How Do You Build Relationships with SMEs? Use this Fun, Repeatable Template.
Let’s face it, most SMEs are pretty busy with their daily work. But combining fun incentives with a healthy dose of competition can help you build a productive working partnership with your subject matter experts. 🤝
This template helps you:
Have a conversation, connect, and learn about your SME’s skills, knowledge, and expertise.
Incentivize meeting participation, plus new ideas and strategies to work better together.
Establish expectations and avoid misunderstandings by being on the same page about the project timeline and requirements.
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FAQs About Working With Subject Matter Experts
Having access to a subject matter expert (SME) means having access to an internal wealth of knowledge. Their unique expertise can help improve the specificity of your proposals and ultimately win your organization more business (cha-ching 💰).
But, as you likely know, several challenges can arise when working with SMEs. Some examples include:
😰 RFPs are often not their top priority, and their daily work takes precedence.
😰Tight project timelines require responsive and engaged subject matter experts—from the beginning of the proposal process.
However, with the right ingredients, a successful working relationship with SMEs can differentiate your organization from the competition. You can use this template to improve:
😀 SME response times
😀 Engagement in meetings
😀 Team morale & productivity
How? A combination of competition, motivation, and a bit of humour. Gamifying the proposal process makes it more engaging (and fun) for everyone involved, including SMEs.
The key to engaging a subject matter expert is understanding that you rely on each other. Proposal managers rely on subject matter experts for information and accurate answers. While SMEs rely on proposal managers to bring in business, which keeps everyone employed.
To create a productive and collaborative environment, try implementing these tips:
✍️ Put a dedicated process in place: Being prepared is essential. It ensures you both have a good understanding of the project scope, timelines to provide feedback, expectations for team members, and what success looks like for the business.
🤝 Connect with your SMEs, regularly: Show SMEs you respect their expertise and are genuinely interested in their skills and knowledge. The intention for your first meeting should be to create a welcoming environment where you can explain your job, and they can explain theirs.
💪 Motivate your SMEs: An incentive for actively engaged subject matter experts makes getting them to attend meetings easier and simplifies tasks like running a content library review cycle.
Maintaining solid relationships with your SMEs requires respect. Since your job as a proposal manager is interconnected to theirs, success for your business depends on mutual understanding.
Here are a few tips to help you build these relationships:
Set 1:1s with regular SMEs to explain any roadblocks you may face, ask for any relevant additional information, or simply chat. Come to the meeting ready to learn.
Enjoy the occasional coffee chat, especially when it’s your first time meeting a SME. Focus on facilitating a conversation beyond work and trying toget to know them.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Showing interest in their job and expertise makes all the difference. Working together should be an enjoyable learning experience for both of you.
First and foremost, operate with compassion. SME’s have a lot on their plate, so it’s important to help them understand where you’re coming from when you work together on a project. Here are 3 actionable tips for dealing with a difficult SME:
Listen to your SME: Remain calm and openly communicate with them to try to understand their point of view. Listen first and ask questions later.
Set Expectations: Be clear in what you’re asking. Do you need answers updated on time or better meeting attendance? Ensure you address the problem professionally.
Determine the Root Cause: Are they overwhelmed with other work? Is team morale down? If there are issues within your control, act on them to help make the proposal process easier for everyone.
Try these strategies to help improve your relationship with difficult SMEs.