Secrets of Successful Color Team Reviews

Proposal reviews are critical to writing a winning proposal and difficult to do well. Review teams must be correctly staffed, well organized, and carefully managed to help the writing team improve the proposal’s evaluation score. This paper discusses the standard color review teams; identifies characteristics of good color review teams; and exposes key pitfalls to avoid in staffing, preparing, and conducting successful color team reviews.

This color team review process does not include, step-wise, the review approach to arriving at a bid/no bid decision throughout the capture process, nor does it discuss the value or methods of performing win strategy reviews.   

The proposal development process includes formal proposal and pricing reviews called color team reviews. These reviews are the most cost-effective way to improve the proposal and ensure that the proposal receives the highest possible score in evaluation. The goal of the reviews is to audit the documents for compliance, win strategies, risk factors, cost effectiveness, and overall quality of message delivery that to ensure it will resonate with the client as determined by effective capture management and customer intelligence. A successful team review process results in a persuasive proposal that:

  • A persuasive proposal that meets all RFP requirements and conveys a unified message
  • A proposal that conveys a suitable and cost-effective solution in accordance with the Statement of Work (SOW)
  • Addresses the end user’s desires as defined through market intelligence and customer discussion prior to RFP release

The standard color team reviews are Blue, Pink, Red, and Gold. Each color team review has a specific purpose and the results of the review and future actions to be taken are recorded and tracked through final disposition. The term “Red Team” comes from the Cold War practice of U.S. officers taking a Soviet ("Red") perspective to try to defeat U.S. strategies. Today's proposal Red Team is an independent group that takes the customer's perspective to identify weaknesses and gaps in the final draft of the proposal. The other standard proposal reviews were given other color names to distinguish them. These series of reviews (Blue, Pink, Red, Gold) reflects the increasing maturity of the proposal document(s). 

There are many approaches to color team reviews, and some companies have added proposal reviews that are given other color names to distinguish them. One of the more common additional reviews is the “Green Team” review, focused solely on the pricing aspects. For purposes of this paper, we cover what most consider the fundamental color team reviews, but XPRT recognizes and has the expertise to cover the entire spectrum of color reviews.

Blue Team Review: This review occurs either prior to RFP release, or at draft RFP issuance, and orsometimes as soon asimm immediately after the final RFP is issued. The goal of this review is to assess the competitive position of the company and the strategy and solution it will propose. The review documents can take the form of a slides presenting the capture strategy, high-level strategy(s) fore execution of the scope of work, teaming data including SWOT analyses, customer hot buttons, information on the source evaluation board and source selection authority (if known), execution risks, and any information known about the acquisition strategy.

The review should result in a bid/no bid decision based on the agreed upon strategy and offered solution. This review also represents a design freeze for the strategy and solution going forward. The outcome of this review forms the foundation for all activities going forward and should be summarized and offered delivered to the proposal team and to each subsequent review team to ensure that the proposal team remains aligned with the original strategy and solution.

Blue Team participants/members are independent of the proposal team and should be knowledgeable about the customer, your company’s products and services, and your competition. Blue Teams may be a combination of management, staff, subject matter experts, key subcontractors, and, in some circumstances, outside consultants/experts.   

Pink Team Review: This review begins once the final RFP is issued and it sets the direction for the development of the proposal. The goal of this review is to determine if the structure of the proposal meets the RFP requirements and provides evidence of adherence to the Blue Team’s agreed- upon solution and approaches. This review determines if the strategy is sufficiently articulated and the themes and discriminators are incorporated strategically throughout the various sections of the technical, management, past performance, and other applicable sections/volumes. The review will determine if there is sufficient substantiation of the company’s ability to deliver the solution proposed and if any errors or inconsistencies are identified. The documents reviewed include a detailed outline and story boards or mockups. The review will focus on compliance and messaging approach, not style and grammar. Pink Team participants/members are independent of the proposal team and are knowledgeable about the RFP requirements, your win strategy, and how to review and provide appropriate feedback on storyboards/mockups. For consistency purposes, Pink Team members may also include some or all Blue Team members.

