Don't take boilerplate material for granted

Smart proposal managers know that cutting and pasting boilerplate material can be a disaster. Here, Centurion Research Solution's BD expert, Mike Lisagor, explains how and why to keep this language fresh.

One of the most useful items in a proposal manager’s arsenal is boilerplate material. Boilerplate is text and graphics already created for previous proposals, marketing documents, standard project descriptions, resumes and miscellaneous publications. If used correctly, it can save considerable money and labor.

Project managers should be required to write a contract summary and update it at least once a year. Staff members should have a current resumes. Some companies make the annual resume update an annual review requirement.

Unfortunately, most companies struggle to collect and maintain this type of information. It’s one those tasks that is either not funded or too low on the priority list to get implemented. So, unless proposal writers can dig up previous proposal sections, each proposal has to be written from scratch. This is both costly and frustrating.

Boilerplate material should be gathered in a shared drive or database utilizing some sort of file structure or indexing scheme that allow proposal writers to easily find it. It should also be searchable.

But, even if the information is available, some contractors make the mistake of inserting boilerplate text and graphics into a proposal without carefully adapting it to the specific request for proposal requirements. Model management plans, resumes and project summaries need to be tailored to reflect exactly what is being asked for in the request for proposal. Resumes should state exactly how this individual is qualified for this project. Every paragraph should answer the question, “What does this specific customer need?” Material that isn’t asked for should not be included.

Busy subject matter experts will often search for previous proposal sections to satisfy a writing assignment. To encourage proposal authors to provide write-ups that are relevant to the targeted customer, give the writers a detailed proposal outline that describes all the RFP requirements in each section; where graphics or tables would help demonstrate the company’s technical and management approach; and individual section page limits.

Companies that submit superior technical proposals invest in proposal training for targeted line staff. They make proposal support part of career progression and implement an incentive program for proposal team members.

The use of unmodified boilerplate can easily become habit forming. But, to government evaluators, generic proposals score low and are an obvious sign of laziness or a lack of competency. While it makes it easier to write the proposal, it also makes it easier to lose!

Want to know more? Watch a free 30-minute webinar on How to Develop Winning Proposals.