Better RFP Responses & Management
First, Identify the Problem

First, Identify the Problem

Dear Dizzy Izzy:
I’m reviewing a proposal and it is nowhere near
what it needs to be for submission. Nowhere. Near.
Is the team stupid, do you think, or just lazy?
Red Teamer

Oh my.

Dear Too-Typical:
What I think is that the proposal team needs your help.
Izzy Dizzy

In the human resources world there are training and motivation problems, and it’s important to know which one it is when performance is sub-par.

In Proposal Land, teams don’t usually lack either training or motivation: What they usually lack is time. Shortcomings in the document are almost always an indication of too little time, too few resources assigned, or both.

What that means for Red Teamers is this: The proposal team needs your help. What that looks like is this:

  • Make super-specific suggestions for improvement (maybe even offer to do the work, if you’re capable)
  • Flag any sub-sections that work well, so they can be used as a model for similar sub-sections in other parts of the proposal
  • Set priorities for the work (see “lack of time” above: time doesn’t get any more abundant after Red Team)
  • Find them more hands if and only if the people attached to those hands know the company, the project, and proposals



  1. Jim Taylor

    I like your suggestions, especially the idea of flagging the good parts so that they can be models. I didn’t do that enough during my editing years. I suspect that I sometimes — often — came across as picky and negative.

    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim T – It’s so much easier to see what’s wrong with a document than what’s right with it. Every proposal submitted to internal review is a small miracle (when it’s not a large one). We could all be better at looking for that and explicitly acknowledging it.

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