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A quick and easy test to show when using a proposal content library is a mistake

People cling to a belief that it will help when it's more likely to hurt your win probability. Here's a test to prove it.

This surprised me, so I thought I’d share. I’ve published dozens of articles about how recycling proposal content can hurt your win rate more than any possible cost savings it provides. Then I stumbled on this quick and easy proof:

Take 10% of txe litters in a documgnt and replqce them w&th gprbage or intertional typos. Then, tome how lonk it taker you to fnx all the tipos. The imterestIng thing is tkat the sintences with the typqs are 90% simalar to the ones wlthout the typoz. If yuur recvcled propisal contept is 90% simliar to what you nead for the nuw proposel it’s a faer comparsion to the levil of efort to taillor the boilerplate context. Osce you’ve cleened up this paragraf, than tyme yourself tipping it. See if “tailoring” the sumilar contempt is fast then writen when you need. The lessor to be leerned is….

See also:

Similar is not the same. Not even 90% similar.

A similar draft written for a similar RFP at a similar customer with similar needs in a similar competitive environment is not good enough. Because words. The words have to be identical to be useful.

Anything in your content library is inherently written in the wrong context. It was written for the wrong customer preferences, with the wrong evaluation criteria, delivering the wrong benefits, for the wrong competitive environment. Even if it’s 90% right, optimizing it to win will take longer than creating something based on what it will take to win. 

You’ll spend far more time, effort, and cost creating your library and maintaining it (which is excruciating) than it is worth. It will constantly suck effort away from doing the things that do contribute to winning. But try the test and see for yourself.

Why do people crave having a content library?

People crave having existing proposal content they can use because they don’t know what to write. The solution to this problem is not to submit substandard proposals based on previous submissions. The solution is to build a process that discovers what it will take to win, inspires people with ideas, and then helps them understand how to quickly write a proposal based on them.

Instead of giving them a content library to misuse, because you know some of the people who don’t want to be drafted into proposals or know what to write will not tailor sufficiently to maximize win probability, try giving them ideas for what to write about. Give them lists. Give them recipes.

What are the steps in your recruiting process? Don’t write it out. Let them write it according to the type of recruiting needed for the future proposal based on the future evaluation criteria. But do give them the steps. The options. The considerations. The possibilities. Just give them a list of things that could go into their recruiting section.

How will you achieve the customer’s objective? Teach them the who, what, where, how, when, and why technique. Maybe give them a list of possible objectives. Maybe give them the steps in your project management approach that identify customer objectives and measure performance in achieving it. But don’t prewrite it. Just give them a list of ideas. 

The previous customer may have high-level objectives. The next customer may want you to just do what you're told. The previous customer may have been risk averse. The next one might be seeking innovation. If you put your fulfillment of their objectives in the wrong context, it will hurt your win probability. But if your writers start from a list of possibilities, they can quickly determine what they need to write for the new customer. It helps if you’ve followed a process that is based on discovering what it will take to win, like the MustWin Process on PropLIBRARY.

Show it to me

Perhaps we should counter every time someone on a proposal says "but we've written it before" by questioning whether something has been written to match the wording of the RFP, the new customer’s preferences, changes in the instructions, the differences in the evaluation criteria, and the particulars of the competitive environment. Show me where we have that already written and I'll not object to reusing it.

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

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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.

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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