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How to create recipes for your proposals

Proposal recipes are a better way to accelerate and inspire proposal writing

The goal of a proposal recipe is to accelerate proposal writing and inspire your staff to write better approaches. Proposal recipes suggest topics to write about, instead of providing topics that are already written but in the wrong context.

A proposal recipe avoids providing you with a narrative you can recycle. Instead, proposal recipes ask questions about everything that should go into the narrative. When you answer the questions, you not only create the narrative, but what you write is customized for what it will take to win the current bid from the very beginning.

Instead of starting your proposal with a blank screen, the questions in a proposal recipe get you started explaining the right things and putting things in the right context. By suggesting ingredients, it accelerates how quickly you arrive at knowing everything that should be addressed in your section. People spend more time thinking about and discussing their proposal sections than actually writing them. A proposal recipe gets you past that more quickly so that the writing can actually be accomplished.

Creating a proposal recipe requires identifying the questions people should answer in their responses. The trick to creating the right questions is to use the questions to both give information and guide people to consider the right things. Proposal recipes typically address:

See also:
Guidance for using recipes
  • What should be included in your solution, process, approach, or response
  • What you need to know before you can write your response
  • Options you should consider
  • How the context impacts what you should write
  • How issues could impact what you write
  • Ways to add value to your response
  • Potential ways you could use graphics to enhance your message

A proposal recipe shouldn’t tell you what the steps in your approach must be. Instead, a proposal recipe should ask about everything that might go into your approach, so the author can quickly assess what is needed for this bid. A recipe should ask about various options so the author can decide what is applicable. A recipe should ask about how aspects related to the customer, opportunity, competitive environment, or RFP might impact what you need to write about. A proposal recipe should ask about any potential issues so the author can determine what to do about them. A recipe should ask about approaches that might add value. Or it might ask about how visuals could be used instead of words to make your points.

There is a fine line between asking you to consider an option and suggesting things for your consideration. Suggestions are fine, but everything in a proposal recipe should be formatted as a question in order to avoid leaving the impression that the recipe is telling the author what to write. In order to end up with a proposal that is fully customized around what it will take to win, recipes help the author work more quickly without giving them the end product. The authors decide the sequence, wording, what’s applicable, and what adds value. A recipe identifies the ingredients and ways to prepare them, but the author is the chef.

It’s also important to remind the author that they are not limited to what it says in a proposal recipe. If a proposal recipe inspires you to think about something that adds to the proposal but that the recipe didn’t address, then it’s doing its job of helping you figure out what to say in order to win.

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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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