We’ve figured out a way to combine two innovative techniques to provide something new that can completely change how you approach preparing proposals. It’s an approach that accelerates how you make the transition from understanding what it will take to win to knowing what to say in your proposal.
A lot of people try to accelerate their proposal writing by recycling past proposals. We are not a big fan of reusing proposal narrative. It might seem like the current proposal is similar to a prior proposal, but similar pursuits are not the same. What it takes to win them may be similar, but it is not the same. Making changes in context can often take as much time as creating something that is designed to win from the ground up. There’s also the risk that in the rush to the deadline, those changes won’t be made at all. Instead of saving time, reusing proposal narrative can cause you to lose. You need to accelerate writing, help people figure out what to write, and provide inspiration, without providing narrative or recycling previously written proposals.
In the past we’ve talked about a technique we recommend called “proposal cookbooks,” where you focus on providing the questions to answer and the ingredients that should go into a section. This provides the inspiration and helps people know what to write, while making sure that the writing is done in the context of the current bid.
The approach we recommend for figuring out what should go in your proposal is called Proposal Content Planning. It guides people through a series of topics to plan what needs to go into each section of the proposal and is part of our MustWin Process. Proposal Content Planning is an iterative process. Each iteration addresses a different topic. They are designed so that if time is short, you do the most important ones first. Plans are treated as bullet level instructions to authors and put into a shell document instead of a form or template. Everything is allocated to the actual pages so amount of writing vs. the page limitation is easily seen. After a review of the plan to make sure that the blueprint fully describes what the proposal should be, it becomes the proposal by addressing the instructions through a process of elimination. It provides guidance to authors and speeds up the writing (making process acceptance easier to achieve). The narrative proposal can be compared to the plan to see if anything was left out and if all of the goals were achieved.
What if you combined the cookbook approach with the Content Planning methodology? What if you turned the Content Plan itself as a re-useable object?
This could only work with RFPs of similar structure. Depending on your type of business, this could always be the case or never be the case. It would also help if you are bidding the same offering in each proposal. Again, depending on your business this could always be the case or never be the case. But if you do have a similar RFP and a similar offering, then the same instructions might apply. Instead of using the iterative Content Planning methodology to identify what should go into the plan, you can use it to check the instructions contained in the plan to make sure they are still applicable to the new pursuit.
When you reuse proposal content you typically skip the planning, recycle the proposal narrative, and then edit and edit until you run out of time. With Content Planning reuse you greatly accelerate the upfront planning by recycling the instructions, using the process to quickly check them, and then writing a narrative that is fully customized and correct on the first try.
Instead of putting yourself at risk by recycling proposal narrative, the iterative Content Planning approach would ensure that the proposal is properly customized around what it will take to win the new pursuit because it contains iterations that are RFP specific, offering specific, customer specific, and strategy specific. By recycling a Content Plan, you can accelerate the proposal without watering it down, and end up with something that is specific and tailored to win.
The same guidance we’ve given for preparing proposal content for reuse applies to reusing a Content Plan. As you do each proposal, you can save the Content Plans and prepare them for reuse. The result would be a library of section and circumstance specific instructions that would go beyond simply accelerating the writing. It would also accelerate the upfront planning and post-writing validation. It would also serve as a much more reliable way to continuously improve the content of your proposals, by giving you a container to collect new ingredients and guidance, without having to update narrative.
If you are one of our Premium Members with access to the MustWin Process Workbook, you have the full documentation for the Content Planning methodology and can take the idea and run with it. If you are not, you can still use the idea of reusing your proposal plans instead of the narrative they produce. Just make sure that you include a process for correcting and tailoring the plans so you don’t encounter the same problems that people do when they recycle proposal content. The tricky part is figuring out how to do that so that it takes less time than starting fresh. You’ll need something like the Content Planning methodology in the MustWin Process in order to achieve that.