Proposal recipes work best when they reflect the specifics of the way your company does things and its circumstances. They can also help prevent your authors from reinventing the wheel. But you have to be careful when you make them specific that they remain applicable to all your bids. Luckily the question format facilitates this. You can include options that may or may not be applicable by how you phrase the questions. Instead of finding the balance between generic and specific, you can get as specific as you need to.
Proposal recipes are also a great tool for bringing together the best that every part of your company has to contribute. For example, inter-departmental expertise and coordination can be leveraged by adding questions to your recipes that prompt the author with what to say, do, or remember. You don’t need people to contribute manuals, slide decks, or narrative to create recipes. You just need to know the key issues so you can insert a question that prompts the author to look into it.
If you get to proposal reviews and people ask things like, “Why didn’t we include information from so and so?” you can insert a question into your recipes that will prevent the oversight in the future. Not only that, you can anticipate the need and track down the information or prompt the author with what they need to do to get it.
The following list gives you some considerations you should apply to every recipe to ensure that it is fully customized:
- Business line specifics. What does you company do or offer? What does the author need to consider about that? What should they consider when designing the offering and writing about it?
- Customer specifics. If you bid to the same or similar customers frequently, you can add questions that reflect the customer’s concerns and preferences.
- Procedures. What relevant procedures has your organization already developed? What policies may impact what you say in the proposal?
- Terminology. What terminology do you and your customers prefer? What’s current? Recipes should prompt authors to say things the way you want them said.
- Bid strategies. How do you typically position your company and offering? What strategies do you employ in common circumstances? What strategic lessons learned has your organization accumulated?
- Resources. What people, equipment, facilities, technology, tools, assets, etc. exist in your organization that might be relevant?
- Points of contact. Who should proposal writers contact for more information, to obtain decisions and approvals, or to coordinate? What information should proposal writers deliver as well as potentially receive? What forms or other tools might help?
- Institutional knowledge. Has your organization done things before that are relevant? What does your organization know that is relevant? What practices has your organization developed? What preferences does it have? What lessons learned has it accumulated?
- Data. If data can be anticipated and doesn’t change frequently, it can be inserted into your recipes. For example: the number of locations your company has, its employee turnover rate, etc. If the data does change rapidly or the data required isn’t consistent enough to accumulate it in advance, you can still identify where to go, which tools to use, or who to get the data from.
- Inter-departmental coordination. A staffing plan might require coordination with your human resources department. Subcontracting, logistics, fulfillment, supply chain, invoicing, timekeeping, and many other functions are handled by specific departments in some organizations. If you want proposal writers to coordinate with them, you can use the recipes to prompt it. The recipes can prompt proposal writers with the who, what, where, how, when, and why of the coordination.
Graphics. You can anticipate that many of the issues faced in common proposal sections can be communicated visually. Even if you don’t have the information to draw the graphic in advance, you can inspire the proposal writers by showing them the kinds of graphics that are relevant.