Friday, January 2, 2009

Prepare your boilerplate proposal content and use it to persuade

If you've ever prepared a business proposal or document of any kind there's a pretty decent chance that at sometime you've re-used another document that you already had available. Sometimes you've probably used this as a template, or as a source of content to be re-used in other documents - your boilerplate.

You have probably gone further - how many of us have sat in a sales "bullpen" and asked around our colleagues "Does anyone have a proposal about blah, blah, blah that I can use?" or "Does anyone have some text on blah, blah blah that I can use?" This often happens when the under pressure salesperson, with little internal support needs to get a proposal out of the door quickly.

But is it the best way? We'll all say no - that we should start with a blank piece of paper and start our proposal from scratch. Which is great if you have time. But if you are preparing a proposal for a product or service which is a consistent business offering, who ever starts from a blank piece of paper? Yes, I want create bespoke proposal sections that present the solutions and benefits to a client in their current situation, but I'm also going to use some generic content if it's appropriate.

Why? because it saves me hours and hours of time in producing a comprehensive sales document. Sections of my proposal such as previous experience for example - sure I want to pick appropriate projects, but these are not elements of my proposals that are written from scratch every time. What about other sections such as project management information, company history, quality processes, team resumes and case studies? Do you write them from scratch every time?

Appropriateness is the key. We need our proposal to persuade, yet so much boilerplate is generic and quite frankly badly written and dull. Plus generic content usually provides a lot of information, but it doesn't persuade because it's describing what we do, not how we provide a specific solution or benefit to the client. So why don't we write our boilerplate in a way in which we can easily customise it to be specific to a client.

Using the Learn to Write Proposal's Proposal Accelerator you can do just that - applying and editing fields in your boilerplate content to, at a minimum, include a client name - then you can easily alter that name in your document. Use you boilerplate effectively, customising it as required - no blind cut 'n' paste please - and you can have at your fingertips a powerful resource library. The beneftis of a boilerplate management tool like Proposal Accelerator are that you have all your content available in MS Word - no hunting it down on your intranet. It really can speed up you proposal development dramatically.

Let's go back to our previous experience. We can customise the boilerplate for the client by giving a powerful persuasive element - rather than just telling, let's give a reason - include the project and then tell the client why you included it. How is it relevant to this project? What skill did you use or develop that can ensure a satisfactory outcome to the client this time? Yes it's boilerplate, but it's focused on the clients need.

So, I like boilerplate. But don't ever get trapped into using it where you should create new. Creating new gives you fresh content, up-to-date with your current products, services, solutions and thinking which hopefully you may be able to re-use and customise in tomorrow's proposal.

  • re-use where possible
  • create where it's not possible
  • re-write as appropriate to personalise to the client

And remember all your words should be trying to persuade the client to give you the work. Work on persuasive messages, don't only work on the proposal document.