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Proposal Process Checklist

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Cheryl Smith



4 min

You wouldn’t bake a cake without a recipe; take a trip without a map; buy a car without a budget. That's why a proposal process checklist ensure both process efficiency and success.

We've laid out seven basic elements that every successful proposal process has, so you can make the most of the time and resources you have available.

Win Themes

Win themes should address higher-level features and benefits that the customer cares about most. They represent the customer concerns and help promote the value of your solution, so it's important that they are clear and compelling. Typically, win themes involve things like low cost, low risk solutions and performance-based accountability. Once you establish your proposal win themes, it's easier to provide supporting details throughout.

With every section of a proposal being written by a different author, it can be hard to tie the entire document together and produce a coherent story with compelling overarching themes. That's why it's important to establish win themes at the beginning of your proposal process — so everyone involved has a clear idea of what themes should transcend the entire narrative.


While win themes are key, discriminators demonstrate proof. It’s how you stand out from the competition. Take each win theme and identify a discriminator to support it. You should provide proof, both in the content and in examples of your past performance. Highlight the discriminators you excel at (for example, delivery excellence) and de-emphasize areas where you have less experience. If you feel the RFP has missed a key discriminator (like a higher-solution fit) and you stand out on that goal, emphasize it and consider adding it to the win themes.

A Kick-off Meeting

Sounds simple enough, but successful kick-off meetings are no easy feat. They require an intense amount of planning and logistical considerations. They should be well planned, with all members present, a calendar in place and win themes and discriminators already identified. Have the executive communicate the win themes and discriminators at this initial meeting and take the time to clarify if necessary. The kick-off meeting should also be used to Identify and address scheduling conflicts and writing gaps and inform participants on how to catch red flags in the process. Kick-off meetings and all following meeting should be marked on an easily accessible schedule. This will give writers targets for when they need to communicate their goals so that they may be met by the next available review.

Price-to-Win Analysis

Every checklist item hangs on whether or not the price is right on a pitch. Price should factor into your initial assessment of whether or not a specific proposal is a good fit for your company and should guide how you construct the proposal. It's important to conduct a price-to-win analysis early on in the planning stages of your proposal process so that you don't preemptively funnel time and resources into a project that isn't likely to provide a significant return on your investment.

Clear Schedule and Defined Roles

As with any large-scale project, it's important to clearly define responsibilities and timelines at the outset so that everyone involved understands what's expected of them at different junctions in the process. It's alright for roles to overlap, as long as the assigned party has the time and skill to tackle all that's involved with each role. For example, your checklist team will want to communicate closely with the pricing team to ensure that the priced services are part of the proposed solution. If you build dependencies and define responsibilities within your proposal calendar, it's easier to track progress to your end goal.

Team Assignments

Team assignments hinge on a few different variables, including a person's availability, familiarity with a proposal topic and any relevant experience they may have. Some proposals may require you to bring in subject/technical experts or hire additional manpower to see a proposal through to completion in the allotted time period. Hiring an experienced proposal consultant can also help guide your proposal process and provide necessary insight into what executing the project will involve, insight that you can use to inform future bids. If you assess the bandwidth and skill level of your staff at the outset of a project, then you'll be better prepared to support them with the necessary resources, before a crisis occurs.

Regular Review Schedule

Setting a fixed, regular review schedule is key to ushering a proposal forward and ensuring that necessary checks-and-balances are upheld along the way. Color Team Reviews offer a proven way to structure your review schedule and guarantee that your team communicates important themes and revisions before the final hour. Laying out a regular review schedule also serves to set the pace for your proposal process, creating natural benchmarks for each stage and date. It's okay to be flexible with dates as your team's availability changes, as long as reviews remain productive and occur at regular intervals. To ensure that frequent reviews aren't seen as a burden, it's also a good idea to communicate their value upfront, take good notes (so efforts aren't needlessly duplicated) and be time conscious.

The Takeaway

No matter what your proposal process checklist looks like, make sure you include all the right ingredients for success. With any proposal, communication is key; communicating and collaborating on all seven of the above checklist items is easier and more cost effective when you leverage an online proposal platform.

Related: The Ultimate Proposal Checklist

Ultimate Proposal Checklist

Author picture

Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith is our Senior Content Writer. She has additionally been writing and managing proposals since 1998. Shipley trained, she has helped establish proposal centers and advised on capture strategy, coached orals teams and lead marketing, communications and knowledge management programs. Cheryl is a graduate of The George Washington University with degrees in Theatre, Communications and Literature. When she’s not sharing her passion for work, she loves drawing, writing, cooking and exploring the Virginia woodlands with her husband, their dog Chase and the fuzzy guests they host for Rover.

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