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#24: Do Your Prospects Know What You Are Talking About

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 9, 2009
I recently won a competitive bid and my client showed me some redacted text from some of the proposals she received. Several proposals had so much jargon that they were practically unintelligible, even to an experienced consultant. Why can't we just speak cleanly?

Jargon developed by a profession or industry is intended to have specific and unambiguous meaning to members of that profession. In many disciplines, this terminology has been developed with rigorous review and is eventually institutionalized with uniform meaning. In consulting, there is an inherent tendency, and not always in the profession's best interest, to create new approaches, principles, techniques and practices. The problem is that these are too often developed as commercially oriented products or book titles with names like "The Four XXXXs" or "The YYYY Matrix." The intent is to make these concepts distinct, not commonly understood.

Truth be told, we use jargon when we can't explain something in plain language. If we are talking to another consultant, jargon may or may not even be clear, depending on our respective disciplines. Your client, despite their use of consultants and their background in management, may be unclear what you are talking about. What does "we offer convergence-oriented facilitation for growth-minded businesses" mean?

Tip: Give your proposals and reports to someone in business, but not consulting, to review. Ask them if they really know what you are talking about, whether their explanation and your intent match, and how they might rephrase your words in plain English. You don't need to do this for all your written products or presentations - one or two will give you the feedback you need. Don't assume that you are entirely clear.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  proposals  writing 

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