Few scenarios are scarier to proposal managers than submitting a bid with outdated, inaccurate, or otherwise non-compliant content. Proposal compliance is critical. But in a fast-paced, deadline-driven world where rules and information can change at the drop of a hat, today’s approved content can easily become tomorrow’s old—and wrong—news.
Making sure that doesn’t happen might just be one of the toughest parts of the job. Here are some practices that might help.
Train and communicate.
It’s virtually impossible to overemphasize the importance of communication when it comes to proposal compliance. The ability to ask questions, obtain responsive input, and collaborate is vital.
Conduct regular training sessions—or even just group discussions—to go over the latest dos and don’ts from Legal and Compliance. Consistently reinforce the review and approval process and talk about ways to make it more efficient or easier for your subject matter experts.
It also helps to focus on the fact that compliant proposals are in everyone’s best interest, from the proposal team to subject matter experts and beyond. Making sure information is accurate up front ensures everyone, including the client, is on the same page after the sale.
Document, document, document.
As detail-oriented communicators, proposal managers are great at record keeping. And record keeping is great for proposal compliance auditing.
Whether it’s to prove you’ve done your due diligence or to keep reminders of the latest updates on hand, organize and file all your documents and email in a safe place. You never know when you might need to provide evidence of approval or recall that tiny change to product version 20.1000.
And a related tip: Share, share, share. If you learn something that’s new to you, chances are, it will be new to your team, too. Forward information to make sure everyone is up to date. You could also keep an updated list of common sticking points or evolving topics and their current directives, SMEs, and dates of change on a shared drive for everyone to reference.
Include a disclaimer.
Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, changes happen after submission and can wreak havoc on proposal compliance. Help make your prospective clients aware of that possibility so they’re not blindsided. On the first page of the proposal, in addition to including language based on Legal and Compliance requirements, state that the products and/or services discussed are based on your current offerings as of a particular date.
If your offerings are eligible to expire, state the period of validity. You could even give specific examples of common changes.
Ask someone else to take a look.
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it before: “It always helps to have a second set of eyes!” But it’s just so true.
Implement a proposal compliance assurance process in which peers review each other’s proposals before the draft or finalization stages. Not necessarily to proofread or edit, just to check facts. Even if it’s just for bigger deals or proposals with lots of tricky items, a quick review can be a life-saver if your teammate remembers just one little detail that slipped past you.
Use a proposal content management system.
Adding technology to your compliance review process and tracking your content in a database can save time, decrease stress, and increase accuracy immeasurably—not to mention boost productivity and sales.
PMAPS (Proposal Management and Production Software), for example, allows you to:
- Set expiration dates and review cycles for proposal content
- Associate SMEs with each piece of content
- Distribute content to SMEs for review with a deadline
- Tag content with alerts, notes, or reminders
- See when content becomes expired and requires review
- Flag content that requires approval on a per-bid basis
- Track content usage, changes, reviews, and approvers
If a piece of content undergoes a critical change and you need to know if and in which proposals it was recently used, you can find out with the click of a button. If a change needs undoing and you want to revert back to previous wording, you can do that too. You can even link content to other content, so if you make a change in one place, you will immediately know where else you might need to make a similar change.
Automating, or at least formally operating, the more tedious and time-consuming elements of your compliance processes not only helps eliminate human error, but it also frees you up to focus on content—and thereby, proposal—quality.