June 28, 2023 5:06 pm

David Wadler

A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that outlines the needs of a buyer and asks potential vendors to submit proposals that address those needs. RFPs are often used in the procurement of large or complex projects, and they can be very detailed.

In order to create a winning RFP response, it is essential to incorporate subject matter experts (SMEs) into the process. A Subject Matter Expert is someone with specialized knowledge and experience in a particular area. SMEs play a critical role in the RFP response process. In the context of an RFP, an SME can provide valuable insights and information that can help to ensure that your proposal is accurate, comprehensive, and persuasive.

Here are some of the benefits of incorporating SMEs into an RFP response process:

The latest and greatest

SMEs can provide accurate and up-to-date information. RFPs often ask for detailed information about a company's products or services, as well as its experience in a particular industry or market. An SME can provide this information from a first-hand perspective, ensuring that your proposal is accurate and up to date.

The right context

SMEs can help you to understand the buyer's needs. RFPs can be complex and lengthy, and it can be difficult to understand exactly what the most important areas are. SMEs can help you to interpret the RFP and identify the buyer's key requirements. This information can then be used to tailor your proposal to the buyer's specific needs.

Winning content

SMEs can help you to develop content that is not just accurate, but compelling. Indeed, given their expertise, SMEs can help to create RFP content that answers client questions, shares win themes, and communicates the value of your solution. This can be particularly important when responding to complex RFPs that require detailed technical information. Coupled with their insights into the buyer's decision-making process, SMEs can help develop a proposal that is persuasive and convincing. They can also help you to highlight the strengths of your company and its offerings, and to address any potential objections that the buyer may have.

Julia Quigley from Lohfield Consulting has put together a guide that helps guide SMEs in drafting content for proposals. Her approach, called the "APB writing model" is worth a read on its own so I encourage you to click the preceding link to check it out. Taking a step back and thinking about the how best to engage with SMEs at the macro level, we have some specific advice:

Identify the right SME.

Not all SMEs are created equal. When identifying SMEs to participate in your RFP response process, it is important to select individuals who have the relevant knowledge and experience. For example, you might need input from product marketing and/or a specific IT security expert. You should also consider the buyer's needs and requirements when selecting SMEs.

Involve them early in the process.

Don't wait until the last minute to involve an SME in your RFP response process. The earlier you involve them, the more time they will have to provide you with valuable insights and information. And let's be honest, no one wants to be punished for someone else's procrastination. Asking someone to burn the midnight oil to finish an RFP response that is due the next day is not the best approach to win friends and influence people.

Provide clear instructions.

Make sure that SMEs understand their roles and responsibilities in the RFP response process. Provide them with clear instructions about what information you need from them and when you need it.

Get feedback.

Once you have drafted your RFP response, be sure to get feedback from SMEs. They can provide valuable insights into the clarity, accuracy, and persuasiveness of your proposal.

Bonus: Use RFP Response Software

If you're relying on email and spreadsheet software to orchestrate your RFP response, you're probably asking for exercise in frustration. RFP Response Software can simplify the process of collaborating on building a great proposal. When it comes to maximizing SME engagement, the best tools will incorporate a knowledge base, and ideally some AI to help with content generation. By leveraging this kind of software, you can get tons of value out of SMEs while significantly reducing the burden on them.

If you are serious about winning RFPs, then incorporating SMEs into your response process is essential. By doing so, you can increase your chances of success and secure the contracts that you need to grow your business.

About the Author

David Wadler is a co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Vendorful. Prior to Vendorful, he was the General Manager for Rich Media & Cloud at Lexmark Enterprise Software, where he was responsible for strategic direction of Lexmark’s initiatives as they related to rich media and cloud products. He came to Lexmark in 2013 with the acquisition of Twistage, where he was a co-founder and CEO. Prior to Twistage, he worked in a variety of industries and roles while trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with himself. David is a holder of a degree in economics from Brown University and is a resident of New York City.

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