Published in  
Capture Management
April 29, 2021

SMEs and How to Utilize Expertise

What is a SME? And how can you leverage a SME to submit the best proposal?

In the world of government contracting, SMEs, or Subject Matter Experts, play an important role in understanding the scope of the RFP and delivering on compliance. Depending on the nature and industry of the RFP you are submitting a bid for, SMEs can come in a variety of forms- project coordinators, managers, expert personnel, etc. Your SME may be someone with expertise in the service you are providing, or even someone with an expertise in government contracting and proposal writing who can assist with the process.

While there can be difficulties in coordinating demanding deadlines and obtaining information in the correct format, SMEs are valuable to the function of proposal development. When selecting a SME to help take your project from beginning to end, it is pertinent to select someone who knows the industry inside and out, and preferably someone who deeply understands the general constraints and requirements of government contracting. 

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

One of the most important functions of an SME is to simplify complex technical language into digestible and concise language. For example, if you are a marketing agency hoping to win a bid with a purchasing entity, the purchasing individual reviewing your bid may not have the technical background to understand marketing metrics and analytical lingo. That is when a SME can come in and help communicate your ideas into simpler language that still gets your point across in a meaningful way. Likewise, your SME should understand both the functions of marketing and the project scope so that they can bridge the gap between you and the purchaser. 

Adding in an SME in the Pre-Contract Phase 

Adding the expert opinion of a SME into the pre-contract phase can greatly increase the quality of your proposal and the accuracy of the detail included. It can help utilize your time and resources pre-contract and help determine if the bid is truly viable or not. A true, expert opinion can be the determining factor in a bid. For example, a SME can help round off knowledge regarding price, budgeting, if the deliverables are feasible, etc. It’s highly advised that you check with a SME before you contractually agree to a bid. 

Making proper space for a SME can be difficult and requires planning and guidance. The time of a SME is precious and must be utilized carefully. By guiding SMEs to the answers and information that you deem valuable, you can produce better and more effective results. Cohesion is another key element to working with an SME. A writer asking questions and compiling answers into a narrative can produce a patchwork end product. Rather, we recommend leaving allotted space for them to contribute that is cohesive and flow. 

What a SME is Not 

An SME is not responsible for the actual proposal development and implementation as much as they are a helpful resource that should be utilized to guide the process. If your SME is an expert in the product you are selling, but not familiar with the processes of government contracting and the specificity of proposal writing, they can provide you with helpful product knowledge, but their work may need to be formatted correctly. SMEs are also not responsible for delivering on the promises of the proposal. One of the most important functions of your SME is to provide a lens of realism and help set attainable standards for the project. They are there to prevent you from overdelivering and setting unrealistic deliverables.

Working with SME Tips 

  • Anticipate communication challenges and differences. While those in the world of government contracting understand the value of deadlines and the importance of compliance, an SME with limited time may be hard to reach.
  • Know what information you need from them. This will save time and effort in your proposal development process. 
  • Set attainable and clear goals with them. 
  • Listen to their expertise. An SME can prevent you from over-promising on deliverables, or even help you determine if a bid is not viable due to unattainable asks. 
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