I met with the CEO of a software consultancy recently and the conversation moved to the subject of Subject Matter Experts (or SMEs in their language). As CEO, he was very keen to demonstrate that his organisation had real strength in depth in the areas that really matter to his clients. He wanted to show that not only could his sales team talk a good game but the company could deliver as well.
To do this, we realised he needed to highlight the deep knowledge of his SMEs. These experts can speak knowledgeably not only about specific aspects of a particular approach but also why they are relevant to the client in their specific role within their industry.
In Wiki's simple example below, "The development of accounting software requires knowledge in two different domains: accounting and software." In reality, for most high-value B2B sales, there are much more than two areas of expertise that need to be shown.
The question the CEO was grappling with was how he could get these SMEs to create the expert content he needed without resorting to having to "shout at" them. It was very important to him that these Experts wanted to create the posts.
Taking an extremely targeted team approach can be enormously effective in addressing this issue through creating a virtuous circle.
It starts when a Business Development or sales person perceives a potential need at a known client or prospect, they discuss how they could help with the relevant SME. Afterwards the SME writes a few words commenting on how this need exists, in a broader sense and how a specific approach has been seen to help.
From here, the BD can now share the content directly with the prospect. Of course, few pain points are unique to one client so the content can be shared with others experiencing similar issues.
Since the content was written with the needs of a specific person in mind, it is generally of great value to them. This often means that they feel a need to reciprocate either by saying "thank you" or engaging in some way.
The point of this approach is that it demonstrates three things:
- that the Sales person was listening to the client
- the SME has the subject "down cold"
- that the organisation as a whole is expert in this specific area.
It also advances the sales pipeline, ensuring that the Sales people request more content from the SMEs, which closes the virtuous circle and drives the required behaviours for the company. Without having to shout.
A subject-matter expert (SME) or domain expert is a person who is an authority in a particular area or topic. The term domain expert is frequently used in expert systems software development, and there the term always refers to the domain other than the software domain. A domain expert is a person with special knowledge or skills in a particular area of endeavour. (An accountant is an expert in the domain of accountancy, for example.) The development of accounting software requires knowledge in two different domains: accounting and software. Some of the development workers may be experts in one domain and not the other. A SME should also have basic knowledge of other technical subjects