Sometimes our business writing doesn't always reflect who we are and what we can bring to the table. It's easy to get caught up in the need to sound professional while missing the point of true communication that can be heard, felt, and understood. Earlier this week, a small business owner contacted about editing the introduction to a proposal she was sending to one of her most important clients. Here’s what she said:
“Hi Jo Ann, can you take a crack at this? It doesn’t have the intended feel yet, what are your thoughts?”
My client, (I’ll call her Mary) was hoping this proposal would have the right “feel” – she wanted the proposal to reflect her value proposition of integrity, teamwork, and advocacy. She wanted her client to know that she is there to partner with them and support them at the highest level– not to tell them what to do. She was hoping to provide a voice in this proposal that reflected this.
The introduction as written, just didn’t do it. So, why did she reach out to me, in particular to “take a crack” at getting it right?
The reason is that she’s committed to a holistic approach to her business and so I coach her business forward to reflect all of who she is. Sometimes this also includes coaching her on a personal level – after all, we shine most brightly when we are “all present” and sometimes, our personal lives get in the way of how we show up in our businesses (and vice versa).
Although the introduction was very well written, professional, polished and perfect – it didn’t sound like my client. I’ve worked with this client for a year now – she’s a brilliant mechanical engineer with a curious mind, big heart, and straddles the role of both leader and team player with tons of integrity. This didn’t come across in the cover letter.
The truth is, although I have a graduate degree from a science and engineering school and had worked in corporate offices long enough to know what all the terms and jargon meant, my eyes glossed over as they flitted across a lot of professional speak gobbledygook. You know what I mean, right? I wasn’t moved to action. I didn’t buy in. I was pretty sure this cover letter would make the proposal itself sit on a desk somewhere because the client didn’t “feel it”.
So, I reread her introduction and imagined myself as the director of engineering overseeing many levels of people who would need to be committed to the work outlined in the proposal. These people would be accountable for its implementation. What did I need to know, and what did I need to hear to make me believe that, not only was Mary’s proposal the correct solution to a problem I didn’t even realize I had, but it was an easily implementable win-win solution that I could bring into all levels of my plant. Moreover, what feeling would I need to have as I read this proposal to have faith in its outcome? I quickly realized the missing “thing” was Mary. Inside of this proposal, I needed to be able to see Mary.
So, I rewrote the introduction to bring in "Mary" – that sense of a brilliant, warmhearted, engineer who “always had your back” and always showed up as a partner and advocate for your best outcome - and sent it back over to her. Her response?
“You nailed it!”
Mary has built her business by cultivating relationships with her clients based upon her values and mission. She deliveres from her head, heart, and hands. Her clients depend on her to show up and bring them her best solutions. She always had, and she would again. Now, her letter reflected all of that. I have no doubt that her proposal will get the attention and support it needs. She’ll nail it!