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Creating a proposal response library

Creating a proposal response library
Creating a proposal response library

If a significant portion of your business cultivation strategy includes responding to RFPs, you may want to consider creating a proposal response library. A proposal response library can allow you to streamline the response process, as long as you use your library carefully.

The concept of a proposal response library assumes that most issuers will ask some of the same questions. Rather than re-inventing the wheel for each RFP, you can use stock information to form the basis of your response.

The benefit of this approach is that you provide a uniform response to questions that are substantially similar. You’re likely to provide the same response to the question, regardless of who is asking it. Using a stock response in these cases makes sense. 

The danger of this approach is that each RFP is slightly different. If you use a copy/paste approach to your responses, you must make certain that the stock response actually applies.  Nothing is worse than copying and pasting an irrelevant answer into your proposal. Except possibly using a response that is clearly intended for a different issuer. 

What should be in your proposal library

Company-specific documents. 

Ideal candidates for a proposal library include standard documents that issuers are likely to ask for. These could include current audited financial statements; recent annual reports; the company history; biographies of key account personnel; references; licenses and certifications; policies and other company-focused documentation. Because these items apply exclusively to your company, the content won’t vary regardless of who’s asking for it.

It’s also possible to “sanitize” certain documents that aren’t intended for public consumption, but issuers might request anyway. A good example of this is a disaster recovery or business continuity plan. Your working document may contain business intelligence you don’t want to share with prospective clients. (e.g., account numbers, suppliers, client lists, etc.) You can demonstrate that you have a plan without divulging sensitive information by sanitizing the document. A sanitized version would exclude all sensitive information, but would still demonstrate that you have a current disaster plan.

Templates, logos and branding information

A template enables you to create documents with a uniform look and feel. It also ensures that you use standard fonts, colors and formats throughout your document. Also keep a current high-resolution copy of your logo and other branding information handy. Along with your logo, keep a copy of any professional certifications or seals your company is entitled to use. (e.g., Better Business Bureau seal, Chamber of Commerce logos, professional group memberships)


Checklists can help you manage the proposal response process. They’re invaluable for planning your response strategy, and keeping the process on track. You’ll likely find it more valuable to develop your own checklists rather than download them from online resources. 

What can be in your proposal library

Previous proposal responses. 

A previous proposal response can be an invaluable starting point for a new RFP; however, this is where the caution flags come out. Each proposal response is ultimately a unique document. It’s very tempting to cut and paste from previous responses, but here are a few things to think about.

  • If the archived proposal didn’t succeed the first time, it may not be worth repeating.
  • If your response strategy for the new proposal has changed, text from an archived proposal may not be a good fit for a different RFP
  • A copy/paste approach requires careful proofreading and editing. If the text requires major changes, this approach may not save much time.
  • Copying and pasting is a good way to introduce errors and outdated or irrelevant information into your proposal response. 

Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to keep copies of previous proposal responses available for review and reference. You should also archive the relevant RFP, notes, and post proposal documentation with each submission. Keep your proposal library manageable by applying your company’s data destruction policy to older documents.

If you’d like more information about creating a proposal library, or you’d like to discuss your proposal response strategy, please contact me at eileen@juliesocean.com or call me at (734) 961-0408.

Photo Credit: Little Koshka, via Flickr.com