What is Wrong with the Proposal Review Process?

Many companies have proposal reviews of different colors. The reviews we'll focus on in this installment are the two most common, Pink and Red Team reviews. The goal of a Pink Team review is to ensure that the structure of the response is appropriate. In other words, the review focuses upon whether the win strategy is sound and whether the proposed technical and management approaches support this strategy.

A Red Team review tries to evaluate the persuasiveness of the proposal, i.e., how well the proposal clearly presents and sells the solution. Red Team reviews are usually undertaken when the proposal is essentially complete; suggested changes are incorporated in previous reviews. Red Teams reviews also try to mimic the customer's evaluation process.

In our view, the energy devoted to Pink and Red Team reviews is often wasted. The processes are, to say the least, frustrating to the proposal's authors. One can imagine it is difficult from the writers' perspective to see their work hacked up by the reviewers.

So, what is wrong with proposal reviews? The following table lists some suggestions on how to mitigate the waste of energy inherent to the process.

Review Objective Reality Mitigation
Pink Review first draft of proposal sections Many sections are blank and the document is full of placeholders Build outline responses faster by:
  • Better organizing your boilerplate
  • Providing the team with more than just section titles. Do this by preparing writing guidelines in the form of straightforward questions
  • Involving executive management early to impart operational direction up front
  • Starting proposal writing before the RFP is released
Pink Critique how win strategy is "baked into" the response Pink Team reviews usually turn into strategy meetings Ensure your strategy appears in your proposal by:
  • Developing strategies before writing begins
  • Holding a strategy meeting in advance of the proposal's release
Pink Right-track/wrong-track evaluation Typos, language, and rewording become the focus Make your Pink Team work for you by:
  • Not wasting time on style and spelling
  • Having reviewers propose paragraph-level or section-level changes
  • Having reviewers read the draft before coming to the review so that they can get the "big picture" feel
  • Leverage your compliance matrix to ensure all requirements have been identified/addressed in draft
Red Single-voice conformity The contributions of each writer is distinguishable from those of the others Conform your proposal to one style by:
  • Having a single writer go through the entire response and edit for tone and style
  • Providing writing guidelines so that topics are addressed uniformly (e.g., objective first, then results)
Red Evaluate based on customer's criteria Little focus on customer viewpoint; a scramble is in place to make sure proposal is completed Mimic the customer's process by:
  • Adhering closely to Section M evaluation criteria
  • Involving outside reviewers or internal staff who have not participated in the writing of the response
Red Determine how effective the proposal is at selling the product/ approach/ solution Many minor details are being looked at such as layout, language, formatting. Management wants to introduce major changes Ensure critique of selling points by:
  • Leaving (hopefully minor) formatting changes to pre-production
  • Playing devil's advocate
  • Not changing strategies for the proposal
  • Having management attend Pink Team review and contribute their thoughts. By the time Red Team comes around, it's generally too late
  • Incorporating prior reviews' changes before the Red Team version is circulated
  • Preparing review guidelines that help reviewers provide targeted, qualitative feedback

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