How to Get Deal-Winning Content From Your SMEs

How to get deal-winning content
from your SMEs

Tired of waiting for subject matter experts (SMEs) to answer crucial RFP questions only to get last-minute responses that … aren’t great?

It’s a scenario proposal managers know all too well. But there are steps you can take to ensure SMEs consistently provide you with the content you need to win more deals. Follow the advice below to inspire high-quality SME responses.

Give them a formula to follow

At the 2016 APMP (Association of Record for Bid, Proposal, Business Development, Capture, and Graphics Professionals) conference, Julia Quigley of Lohfeld Consulting Group delivered a presentation entitled: “APB: A Writing Model for Reluctant Writers, Enigmatic Engineers, and Circuitous SMEs.”

Julia — who has a Master’s in Rhetoric and Composition — created a brilliant “APB writing model” as a formula for getting better responses from SMEs. APB stands for approach summary, process, and benefits explanation, the three elements that should be included in any well-crafted proposal.

While her presentation specifically relates to winning government projects, almost every industry can benefit from this approach.

The slides depicted below demonstrate exactly what separates a mediocre response from an extremely compelling response, as well as how the APB writing model encourages SMEs to provide the kind of response you need to win deals.

Many engineers who attended the presentation said it was the first time they understood what proposal managers wanted from them.

Key takeaway: Don’t assume your team will understand how to write a section independently or what information to include. Instead, provide a structured response style that clarifies exactly what you need.

Have them approve, not reinvent

Too often, teams aren’t working from an RFP database, so proposal formats and versions are scattered, and no one is sure which version is current.

As a result, they continuously reinvent the wheel with each RFP response, stuck in an endless time loop, much like Bill Murray in the 1993 cult classic Groundhog Day.

Sound familiar? If you’re chuckling on the outside, you’re probably crying on the inside.

To avoid this common mistake, create a strategy for storing, updating, and accessing past RFP responses.RFP software that includes a central data repository — or knowledge base— can streamline this process.

An effective knowledge base should specify:

  • Who wrote the content.
  • When it was written.
  • What changes have been made.
  • When the content was last updated.
  • Who updated it.
  • How often it’s been used.

The last one is really critical. It’s extremely helpful to track which responses are being used and if they’re part of winning proposals. Then, you can ensure your team is always using your top content and make your proposals that much more convincing.

It’s also a really good idea to assign owners to important questions/content, and assign expiration dates for when they need to update those responses (quarterly, annually, etc.).

Proposal management tools make it much easier to automate, organize, and manage this process, allowing you to store, organize, and find all your previous responses. Then, your SME’s just have to update and/or approve answers, not constantly rewrite them.

By providing SMEs with a formula to effectively answer questions and storing their responses in an organized, searchable database, you can ensure you have the content needed to win more deals.

As RFP360’s client success director, Brian ensures clients have the tools, knowledge, and assistance they need to get the most out of their solution. Prior to joining RFP360, he led a 60-member client services team across two offices at BrandMuscle. During his free time, he enjoys trying new restaurants and traveling.


RD Symms

RD is a senior copywriter at Responsive. He has more than 15 years of experience in writing, content development, and creative strategy. Connect with RD on LinkedIn.

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