Red Team Review: This review assesses the completeness of the proposal; identifies any gaps; and assures that the offering is compliant, comprehensive, and compelling, and will receive a high evaluation score.

This review takes place once the proposal is 90% to 95% mature and near production-ready form. The goal of the Red Team Review is to ensure that the proposal is clear and, compliant to the RFP requirements. The review also makes sure the document, and tells a convincinmpelling story with effective presentation of themes, initiatives, innovations, and discriminators; substantiation of claims; veracity of cost savings; and high probability of successful execution of the approach as written. The review is conducted as if the reviewers were the Source Evaluation Board, or key client decision makers, and they use a scoring method that mirrors the evaluation/selection criteria. The team also confirms whether or not the proposal team adequately addressed and incorporated the comments from the Pink Team Review.

As part of the Red Team Review, the estimate of cost or price is evaluated to ensure compliance with the requirements, reasonableness, competitiveness, and integration with the strategy and schedule of the proposed approach to performing the statement of work. Some companies referred to this portion of the review as the Green Team Review. An independent assessment provides the company with an unbiased perspective along with a broad base of experience, enhancing their solution and increasing their potential likelihood for of capturing the opportunity.

Red Team participants/members are independent of the proposal team; are ideally people who were members of the Pink Team; and are knowledgeable about the RFP requirements, your solution, and how to prepare and present a winning proposal.

Gold Team Review: This review is the final quality control effort for content, edits, style, and format. Ordinarily a small team comprised of select members from the color team panels, the capture manager, and the proposal manager will conduct a final read through for quality, compliance, and editorial consistency. This review should verify that all requirements are met, hot buttons are addressed, RFP evaluation criteria have been satisfied, graphics are placed appropriately, and proof statements are accurate and effective. The final inventory of the document is performed to ensure that everything is complete—all the graphs, tables, pages, signatures, copies, etc.

What Makes a Good Color Team?

Some key factors are:

  • They are staffed with the right number of people with the right skills and experience; the proposal review director has clout
  • Reviewers are prepared, having thoroughly read and analyzed the RFP, and are completely focused on the review while it happens
  • Reviewers understand that their job is to assist the proposal manager to improve the evaluation score of the proposal; rank and ego are set aside
  • Reviewers make themselves available to answer questions or brainstorm with the writing team in the hours and days following the review
  • There is consistency among the team members from Blue to Pink to Red to avoid late redirection
  • Reviewers always check compliance to the RFP requirements, both proposal requirements and contract/solution requirements

What are the Common Pitfalls of Color Team Reviews and How are They Mitigated?

The chart below provides an introduction to some of the common pitfalls and how the proposal manager and Color Review Team Leader might address them.

Companies should review their capabilities to develop a winning proposal and staffing the types of reviews that will most effectively meet their needs. Capability gaps in capabilities should be addressed identified prior to drafting beginning the proposal process and assistance should be sought, as required.

XPRT team understands the value and importance of appropriate reviews and the cost and loss of productivity that can occur if the reviews are not properly planned, staffed, conducted, and closed out.   XPRT team has over 20 years of experience in designing and managing effective proposal review (color team reviews) processes.   

We will:

  • Design a customized and comprehensive review process to assure a sound and reliable strategy, in compliance with the RFP
  • Manage consistent sequential color team reviews
  • Prevent the reviews from interrupting the proposal authors’ momentum
  • Manage sequential color team reviews
  • Clearly define the purpose of each review and expected outcomes of each review
  • Provide criteria for reviewers for each color review
  • Provide a rating scale with definitions for reviewers to use
  • Identify questions to be answered in each review
  • Provide customized/proprietary tools to facilitate the reviews
  • Deliver services at many levels from complete management of the review process to participating in the process as needed.

Cora Beebe-Fosdick has 30 years experience in the federal government and for more than 15 years, she has assisted firms in navigating the federal government world, successfully assisting them in identifying new business opportunities and winning competitive bids. She can be reached at

For a free XPRT consultation to assess what your business needs to bid and win US government contracts, for help with your US government bid, or for more information, contact XPRT at (844) 332-9778.

Phillip Pettet