Summary: AI tools can assist proposal writers by providing writing templates, generating initial drafts, refining tone/style, and offering constructive feedback for improvement.
If you want to use AI, such as CHAT-GPT, Claude, or Google Bard, to improve your business proposals, the following tutorial provides pointers, prompts, and examples on how to get started.
Before diving in, let’s review a few important points. Instead of using AI to create shortcuts, try and see if as a super smart collaborative writing partner. Understanding the collaborative element of AI is, from my experience, what allows you to stay true to yourself, while tapping into its remarkable range of skills.
So, how do we get started?
In this tutorial, we’ll focus on the following areas:
- Generate Proposal Template
- Editing and Proofreading
- Charts and Diagrams
Generate Proposal Template
The first step is to ask our co-writer – I’ll call it this from now on, rather than CHAT-GPT, to remind us that its role is as a deluxe writing collaborator – to suggest the table of contents for a business proposal.
This ‘primes’ our AI collaborator.
In other words, by asking your AI collaborator to research and suggest a proposal template, it begins gathering data related to this area.
Understanding how to prime your AI co-writer is one of the most effective ways to leverage its full capacities. This nudges it in the right direction. More on this in later articles.
Sample CHAT-GPT Prompt
Here’s a sample prompt:
“Provide a sample template, for example, chapter headings, to write a standard business proposal.”
Note that I asked for a standard business proposal to start the process. Typically, what I’d do after this, is ask for a second revised template. I’d specify the industry, subject matter, readership, and other factors. Refine your prompts according to you requirements.
Here’s what our co-writer suggested. It’s a typical table of contents for a business proposal, which is fine. Now that we have this, we can use it as a framework for the doc.
Short overview of proposal and introduction
- Executive Summary – 1-2 paragraph summary of entire proposal
- Company Background – Overview of your company credentials and achievements
- Problem Statement – Describe client needs, pain points, or challenges
- Proposed Solutions – Details of products/services you will provide
- Scope of Work – Project plans, timelines, milestones, and roles
- Benefits and Value – How your solution will positively impact the client
- Metrics and KPIs – Quantifiable results, ROI, and metrics to track
- Case Studies – Examples and credentials showing your past success
- Pricing Breakdown – Detailed tables of all costs, fees, and payment terms
- Terms and Conditions – Legal disclaimers, policies, contracts, SOWs
- Next Steps – Recommendations to move forward with proposal
- Appendices – Supporting documents, data sheets, attachments
The finer points…
For each of the bullet points above, I’d ask the AI co-writer to provide writing guidelines and sample materials.
Remember, the plan isn’t to slavishly copy its material but to use it as a reference points when crafting your own material.
Next, use your AI co-editor to generate an initial draft.
Describe the key points you want to cover and let the AI create a first pass. Instruct it to be concise, avoid repetition, and write in paragraph format rather than lists. This can save a lot of time compared to starting from a blank page.
In addition, tell it to use a formal business English and suggest it reference specific style guides.
After this, you can start on the actual writing. My suggestion is to:
- Revise each section it wrote.
- Ask the AI co-editor to review the quality of the writing only.
- Revise the material.
- Ask the AI co-editor to check if it agrees with the previous sections and chapters.
Sample CHAT-GPT Prompt
Here is an example prompt to generate an initial draft proposal:
“Write a business proposal for an IT Productivity solution to be pitched to the leadership at [Company]. The proposal should include the following key details:
- Overview of the issues and challenges facing its current IT infrastructure management based on their outdated servers and lack of integration between systems. Problems include downtime, poor data insights, and high IT costs.
- Description of proposed solution which includes consolidating infrastructure onto a private cloud platform, monitoring IT services team, and analytics to provide visibility into their systems.
- Breakdown of the tangible benefits our solution will provide such as reduced downtime and IT costs, improved security and compliance, faster scalability, and better insights for data-driven decision making. Provide relevant metrics and ROI.
- Details on approach, including timeline, milestones, and the team who will be involved in the project. Outline what our roles versus the client’s roles will be.
- Case studies and credentials that demonstrate our experience successfully implementing similar IT infrastructure projects for organizations in their industry.
