Proposal writing starts long before you put pen to paper. It starts with lead qualification and intelligence gathering. But how do you measure how much you know? How do you know if you are on track and where you should be with your response? Most readiness reviews are subjective and of limited value. They often do not prevent train wrecks or do anything to increase your chances of winning. Here are some ways to measure progress that can help you quantify and track progress, so that you don’t find out you are not there on the day of proposal submission.

Pre-RFP. Preparing for an RFP release is primarily about intelligence gathering. The problem with tracking the progress of intelligence gathering is that you don’t know how much of what you will get, let alone what order it will come in. You should know what information you would like to know and collect. Some of it is dependent on collecting certain items first. One good technique we have used is to prepare a list of questions that we would like the answers to in order to prepare a winning proposal. You can score the amount and quality of your intelligence using a Red/Yellow/Green scale. You can even identify which pieces of information you need at the beginning, middle, or end of a pursuit. For example, it might be OK at the beginning of a pursuit if you do not know the names of the key staff you plan to bid. But you better know towards the end. In the middle, it might be OK to have partial knowledge. But if in the middle you have nothing, your ability to get to green by the end will be lower. If you add up the number of Red/Yellow/Greens, then you have a numeric score for your readiness. By setting expected scores at the beginning, middle, and end, you have a way to assess whether you are ahead or behind where you should be. Do it on a regular basis and you should see measurable progress.

Post-RFP. Proposal writing should happen in more than one step. What is your expectation for each draft? At which draft cycle do you expect to see RFP compliance, high level solution, detailed solution, emphasis on features / benefits, graphics / presentation, style, incorporation of win strategies, etc? If your proposal plan has the authors focusing on certain expectations in each draft cycle, you can measure your progress towards fulfilling those expectations ahead of major milestones, such as a red team proposal review.

Reviews should also happen in more than one step. Which review should focus on the solution, pricing, contracts, compliance, or presentation? By separating the planning and content reviews, the content reviews can focus on whether the plan was fulfilled instead of second guessing strategy.