The Ultimate Guide to Proposals: Full frontal buzzword attack

Girl typing on a laptop

One of the worst things you can do when engaging a potential new client is fall into “geek speak” mode. It’s a real turn off… If you've ever tried to buy a car then you’ve probably experienced something similar, "The full frontal buzzword attack".

If you don’t know a lot about cars (which I don’t) you probably felt quite lost, a little stupid and perhaps even intimidated. In short you were probably put off buying from that dealership. Give the same experience a 180º twist and you have a salesperson that talks to you like a human, and not some chump.

The best salespeople don't sell, they look for mutually beneficial solutions

The best salespeople can communicate an idea or concept in terms that any buyer can understand. Back in 2001 when Steve Jobs presented the iPod he didn’t sell some technical solution for a portable, pocket sized music player, he sold “1000 songs in your pocket”. It was easy to understand and got right to the point. You didn’t need to care about the technicalities to appreciate the benefits.

Back to the car salesman. If he were to ask me what the car was for, before selling me something I didn't need, I might be more inclined to trust him a little more.

“So what do you need the car for? Will it be for a daily commute, family holidays, drag racing?”

If a salesperson can communicate in language that you understand you’re more likely to:

  • Trust them
  • Buy from them (or at least consider them as an option)

Adapt your language to reflect your clients'

We have a natural tendency to adapt our language and tone to the person or group of people we’re addressing. Not everyone does this, but the great majority do. This may be rooted in some unrealized need for acceptance, but we needn’t go into all that as it’s above my pay grade. I will say this though; when I visit my hometown in South Wales my accent suddenly springs back int action (I left over 20 years ago). When I talk to my mum, my tone of voice and vocabulary changes. When on the rare occasion I catch up with friends over a beer, my tone and vocabulary morphs once more. I’m the same person to all of them, but I relate and interact with each of them on different levels.

We constantly adjust our language to fit into a multitude of situations. It’s natural, and a proposal shouldn’t be any different.

Businessman underlining words on a page

Where is this heading? Someone far clever than me said it best:

If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. - Albert Einstein

Get your message across. Be clear first, and avoid being "clever".

Sometimes we over estimate what a client understands about our business. We presume that as they’re talking to us they have a basic understanding of our language. But if you’re not careful you can leave them feeling stupid, less receptive and possibly frustrated.

You need to show your clients that you can produce results without buzzwords or jargon (unless they use the same language themselves). I’m not saying you need to give an exact figure for a Return on Investment (ROI) or anything as scary as that. However a client should be able to read your proposal and think, “OK, so if Nathan does this on the landing page, it means my signups should significantly improve because of…”

No jargon, no BS. Communicate; it’s in your job description (check the small print).

Incase you missed earlier posts in the series:

Part 1 “What’s a proposal”

Part 2 “Why proposals fail”

Part 3 "Client Interviews"

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