- Pricing table with breakdown of one-time and ongoing costs, including any available discounts or incentives. Explain pricing model and terms.
- Next steps for moving forward if our proposal is selected, such as proof of concept, contract finalization etc.
- Aim for 10-15 pages excluding appendices.
Once you have the material crafted, or at least a passable draft, use the AI co-writer to summarize other long reports or previous proposals to identify key info you can include.
Sample CHAT-GPT Prompt
Here is a sample prompt to generate a summary of a business proposal:
“I have completed a draft of a 10-page proposal for my target Company to become their new cloud services provider. Please review the draft proposal and write a concise 1-2 paragraph summary that highlights the key elements.
The summary should cover:
- Business challenge or problems Company ABC aims to solve
- Overview of my proposed solutions and services
- Most impactful benefits Company ABC will realize
- Unique expertise and credentials I bring
- Pricing and investment required
- Next steps I have recommended for moving forward
Focus on the most critical details in a short, persuasive summary that captures the essence of the proposal and value proposition. Use clear and simple language a busy executive could quickly understand. Avoid using verbatim text from the proposal, this should synthesize the key points only.”
The AI co-writer can then generate a high-level summary of the core proposal elements to serve as a readable overview for executives or other stakeholders.
Once you have the revised material ready, ask the AI co-writer to revise and edit it.
You can copy/paste your text into an AI tool, then ask it to suggest improvements to wording, tone, structure. This helps polish the writing.
Here is an example prompt to generate a summary of the draft proposal:
Sample CHAT-GPT Prompt
“I have written a 10-page draft business proposal to [Company] for managing and upgrading their IT infrastructure and systems. Please read through the draft proposal text and write a concise 1 paragraph executive summary that covers the key points. The summary should include:
- Problem statement – What issues is it facing that we are proposing to solve?
- Proposed solution and services – At a high level, what are we recommending and proposing to them?
- Key benefits – What are the main benefits and outcomes it can expect from our solution?
- Pricing and costs – High-level mention of the pricing and associated costs of our proposal.
- Next steps – What steps are we recommending Acme take to move forward with our proposal?
Be concise and compelling, focusing on the most critical information from our full proposal in a short persuasive paragraph. It should pique interest and make a strong case for them to accept our proposal.”
The AI co-writer can then generate a short summary paragraph to highlight the key aspects of the proposal draft. This allows condensing the core info into a readable overview.
Charts and Diagrams
Charts and diagrams help readers understand key points at a glance. Use the AI co-writer to create custom charts/graphs from spreadsheet data to make your proposal more visually compelling.
Use this prompt to generate custom charts and graphs from spreadsheet data:
Sample CHAT-GPT Prompt
“I need you to create compelling data visualizations for a business proposal using the data from this spreadsheet. The proposal is making a case to Acme Inc. to adopt our supply chain management solution.
The spreadsheet contains the following tabs with relevant data:
- Current Costs shows Acme’s costs breakdown across transportation, inventory, warehousing
- Projected Savings shows the estimated cost savings in each area from using our solution
- Supply Chain Analytics data on current supply chain KPIs including inventory turnover, shipment times etc.
Create 3-4 data visualizations in common business chart formats like bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, etc. that illustrate the potential cost savings, efficiency gains, and other benefits they could realize from our solution. Focus on the most impactful data points and trends from the spreadsheet. Use appropriate headlines, legends, and data labels for clarity. Make the styling clean, readable, and visual appealing.
Format the images as PNG files, readable at 600×400 resolution.”
By following these instructions, the AI co-writer can generate helpful data charts and graphs that bring the proposal statistics and projected gains to life visually.
Use the AI co-writer to bounce ideas off of and make sure you are covering the right topics.
Sample CHAT-GPT Prompt
Here is an example prompt to ensure you are covering the right topics:
“I am working on a business proposal to Company XYZ to provide cybersecurity services and solutions. Can you act as an advisor to bounce ideas off of and make sure I’m covering everything I need to in my proposal?
Some background Company XYZ is a financial services firm that needs to improve its cybersecurity and compliance due to recent data breaches. My company provides managed security services, penetration testing, endpoint protection, and compliance auditing.
