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Passionate, Unique, and Best of Breed, or, Can we please stop being silly?

You are about to read some best in class new paradigm thoughts about which I’m passionate, unique and seamless.

B2B proposals are so often sprinkled with inflated, self-serving, irrelevant and unsupported claims. We know that.

I’ve been working at writing and editing proposals, grant applications, and marketing collateral for a while now and never get tired of the ridiculous statements that subject matter experts, marketing, and sales come up with. It’s the challenge I wake up to daily: taking the hooey out of the proposal draft and trying to turn it into clear, persuasive content that speaks to the job the prospect actually needs to have done.   

Lots of savvy marketers warn us against these hyperbolic and empty phrases like we are passionate, uniquely qualified, and best-in-class.

What they don’t say is how to turn them inside out and make a stronger, better claim that gets people’s attention.

“We are confident our passionate account team and our deep resources will provide you with an attractive solution to manage your risks and be most productive.”     

For me the top of the list is passion. Everyone is now “passionate” about their business. And somehow they see this as a compelling argument that sways the decision to purchase.

And I’m thinking, Hogwash. (Actually, that’s not the real word I’m thinking.)

Passion is fine, it does drive people. It’s the spark, the flare in the dark, that gets people up in the morning. But it’s not the steady flame that prospective buyers need. Passion in a proposal is so overworked it’s either ignored or counted against you.

But what are all these passionate people really trying to get across? Try turning it inside out. Instead of just stating that you’re passionate about the work, show them what that looks like. After all, if you’re serious that you’re passionate about the field you’re in, you will be involved in industry associations, will be engaged perhaps on committees or other voluntary efforts, will know (or know about) the inside people and the critical issues and probably have contributed to framing the discussions. Say that, and let the reader conclude “They seem to be pretty passionate about this issue.”

“We believe we uniquely qualified to assist you in this project, as well as implementing our recommendations, for the following reasons:”

Those reasons included “processes” which are standard in the industry;  knowledge of this type of project, which all other bidders would have; creativity as evidenced by nothing in the proposal; and of course passion.

You might be qualified. But you’re not unique, unless you have a patent on a process or are the only one who understands the math. To avoid saying that you’re unique and risk lowering your chances at winning, be smarter than the competition. State precisely why your services are an exact fit to the buyer’s needs. Your process isn’t unique, but for this particular industry you’ve found that some little twist actually shaves time off the project. Your creativity isn’t unique, but you can show (with examples) just how you solved a similar problem in another project that worked exceptionally well. And we’ve already talked about your passion.

“We bring best-in-class services and innovative solutions to our clients.”

I’ve also seen this done as (I swear) “best-in-breed processes and people…” I had to look around the room at that point just to see if I could pick out who’d been bred. (Everyone looked like the result of the usual haphazard reproductive process, I’m afraid. That was comforting.)

Best in class, best of breed, leading edge, state of the art. Sure, you can make these claims. If Car & Driver backs it up. But you can’t just fatuously toss them into a proposal unless you have the independent analysis that compares you with the rest of the class. Or breed. Or edge.

(I once came across the “state of the art” phrase and took the trouble to look into what the current state of the art for that product was – and then added that to the proposal. It must have helped, as we went on to the finalist stage.)

What’s better is to tout the reliability of the solution (backed up with stats), the perfect fit of the service with that buyer’s business and circumstances (backed up with stats), or the new wrinkle on doing the work that you’ve innovated and that you think will be a better way to address the buyer’s problem (backed up with stats).

They’re not false claims. Just not well thought out.

There are lots more of these empty claims and silly phrases that need to be challenged whenever they end up in sales, marketing or proposal materials. These happen to be the ones I get to see most, and have been working to fix.

“Cause,” said my colleague, “if you’re not passionate about our business structure’s leading edge paradigm, we’d be stuck in a unique paradox.”