Why Do People Have Such a Strong Desire for Proposal Templates and Samples?
People are visual. When they don’t know how to do something, they often seek a model they can emulate. But the real reasons people instinctively seek boilerplate at the start of their proposals are:
- They don’t want to write a proposal if they can just “change a few details” in something already written
- If they have to do a proposal, they’d like to finish quickly so they can get back to their real job
- They don’t know what to say
People who are looking for a boilerplate solution to their proposal needs are balancing their desire to win against their desire to save time. For many, the idea that boilerplate will save time is just an excuse. The truth is they don’t know what to say and rationalize that boilerplate will help them figure it out quicker, thus saving time. A lot of people have a fear of writing, don’t know how to get started, and are afraid of getting stuck. But rather than say they need help figuring out what to say, it’s safer to say that they want boilerplate to speed things up.
If you want to win your proposals, then instead of maintaining a boilerplate library you should focus on providing inspiration regarding what to write. This is different from providing something already written. You can also tune your proposal process so that it helps people figure out what to write far faster than they could on their own. There are things you can do that will meet the needs of your proposal writers for inspiration and speed better than boilerplate can.
If people are seeking boilerplate because they don’t know what to say, then instead of push-button paragraphs that are difficult to customize, what they really need are topics. They need to know what to address on a range of subjects that might be relevant to a particular proposal. A list of questions to answer in each proposal can suffice. That is why our 509 Questions to Answer in Your Proposals is so handy. Instead of attempting to provide all of the right words in the right order in the right context, it provides a list of questions that a customer might have on topics that must be addressed in most proposals. All the writer has to do is pick the questions that are relevant to their proposal and then answer them.
Using this approach is a lot like providing a cookbook --- it identifies the ingredients and tells people how to assemble them into a meal. You can create “Cookbooks” that identify what topics to address, discuss different strategies, and even provide examples. Here is a link to an article we wrote on creating cookbook-style recipes for your proposal as an alternative to using boilerplate.
Faster Proposal Writing
Instead of leaving authors on their own to figure out how to figure out what to write, you can help them by giving them a process. Most proposal processes focus on the proposal quality reviews and production. Your process should also focus on helping your proposal writers figure out what to say.
To do this you need to focus on:
- Information flow. In order to know what to say, writers needs answers to certain questions. The answers to those questions need to be obtained before the writing starts. You must identify those questions and implement action items to deliver the information needed before the start of writing if you want to accelerate the writing. The CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process, addresses this need through Readiness Reviews that ensure the right information gets collected and carried forward, and is delivered to the proposal writers in a form they can use.
- Organization of the writing. Writers need more than just an outline. Many considerations go into creating a winning proposal section. Your process should first identify all the ingredients of the winning proposal, and then deliver the list to the proposal writers in a form that makes it easier to organize and address them. The Content Planning methodology in the CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process is designed to do just that.
The secret is to make this process appear effortless to the proposal writers. When they need it, the information should be there. When they start, they should have all the ingredients they need, all the topics identified, and all the guidance they need. When the actual writing starts, it should be merely a small step to complete the process.
Unfortunately, the way many proposals play out, proposal writers are asked to make a giant leap. All they get is the headings from an outline. They must figure out what the ingredients should be, where to get them from, how they should be assembled, and then do all the cooking themselves. With this approach, things get left out or misinterpreted, and what finally gets produced may or may not be what you actually need to win. Boilerplate won’t solve this problem, but the right process can.