Technical subject matter experts often write the response to the statement of work in a proposal, which is usually called the Technical Approach. The Technical Approach defines your offering, saying what you will do or deliver.
What the technical subject matter experts lack in writing and fine art skills, they often make up for with enthusiasm for their subject. They bring that enthusiasm to the proposal, and the result is mostly positive. People debate whether proposal writing specialists interviewing subject matter experts is a better approach, but either way, the subject matter experts are involved. They just need to be guided in the right direction.
So what should the best technical approach focus on?
The most common answers we hear from technical subject matter experts are:
- It must focus on the technical details
- It must be all meat, with no fluff
- It must show the right way to do things
All of these common answers are wrong. Worse, they are wrong on their technical merits. They are a result of enthusiastically saying what you know, instead of solving the problem.
What the customer needs from a technical approach is to determine which offering is the best alternative. Some or all of the above common answers play a role in this. But the real focus for a technical approach should be on what the customer will get as a result of what is being offered. They need to see that what they get will fulfill their goals.
Once they get that, then how the work will be done becomes part of how they assess your ability to actually deliver what you’ve said they will get. All the technical details are part of establishing your credibility, but that comes after you’ve demonstrated that the technical details deliver what they want.
For the customer, the offering fulfills a purpose. One that they’ve put a considerable amount of effort into pursuing. The goal of a technical approach is to demonstrate fulfilling that customer’s goal better than any alternative. The goal is not to explain how you would do things. The difference is subtle, but it matters. A lot.
When you are on the receiving end, do you evaluate a technical solution by the approach or the results? If it delivers the wrong results, who cares about the approach? If you focus on the details instead of the results and a competitor focuses on the results, then their technical approach will likely be seen as the best alternative, even if your approach is technically superior.
Your technical approach should talk about results. It should explain what the customer is going to get. It should explain why your approach matters and why you made the choices you did. Understanding “why” you do things is more important to the customer than understanding “how” you do things. The customer will say to themselves, “If I select this proposal, I will get [fill in the blank] because [fill in the blank]. I believe they will be able to achieve that because their approach is credible.” The approach is actually the last thing they consider.
It’s easy to understand why people get tricked into believing that the approach is the most important thing. For starters, there’s the name, “Technical Approach.” Then there’s the way that customers write their RFPs. They ask you to describe your approach for doing what they ask. They really make it sound like they want to hear all about your approach and will make their selection that way.
Only they didn’t write the RFP because they want to purchase an approach. They wrote the RFP to fulfill their goals. And their best alternative for achieving those goals will be the proposal that best demonstrates how what the vendor does results in achieving those goals. That is the most important technical requirement. That is what the technical approach should be about.
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