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How to build quality into every step of your proposal

39 considerations in 6 categories showing how to apply quality validation to more than just the draft

You can build quality into every activity that’s part of producing a proposal. But you can’t do it with milestone based reviews. With Proposal Quality Validation the emphasis changes from when to review, to what you review. 

You can apply quality validation to more than just the document. Try taking a deep look at the risks and issues you face in every activity related to producing the proposal. Don’t just think in terms of checklists. Think in terms of what needs to be done correctly to win. Then think about how to validate every action and outcome to increase your probability of winning. 

Creating quality criteria to validate these activities formalizes your approach to proposal management. Instead of relying on people to just know what to do and to remember all the details, by creating quality criteria for activities and outcomes, you gain several benefits:

  • Reliability
  • Lower risk
  • Higher probability of winning
  • Lower costs

In the same way that giving your proposal quality criteria to your writers helps them achieve success with the first draft, having quality criteria for your pursuit activities and outcomes helps the people engaged in the pursuit be successful. This is much better than finding out later that things weren’t done well and trying to recover before you lose.

Start by dividing your activities into activities that produce an outcome or a deliverable. Then consider what must happen for each to be successful.

Activity before the RFP is released

Think about the issues you face pursuing a lead before the RFP is released. What needs to happen to be ready to win at RFP release? Can you validate that your preparations are putting you in position to win the proposal? Here are some questions that can drive your pre-RFP quality criteria:

  • Do you know what information you need to write the winning proposal?
  • Do you know what constitutes a qualified lead?
  • Under what circumstances should you cancel a pursuit?
  • Are you making sufficient progress to be ready to win at RFP release?
  • Do you have the right pursuit strategies?
  • Do you know what it will take to win the pursuit?
  • What should you offer?
  • What issues could reduce your probability of winning?
  • Are the risks mitigated?

You can use criteria like these to validate whether you will be prepared to win at RFP release.

Activity during proposal startup

Proposal startup is mostly about quickly implementing plans. But doing it quickly does no good if the plans are not valid. Validation during proposal startup is how you make sure you’re not going down the wrong path.

  • Is everything that will be needed to start the proposal ready?
  • Have all issues that arose during the pre-RFP phase been resolved?
  • Do you know what it will take to win?
  • Do you have the plans you need? 
  • Do your plans address everything they should?
  • Do your resources match your requirements?
  • Do the plans strike the right balance between thoroughness and speed?
  • What issues could reduce your probability of winning?
  • Are the risks mitigated?
  • Does the intended approach to managing the proposal meet the needs of all stakeholders?

You need criteria like these to ensure your plans are validated before you implement them. Otherwise you are following invalid plans and your win rate will suffer.

Activity during Proposal Content Planning

Creating a Proposal Content Plan is necessary if you want to make creating a proposal based on what it will take to win an intentional act instead of guesswork. Think about what is necessary to achieve what it will take to win in writing:

  • Will the outline meet the customer’s expectations?
  • Does the content plan make it clear where all of the customer’s requirements should be addressed?
  • Does the content plan sufficiently address what it will take to win?
  • If followed, will the content plan produce the desired proposal?
  • Will the content plan meet the needs of both writers and reviewers?
  • Are the quality criteria for the proposal sufficient? 
  • Has the time for planning been properly balanced against the time to write the proposal?
  • What issues during proposal writing could impact your probability of winning?
  • Do the instructions in the Proposal Content Plan mitigate those risks?

You need quality criteria like these to validate that you have the right Proposal Content Plan.

Activity during proposal writing

During proposal writing, quality validation can be applied both to tracking progress and to assessing whether the goal of writing a proposal that reflects what it will take to win has been accomplished. This phase is where your plans get executed. Making sure that you follow through on great planning with great execution requires oversight. And oversight can be validated. When you go from planning to writing, think about what you can do to make sure that writing is successful.

  • Is the writing making sufficient progress to meet the deadline?
  • Which Proposal Content Plan instructions have been completed and which remain?
  • Have the writers self-assessed their sections against the proposal quality criteria?
  • Were the instructions in the Proposal Content Plan followed?
  • Does what was written fulfill the proposal quality criteria?

You need quality criteria like these to prevent writing from being a big unknown until you see the draft.

Activity during final production and submission

The big challenge during final proposal production is to complete the proposal by the deadline without introducing any mistakes. A high level of quality surveillance is needed to ensure that no mistakes are introduced. How do you know if you have enough quality surveillance to mitigate your risks during final production? Here are some quality criteria that can be used to assess your efforts:

  • What is required for the proposal to be ready to submit?
  • Have all issues from prior phases been resolved?
  • Is the plan for finalizing the proposal sufficient?
  • How will the proposal be completed without introducing errors?
  • What risks can be anticipated during final production and submission?
  • How will they be mitigated?

Quality criteria like these help you assess whether your quality surveillance methods are sufficient.

The draft proposal is not the only thing that needs quality validation

Quality criteria help you determine whether the draft proposal reflects what it will take to win and get everyone on the same page regarding what a quality proposal is.

But what about your plans for how you are going to prepare the proposal? Quality criteria can also be applied to those plans and provide a way for stakeholders to validate that the approaches that will be used to manage the proposal are the right approaches. This is how you avoid getting into the middle of a proposal and finding out that the management methods are not a match for your organization or this pursuit. And avoiding that is well worth the effort. 

Think of applying Proposal Quality Validation to your proposal management model as an insurance policy. Having insurance that you have the right management model can really pay off for both the company and the people involved in the proposal. 

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