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5 ways to use AI to improve your proposal content plans

The more things change, the more they stay the same

AI won’t enable you to win a proposal simply by asking the AI to create it for you. But it can give you ideas that could give you a competitive edge. First you have to know what to ask for. And the way you figure that out using AI is remarkably similar to following the same process you already use, only including AI as a participant. AI will not replace the process, it will just become a contributor instead of a replacement. AI makes it even more important to have an effective process in place, instead of allowing you to skip all that process stuff. Those who have a strong process that includes AI contributions will have an overwhelming advantage over those who don’t, even if they use AI.

Here are five examples of how you can include AI as a contributor during proposal content planning:

  1. Provide instructions that tell proposal writers what to offer or say. You are aware of things that require reading between the lines of the RFP and of other things that simply aren’t published anywhere. An AI is not aware of these things. In addition human SMEs usually struggle at combining all the different topics that need to be incorporated into proposal writing. Instead of using AI to write the proposal, try using it to help you write the content plan. Ask it to pretend it is helping someone else write a proposal and then ask it what instructions it would provide to someone writing a proposal based on the RFP instructions, evaluation criteria, and SOW. Pull out specific fragments from the RFP and consider them one at a time for the best results. Then take any intelligence you have about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment, as well as your win strategies and insights, and ask it to update its recommendations based on them. Don’t expect to use the list of recommendations directly. Cherry-pick it’s suggestions, just like you would from a human contributor, to create the most effective content plan possible.
  2. Provide instructions to guide others to figure out what to offer or say. If the RFP is for a solution, requires the bidder to figure out what to offer, or does not specify exactly what to propose, then you will need to guide the proposal writers to not only figure out what to offer, but how to present it based on the RFP and the evaluation process. AI can’t figure this out for you. And even if it could, you wouldn’t want it to, since winning the proposal requires a differentiated offering at the price to win based on as much unpublished information as possible. But what AI can do is help you think of questions to ask your SMEs that will guide them to do these things. AI can also think of things the offering and your approaches should include and things about them that matter. AI can take your input regarding the competitive environment or what your competitors will likely offer and make recommendations for things that are better. Using AI this way can greatly accelerate your offering design efforts. Remember to coach the AI to articulate things as instructions so that it provides a set of specifications for the next steps after the content plan. These steps may be human led, or may also involve AI some more. An AI will do better proposal writing taking a content plan as input than it will just taking the RFP as input. 
  3. Provide the details to the writers. If you know the details (who, what, where, how, when, and why) for each instruction, you should include them in the content plan. If you don’t know the details, maybe you can ask an AI to provide at least some of them. The more details you provide, the more it will accelerate proposal writing. Think of this as using the AI for inspiration. If you have basic instructions for what to write and how to present it, then you can use AI for ideas regarding how to improve them. Once you have the details, you can also use AI to rewrite the instructions you have including them.
  4. Provide instructions that identify the details others should find and include. Sometimes the details will require knowledge of things that aren’t published and are things an AI can’t provide. What an AI can do is help you identify the questions that need to be answered so that a solution can be developed or so that the proposal writing can reflect your goals. Proposal writers can work more quickly when provided with a list of questions to answer instead of open-ended problems that have to be conceptualized first, then resolved, and then written about.
  5. Interview the AI like it’s an SME. Think of AI as a partner. It’s sitting next to you and each time you have a question or an issue to resolve you can ask it. If you need information, you can ask it. If you want to shift a list from being suggestions into being questions, it can do that. If you need to know what the steps in an approach you know nothing about should be, it can provide some steps. Getting ideas that will enable you to win is gold. Compared to that getting writing done is trivial. Using AI to provide winning ideas will make you more competitive than simply using AI to put words on paper. 

Ask yourself what you can do without and still win. Can you do without cross-referencing the RFP instructions, evaluation criteria, SOW, win strategies, customer insight, competitive intelligence, solutioning, price to win assessment, and knowledge about what matters? Delete everything you can from that list, and then ask yourself whether you’ve given the AI all of what’s left as input. Whoever gives their AI the best input has a huge competitive advantage. The proposal content plan is that input.

Whether you use humans, AI, or a combination to put your final words on paper is a minor consideration that should come after you use AI to help you figure out how to win. Try discussing that with your AI. Once you have that and turn it into a set of specifications, which is effectively what a proposal content plan is, then you’ll have the input you need regardless of who does the writing.

Just don’t forget to review the content plan before you ask humans or AI to write something based on it. Reviewing the specifications before you build something based on them is key to preventing things from failing after they are built. You can also use AI to help with this review. But that’s a topic for another article.

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