So far I’m planning to cover the following topics in my proposal:
- Summary of Company XYZ’s needs and security gaps
- Overview of recent high-profile breaches in their industry
- Description of our full suite of cybersecurity services and how they map to XYZ’s needs
- Proposed solution bundle with managed SIEM, penetration testing, and compliance auditing
- Pricing table with bundled and al la carte options
- Credentials/case studies showcasing our experience in their industry
Given this background and overview, do you have any recommendations on areas I should expand or reduce? Are there any key topics I’m missing or need to cover to convey our values and expertise? I want to make sure I cover everything required at the right level of depth. Provide candid feedback and suggestions.”
The AI co-author can then have a natural language dialogue to provide feedback on improving the proposal structure and content.
Revise Final Draft
Upload your draft proposal into an AI tool to predict customer reactions and receptiveness. This can provide guidance on sections to expand or cut.
Sample CHAT-GPT Prompt
Here is an example prompt to get its predictions on customer reactions to your business proposal:
“I have written a draft 10-page proposal to XYZ Company to be their new IT services and infrastructure provider. The proposal covers:
- An overview of the problems with its current outdated IT systems including frequent downtime, lack of data insights, and high maintenance costs.
- A detailed description of our proposed solutions including migrating their infrastructure to the cloud, ongoing managed services, IT security upgrades, and new analytics dashboards.
- A cost-benefit analysis showing ROI in the first year from reduced downtime, lower IT costs, and increased productivity.
- Case studies of similar clients in their industry we’ve successfully transitioned to our IT services and infrastructure.
- Next steps for moving forward which involve a proof of concept, followed by final contract approval.
Review the proposal draft text and provide your assessment of how receptive their leadership will be to our proposal. On a scale of 1-10 rate:
- Overall likelihood of proposal acceptance
- Interest level in our proposed solutions
- Belief in the cost/benefit analysis
- Perception of our experience and credibility
- Willingness to move forward with next steps
Additionally, highlight any areas of the proposal you think may be met with concern or objection, that could increase the risk of rejection. Provide evidence-based predictions given the content provided.”
The AI co-writer can analyze the proposal and provide useful predictive insights on the customer’s probable reaction, which can help improve the proposal’s positioning.
AI can also provide creative ways to improve business proposals. Here’s some examples you can consider:
- Sentiment analysis – Upload the proposal into CHAT-GPT/Claude to analyze the overall sentiment and tone. It can flag areas that sound too salesy, dry, or negative
- Readability scoring – AI can analyze vocabulary, sentence structure, and complexity to provide readability and grade level scores. This can help improve clarity
- Competitive analysis – Analyze competitors’ proposals to see common themes, positioning, or omissions to differentiate
- Data mining – AI can retrieve and synthesize pertinent facts/data from various sources to back up claims in the proposal
- Personalization – It can tailor content based on the prospect’s industry, company size, location etc.
- Presentation aid – Translate key sections of the proposal into slides and visual assets for pitches
- Translation – For international clients, it can translate proposals into target languages
- Improvement tracking – Compare draft iterations using AI to quantify improvements in readability, sentiment etc.
AI Writing Checklist
Let’s recap what we’ve covered. To get the most from AI, especially on a writing project, consider the following approach:
- Define your goal, target audience and outline before involving AI.
- Collect relevant data and source material for the AI to analyze.
- Use an AI writing assistant to create an initial draft.
- Upload drafts into the AI to refine wording, tone and structure. Remember to suggest style guides and reference books on writing.
- Use it to create an abstract and executive summary.
- Use CHAT-GPT/Claude to generate visualizations and graphics from your data.
Ask the AI assistant to review your draft and provide feedback to improve it.
Be super specific.
Ask it to critique the language, grammar, structure, tone, and flow. I’d suggest you make each of these separate requests.
Finally, ask a colleague to review the final proposal draft. They’ll see things you, and your colleague, may have overlooked.
In business writing, use AI to augment areas such as drafting, reviewing, data analysis rather than relying on it to automate the writing task.
To get the most out of AI, make sure to provide it with quality source materials, use different AI tools where necessary, and develop a feel for how it works through frequent collaborations.