A Man Walks Into a Bar – Riff #4

At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar —
fresh as a daisy, cute as a button,
and sharp as a tack.

We don’t have much occasion to use similes in proposals, but clichés go well beyond that.

Cliche, also spelled cliché, is a 19th-century borrowed word from the French which refers to a saying or expression that has been so overused that it has become boring and unoriginal. – Vocabulary.com

In Proposal Land all technology is leading edge, cutting edge, or state-of-the-art. All transitions are seamless. All reporting is real-time and transparent. All services are high quality, superior, or excellent. All training is just-in-time, all standards are met or exceeded, all results are bottom-line. All management? Responsive. All relationships? Collaborative.

Yup. Boring and unoriginal.

Worse, even when the actual claims are true, these words slide off the reader like water off a duck’s back. I mean, like ice cream off a toddler’s cone. Splat.

Instead, tell them what systems and equipment you’re going to use, what you’re going to do, and how. Specifically. To pick one example from the mush above, let’s look at collaboration:

  • How often will you meet with the client, and who is “you” by position title? What will you talk about and why? How open will you be about impediments to good performance in your shop and in theirs?
  • How will you balance rigorous contract-management processes with a problem-solving approach focused on getting work done?
  • What decisions will you take jointly with them and why?
  • Which (if any) of your contract-management prerogatives will you waive?
  • Which (if any) of their contract-management obligations are you prepared to waive?
  • How will you identify their priorities and preferences and respond to them?
  • How will you ensure that your service delivery doesn’t interfere with their services?
  • How will you ensure that your delivery of equipment or systems meets their operational needs?
  • How will you ensure a quick turnaround on decisions by on-site personnel and by off-site corporate honchos when needed?

Is this more work? Uh, yeah. Will it get better marks? Yup.  And that’s why we’re here, right? Well, that and being cute as a button.