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8 Important Questions for Evaluating Proposal Training

Anyone can claim to provide training.  It’s not hard to throw together some slides, put some pages in a binder, and kill time by talking in front of a group.  How can you tell if a training program will meet your needs?  Here are some questions that can help.

Who are the learners? 
Is the training designed to meet the needs of technical staff, business developers, proposal specialists, or executives?  Is it designed for sole practitioners (individuals working on proposals), small businesses (small teams that are easy to coordinate), or large businesses (large teams that can be difficult to coordinate)?  Are they prime contractors, subcontractors, or both?  We often find that the list of attendees changes based on the availability of staff and regardless of the plan at the beginning we end up with a mixed audience.  Make sure that the training speaks to everyone in the room and doesn’t leave anyone behind. 

What is the right level of difficulty or prerequisites?
Are the attendees first-time proposal contributors or are they experienced?  Trying to predict your audience can be an exercise in futility.  Most classes contain a mix.  It is better to focus on pre-requisites.  Will the training cover what an RFP is, or will it assume they already know how to read one?   Make sure your assumptions are spelled out so that learners know what to expect.

What are your goals?
People often say they need training without fully realizing what their goals are for that training.  Different types of training work better for different goals:

  • Skills enhancement.  This type of training is best for things that require practice, like writing.  It requires a lot of time for performing exercises.
  • Knowledge enhancement.  This type of training works for things that people could do, if they only knew how.  This is the easiest type of training to implement, but is difficult to do well and requires a strong instructor.
  • Capability or Roles based training.  This type of training is for when you need people to be able to fulfill a certain role or perform a task.  It requires a combination of skills and knowledge enhancement, as well as assessment to ensure the capability has been reached.  Assessments can take the form of unit quizzes, final exams, or performance during class. This type of training adds assessments to the exercise time required for enhancement training. 

Training for business development is often defined as roles based (proposal writing, proposal management, etc.).  However, you should make sure that the training focuses on skills enhancement as well as knowledge enhancement.  If the curriculum does not include assessments or if the assessment is only performed at the end of the class, then all you really have is a presentation with no feedback loop to ensure that students reach the desired level of capability.  However, assessments require time to develop and time to deliver so they add to the cost of the training.

Is it relevant?
Is the training for proposals that are submitted to commercial customers or to the government?  Different types of proposals can have radically different training needs.  For example, an information technology, systems integration, or engineering proposal is very different from a staffing proposal.  A real estate or finance proposal is very different from an aerospace proposal.  Even proposals within the same industry can be very different if the customer is different.  People who do one type of proposal sometimes incorrectly assume that all proposals are done the same way.  Make sure that the type of proposal and customer environment being taught is relevant to your needs.

Where will the training be delivered?
Will all participants be physically present?  Is distributed learning a more viable option?   If distributed learning or online training is an option, then will it be live or recorded?  Will remote participants get audio, screen-sharing, and/or video?  How will instructor interaction (not just Q&A, but also exercises) be achieved with remote learners?

What is the right overall length?
The length of the training is determined by how long it takes to present the course material and how long the exercises take.  Exercises have the most impact on course length.  For example, a proposal writing course can be delivered as a one-day presentation or a three-day course in which students actually develop a proposal.  The material covered and knowledge enhancement results are the same. The skills enhancement and capability results are completely different.  However, not all training topics are skills-driven.  For example, a seminar might present a solution to a problem that once known, students can implement without practicing in the classroom.   An easy way to assess the right length is to look at whether exercises are beneficial, given the topic, and how much time you want to budget for them.

What is the right session length?
In a live-instructor setting, most training is performed in half-day or full-day sessions.  However, an all-day online training session is not practical.  Two hours is a long online session.  As a result, online training is better delivered with many small sessions.   Smaller sessions may be easier to fit into your work schedule, but it means the number of calendar days required to complete the training is much longer.  If you are trying to complete the training by a deadline, this is an important consideration.

Our training and best practice recommendations are based on the MustWin Process. Find out more about it here.  

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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