Does your DoD Proposal Review Process Work?

On its best days, the proposal review process is typically ugly, difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating for everyone on the team. This is especially true for the writers who struggle to make sense of the Government’s solicitation instructions and incorporate guidance from multiple reviewers, corporate leadership, and external consultants. In the end, this ‘sausage making’ process usually results in a proposal that is relatively easy to read, more or less compliant, and with a deep intake of breath, is tossed over to the Government to evaluate. Sound familiar? Do you generally feel pretty confident that what you submitted will evaluate well? How do you know?

We find that many proposal managers and executives are confident they have produced a compliant proposal but little indication the proposal will compete successfully. Typically companies use a variation of the same proposal review model which focuses on bringing independent reviewers to assess the proposal progress in a series of iterative sessions. This systematic approach generally accounts for what should be an increasing level of proposal maturity with each review/recovery cycle. Theoretically, if done correctly, the writers are able to continuously refine their product based on feedback and in the end a winning proposal is born.

Sadly, the outcome of this iterative process is often a fully compliant proposal that does not win. In many cases, this approach fails to ensure the proposal even makes the competitive range or most highly rated proposal group. This is a maddening and expensive outcome for all involved. The good news however, is the fix can be relatively simple.

There are a number of things that can be done to focus both writers and reviewers on developing a proposal that will evaluate well for a DoD solicitation. The three most important things are:

  • Remember that your proposal is evaluated against the requirement above all! The key to helping evaluators select your company is to explain the ‘how’ to your solution. A compliance focus usually drives dozens of ‘We will’ statements into the proposal when what is needed is narrative that describes how the requirement will be met.
  • Know that Government evaluators must document their findings on a worksheet. That worksheet is used to defend/support the initial evaluations when the evaluation board develops its consensus rating of the proposal. During your reviews ask yourself if your strengths can be ‘cut & pasted’ into an evaluator’s worksheet. By doing this, you make their job a lot easier and you help them support a rating higher than “satisfactory/green.”
  • Understand how the DoD defines a strength, weakness, and deficiency. If your reviewers are unable to clearly identify strengths, weaknesses, and deficiencies in DoD terminology then writers end up word-smithing instead of shaping the proposal narrative to support an evaluation that is more than simply compliant.

So does your review process actually work? Is it consistently producing proposals that can win or are winning DoD contracts? If it’s not aligned with how the DoD conducts its source selection process then the answer is probably “Not as well as it could!”

As a reminder there is just one week left until our DoD Source Selection Seminars in Washington, DC. We are hosting two, one-day seminars on the 22nd and 23rd of October with Hogan Government Solutions, LLC to help companies understand the nuances of DoD Source Selection and how it affects proposal development.

If you are interested in joining us please go to to register.

Let us know if we can help you succeed with your proposal review process!

-Michael Devine