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Proposal Content Planning: How to figure out what to say in your proposals

Proposal planning takes more than a proposal outline to get to great proposal writing

Figuring out what should go into your proposal is the most important part of the proposal process. It usually starts with an Request for Proposals (RFP) that can be intimidating if you don't know how to read it.

To prepare your proposal, you need more than an outline or a compliance matrix to figure out what to write. You need to take into consideration the instructions in the RFP, how the customer will evaluate your proposal, what you will offer, and what you know about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment. The MustWin Process provides a flexible way to plan the content of your proposals, while taking all of that into consideration, and solves many of the problems people encounter when preparing their proposals.

How you plan proposal content also informs how you need to prepare to win the proposal during the business development phase that occurs before the proposal effort even starts. The instructions that constitute a Proposal Content Plan also provide a baseline for how you review and validate the quality of your proposals. They help you define what "proposal success" means.

Getting serious about planning the content of your proposal pays off by increasing your win rate. This effort is worth it because increasing your win rate has a much higher return on investment than trying to lowball the effort that goes into a proposal and still win. What does a small increase in your win rate return? 

Winning in writing requires thinking things through before you write

Even if you are doing a proposal all by yourself, you still need to figure out what should go into your proposal. Even if you have no time for planning, you still need to get your thoughts together before you start typing. One of the things that makes proposals such a pain is that they are not just time consuming, they are difficult to think through. There are way too many ingredients to keep them all in your head during sentence construction, even if you are an expert proposal writer. The approach we recommend, Proposal Content Planning, gives you a way to organize all the ingredients, untangle your thoughts, and get everything set so that you can articulate it in writing more quickly and with fewer re-writes and better chances of winning. If you're looking to keep things simple, here's a collection of things we've written that can help simplify proposal development while still improving your chances of winning.

How do you know whether re-using proposal content will help or hurt your chances of winning?

Even if you have a re-use library or a template, you still need a Content Plan to specify how it needs to be changed to adapt to the new proposal’s bid strategies and circumstances. A Proposal Content Plan is a better way to accelerate your proposals that prevents a template from doing more harm than good. It links what you need to write to what it will take to win. A template can't do that for you.

A Proposal Content Plan is a tool for writing great proposals without trial-and-error that produces mostly error

The Proposal Content Planning methodology was developed as part of the CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process. While the MustWin Process helps ensure you have all the information needed to support Content Planning, you can create a content plan for a proposal even if you don't follow our process in full. 


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A big part of what to say in your proposal is based on the Request for Proposals (RFP). There are many things you should do when the RFP is released. You can make sense of the RFP requirements by creating a Compliance Matrix. It will also help you with creating the outline for your proposal. Our Proposal Content Planning methodology takes it from there to help guide you through figuring out what else you need to say in your proposal.


Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

Access to premium content items is limited to PropLIBRARY Subscribers

A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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