Ditch These Vocabulary Pitfalls in Your Next Proposal

Brian Onorio
Brian Onorio
January 10, 2019

Language matters. The way people read and hear certain words may evoke emotions and instincts that even they’re unaware of. Fortunately, it’s easy to substitute these common words and phrases to ensure that you’re putting forth your best effort.

Use This Not That Why?
Agreement Contract Contracts are what come up in court. While you very well may be sending a contract, use the word agreement instead as it comes across as mutual and collaborative.
Investment Pricing The term pricing comes across as transactional whereas investment brings the connotation of growth.
Proposal Pitch No one wants to be pitched to. Everyone welcomes a decent proposal though.
Challenge Problem Certainly, your proposal is meant to help solve problems. No one likes a problem but plenty of people will accept a challenge.
Obviously This word has no substitute. Leave it out. At times, use of the word obviously can come across as condescending. Not exactly the impression you want to leave a prospect.
Just Another word to simply omit. “I’m just following up with you” reads much less professionally than saying, authoritatively, “I’m following up with you…”.
I’m Confident Guarantee The car salesman will guarantee you’ll love this car. And there’s no worse connotation in sales than that of the purveyor of vehicles. Instead, try saying “I’m confident that we can achieve your goals”.
Competitor Don’t talk about your competition. You’ll elevate them to your level. Instead, talk about how you’ll accomplish the goals and how you’ll deliver the work.
Courtesy Discount If you’re providing discounts, you come across like you’re selling a commodity. In contracts or invoices, don’t list a discount. If there’s a legitimate reason for deducting cost, call it a courtesy instead.
I We Resist the urge to say things like “we can definitely do that for you”. Who’s we? Unless you’re in a conversation with another person from your team, be more relatable and use the first person singular pronoun.
Know Think Never tell a prospect that you “think we can work something out”. You know you can. Think comes across as uncertain and demeans your position. In situations where you don’t know the answer, don’t lie. Simply tell your prospect you’ll get back to them. There’s nothing wrong with not having every answer.
Actual Price Price Ranges There’s a caveat to this one. Unless there are unsettled requirements that legitimately raise concerns for a fixed-price offering, provide an actual price. If you say “We can do that for between $1,000 and $2,000”, you’re leaving yourself open to questions later on why it’s $2,000 and not $1,000. If the scope or situation changes, you can always go back later with an explanation.
Only It’s only $1,999! Retailers get away with it, but for those of us in the services industry, only feels like a gimmick. It doesn’t come across as personal and you may come across as sales-y.
Quality If you have to tell someone it’s quality, it’s probably not. Omit this from your vocabulary.
Why How If you’re spending a lot of time instructing on how something works instead of why something works, you’re probably selling process. And no one likes to buy process. They like to buy results.
Amount Payment We all have payments. Car payments. House payments. Credit card payments. No one enjoys making payments. Instead of saying “your first payment will be $25.00” try saying “the amount of your first month is $25.00”.
Imagine how For example If you’re explaining, you’re losing. If you find yourself in a situation where an example is truly needed, inform them by saying “Imagine how much more efficient your workflow process will be if you had automatic routing of approvals.”
Cutting Edge Ditch the jargon. No one likes to hear about a service that is “cutting edge”, “leading”, or “innovative”. Have a conversation instead. Don’t sound like a 1997 brochure for AOL.
Your crutch word It’s easier said than done but avoid your crutch word. “Uh”, “um”, “like”, and “you know” are hard to ween from decades of overuse. Be cognizant and take a measured approach to nix them from your vocabulary for good.

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