Run your next proposal review like the government

There is a dichotomy between the way industry and government Source Selection Evaluation Boards (SSEBs) run proposal reviews. In industry, reviewers read the entire proposal and make in-line recommendations concerning how to improve each section. Industry evaluators also verify that suitable win themes are present.

How the government reviews proposals

In contrast, the government grades the proposal using a score sheet based on the evaluation criteria listed in the request for proposal (RFP). In most cases, you can find the evaluation criteria in the RFP’s Section M. The RFP also explains the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) criteria the government uses to evaluate the proposal. For example, if the government uses FAR Part 15, it is rating your proposal on a best-value scale using a numeric, adjectival, or confidence rating. As part of the rating scheme, they evaluate your proposal according to strengths, weaknesses, significant weaknesses, deficiencies, and risks. Government evaluators never evaluate win themes, and most evaluators have never heard of a win theme.

Changing the way, you conduct proposal reviews can be frustrating

Many proposal managers explain that they give reviewers a score sheet, but most reviewers ignore it and continue to make in-line comments in the proposal document. To make matters worse, the reviewers focus on re-writing the text so it sounds better to them and on making sure the “win themes come through.”

Tips for facilitating the implementation of new proposal review processes

So how do we fix this dichotomy? Here are a few tips:

  1. Get buy-in from executives on the change in the proposal review process.
  2. Train reviewers before each review in the new review process.
  3. Give reviewers more time than usual to conduct the review.
  4. Stress the importance of completing the score sheet first.
  5. Conduct a lessons-learned review to determine how you can improve the process.
  6. Compare the results of your review to the government’s review during the proposal debrief.
  7. Use the government’s feedback to improve your process.

Using the government’s review process to evaluate your proposals leads to a more realistic assessment of your score and early feedback on how to increase your score. In today’s competitive market, even a small increase in a score between two close proposals could make the difference between a win and a loss.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $170B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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