Should you review your proposal by reading it like the customer?
The answer depends on what you are trying to validate. It can be a great idea to allocate some reviewers to emulate the customer’s evaluation process. But it’s not the only kind of review you need. You have other quality criteria that need to be validated. So you will also have some reviewers whose job it is to focus on those criteria, and not to read the proposal like the customer will. As an example, you may wish to validate that what you intend to offer is the best tradeoff of performance and price your company can deliver. The customer may want it all. But you need to validate that the proposal team hasn’t overlooked any ways to increase performance while lowering the price. Emulating the customer won’t give you that validation.
When should editing and proofreading be performed?
Reviews without defined quality criteria can degrade into editing and proofreading. Editing and proofreading are good things, but you don’t need (or probably want) a senior review team to do editing and proofreading. If they are important, get a specialist to do it. It can be tremendously difficult to wait until the proposal is complete and try to fit in editing before the deadline. Sometimes it’s better to take a little risk and do some editing before the proposal is complete. Or do it in iterations or pieces. But producing a draft, stopping the proposal, and having senior executives do editing and proofreading is probably not the best approach under any circumstances.
What about people who want to “see” the proposal before it gets submitted?
“Seeing” the proposal should be considered a privilege that must be earned. Reviewing a proposal is a process and not a single step. There is no formal quality methodology in existence that relies on a “hero” showing up at the last minute wanting to change things. If the input is of value and you care about your win rate, you’ll have the most impact by providing that input at the beginning, so the proposal team can build the proposal around it. If your responsibility, authority, or interest is high enough to command attention, you can maximize your impact by playing a role in validating plans and defining the quality criteria. You should get to “see” the developing proposal several times, watch it mature, and confirm it’s on the right track. You shouldn’t even need to see the final proposal because you should already know what’s in it. This is when you’ve earned the privilege of seeing the final proposal.
What about the final quality assurance checks?
Final quality assurance is about attention to detail. It is not about rank or prior participation in the proposal. If you run your production staff into the ground with last minute changes, you should put equal effort into bringing someone fresh in for final quality assurance. Last minute changes often introduce last minute defects. Proposals can lose because of a missing page or other minor oversight. Assign your most painstakingly thorough reviewer to final quality assurance, and not just whoever is available or left standing. Make sure they have adequate time and a complete checklist of delivery requirements to work with.
Isn’t creating quality criteria for a proposal a lot of work?
Isn’t rewriting a proposal until you stumble across what it will take to win a lot of work? Not to mention a lot of risk? What if you never find it? Creating proposal quality criteria forces you to develop an understand of what it will take to win before you start writing. How can that not be worth it?
How do you know if you’re implementing Proposal Quality Validation correctly?
If you get to the draft and can’t articulate your definition of proposal quality, something is wrong. If you perform your reviews and there are things your proposal quality criteria didn’t cover, you need to improve your quality criteria on the next proposal. If your proposal reviews are returning substantial changes, then either the writers are not getting or following the proposal quality criteria before they start, or the quality criteria were inadequate. If you lose a proposal in a preventable way, you need to improve your quality criteria to address the issue going forward. If you get to the review and people aren’t on the same page regarding what the quality criteria should be, you need to improve how you define your proposal quality criteria and possibly include additional stakeholders. Proposal quality criteria become a tool to ensure future improvement are made in a verifiable way.