Proposal planning is extremely important, particularly when there is a team of people helping to develop the proposal documents. Planning requires close examination of the request for proposal (RFP) solicitation to clearly understand what the customer is requesting and how he prefers that the information be organized. Generally the proposal management team participates in the planning process to get a broad prospective to ensure that nothing is missed.
Proposal preparation is the step in the proposal development process when the focus and strategy of the proposal are developed and documented for management review. Generally the senior technical staff and the management team help develop the proposal preparation materials including proposal themes, win strategies, pricing strategy, identifying discriminators, evaluation the competition and identifying any required ghosting. The Preparation phase is complete when each of these items is clearly documented in addition to the top level proposal outline with section and subsection headings, page counts and author assignments.
The writing phase is when the authors finally start to create the document that gets submitted to the customer. Each author is encouraged to develop storyboards, sometimes referred to as annotated mock-ups or other terms, where the proposal section is sketched out and any required artwork is identified. Maximum use of existing artwork is encouraged to minimize creating new artwork that can significantly drive up proposal costs. The sketch of each section is reviewed by the Proposal Manager, Project Manager and the Technical Lead to ensure that all the appropriate points have been included and that the planned artwork clearly helps to convey the message.
Frequent reviews of the each section of the proposal are essential to ensure that the themes and the focus of the proposal do not migrate away from the agreed upon message. One rather formal review that is performed when the first draft is complete is called the Red Team Review. The name is appropriate since the reviewers usually “bleed” all over the document using red ink pens. The reviewers are frequently chosen from other parts of the organization who review the proposal document as if they are the customer. The red team review need to happen early enough in the proposal process to allow time to incorporate the changes that the proposal team agrees need to be made. However, the red team review needs to be late enough that the review team sees a document that represents the intended final product. Thus, scheduling the red team review needs to be done carefully to maximize its benefit.
Publication of the completed proposal document is the final stage where the printed and electronic versions of the document are produced and management has its final sign-off on the technical offer, the management approach, and the proposed price including any special offers that might help increase the competitive edge.