After Privia were acquired by Xait we asked Cheryl Smith (formerly with Privia) to write a series of “travel letters” exploring both features of XaitPorter and to share her expertise; Cheryl have been writing and managing proposals since 1998. Shipley trained, she has helped establish proposal centers and advised on capture strategy, coached orals teams and lead marketing, communications and knowledge management programs. Read part three of the series below!
Proposal writer #1 uses Times New Roman with double spacing. Proposal Writer # 2 prefers Garamond with single spacing. Proposal writer #3 pulls in content from a number of old proposals, all with their own different formatting styles. When it comes time for production, it’s a last minute sprint to reformat and standardize your proposal for printing and submission.
What if you could establish the necessary brand and compliance formatting before the team begins, and enforce that formatting throughout your writing and reviewing collaboration? Well, for one, you could borrow time from production, as we are often forced to do, without putting your proposal deadline, the opportunity and your team at risk.
That last minute, late-night proposal production sprint? We’ve just made it easier, less time-consuming and far less stressful. Here’s how.
Establish a Layout Template
Your proposal has three volumes, each with multiple documents and each written by a village of writers and subject matter experts. You have established document “shells” to assign your team tasks, but as they write and review, the formatting gets overwritten and cluttered by different formatting from past proposals and your content library. When it’s time for production? Your production team has to touch each and every word, paragraph and page individually to manually apply consistent and compliant formatting.
Instead, design any number of Layout Templates, from corporate brand to RFP-specific compliance to choose from. When you set up your proposal, choose a Layout Template to enforce your formatting, including everything from font and type size to headings, numbering, headers and footers, graphics, figures, portrait vs landscape pages, odd and even pages, and tabloid page fold-outs.
By establishing a Layout Template before writing begins, you establish the formatting and styles you’ll use for the final proposal submission. You can even quickly change the Layout Template as an amendment or corporate dictates. When it’s time for production, you won’t have to spend time reformatting. Your proposal will automatically have the consistent and compliant layout you established at the beginning, saving time for polishing, printing and delivery.
Focus on the Content
All proposal writers struggle with focus from time to time. How can they not? They have full time jobs, shifting priorities and conflicting deadlines. Couple that with the roughly 306 billion emails sent and received every day and it’s a wonder our divided attention delivers coherent proposal content at all.
While proposal formatting is an eye-catching, visually appealing, and compliance necessity, it can also divide our writing attention. When you incorporate a Layout Template into your process, you help proposal contributors focus. Instead of changing fonts, indenting paragraphs, adding bullets and headings, they are using their mental bandwidth to focus on the task at hand; writing the content.
As writers and subject matter experts pull in new content from past proposals or your content library, it automatically formats to your established Layout Template. Because they may use their own styles to help them write, they can, and that's OK. But that won't impact the final proposal.
It's time for review and you've pulled together a myriad of documents for your reviewer team. Problem is, all of the documents look a little different, which will be distracting for executives. Want a productive review that delivers the results you need? Incorporate a Layout Template into your proposal process.
When it’s time to conduct a proposal review, you won’t have to spend time reformatting. Your proposal will automatically have that clear and consistent layout executives expect for review and you’ll save more time for review instructions that drive proposal quality.
Tip: Do you use Salesforce? Save even more production time by linking to Dynamic Text. Your Layout Template will enforce such details as client and product name nomenclature per Salesforce so they’re automatically accurate and consistent across your proposal.
Proposal writing is a team sport. Formatting your proposal, however, is not; there are rules to respect and requirements to follow and those are the responsibility of the proposal manager and the production team. So, the proposal is written, the deadline is looming and time is limited. Adding a Layout Template to your proposal process will minimize production reformatting and save time that you and your team can invest in the next proposal.