Yes, using boilerplate in a proposal can save you time, but it also leads to mistakes; we’ve often seen in our proposal reviews references to another customer or solutions not appropriate to the current customer or bid that came from using boilerplate. But, more frustrating to me is that boilerplate leads to a lack of originality, creativity, and differentiation.

The first question I ask when consulting on a proposal or presentation is, “How are you different from the competition?” After a few open jaws, distant looks, and “hems and haws,” there really is no answer. Thus, my first task is to get the proposal team to think about how they can create positive differentiators in their solution, their proposal, and their presentation.

Differentiation sometimes involves risk. To create positive differentiation – something that will stand out to the owner and evaluators – may mean you tighten your schedule to what may appear to be an impossible goal. But, if you use innovative thought and efficiencies to achieve the goal and can explain it simply to the owner, you gain a strong positive differentiator. Remember, you can’t propose something outlandish to the customer without a strong, but simply explained proof that it will work.

Why choose usAt every step of the bid your team should be thinking about how to create positive differentiation. Simply using boilerplate or slapping together the same old proposal or presentation doesn’t do that – it is negative differentiation because you did not give enough thought to the customer’s needs to find the best solution for them. Before submitting a proposal, always ask, “How is our proposal different from the competition’s?” and “Is it very, very clear to any reader why they should choose us?”

Here are five ways to differentiate your solution:

  1. Propose a solution that is unique but still in compliance with the customer’s needs.
  2. Be sure your proposal is perfect and easy to read.
  3. Every section, paragraph, graphic and chart in the proposal should answer the question, “Why choose us?” and clearly state the benefits you bring to the customer.
  4. Be very careful using boilerplate and always fine tune it to ensure that the customer determines that your solution is unique to their needs.
  5. Do multiple editorial reviews and proofreading of any boilerplate to ensure that there are no references to other customers or issues that are not relevant to this customer.

Differentiation is key to gaining the attention of the customer. Be sure that your differentiation is positive, not negative. This article should lead you in that direction. Always focus on ways you can ensure that the customer wants to work with you.