Use Red Team Reviews to Improve your Proposals

The fastest and best way to improve a proposal is to have informed outsiders critically review it.  This often is difficult for small businesses to do, but it can be done effectively.

Large businesses often go through a variety of color reviews – Blue Team, Black Hat Team, Pink Team, Red Team, and Gold Team – to ensure that their proposals are complete, compliant, and competitive.  Small businesses usually do not have the time, resources, and budgets to conduct all these reviews, but you can conduct a Red Team review.  This is a review that occurs when a complete first draft is available.

Follow these steps to conduct a successful Red Team review:

  • At the beginning of the proposal development process, identify two or three people who can do a Red Team review.  They should be knowledgeable about the content of the proposal but uninvolved in its development.
  • Prepare a document that explains what you want them to do and send the document and the RFP (Request for Proposals) weeks before the actual review so that they can familiarize themselves with the guidelines.
  • The document should include these elements:
    • Instructions for review.
    • A date by which they will receive the draft.
    • A time and date by which they will e-mail their comments to you.
    • A list of questions for them to consider as they read your complete first draft.
    • Your profuse thanks.

The Red Team review should be done using the “Track Changes” function of Word.  You should encourage reviewers to make line-by-line comments along with more general ones.  If you do not specify this approach, you may get reviewers making comments such as “rewrite this section,” which will not be helpful.

The reviewers should have no more than two to three days to complete their reviews.  Once you have sent out the proposal draft, gently remind reviewers of the looming deadline.

After you have received all Red Team comments, your proposal team should carefully sift through them and decide which ones to use.  If you have structured the Red Team review process well and chosen good reviewers, you will have many small and large changes to consider.  At this stage, usually one person rewrites the proposal for the team to review.  This is a task for someone who can quickly synthesize a great deal of detail and who can write well.

There are more comprehensive approaches to reviewing proposals, but for small businesses a solid Red Team review should help you strengthen your proposal and propel you into the final version.

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