Three ailments that can infect your proposal

Consulting proposals suffer from one or more of three ailments that will drive clients into the waiting arms of your competitors—tired superlatives, buzzwords, and the plague of pronouns.

Superlatives are like weeds in a lawn: Unless checked, they tend to take over. Avoid prose such as "Our unsurpassed commitment to client service ensures your needs will be our highest priority." Does that mean the needs of other clients are a lower priority for the firm?

Consultants hope to get an edge by claiming to be the fastest, best, or most experienced in the field. Clients routinely ignore such claims as unproven hype. Unless you can quantify your claims beyond a doubt, strip superlatives from your proposal. Make each claim relevant to the client's issues and back it up with facts, figures, and testimonials. Without substantiation, clients will discount your claims and your proposal.

Instead of promising an "optimal solution for reducing customer complaints," say, "We will reduce customer complaints by 9 percent in 90 days." Then amplify in the proposal exactly how you will achieve that reduction.

Since proposals are often used to justify unspoken decisions made earlier in the sales process, include in your proposal facts that

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