Reviewing to Revise and Renew Your Business Proposal

By Neil Cobb, Charlie Divine

Part of Writing Business Bids & Proposals For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You must inspect your business proposal if you expect to improve. This concept applies to not only what you produce but also how you produce it. To be a true proposal professional, you need a mindset for continual improvement. Proposals are just too complex, customers too demanding, and competitors too crafty for the status quo. You’re either getting better or you’re getting behind.

Keep these tips in mind as you work through your proposal process and craft your proposal arguments.

Improve the process

Holding reviews is the only way to improve the way you work. You have to look back before you can look forward, so consider these tactics for getting better every time:

  • Before you propose, hold a proposal strategy review to validate your approach and suggest improvements. Review all your potential technical, management, and pricing solutions against the customer’s needs and requirements.
  • As you create your solution, hold a competitor review by engaging with your customer and competitor experts to assess and analyze your competitors’ likely strategies and solutions.
  • Before you make your bid/no-bid decision, hold a senior management review so leadership can sign off on the solution, pricing, and legal requirements.
  • Establish daily stand-up reviews at the same time every day during the proposal development phase to keep the proposal team focused on near-term tasks. When managing a virtual team, hold your stand-up reviews via web conferencing, teleconferences, and email.
  • Conduct after action reviews (AARs) when you reach key milestones to extract the learning from an event or activity. Ask these questions: What should have happened? What actually happened? What can you learn and apply for the future?
  • Conduct a lessons-learned review after each major proposal to assess the proposal development and management process. Document and store your findings for others to access and reference on future sales opportunities.

Improve the proposal

As you work on your proposal, always include ample revision time and cycles for your proposals to reduce overall cost, test the validity of your ideas, and ensure that you’re writing ethically:

  • Early in your project, give your lawyers an opportunity to hold a legal review to ensure that you can meet your customer’s terms and conditions.
  • Use objective subject matter experts to perform functional reviews as you near completion of the proposal to ensure its accuracy, persuasiveness, and appropriateness.
  • If you’re part of a proposal team, request peer reviews for your work, and offer to do the same for your peers. Peer reviews look for opportunities to improve the proposal’s accuracy, grammar, and style.
  • Conduct a final document review to allow independent reviewers to comprehensively examine the entire proposal while emulating the customer’s evaluation team. They should assess the proposal’s readiness and responsiveness to the solicitation, its effectiveness in conveying strategy, themes, and discriminators, and how well it ghosts the competition.