What should a proposal library contain? If you think it should contain proposal text ready to use so you don’t have to write as much in your future proposals, you’re setting yourself up to lose your proposals. There are better ways to speed up your proposals. But there are some reference materials that are handy to have. And people need inspiration. These things can help improve your proposals instead of weaken them.
- Proof points. You obviously think that you are the customer’s best alternative. But how will you prove it? All those benefits you’re promising, how will you prove the customer will actually get them? Your credibility lies in how compelling your proof points are. When you claim that you will complete the transition without disruption, how will you prove it? When you claim you can staff the project without risk, how will you prove it? Each proposal likely has dozens of claims. How will you prove each and every one? While the narrative of your proposal will change greatly with every proposal due to changes in what the customer cares about, it is a good idea to remember your proof points and be able to refer back to them.
- A single version of the truth. How many staff does your company have? How many locations? When was it founded? What is the proper way to describe a certification you have? Or word around the fact that you don’t actually have it? It’s a good idea to have a reference where you can look up definitions, names, facts, dates, events, numbers, etc. Otherwise, they may get reported differently by different authors.
- Steps. While you will want to tailor the language you use to describe a standard process in order to match the goals, reasoning, benefits, participants, terminology, and more to the current RFP, the actual steps may remain the same. Or not. For example, the recruiting process is not actually the same for every project. Nor is the transition plan. But while you can’t just copy the processes, you can recycle the steps. You don’t need or even want the entire writeup for a process, but it can be handy to see a list of steps so you can decide what to add, delete, or change and then prepare a narrative based on what the new customer cares about and the language they use in the new RFP.
- Graphics. For process-oriented proposals, sometimes a good approach is to create a graphic based on your standard process and begin proposal writing by doing a gap analysis against the current bid to determine how it should be changed. These graphics can be simple wireframes or even hand-drawn graphics because they are not intended to be the finished product. The marked-up graphic is very valuable for planning the writing. It tells you how this project will be different from the last one. And if you build your graphics around your messaging, starting by marking up your standard graphics will also inform the writers about what points they should be making. Here is a ton of inspiration for your graphics.
- Differentiators. What makes your company, staff, and approaches special? If you believe them to be unique, what makes them so? Why should the customer conclude that you are their best alternative based on these attributes? Some of your differentiators will be specific to a pursuit. But some of these relate to your company, resources, and other things that may apply to more than just one bid. Once you’ve got your differentiators figured out, it’s a good idea to turn them into a reference resource that not only informs people but also inspires and helps them figure out the pursuit specific differentiators. You get extra credit when you map your differentiators to your proof points.
- Approaches mapped to circumstances. If you look across many proposals, you’ll find that certain approaches lend themselves to certain circumstances. For example, certain approaches make sense when you are the incumbent. Other approaches make sense when you are not the incumbent. Some approaches work best for a customer that is obsessed with quality, other approaches are for customers obsessed about risk. Or performance. Or schedule. Or cost. Etc. Think of all the approaches you have, both technical and management. Then think of the variations and options. Then organize them according to which circumstances they apply to. The goal really isn’t to recycle the approaches, but to provide inspiration for people in those circumstances to help them think of better approaches so you can win more of what you bid.
Don’t try to capture a lot of narrative text. That form of proposal reuse can be more expensive than starting fresh each time. Instead focus on reusing data, remembering ideas, listing options, and providing inspiration. Narrative text is not only a pain to maintain, but will also lead to people emphasizing the wrong things for the new customer, or worse not emphasize anything.
When you map the proof points, graphics, steps, approaches, and differentiators to the circumstances of your current bid, you get a ton of powerful inspiration. That’s why on PropLIBRARY you see over 500 recipes that provide the ingredients instead of finished proposal sections intended for reuse. For PropLIBRARY Subscribers we've taken these 6 areas and identified 58 subtopics to help you figure out what proposal reference materials you should have on hand.
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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY
Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at email@example.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.