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Using templates for streamlining communication during proposals

Your proposal process is what you communicate

Every proposal milestone and every review require communication before, during, and after. While recycling your proposal content is a terrible idea that will hurt your win rate, recycling your communication pieces can enable you to make them more frequent and better. 

Let’s use the proposal kickoff meeting as an example. The preparation for a proposal kickoff meeting will be similar on every proposal. Details may change, but that’s okay. You can template the emails or other communication regarding your kickoff meeting invitation, instructions, and follow-ups. Doing this will enable you to let people know it’s coming, what they need to do, and what the agenda and desired outcomes are. It will only take you a minute or two to tailor all the details and click send. After the meeting, you can quickly send a follow-up email with action items. By communicating before, during, and after, people aren’t left hanging and are more likely to show up prepared to have a productive meeting. 

It's nice in the heat of production to achieve a deadline to have your communication templates queued up and ready to go. It produces better outcomes than just shooting from the hip, launching an activity, and trying to communicate about it ad hoc.

You can get by without a process. You can't get by without communication. And if you communicate in the ways described here, no one will ever know if you don't really have a process. Maybe communication is the process. Or the process is what you communicate. Or something like that.

Turning your proposal communications into templates

You don’t have to create dozens of email and communication templates ahead of time. Each time you create or send an email or other communication, save a copy. Save them in a structure that matches your process, so that you can quickly look up the relevant pieces. Over the course of a proposal or two, you can fill out your communications library.

Proposal communication templates have a low investment to create and produce a high return, even when things are changing rapidly. Maybe especially when things are changing rapidly. This is because they give you precise points in which to communicate what has changed and what hasn’t. And while tools, procedures, and other details may change, the need to communicate about them tends to be fairly stable.

Setting goals

What are the goals for the communication?

  • Target: What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Coordination: What needs to be coordinated? How?
  • Information: What do people need to work with? What is the value chain for information delivery? What do people need to know about it? What form should it take? What reference material is available?
  • Issues and resolution: Risks can become issues. Mitigation helps and sometimes needs to be communicated. Issues need to be surfaced, identified, and tracked to resolution, with the communication needed at each of those steps.
  • Recognition: A little gratitude and appreciation for what people accomplish during the proposal goes a long way. Don’t wait until the end to recognize the group. Communicate that you recognize their accomplishments all along the way.

Bringing structure to your proposal communication templates

Format your communications with subheadings to make them modular and easier to tailor. Most process steps require communication before, during, and after. That becomes a handy way to group your communication templates:

  • Before: Let people know what’s coming up. Give them ample notice about deadlines and key dates. Help them prepare by giving suggestions and letting them know what will be required. Avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • During: This can be defined as the start of an activity or the middle of it. But this is where you inform them of what needs to be done, how it should be done, what resources and help are available, when to complete it by, and who to collaborate with.
  • After: When things are completed, there are often tasks that need to be performed before moving on. These can be as simple as storage, recordkeeping, or notifications. There can also be follow-up queries and activities. And for some tasks, you’ll want to show gratitude, appreciation, and recognition. These things are more likely to happen if you have items in your communications library as prompts and accelerators.

Building proposal communications around events

Events need communication about schedules, locations, agenda, and more. There are often events occurring at regular intervals during a proposal, and if you synch to them you’ll have a nice constant flow of communication.

  • Meetings: Meetings need to be set up and planned. They will be most effective if people come prepared.
  • Reviews: Having only one proposal review can be worse than having none. Everything that should be validated needs a review, but every review doesn’t have to require meetings. Regardless of the number or types of reviews, communications will need to happen about them.
  • Deadlines: People need to be aware of deadlines in advance, and successfully meeting them will require coordination and collaboration. If you do nothing but communicate about deadlines before, during, and after, you’ll have opportunities to communicate on every topic below. 

Templating the content of your proposal communications

The contents of your emails and communications not only inform people, they also set expectations and are a low-key form of training. You can use subheadings, like those below, to organize the content and make it modular. You can add, remove, or update sections as needed. Use placeholders, such as putting things in [brackets], to identify details that you expect to change in every proposal, such as names, dates, file folders, etc.

  • Scope, definitions, and details: What is the topic, activity, milestone, etc. you are communicating about?
  • Instructions: What do you need people to do and how should they do it?
  • Locations: Where are the things needed to do what is required? Locations can be physical or they can be online.
  • Resources: What tools, people, processes or other resources are available to accomplish the goal? 
  • Access: Who has access, who needs access, how to get access, whether physical or online.
  • Reference material: Details that people may need to look up.
  • Collaboration: Points of contact, methods of collaboration, who to talk to, how to get help, etc. What should they communicate?
  • Action items: Assignments and “to do” list items.
  • Status: Is it ready? When will it be complete? What’s in progress? What do people need to know about where things are at?
  • Expectations: What should people expect of each other? What will be expected of them? What can they anticipate?
  • Assumptions: What have you assumed? What should your stakeholders assume? 
  • Deviations: What should be ignored or skipped? What exceptions have been made?

Turning your communications into a reference library for proposal contributors

Your emails will become reference material for proposal contributors. But if a user gets too many emails, they become challenging to manage. It’s a good idea to setup a folder and put copies of your key communication pieces there as reference. This is another place where a modular design pays off. You can copy and paste the instructions and other details out of the emails, put them in a file, name it something logical, and put it in a designated folder where people can find it. They’ll come to rely on that folder for instructions and reference.

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