RFP Buzzwords: Eliminating Stale Language From Bid Proposals

RFP terms

Have you ever been in a meeting where you feel everyone in the room is speaking a different language, and you’re the only one who’s out of the loop? RFP buzzwords, jargon, verbiage, industry glossary lingo, government bid rhetoric, policy speak; whatever you call it, we all encounter it on a daily basis. RFP buzzwords are part of the reason government solicitations and federal bids strike fear into the hearts of small business owners everywhere. The professional procurement writers at The Bid Lab have read enough jargon to last us a lifetime. No doubt we’ll continue to encounter the same industry words in all kinds of proposal documents. However, in the meantime, let’s have some fun and talk about popular buzzwords in bids.

What is Procurement Jargon?

The origin of the word “jargon” is from Old French, meaning “chatter of birds” (that tracks). It is defined as a special lexicon to preserve secrecy within a particular group. In other words, they are special words or expressions that are only widely used within niche industries or areas. Unfortunately, language is inherently difficult for anyone outside the group to understand.

Sounds friendly, right? 

Jargon, aka buzzwords, exists everywhere. Like cockroaches, RFP buzzwords exist in large numbers, and they’re pretty difficult to kill. And, while using industry-speak with a group can subtly reaffirm cultural or friendship bonds, it can easily drain the meaning out of written content. Too many RFP buzzwords can torpedo the chances of an otherwise strong contract bid.

Jargon can be company-specific, especially in big corporations that love to communicate in code (honestly, they should start handing out special decoder rings to new employees as swag!). The bottom line, however, is that stale language in RFPs really isn’t necessary and can often be detrimental. Unraveling the long, confusing and often overlapping list of acronyms can make new clients, evaluators, and potential partners feel left out, confused, and even worse, bored. After all, no one wants to be the person who asks for clarification after every sentence.

Request for Proposals: Mysterious Acronyms

No one, and I mean no one (outside of procurement), wants to hear about your RFIs, your RFPs, RFQs, or any of the RFXes, for that matter. According to the infamous “For Dummies” guide, the definition of procurement is the process of obtaining goods and services that are necessary for the operation of a business. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Then why do we overcomplicate things with a never-ending list of acronyms like… P2P, R2R, Q2C, O2C, OTC, S2C, ERP, CLM, SRM, SPM, SIM, ML, and BI?

You know. Just to name a few.

The procurement industry is, unfortunately, just as susceptible to jargon as every other industry. Professional researchers, proposal managers, and procurement writers read and write all sorts of solicitations, bids, procurements, and proposals with similar requirements. After we finish our first-pass draft, we’re likely to high-five our researchers for finding the perfect SME to assist with responses to the B2B aspect that might score extra evaluation points. Now, we can focus on finding our proof of COI to attach.

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Over time, our common terminology and short-hand acronyms can slowly seep into our day-to-day vocabulary. If we’re not careful, insular procurement jargon can end up overpopulating documents that were meant for a general audience. The good news, however, is that, as RFP expert writers, we look out for just this issue by working together as a team. So, we help each other weed out our own jargon as well as any unnoticed industry buzzwords that are second nature to the industry of our clients.

That’s what good procurement writers do!

Buzzworthy RFP Buzzwords

Another instant party killer is throwing around a bunch of buzzwords. Some buzzwords can act like crystal balls, pointing to a future that, at some point, becomes the present and sets the standard for the way companies do business. However, many end up aging poorly or lose meaning altogether.

We see plenty of buzzwords pop up in procurements and government solicitations. A few common, industry-agnostic RFP buzzwords include:

  • Agile: It seems like every company on earth is marked by its ready ability to move with quick, easy grace.
  • A BAFO (Best/Final Offer): Is the best or final offer really “the best” if it’s just another industry standard?
  • Collaborative: Co-working as a team.
  • Digital Transformation: When everything is digital, is it still transformative?
  • Disrupting/Disruptive is a relatively recent buzzword often translated as “new things, probably cheaper.” We know you know this one. It’s the hip way to discuss “bringing the outside in.” 
  • Due Diligence: Taking reasonable steps to satisfy legal requirements.
  • Maverick Sourcing (or Rogue Sourcing): A few buzzwords for non-compliant spending.
  • Real-Time: Real-time status updates. Real-time dashboards. Real-time data. Real-time is becoming a standard expectation.

Finally, it’s true that jargon and RFP buzzwords can have similarities to slang or cultural cliches. However, while slang is informal and mostly used in spoken language, procurement jargon is more formal and professional. Buzzwords are often used in both spoken and written communication. So, while “it’s five o’clock somewhere” is a work culture cliche classic, it’s not considered an RFP buzzword.

We know countless other terms are springing to your mind right now. Feel free to reach out to us on our socials and let us know your favorite or least favorite RFP buzzword (we’re @thebidlab on Twitter!).

Attached as Appendix X: Our Final Summation

Sometimes, it will better suit industry procurement insiders, editors, and writers to use plain language, words and phrases that are concrete, specific, and descriptive. After all, there isn’t anything secretive or proprietary about buying something and paying for it. Remember to speak and write to communicate, not to impress. If you do that, you should naturally use fewer buzzwords. 

The lesson here is simple: it is important to check yourself and not get lost in your own industry. Instead of telling potential clients about the leading-edge RFP process we want to launch to optimize their complex supplier base, we try to tell them how we “can make it easier” to find the help they need. Writing well means writing for other people, after all. It’s all about clear and fresh communication.

And fresh, clear, straightforward communication is the key to a well-written RFP.

Worried about stale language in your RFP response? Start by learning how to build a content portfolio that will simplify your RFP responses. Still worried? Well, we can help! At The Bid Lab, our procurement experts have landed plenty of lucrative bids for clients by writing slick, professional, and fresh RFP responses. We can also help you find your next RFP opportunity via our user-friendly RFP search engine, Bid Banana. So, reach out for a free consultation by calling 1-844-4BIDLAB or emailing respond@thebidlab.com.