I struggle to get the most out of reviews when they're booked early in a bid process.
It’s a much tougher skill to master, being able to critique a storyboard or high-level draft response, but the benefits of getting early input into a bid document from your review panel will pay dividends. Not only does it help avoid last-minute rewrites, but the process should also enable you to hone your message and improve the consistency between responses. If early reviews aren’t in your bid review process, hopefully, this blog convinces you to consider them!
Problems faced in introducing early bid reviews
I have faced a couple of problems when using early bid reviews:
Insufficiently developed content or varying quality content
It’s not always a natural process for writers, especially technical writers, to submit a storyboard for critique and review. Some bid contributors I’ve worked with, especially senior execs, will refuse to have early work reviewed. They insist on waiting until it's written, edited, and sometimes even DTP’d before people can review it. When forced into providing early drafts or storyboards, these contributors may phone-in their work, giving you something of dubious quality insisting they’ll improve when they put pen to paper. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for reviewers to give constructive criticism.
Many bids are fast-paced, and I often see push back from people who just want to get on and write. Once they get in the flow, they don’t want to stop for reviews or feedback, they want to get their response finished so they can move onto another project. What this leads to is answers getting way too detailed and potentially going off on a tangent, missing your win themes and not tying into other responses to create a consistent response across all documentation.
How to improve the early stages of your bid review process
Whether you follow the APMP process religiously or have developed something that works for in the context of your business, an early review is vital to getting the best results. My top tips for getting this right, therefore, can be summed up as:
- Be clear on what’s required - a ‘draft’ or ‘storyboard’ means different things to different people, so be clear on the level of detail and format to be used. This ensures you get consistency, aiding reviewers in giving constructive feedback.
- Do the reviews in-person - feedback on early drafts is often best given in person. In the same way that it’s hard to capture all your ideas and content within a storyboard, it’s equally difficult to give feedback in writing, and often being able to describe and discuss your feedback helps to give it context and lets the writer seek clarifications.
- Make reviews interactive - I have found that post-its, marker pens and snacks help reviewers give better feedback. Perhaps it’s the relaxed environment or the chance to be creative, but the best early bid reviews I’ve experienced have encouraged creativity and collaboration.
Other than the 3 ways I have listed above, there are lots of other ways to improve the early bid review process without compromising the proposal development timeline. Early bid review makes the cornerstone of a winning bid hence it has to be carried out internally or by an external organization. This will ensure high-quality submission and removal of any weak areas in the bid. It is a critical role and for a reviewer, your input and support are important as you impact the chances of winning.
So, if you plan and properly execute a bid review, an average bid can easily be turned into a likely winner and at the very least a sturdy contender.
Proposal reviews are one of the most critical components of the proposal development process. Proposal reviews can be fun and challenging, but are only valuable when they provide the proposal team with recommendations that improve the win probability and enable the team to make those improvements without jeopardizing the proposal development schedule.