Whether you write a proposal on your own or with a team, proposal reviews are a necessary evil. When they go well, they identify compliance issues and target where the solution and strategy needs strengthening. When they don’t go according to plan, however, they take time away from what little time your team has to write with little or no benefit.
How you manage your reviews will determine how you spend your proposal time budget. And when it comes to winning proposals, you want to be investing proposal time, not spending it.
Here are five easy things you can do right now for faster, more productive reviews that will cut your review time spend in half, deliver the guidance you need, and give you more time to invest in strengthening your proposal quality for the win.
Rethink Review Access
Email out four review copies, and the odds are you’ll receive three copies back. The odds are also that one will be a review of the wrong version. So now the reviewer will need to spend more time reviewing, throwing the team off schedule.
Email may have revolutionized the way we work, but even revolutionary technology comes with challenges. For example, data overload and lack of team understanding or “mind-share,” loss of process and task visibility into the process, and version control issues.
Consider skipping the email and centralizing your proposal reviews to save time. By giving your review team a single document to review you will eliminate accidentally grabbing the wrong version from email. Plus, you’ll provide your reviewers with anytime, anywhere access that keeps the team on schedule. Add smart phone and tablet access and on-the-go reviewers will never miss a review again.
What can you do with that extra time? Make sure the proposal sections written by different experts and writers hang together for a more consistent read by evaluators.
Come to Consensus
Post a review copy to your document management system and the odds are you’ll receive three back. The odds are also that two reviewers will have conflicting opinions.
Proposal reviews are about consensus; identifying and agreeing on what needs to be fixed and what needs to be strengthened. If your reviewers have no visibility into what the other reviewers are thinking and suggesting, they cannot come to consensus during the review. Which means you’ll have to spend time mediating their differing opinions before the team can dive back into writing.
Consider giving your reviewers the tools they need to review collaboratively and save time. For example, when reviewers can review together and see each other’s comments in real-time, they can discuss differing opinions and come to consensus during the review. At the same time, if they review separately on their own schedule, they can see what others have suggested and build off differing opinions to come to consensus faster. Add the ability to toggle between past document versions during the review and your reviewers will have the big picture context they need to provide more thoughtful and productive guidance.
What do you do with the time saved? Make sure your win themes track directly to the client’s needs from beginning to end for a more compelling read by evaluators.
Ask for Instructions not Feedback
Four people review, great job, you beat the odds! But the comments are unhelpful or uninspired, such as “this is weak” or “needs more,” and you’ve spent valuable time for nothing. This issue came up recently on our Webinar with David Seibert, Review Team Feedback You Can (Actually) Use.
While each review step in your proposal process may have a different focus (first draft, second draft, red team pink team) and each reviewer a different goal, (compliance, solution, strategy) review teams all have one thing in common: a winning proposal. Feedback like “this is weak” doesn’t help get you there.
David asked us to consider some review-changing advice from Carl Dickson, founder of PropLIBRARY. Ask a generic question like “feedback,” expect a generic answer like, “this is weak.” Ask a specific question like, “how can I improve this section,” get a specific answer like, “add this benefit to strengthen the story.”
So, first, ask for instructions, not feedback. Second, help your review team see how each review builds on the last – toward the best proposal ever – and help them see how reviews are a roadmap that helps the team get there.
Four people are assigned to review, but they forgot to email you when they were done. Now you have to spend time emailing, calling, and chasing them down to confirm. Meanwhile, the team is waiting and the clock is ticking.
Again consider centralizing your proposal review process. Not only will this solve version control and consensus issues, it will improve review team visibility which will save you time. For example, while the team is reviewing, you can monitor what they are doing, and step in if needed. Plus, when they are done reviewing, your centralized system can automatically send you a notification alerting you the review is complete.
Skip the Document Merge Step
Four people review, all the right version, and comments are in sync. Great job, you beat the odds! Now, comes the dreaded “merge” step; time spent mapping the comments and content across four different copies and compiling everything into one version for your team to edit.
When you centralize your review process and let your reviewers collaborate in real-time, you automatically capture, and centralize, their discussion and instructions. This discussion and instructions live with the document, without impacting the original content, and save you time by eliminating the “merge” step.
What can you do with that extra time? Consider color-coding reviewer instructions so writers can quickly filter, sort, and assign to writers. If time is tight, assign instruction categories that prioritize “weaknesses” over “strengths” so you deal with compliance issues first.
As businesses revisit their sales goals, look ahead, and define the shape of this new business reality, they are looking to proposal-specific tools to improve efficiency. Teams who adopt a more accessible review process will not only save time, they will also improve the quality today’s evaluators demand for the win.
Are you ready for a faster, more productive way to review that cuts your review time in half?