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Why all proposal reviewers need training before every review

Why put all that effort into assuring a quality proposal if you're not going to do it right?

Reviewers do not show up already knowing what to do. They don’t know the procedures are to be followed. They don’t know the RFP. They may not even know the proper way to read an RFP. They also may not know how your organization defines proposal quality. They may or may not know the customer. They may not even know how to effectively review a proposal. All of their experience may have come from doing purely subjective proposal reviews instead of performing quality validation. They need training in procedures, methodologies, standards, a background orientation to the pursuit, and the composition of the RFP --- all before they play an effective role in assessing proposal quality.

But they all don’t necessarily need the same training. Reviewers need to know how to validate what they have been assigned. You don’t want to overload your reviews by asking them to validate everything in one sitting. Consider some of the things you may need validated:

See also:
Goal: validate that the draft reflects your quality criteria
  • The proposal outline
  • The Proposal Content Plan
  • RFP compliance
  • Win strategies
  • Evaluation score
  • Your offering
  • Terms and conditions
  • Presentation
  • Decisions
  • And more…

Will you get the validation you require by asking your reviewers to consider all of them? How many of them? 

If you split quality validation into multiple reviews, then the reviewers need to focus on the scope of their portion of the review. They need to validate what is assigned to them for validation. Reviewers can still make comments regarding concerns and potential improvements, but that should come after the quality criteria have been validated. People are counting on them for validation so that they know which quality criteria have been fulfilled, and which require additional attention. What someone needs to know to validate compliance is very different from validating win strategies. Or the evaluation score. Or any of the others.

You need to train your reviewers to validate the criteria that will be in their area of focus. In proposal quality validation, reviewers have a specific mission. They are not on an open-ended hunting expedition. Their role in the process is to ensure that specific criteria have been fulfilled, and not simply advise. Reviewers need training because the odds are some will show up with other expectations.

Having the reviewers participate at the beginning in defining the quality criteria is an excellent form of training that also helps achieve buy-in when it is time to validate quality criteria fulfillment.

Your reviewers must be capable of performing the kind of validation required. For example:

  • To validate that the proposal is capable of achieving the maximum score, the review must understand the customer's evaluation procedures and preferences.
  • To validate RFP compliance, the review may need technical subject matter expertise and understand how to interpret the customer’s requirements.
  • To validate that the offering is the best you are capable of providing, the review may need to understand the technical subject matter, the price to win, and the customer’s preferences regarding the solution.

You will often find people to contribute to proposal quality validation reviews who know some of what is needed, but not all. You might use a combination of staff to fill gaps. But all of them will need some training to understand how to apply what they know to achieving your quality validation goals.

To have a well-trained review team you need:

  • Training in your review methodology
  • To have defined your procedures ahead of the review, so you can explain them
  • Training in how to read the RFP ahead of the review
  • An orientation briefing to provide background on the customer, the opportunity, and the competitive environment
  • An introduction to the quality criteria they are responsible for validating and any additional training they need to be able to perform that validation

It helps to start with reviewers who have the right background for the scope of quality criteria they will be validating. But it takes more than just the right background to be an effective proposal quality validation reviewer.


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