Winning the Business

Creating Working Templates for Complex Proposals

In a complex industry, a smooth-running process with templates can be a lifesaver

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Complex proposals do not necessarily render templates useless. Proposal managers may assume some solutions are too complex and customized for templates to provide efficiency; however, breaking the template down to useful components can sometimes marry the best of both worlds. Being in an industry driven by research and development, our company achieves that happy medium through a platform that relies on three main planks: uniform submission of information, use of working template sections, and use of a document assembly tool.

First Things First

The first requirement is the need for uniform submission of information. The business development group receives inquiries and RFPs that can vary in format from a formal RFP to an email message. This information needs to be uniformly submitted to my proposal team for us to accurately understand the scope of the project before it can be put into a quotation. To ensure that all the required information is submitted, we have established a standardized checklist. It not only provides the proposal team with the correct information but also allows the business development team to know what questions to ask the potential customer during upfront discussions.

Each of these milestone-based activities has been fully reviewed and vetted by the technical team that will eventually execute the activity once approved.

Now What — Working Template Sections

Once all the information is submitted, it is up to the proposal team to distill it into understandable segments of activities. Since pharmaceutical development is a science-based endeavor, quotes can become very complex, requiring customization to each specific drug molecule and a technically trained scientist to generate the proposals. The approach we have taken is very different. We believe that scientists provide more value by focusing on the science. Therefore, we have chosen to break our working templates into sections. The drug development process, while complex, can be broken down into blocks of activities with distinct milestones. Each of these milestone-based activities has been fully reviewed and vetted by the technical team that will eventually execute the activity once approved. The upfront buy-in from the technical team on these templated blocks of activities ensures that when the activity is built into the proposal by the less-technical proposal staff, the required scope will be covered. It also means that the technical review of the proposal after generation is much quicker since the content has been largely agreed upon.

Proposal Assembly

The third aspect of our quotation process is the use of a commercially available document assembly program. Once we have received the completed proposal scope and have our working template sections in place, we use a document assembly program. This program allows for quick assembly or replication of documents from full documents or, as in our case, from individual component parts.

Final Word

Certainly, proposals must be customized for each application; however, the use of a uniform submission format, working template sections, and a document assembly program allows us the flexibility to generate quotations quickly and reliably and with less back-end review, even in a complex scientific industry.


Chad Hutcheson, M.S., is the technical sales support director at Catalent Pharma Solutions, a global pharmaceutical development, delivery, and supply company. He can be reached at chad.hutcheson@catalent.com.

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