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Two overlooked ways to speed up your proposals

Most people overlook the best ways to speed up their proposals. They focus on having a faster start-up, having a re-use library, or automating document assembly. But there are two critical things missing from that list…

Most of the slack time in a proposal comes from when you sit down to take the next step and can’t because you don’t have the information you need. So you spend some time trying to get the answers. Then you spend more time trying to work around the issue when you realize that you can’t get the answers you need.

The first problem is that it shouldn’t have taken you so long to ask the question. The second problem is that you don’t have the answers you need.

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If you want to speed things up, you should start the proposal knowing what questions you’ll need answers to. The RFP doesn't supply them all. The RFP doesn't tell you all the customer's preferences, or everything that matters to them. It doesn't tell you how to position against the competition. When questions like these pop up during writing, everything slows down. Worse, you often have to backtrack when the answers force you to change what's been written.

That's why it's even better to start the proposal already having the answers, as well as the questions. This not only speeds up the place where the most time is lost during proposal development, it also can help you produce better proposals. When writing starts after asking the right questions and getting at least some of the answers, the writers know what context to put the offering in. They know how to position it. Instead of simply being descriptive, they can write to win.

To create a list of questions to start the proposal with, ask yourself what you need to know about the customer, the offering, the competitive environment, and how your proposal will be evaluated. In particular look for trade-offs and conflicts that you will need to resolve. You may very well find that most of the questions are applicable to all of your proposals.

When you start a proposal, you should review the list of questions. You can accelerate the development of your win strategies and themes by itemizing what you know and what you don’t. Then when you start the actual writing, you know where the issues are. You may even have workarounds in mind from the start.

But an even better approach is to begin asking those questions the moment the lead is identified. When you start the proposal, it’s good to have a list of questions to ask. It’s even better to have the answers.

If you are starting your proposals with an outline before you’ve asked the right questions, it’s a bad sign. If you are trying to create a re-use library so that you can more quickly have some text in the proposal, before you’ve asked the right questions, it’s a bad sign. If you are trying to speed up document production because you need more time to work on the text because unanswered questions are slowing down the writing, it’s a bad sign.

If you want to speed up the proposal, start by knowing what questions to ask, and already having the answers. The rest is easy.

The way we achieve this is through a combination of Readiness Reviews, Proposal Recipes, and Content Planning. 9 Things to Know About Your Customer to Write a Winning Proposal


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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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