In my  2017 business trends article, I described how subject matter experts are the new rainmakers. They possess high-quality skill sets that give their organizations leverage in a competitive global marketplace. With their level of expertise, experience and knowledge, SMEs are the sought-after business advisors top-tier clients turn to for advice.  

If companies benefit from attracting and retaining SMEs, it behooves them to create the support systems that allow SMEs to become successful members of their sales teams.In a world where clients are learning to ignore stereotypical salespeople, SMEs can often open doors where traditional sales professionals might struggle. 

Here are three things companies can do to ensure SMEs have the proper systems and support.

Target qualified leads

From a sales standpoint, there are two terms that are often bantered about: marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads. In simple terms, marketing-qualified lead are leads a company's marketing team believe are qualified prospects. The problem with those leads, often times, is that they don't jive well with what the sales teams considers to be qualified leads -- and that disconnect leads to a lot of wasted time for many salespeople.

Because the truth is, who cares what marketing thinks is a qualified lead? If an opportunity doesn't have potential to generate revenue, it's useless for the sales organization to pursue. So, instead of casting a wide net, (especially when companies are engaging SMEs) they need to be extremely precise in terms of how they target opportunities. From an organizational standpoint, companies can not afford to be generalists when it comes to pursuing leads. SMEs don't have the bandwidth to chase 20 rainbows that may or may not lead to a pot of gold. They need to find the three that are worth pursuing -- not the 20. The way companies support SMEs from a marketing standpoint, as well as a sales standpoint, is to ensure they can focus on the right opportunities, and not waste time with lesser ones. 

Know the right questions to ask

SMEs don't want to learn how to use Salesforce or other complicated customer relationship management tools. That's not the best use of their time. To be most effective, what they want to know is:

  • What problem does the organization solve?

  • Who has those problems that I am best suited to help?

  • What kinds of questions do I need to ask when I meet with a potential client?

  • How can I quickly determine if this opportunity is worth pursuing or not?

Provide sales support

Top companies recognize that SMEs often have broad roles in an organization. Their time is valuable, and companies cannot afford to have them work inefficiently. This means they must appoint support staff to handle many of the administrative duties that take up big chunks of time and energy.

If SMEs focus on generating revenue, companies need to surround and support those people with tools and resources to help them manage follow-up, assign tasks, track progress and help with a host of other tasks. Support staff can assist with scheduling follow-up meetings, making sure the right people are at those meetings, and that the right questions are asked so that the subject matter expert can simply come in and do their thing. If you have a team of five subject matter experts, you may need a team of two or three support people to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

With some planning and support, companies can unleash their SMEs full potential so they can do what they do best: generate money for the business.

It's your turn

How do you support your SMEs to drive revenue and hit sales goals in your company? Share your thoughts on Twitter, LinkedIn, or in the comments.

Published on: Oct 24, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.