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Proposal Review Process

Quality reviews play a critical role in a winning proposal. This document summarizes several proposal review steps that can significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of your proposals.


The reviews described in this document assume that:
  • The team really wants to win and is willing to do what is necessary to make it happen.
  • The pursuit started several months before the RFP was advertised.
  • The team has positioned and has established relationships with the client decision-makers.

If these three assumptions are not accurate, you should probably spend your time and money on something else.

Seven levels of reviews are described:

  • Technical Review
  • Blue Team Review
  • Red Team Review
  • Green Team (financial pro-forma) Review
  • Legal Review
  • Technical/Quality Control Review
  • Final Editorial Review

Technical Review

Purpose:

Assess technical content of draft proposal

Who:

Senior firm representatives; pursuit team members who were not primary authors (e.g., PIC or Technical Advisor)

Special Notes:

Provide drafts two days prior to meeting

The objective of the technical review is to assess the technical content of the draft proposal. This step occurs well before the RFP is advertised, while the technical content is being refined. At this point in the proposal process, the responsiveness and accuracy of the information is essential. Format and presentation style will be addressed in future reviews. The technical review team should include senior firm representatives and may include pursuit team members who are not primary authors, such as a PIC or technical advisor. At least some reviewers should bring project and client knowledge. The review should be performed in person, if possible, but this is not mandatory. Background information and drafts should be provided at least two days before the review. The technical review team should focus on:

  • Team composition
  • Organization chart
  • Match of the projects used in the qualifications to the resumes of key staff and the client’s needs
  • Technical relevance and accuracy of the information presented in the understanding and approach, scope, schedule and budget.

Blue Team Review

Purpose:

Review a draft proposal and compare the content, presentation and selection criteria with the requirements

Who:

Senior reviewers that know the client, pertinent disciplines, and firms’ resources and capabilities

Special Notes:

Best if done in person
Provide drafts two days before meeting

The most critical reviews (and the least understood) are the Blue Team and Red Team reviews.
For high-priority pursuits, the pursuit team should prepare a relatively complete draft proposal before the RFP is issued. While the exact requirements may not be known, we generally know the client well enough to predict the primary proposal requirements. The focus should be on content more than format or presentation. Previous selection processes and criteria can be used to guide the organization and content.  
The objective of the Blue Team is to review a relatively complete draft proposal prepared before the RFP is actually published and compare the content, presentation and selection criteria with the probable RFP requirements. The Blue Team’s job is to determine how well the information presented meets the client’s criteria, and to identify missing or superfluous information. What resources, projects, and staff would strengthen the proposal? Do the understanding and approach fit? Are the proposal messages compelling to this client? For this reason, the Blue Team should include senior reviewers who know the client, the pertinent disciplines and the firms’ resources and capabilities. This review is more effective if the reviewer and the pursuit team meet face to face.
The team should receive copies of the RFP, client information, capture plan and other relevant background documents as well as draft proposal sections at least two days before the Blue Team. Each reviewer should read it and prepare specific comments prior to the meeting. At the meeting, the team will discuss the appropriateness of the message, how well it is supported technically and then discuss each section. Then, together with the pursuit team, they will prepare a revised outline and suggestions for reorganization and improving the proposal.

Agenda: Blue Team Review

Review selection panel and themes

1 hour

Consider changes to anticipated selection panel and their motivators based on our most recent information. Do our themes still make sense?

 

General impressions, clarity of message

30 min

Section-by-section review

3 hours (minimum)

Revise outline

1 hour

Action plan for team meeting

30 min

Red Team Review

Purpose:

Simulate the selection panel’s actual review and scoring process

Who:

Senior staff, not involved in the development or writing of the proposal. Include staff that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Know the client well
  • Subject matter experts
  • Experienced marketing leads

Special Notes:

In-person review; facilitated
90% draft that includes graphics and formatting
Results in a recovery plan

The objective of the Red Team review is to mirror the selection panel’s actual review and scoring process. With this in mind, provide the Red Team members the RFP and information about the client, project, our team and pursuit . Provide adequate time for the team to review these documents prior to the meeting. The team should note the selection criteria and proposal requirements from the RFP and the information about the selection panel members’ personality styles, and overt and covert motivators.
Members of selection panels typically have limited time (and often) limited interest in reading the proposal. While some members may read proposals in detail, they typically review them in a time-constrained setting and will first skim or read quickly. They often look for ways to eliminate proposals that don’t make their personal short-list first, then go back and review the “survivors”  in more detail. To simulate the selection panels’ experience, which includes limited time for reading, gathering impressions and scoring the proposal, the proposal draft must not be provided to the Red Team prior to the meeting. To be most effective, this Red Team should be a face-to-face meeting.
Text Box: Selection panel members often look for ways to eliminate proposals“Skimmability” of a document is its ability to convey key messages and is critical to recieving all the potential criteria points in a very brief review. The Red Team draft should be a 90%+ draft that includes graphics and formatting to allow the reviewers to evaluate its “skimmability”.
At the Red Team meeting, provide about 30 minutes for the selection panel to ask the team questions about the client and project. Then set a limited period of time (typically, one to two hours) for the Red Team members to read and score the proposal against the selection criteria without the proposal team present. The panel members should be provided an additional one to two hours in a facilitated setting to record their comments by section or by selection criteria, caucus as a team and come to consensus about messages, strengths and weaknesses, and then to prioritize suggestions for improvement.
The proposal team (pursuit managers, primary authors and production team) should then join the Red Team panel and receive feedback and a section-by-section critique. The entire team will then prepare a “recovery plan” to address the suggestions.

Agenda: Red Team Review

Panel briefing. Review selection panel and themes. Panel questions for proposal team 

Panel and team.

30 min

Read, score and comment on the proposal.

Panel only.

1-2 hours

Panel compares and coordinates comments.

Panel only.

1-2 hours

Feedback and comments to team.

Panel and team.

1 hour

Develop recovery plan

Team. Panel is optional but invited to stay.

3 hours

Green Team (Financial Pro-Forma), Legal and Technical/Quality Control, and Final Editorial Reviews

After the Red Team comments have been addressed and a final document prepared, the final steps are (1) a financial pro-forma or “Green Team” review, (2) a legal review, (3) final technical review, and (4) final editorial reviews. The Green Team, Legal and Technical reviews may be conducted in parallel with the Red Team, however the time constraints on the Red Team do not apply. These reviews should follow firm policies but generally address the following issues:

  • Green Team (financial pro-forma): Can we make money on this based on our scope, fee and rate structure?
  • Legal: Can we sign a contract to perform on our promises as they are written?
  • Technical / Quality Control: Is our approach do-able? Does the schedule make sense? Is the cost spreadsheet error free? Are the technical details accurate?
  • Editorial: This is the final Gold Team or “page turning” fatal flaw review. This is the last review before delivery. Did we “answer the mail”, ie in full compliance with the requirements? Are the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed? Are the required forms complete? Are the graphic references correct? Are the pages right side up? Are the client’s names spelled correctly? Etc.

In the form of a “pursuit strategy plan” that was used to track progress, meeting notes, etc.

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