelerate things if you start from a base of standard, reusable proposal quality criteria. It will also help if you build creating your quality criteria into your Proposal Content Planning efforts. 

Proposal Content Planning provides instructions to proposal writers regarding what to write and how to write it. In fact, an easy approach to Proposal Quality Validation is to simply check and make sure those instructions were followed. When you add your proposal quality criteria to the content plan, the writers also get guidance that tells them how to know when their sections have been written correctly. 

This combination of what to write and how to know if it’s written correctly is so important, it’s a wonder that all proposals aren’t prepared that way. Instead, companies often leave proposal writers to figure it all out themselves and then judge them after the draft has been completed. This is so obviously inefficient and uncompetitive that it’s a wonder any proposals are still prepared that way.

The entire proposal effort is about winning in a competitive environment. Proposal Content Planning and Proposal Quality Validation are not ends in themselves. They are simply about organizing effort to win, instead of merely completing a document. You should put the least amount of effort into them that you can without losing. If you honestly believe you’ll achieve a proposal that can beat all competitors by not giving any quality criteria to your proposal writers, then skip it. Of course, your competitors have probably done the math and realize that it’s a comparatively small investment of effort with a potentially huge return. And when you do it on proposal after proposal, that return just piles up.

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