5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Color Reviewers

Have you ever come away from a bid review feeling like it was a complete waste of time and money? It happens all too often, and there’s a good chance the reviewers went away thinking it was a waste of their time as well.

As part of the proposal development process, when bidding for large contracts, it is customary to have a few periodic reviews to assess the bid team’s progress. For context, these are generally referred to as color team reviews within the proposal world.

So how do you get more value from your color team reviewers? When supporting our clients and facilitating color reviews, Salentis International recommends the following tips:

1. Establish a high-quality team:

Can you get a truly unbiased, non-advocate review if your entire panel is made up of people from within your organization? It’s unlikely. If possible, assemble a team that not only includes non-program employees, but relevant outside consultants, industry SMEs, and individuals that held jobs within the customer organization and/or contracting agency. Do the prep work to get NDAs and clearances in place in advance so they are ready to go at the right time.

2. Create a review from an evaluator’s perspective:

Since the aim is to identify gaps and assess how closely the response meets the requirements, you need to put your reviewers in the evaluator’s seat. In order to do that, you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for them. Salentis uses prepared review sheets that include all solicitation requirements for a given section so that the reviewer doesn’t have to go digging through solicitation documents they’re not familiar with.

Extract of a checklist used when conducting a red review on a proposal

In order to get the most relevant and applicable feedback, you should also align the review questions to the solicitation’s evaluation criteria. Providing this kind of guidance for each section offers clear direction for your reviewers and avoids a completely subjective review. It also prevents typical responses that you hear in every color team review (e.g., “it needs more how”), because the guidance asks targeted questions around compliance and the strength of the response against each requirement.

3. Define the scope of the review:

To make sure you are getting the feedback you need, facilitate an In-Brief meeting, providing detailed instructions on:

  • What they’re responsible for reviewing
  • Key issues/elements you would like them to focus on 
  • How they can help the proposal team
  • What not to do, such as provide spelling/grammar edits if you plan to perform that task later

You don’t want them spending time doing things that aren’t of value to the bid team.

4. Provide review tool instructions:

Talk them through how they need to submit their review documents. Is there a submission process or a tool that you use? If so, give clear guidelines and instructions and let them know who to contact if they are stumped.

The last thing you want is for reviewers to spend half of their review time dealing with IT problems or struggling to understand how to access or submit their review documents.

It’s also a good idea to provide this portion of information at the end of the In-Brief, so that reviewers who are already familiar with how to use the review tool can leave and get on with their review tasks. 

5. Use a dedicated facilitator:

Dedicated support provides an organized, structured review and also gives reviewers someone to go to with questions throughout the process. This prevents your bid team from being pulled into the review to answer questions or solve problems and affords them a necessary break from the proposal. The facilitator helps formulate the review team and sends out meeting invites, prepares review sheets, enforces cut-off times for input, prepares in- and out-brief meeting material, and coordinates the entire review process.

Finally, if you’re reviewing onsite (though that’s unlikely these days), it’s a good idea to keep reviewers fed and hydrated so they can stay focused on the task at hand!

Incorporate these tips to improve the quality of your next color team review and let us know if we can help!

Article published: January 2021

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