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A Guide to Using ChatGPT in Proposals

What is a natural language model and how can we leverage it in proposal writing?


*Scene from LinkedIn*

Panicked user: "ChatGPT is coming for our jobs!!!"

The comments: ...


Be cool, y'all.


Here's why ChatGPT isn't coming for our jobs anytime soon, proposal friends: Artificial Intelligence is not actual intelligence.


It just appears intelligent because humans are incredibly predictable - and predictability is what ChatGPT does exceptionally well.


Let's learn a little bit about ChatGPT first, and then I'll talk about a few of my favorite ways to use it.



What is ChatGPT anyway?


In case you've been under a rock (just kidding), ChatGPT is a "natural language model". Language models have applied mathematical probability to sequences of words.


Using information publicly available on the internet, OpenAI trained ChatGPT to "learn" the statistical likelihood of what word will follow the previous one.



What does ChatGPT do?


ChatGPT is a chatbot. You can ask it to write a recipe for apple pie, or create a 3-day sight-seeing trip to Paris that includes the best pastry shops, or it can do something as simple as write a cover letter for a job. The possibilities are almost endless.


In reality, it's actually doing three things:

  1. Providing information using publicly available data from the internet

  2. Mimicking our natural language

  3. "Learning" (i.e. retaining) the information we provide to it in prompts

That third item is important. Do not use proprietary or sensitive information when writing prompts for ChatGPT.


I actually think the gold mine for us is in the second one.



Why does ChatGPT sound so real?


If you've used ChatGPT, you know that it can spit out some pretty amazing stuff. The reason it sounds so natural to us is because it uses established patterns in human behavior.


Humans love order - we have an order of operations for almost everything, but especially when it comes to communication. For example: "The Big Bad Wolf". It sounds weird to say 'the Bad Big Wolf' or ' the wolf that was bad and big'. Or worse, 'the malicious gargantuan canidae'. (I have seen the business-speak equivalent of this, many times. *facepalm*)


Not only do we have a preference for the order in which words appear, we also prefer to intake information in a certain order. Storytelling, for example: Beginning, middle, end. Our brains love "knowing" what to expect next.




Why ChatGPT is a Game-Changer for Proposal Professionals


ChatGPT's super strength is stringing together the right words, and presenting them in the right order, to be most pleasing to the reader.


Remember what I said about humans loving patterns and order? By the same token, our brains hate when something drags on, is out of order, or has unnecessary details. Why do we hate it? It takes more mental effort to parse what is important to us and stay engaged.


This is why ChatGPT can take a proposal from a torturous slog, to something confident and coherent.


Tip #1 - Editing


Type the prompt: "Make this more clear: <paste your text>"


Keep in mind: garbage in, garbage out. ChatGPT can rearrange your information into something incredibly pleasing to read. You can then prompt it to "now make that more concise" or "confident" or "less than 500 characters" or at a certain grade level.


The final result may be within 90% of what you want it to be, with very little clean up required from you.


The best part: Untangling a mess of thoughts or concepts in SECONDS.


Tip #2 - Creating a Structure for New Content


Type the prompt: "Describe the <process / approach / best practice> for: <your concept>"


This will lean on ChatGPT's ability to pull information about a topic from the internet. Say you need a general framework for software implementation or program management. This will provide you something general that you can then customize outside of ChatGPT with your company's specific actions.


The best part: Getting content back from SME's FASTER by eliminating their "fear of a blank page" - even when you don't have the subject matter expertise they have.


Tip #3 - Cover Letters


Type the prompt: "Write a business cover letter for <RFP objective> from <your company name>".


This will combine several things:

  • ChatGPT's familiarity with the format of a cover letter

  • It's knowledge of the topic indicated in the RFP objective (ex. acquiring a CRM solution)

  • The knowledge of your company

All from publicly available sources.


You can refine the result to be shorter, or to emphasize experience in a certain area, or to mention key differentiators in that industry. Just be sure to fact check it. Always add proprietary or non-public information directly in your response document and not in ChatGPT.


The best part: Not everyone reads a cover letter (*gasp!), so even if the reviewer is skimming, the pleasing order of the words and information may set the stage for the rest of the evaluation.



So what's stopping my company from firing me and just using ChatGPT to write proposals?


Technically, nothing. But they won't win much work with it.


ChatGPT is basically a conversation with a Google search (sorry, Bing search, since Microsoft bought OpenAI). For us oldies, it's like Ask Jeeves. Jeeves doesn't have access to your secret-sauce information, and he certainly doesn't have access to your win strategies and competitive intelligence for this specific deal you're bidding on.



Master New Technology, Don't Fear It.


As with the evolution of all things, those who learn to use new technology will become the operators of it, not just be replaced by it. Get in there and start building your new skills! https://chat.openai.com/


Happy chatting!

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