Color Team Reviews—Who to Invite and Why

Most of us know how vital color team reviews are to ensuring a well-written, concise solution for our customers. But these reviews can get tricky and become ineffective if we’re not careful. During Shipley’s most recent webinar on color team reviews, we were asked many questions about how to hold effective reviews. But, by far, the most popular question was, “who do I invite?”

The answer? It depends on the size, scope, and complexity of the pursuits as well as the size and mission of your organization. Color team reviews should be tailored to fit the environment and the pursuit size and complexity.

Inviting the right people to color team reviews is one of the most important aspects for conducting a successful review. Best practice suggests that you make the right team members available instead of making the available team members right. You have contracts to win. Save yourself the time and money by using the right members for each team whether your company or opportunity is large or small.

Blue Team Review—Win Strategy Review

Although capture managers make all necessary preparations for a Blue Team review, they are preparing this information for senior business development leaders who will lead the review. The Blue Team reviews the initial capture plan to evaluate your knowledge of the customer and opportunity, provides guidance on your potential solutions and recommends strategic actions you can take to position your organization as the customer’s preferred choice.

Who to invite?
Ideally, Blue Team members are independent from the capture team, but also knowledgeable about the opportunity, customer, and customer’s needs.

  • Independent Blue Team leader
  • Business development management
  • Operational management
  • Experts on customer
  • Product/service experts

Why?

These independent members can provide an unbiased opinion about the customer and give that feedback to the capture team. This allows the team to see what they might have missed in their strategy planning.

Black Hat Review

Black Hat Teams prepare capture plans for each major competitor or major types of competitors. They outline competitors’ probable solutions and strategies based on their knowledge of the market, the customer, and competitors’ prior strategies and capabilities

Who to invite?

Black hat Team members are experts on the customer and competitors they try to anticipate competitors’ strategies and solutions and test the soundness of your strategy and solution.

  • Independent Black Hat leader
  • Business development management
  • Experts on competitors
  • Product/service experts

Why?

Unlike the Blue Team, this team must be full of experts on the customer and competitors. Both are important to know to strengthen your proposal and strategy. Like the Blue Team, the Black Hat review works best if the team is independent from the Capture Team allowing for an unbiased review.

Pink Team Review

The Pink Team reviews proposal storyboards, mockups, or writing plans before text is drafted. More proposals fail because of poorly executed or nonexistent Pink Teams than any other cause.

Who to Invite?

This team verifies how well the proposal team is executing the approved win strategy and recommend necessary changes. This powerful influence over how the proposal will be completed dictates knowledgeable and empowered Pink Team members.

  • Independent Pink Team leader
  • Senior leadership
  • Subcontract manager (if teaming with another company)
  • Capture manager/opportunity/sales lead
  • Blue Team or Black Hat reviewers
  • Program manager
  • Section/volume leaders
  • Fresh set of eyes
    • Solution architect
    • Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Why?

This team can be very broad because you are dealing with the solution for your customer. Blending the opportunity/capture leads with the proposal leads is crucial to developing and presenting a beneficial solution. You also eliminate waste and expensive rewriting if everyone is included from the beginning.

Proposal managers have supported a lot to the content development at this point and it may be hard to get an unbiased opinion. Because of that, they are often excluded from the Pink Team Review.

Senior leadership is important to this review as they can champion the pursuit early. This prevents major revisions later. Also, it is much easier to gain their support with early buy-in.

Red Team Review

A Red Team review predicts how well your near-final proposal would be scored by the customer and recommends improvements to customer focus, completeness, and clear communication of your solution and win strategy.

Who to invite?

Like most color teams, Red Team members should be independent of the proposal team and offer multiple perspectives.

  • Independent Red Team leader
  • Senior leadership
  • Representative from each previous review
  • Industry SME—gives an external perspective to your message and how it will be scored
  • DO NOT invite writers

Why?

This review allows you to see the proposal as a whole and make sure your message, strategy, and solution all work together to provide the best possible document to the customer. I would caution you not to invite writers because they are often too close to the work to be unbiased. Come to a consensus as a team and concisely give that input to your editors and writers to make the changes.

You may be wondering why the program manager, proposal manager, and capture manager are not on this list. They need to be invited to the Red Team debrief but not to the actual review. They each have had significant contributions to the pursuit and are likely too close to be effective participants.

Again, senior leadership is critical to this review. Their revenue will grow and it will be their team that supports the proposed solution. They will most closely deal with the profitability and impact of this effort.

Green Team Review

A Green Team is an in-house cost review team that compares pricing against the technical, management, and other non-price solutions components to confirm everything is included in the estimate. Some organizations combine Green Team with Red Team, but in many cases, full pricing information takes longer to develop than the rest of the proposal, delaying review of the final price.

Who to invite?

This team is best to keep narrow and to a few representative members. Green Team members seldom review the detailed price volume and instead focus on the deal rather than the documents.

  • Capture manager
  • Proposal manager
  • Program manager
  • Pricing manager
  • Estimators
  • Business manager
  • Finance executive

Why?

During this pricing review you will need to have the most skilled individuals who deal with pricing in the company to ensure you are presenting a fair and accurate price to the customer. If the pricing is incorrect, your customer may feel cheated making your solution untrustworthy.

Gold Team—Final Sign-off

Most organizations have a final sign-off review to authorize submittal of the bid/proposal. This is generally done by executive leadership and may include a thorough page-turn and final version check.

White Hat—Lessons Learned Review

Unlike other reviews that focus on improving your chances of winning a specific opportunity, the White Hat—or Lessons Learned review—focuses on improving your chances of winning future opportunities.

Who to invite?

Often there are two separate reviews: one right after submittal while memories are fresh and one to look at the pursuit from the customer’s perspective. The second review may be best to delay until you receive feedback from the customer.

Part one

  • A representative from all internal teams who supported the pursuit

Part two

  • Business Developer
  • Proposal manager
  • Capture manager
  • Program/technical manager

Why?

Lessons Learned reviews show your team what needs to be fixed in your process and allows you to improve on the next opportunity. Don’t underestimate the value of this review. Not only does it show you what needs improvement, but it show you what went well so you can repeat that in every pursuit.

Gather and document customer feedback, win or lose!

These best practice guidelines can help you conduct powerful and effective reviews. Remember that each company is different, and you may need to alter these suggestions slightly. But remember to make the right people available, not the available people right. Don’t underestimate the strategic value of color team reviews. They help you align your proposals with customer needs and hot button issues for the best possible solution.

Want to learn more about color team reviews? Watch our latest webinar here.