It’s Not Cheap to “Pink” and “Red” Team.

Spend your time (and $) wisely!


By: Nelson Santini


I’ve seen my fair share of “happy” to “glad” changes while working through Pink and Red Team reviews, and quite frankly when I dug in to get a better understanding of the cost associated with these reviews, all I could say was “WOW”!



It’s December, and most companies are cementing the operational budget for 2021. The “C” suite declared financial goals, the first cuts of the budgets have been submitted, and the usual “jockeying” for funds to stay below budget is underway.


Why do we need these consultants?
Can’t we forego that training?
Do we really need to fund that capture and proposal plan?

The blog is young but let me jam another cliché. That is classic “missing the forest for the trees”; I’ll explain.


The vast majority of efforts to respond to an RFP include “color team reviews”, and amongst them we have for example these:

· Pink team – to verify compliance and capture win theme resonance with RFP.

· Red team – to estimate proposal grade and make changes to improve on it.


Each of these color team reviews commands the participation of a substantial swath of your BD, Capture, Proposal and SME bench. In the case of the Red team, feel free to throw in an additional few “SVP/EVP/C” level contributors.


Using some back of the napkin math – assume 25 to 40 man-hrs. of labor on each type of review (for simplicity) and an average cost of $75/hr. and $115/hr. on a Pink and Red team respectively. Using these numbers, a single Pink and Red team cycle could eat $7,600 in direct cost.


If you do some 20 small RFP responses in a year, that is enough for one well-paid FTE.

If you do some 3-4 large RFP responses in a year, that would be another well-paid FTE.

If you have worked on an IDIQ, you could fund a small department of well-paid FTEs.


Don’t get me wrong; I know these reviews are very useful, when done right. I’m not advocating that we don’t do them. I am saying that we should make sure that every time we do them, we make our investment count.


Ask yourself, “Self; when was the last time we had a ‘once-through’ Pink and Red set of color reviews?” If you are struggling to go that far back or to truly find an example, you are not alone. I recently scrubbed an archived proposal calendar for a proposal team, and noted consistent instances of extensions or “re-dos” of these reviews across more than a dozen large and 75+ smaller RFPs. Those extensions and “re-dos” are a non-trivial expense that can account for hundreds of thousands of dollars of sunk cost. (Wondering now what happened to the department’s performance bonus $$?)


Why do these extensions and “re-dos” happen?

Here are a few of the reasons that force what at times seem like endless review cycles. (Don’t worry, I will not ask you to slam a shot for each one you have experienced or heard about).

· The capture and proposal team did not craft a solid outline.

· The SMEs that contribute have not been trained on how to write proposals.

· The review teams have not been read into the capture themes and plan.

· The in-house evaluators feel compelled to use “consultant speak”.

· Management wants to do two or three reviews.

· The reviews happened one on top of the other so there was no real change.

· The reviewers do not “caucus” and comment in plenum to consolidate feedback.


I could go on and on, but I can summarize the reasons like this:

· The extended proposal team has not been properly trained by proposal management experts.

· The Capture and Proposals Management team did not have or follow the right tools and procedures to be effective.

· The Capture and Proposal Management processes and teams are not fully, and well integrated.


Your organization can save a few thousand dollars on paper now, rationalizing that you have “in house” all the knowledge, tools and support you need to capture business. Alternatively, you can make a smart investment that will likely pay for itself within months.


Invest in tools, training and coaching/mentoring partnerships that can lead you to spend less time and money crafting proposals, and:

· Focus your BDs on looking for new opportunities.

· Keep your SMEs working on billable projects (making money).

· Consistently win more proposals.


Want to make every effort to be efficient and effective, and learn to craft proposals as a next-level pro? Want to get that elusive year-end bonus in 2021? Let’s talk.

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