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Why SMBs Should Start Grooming Their Subject Matter Experts Early On

Why SMBs Should Start Grooming Their Subject Matter Experts Early On

Subject matter experts tend to have a few key qualities that will manifest themselves almost from the moment they come on board.

When companies first launch, the CEO or owner is the source of all knowledge — they almost have to be. They likely developed or sourced the firm’s products and services, created any initial marketing materials and secured the first customers. Before long, though, the need for more than one subject matter expert is bound to emerge.

A big part of this has to do with time and energy. The head of a small or medium-sized business (SMB) only has so many hours in the day to answer questions or provide direction on various business issues. There’s also the optics to customers and the wider market: an SMB starts to look more like an organization you can take seriously when every single matter doesn’t have to be resolved directly by the owner or CEO.

Within large organizations, there are often dozens of subject matter experts (SMEs) who almost act like internal consultants for a wide range of activities. These people all have “traditional” roles in areas like sales, marketing and service, but they are the spokespeople or authority when the appropriate circumstances arise. The difference is that big companies can take many years to train and develop their subject matter experts. SMBs should be thinking about it from the very beginning, so that as they hire, they can demonstrate the strength of their team, as well as the strength of their products and services.

Subject matter experts tend to have a few key qualities that will manifest themselves almost from the moment they come on board:

  • High communication skills: Subject-matter experts can speak up in meetings and be understood by almost anyone, regardless of their background in the subject matter. They are used to breaking down complex subjects for a variety of audiences. They may also be good in written communication, whether it’s answering a request for proposal, writing a report or just sending off an informative email message.
  • Can-Do Mindset: Subject matter experts aren’t necessarily being compensated directly for the questions they answer. They are proactive people eager to explain, teach, and speak on behalf of the organization.
  • Endless Curiosity: Subject matter experts don’t rely on their existing body of knowledge but are constantly learning to maintain their position as the go-to people within a company.

Once you’ve spotted a few potential subject matter experts within your growing team, think about the different areas where that expertise could prove useful:

The Sales SME:

The more you sell something, the better you’re likely to become at selling it. While SMBs may hope that all the reps on their team will eventually reach the same level of proficiency, there are going to be occasions where a subject matter expert will make the difference between closing a deal and losing one. This includes:

  • Specific bundles or configurations: Sometimes products won’t work well in a particular customer environment without some add-ons or complementary products and services. Figuring out the best quote can be challenging, but a sales subject matter expert will pair their own experience with what you can find within a CRM like Sales Cloud to accelerate the process.
  • Vertical-specific sales: A sales subject matter expert will know the nuances between trying to win over a prospect in the financial services space versus one in health care or education. Again, this will be driven by the way they leverage data in CRM — and the way they show their colleagues how it’s done.
  • Retention And Renewal: When there’s a question of keeping a customer, a sales subject matter expert will be able to look at the details in CRM and draw upon their own insights of how to make staying on more attractive or value-added.

The Marketing SME:

Raising awareness and generating demand are key activities that are core to any marketing team, but the finer points of what kind of content to create may lie outside that team. Marketing’s most valuable subject matter expert could be someone from the sales side, for example, who can give a comprehensive and realistic look on what’s in the minds of customers and prospects.

A marketing subject matter expert might also be involved in:

  • Content review: Before a major white paper, blog post, infographic or other asset is sent out for distribution, a good marketing subject matter expert will be able to weigh in authoritatively on whether it speaks to what your audience wants to hear.
  • Voice of the brand: When the CEO isn’t available, marketing teams need subject matter experts to participate in webinars, live events and interviews with the media to help spread the right messages.
  • Social convener: Strong marketing subject matter experts live in all the relevant channels where tools like Marketing Cloud are involved, including social media services such as Twitter, LinkedIn and others.

The Service SME:

If you’ve ever reached out to a contact centre, chances are you might have been handed off to a subject matter expert at some point. This is the person one level above the initial service agent, who specializes in troubleshooting a particular kind of product, or who deals with the more complex questions and complaints.

Beyond that, customer service teams might need subject matter experts who can:

  • Offer insights back to product teams: If there are enough customers wrestling with particular features, the nature of those challenges and how they’ve overcome them can be critical to improving the next versions. Their opinions, of course, can be backed up by what they pull out of a tool like Service Cloud.
  • Designing workflows and processes: As more organizations move to chatbots as a mechanism for initial service interactions, a subject matter expert can help determine when intervention from a live person might be required or desired.
  • Humanizing processes across channels: There are more ways to interact with companies than ever before — calls, email messages, social media posts — but the tone and quality of response can change everything. Make sure your subject matter experts are brought in when you’re fine-tuning the use of a particular channel.

As SMBs grow, they should see a small army of subject matter experts growing within their employee base. Then, recognizing where they’re needed most, make sure you use technology effectively so they can focus on what they do best.

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