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From Complicated to Simple: Propose more than jargon in your next proposal

One of our attempts to simplify the complicated went like this:

You know that shot? The one from 100 yards out that lands a foot from the pin? The one out of the sand that rolls into the cup? Those shots are why you keep playing. Every golfer makes a great shot, it’s the ones who do it consistently who become pros. The ones with a complete game – tee shot, fairway play, out of the bunker, and on the green. Tires that deliver the whole game are quiet, smooth, responsible and safe.

We’d been asked to clarify a complex topic: tires. Specifically, selling a new type of tire technology that would hold up even as the tread wore down. Tread wear is a key indication it’s time to get new shoes for the Jeep, but these tires perform just as well at half tread as they do brand new. Tough concept to get your head around, we know. An even tougher concept to sell to tire dealerships.

The client asked us for some creative storytelling, some ways of relaying the key message so that their sales team could understand. We called the golf pitch, “Move over, Jordan Speith!”

In any project where we’re asked to simplify technical jargon, Jodie and I ruminate on the purpose of the communication first. What is the writer trying to do with this piece? If it is a training piece like our tire friends then who is being trained?

We try to think about the audience and what beneficial message they need to receive. Then we consider all of the other things they might be reading, watching, and hearing. How are they being talked to on podcasts and in radio ads? What about TV commercials and news broadcasts? How are our targeted listeners getting information and are they retaining it?

So much business communication gets bogged down in jargon.

We know jargon is an easy way to communicate ideas we already know – it’s pervasive in operating rooms and manufacturing facilities to make communication easier. But, jargon is communicative only in that it lets the person know what is happening. It does not necessarily help them understand the implications of the information, nor does it assist in analyzing the action. It doesn’t provide clarity enough to make a decision.

Jargon tells you what to do, it doesn’t help you decide to do it.

Take, for example, a proposal for services. If the request for proposal is specific about what the requester is trying to do, then he is looking for a response that addresses in the very same terminology that specific goal:

The City of Meloria seeks a new customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve water service operations.

The response should explain exactly how the CRM solution being proposed will improve water service operations. Technology advantages like reduced down time, customized iterations, cyber security, and pleasant user interfaces must all be explained as they relate to “improve water service operations.”

Many times technical proposals will focus on the features and benefits of the technology. Marketing writers are feature-and-benefit creatures. But proposals need to put those features and benefits in context. They need to tell the story of how the product, once implemented, will improve the buyer’s experience. The proposal must go far beyond jargon.

Proposals don’t need to market your work. They need to sell it.

We think Jordan Speith is a great golfer. One of the best, truly. He has a full game: end-to-end 18 holes at a time, every tournament, Speith makes practiced, reliable shots. When we thought of how our tire client’s product would be reliable in rain, snow, heat, and cold, how it would reduce stopping distances and keep passengers safe while delivering a quiet and smooth ride, we knew we’d found the Jordan Speith of tires.

So that’s how we sold them.

Need to know more about proposals that sell? Call 803-569-8200 and let’s get started.

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