The Development Source
I have an embarrassing confession to make. I sometimes use boilerplate prose in my proposals. This is old, recycled prose from previous proposals. Whew! Now I feel a little better.
You probably will make the same confession. Actually, neither of us should feel embarrassed. Everybody uses boilerplate prose. It is inevitable, efficient, and effective… and it could either help or hurt your proposal.
Olessia Smotova-Taylor, the founder and CEO of OST Global Solutions, points out that there are serious issues for you to consider when considering boilerplate in proposals. I will divide these issues into a pro and con list.
Standardized prose for standardized responses
There are proposal sections such as resumes, past performance references, and capability statements that are very useful in multiple submissions. The key is to keep them very current.
Standardized prose for standardized products and services
Your company may be bidding on products and services that do not change very much in their descriptions. Standardized prose will be very useful in multiple submissions.
Boilerplate prose for beginning a customized response
No one likes to begin a proposal section by staring at a blank computer screen. It always is easier to develop prose when you can work off an existing document. Boilerplate may be both very usable and capable of modification.
Boilerplate prose may be bad prose
This is my biggest objection to using boilerplate mindlessly. Do you have any evidence that it is current, accurate, and persuasive? If it received a low evaluation in your last effort, you may want to be very cautious about using it again.
Boilerplate prose may encourage too much cutting and pasting
Much boilerplate is basically cutting and paste previous proposal sections into a new proposal, whether it belongs there or not or whether it needs to be substantially modified or not. In many proposals, boilerplate is quickly recognizable by reviewers. If it is not carefully tailored to a particular proposal, you run the risk of alienating savvy reviewers who can smell boilerplate a mile away.
Boilerplate prose may discourage hard work
When busy people insert boilerplate into new proposals, they may think their work is completed. This is a big mistake. If boilerplate prose is not tailored to a particular bid, it will hurt rather than help you. Sometimes taking short cuts is a bad idea.
Build a library of good, reusable content that you can easily access. At the same time, you should always operate on the assumption that your boilerplate is just the beginning. It is a spur to developing a good proposal, not a substitute for it. Used intelligently, it can save you time and provide a foundation for highly competitive proposals.