This is Part 5 of my series on the 12 step process from my book. Last time, I discussed Step 6 and 7 – Your Service Solution and your Management Solution. If you missed it, visit my website.

In this episode, I’m continuing the series with step 8, which is using a Style Sheet to makes it easier to get consistent material from contributors and much quicker to assemble it into a full proposal response.Now before I start talking about the style sheet, keep in mind you should do this along with my advice on getting material from your contributors, which can be hard to do and I’m sure you can relate to poor writing, slow response, inconsistent information, lack of details or too much detail, no thought about the client’s needs and more. For more info on Extracting Material from Subject Matter Experts, listen to Podcast #14 and combine it with a Style Sheet for the best results.

The reason for a Style sheet is to make it as easy and painless as you can for yourself and your contributors, whether they are internal subject matter experts, operational staff, suppliers or subcontractors.

They are busy with their own priorities and it’s usually a fight to get good material from them you can use to win with – if you make it easy, you are much more likely to get material you need and material that’s easy to integrate into your overall proposal.

Reviewers simply don’t like to see different sections written with different styles, formats, levels of detail and other tell tale signs that make it look like boilerplate material instead of a customized response.

So the Style Sheet is a great tool you can use to write better proposals. Some of it will be the same from one proposal to another while other things will be completely customized to the specific proposal.

Your style sheet provides information to your proposal contributors and ensures consistent information, correct terminology, consistent use of titles, how and which acronyms are to be used, how to use headings and bullets, headings, naming of illustrations, and even instructs on the response’s tone and approach.

This is particularly important with a large proposal where many different groups, internal or external, will be contributing to the RFP response.

By using a style sheet, you reduce errors, provide a more cohesive proposal to the client, and save a lot of time at the end of the process when you are under pressure to finalize the proposal.

The style sheet should be accompanied by a copy of the template document I mentioned earlier, to be used by everybody writing the proposal. A template saves time, energy, and reduces errors. It ensures your contributors are developing consistent material using the same format and structure. It will mean less work and less time consolidating the various contributions to the proposal.

The style sheet itself provides guidelines on what and how they write material for you, including guidance on the strategy and more. It should include the following key elements, however you may include other requirements that are relevant to your specific industry or the bid itself:

  1. Basic background information on the client and the overall scope.
  2. Document and file naming and numbering conventions.
  3. Writing techniques to be used, such as when to expand acronyms, use of headings, formatting of information, etc.
  4. How to refer to the client and your company in the written response.
  5. Descriptions of the key management and service solutions, including processes, names of systems and products, responsibilities, org charts, titles, etc. that contributors should use when writing.
  6. Client’s terminology, acronyms, position titles and other information that needs to be referred to accurately and consistently throughout the proposal.
  7. Terminology or issues that should not be discussed or used due to sensitivities or possible negative interpretations by the client.
  8. Key elements to include in each section or to be answered in questions, such as benefits, examples, process diagrams, etc., to maintain consistency.
  9. Hot buttons and issues that should be covered in each section where possible.
  10. Format and naming or reference conventions, as well as the format of attachments, images, diagrams and screen shots used in the proposal.

The size and complexity of your RFP response will influence how much information you need to include in your style sheet, as will your approach to the writing exercise and the resources you have available. Even if you use dedicated writers or editors to help you with your proposal, you will save time and effort by having the source material developed using the style sheet.

I’ve just covered Step 8 of the 12 step process. In my next podcast, I’ll deal with Step 9, the Project Plan and Step 10 – Version Control

Our Book "Win More Business - Write Better Proposals". is now available at Amazon in many countries, including the USA , Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and France. You can also order it directly from the author on this website