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Is Proposal Quality A Matter of Opinion?

If you want to win, proposal quality had better not simply be a matter of opinion. If you allow opinion to guide proposal quality, then all you will get is power struggles over whose opinion matters the most and bad guessing as to how to make the opinion leader happy. While we advocate defining quality and have built our process around it, what really determines what you are going to get is your quality criteria.  The way it works is:
  1. First you define quality
  2. Then you define the quality criteria
  3. Next you write the proposal according to the criteria
  4. And finally, you review the proposal using the same criteria
This will make assessing proposal quality objective instead of subjective. Having proposal quality criteria enables you to measure both quality and progress. But it only works as well as the criteria you define.

A good way to improve your quality criteria is write it in the form of a testable question, just like they teach kids in school doing science fair projects. By phrasing your quality criteria as questions, you guide both your writers and your reviewers to what is important. By making the questions testable, you make quality objective.

Some of the easiest criteria to establish and measure have to do with completeness:

  • Is [blank] complete?
  • Is anything missing?
  • Does anything need to be added?
  • Should anything be removed?
Other criteria can assess accuracy:
  • Is it accurate?
  • Is it up to date?
  • Is it free from typographical errors?
You can create criteria that are specific to each section of the proposal, as well as other key topics. For example, you will want to assess the quality of your offering:
  • Is it technically sound?
  • Is it compliant?
  • Can it be improved?
  • Is it competitive?
We also recommend establishing criteria specific to the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment.

Some of the most important criteria have to do with purpose. For example, you should assess your proposal’s win themes, not only for completeness and accuracy, but also for whether they fulfill their purpose:

  • Do they provide compelling reasons for the customer to select you?
  • Do they optimize your score against the evaluation criteria?
  • Do they tell a story?

When you create specific criteria to define and measure quality, your writers know what is expected of them and there are no surprises during the draft review by some individual's opinion about what a good proposal is. The best way to handle your stakeholders with strong opinions is to get them involved in defining the criteria. That is when the debate should happen — not after the draft has been written.


Find out how to get the quality criteria and process that we developed to help you win your proposals


By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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