Get SME Buy-In for Your Courses

It’s great when you’re a learning and development specialist, plus a specialist in the topic of the course.

But sometimes you need expert assistance.

Maybe to develop the course, maybe even to deliver it.

(If your course is intermediate or advanced, you have to at least know the basics. Those audiences will ask questions and if it’s clear you don’t know your stuff, you’ll lose them.)

Those precious subject matter experts (SMEs) who are keen to share their knowledge are worth celebrating.

Because most, in my experience, aren’t like that.

Either they don’t like course development or teaching, because it’s a distraction from their ‘real’ work… or they’re not good at it but they’re good at their job, so they go with what they’re comfortable with… or they don’t have the time to help you.

It happens.

What do you do to get SME buy-in?

There are a few sure-fire ways.

The first is to make it clear what’s in it for them.

A huge benefit for SMEs is educating their customers. Many experts are frustrated by folks coming to them with vague requests, incomplete data, obvious questions and flawed expectations. By teaching would-be customers what they can do and what they need from them, it can save a lot of time and hassle.

It’s also a chance to network and show off their knowledge. That is priceless to some folks.

Of course, there’s always money – either an upfront fee or a cut of the profits. That’s not always an option though – and besides, if they’re only in it for the money, that can be tricky.

Another approach is to figure out who they’ll listen to.

See, if an SME doesn’t leap at the chance to create a course with you, they’re probably not going to listen to you, no matter how good you are at begging.

So if you can’t sell them on the idea, sell it to someone else.

For an SME who works at a typical organisation, that ‘someone’ is probably their boss. You’ll need to get the boss onside with this project anyway, since they’ll be investing some of their SME’s time into your project.

Do that first, then you don’t have to convince the SME of anything – their boss will.

For someone without a boss – maybe a solopreneur or someone at a startup – they’ll listen to their customers. If your course is something their customers will want, get them to ask for it. Then you’re helping the SME more than they’re helping you.

It’s like everything else in life: if you can get someone to want what you want, persuasion isn’t necessary.

Since the SME is used to being the expert, they won’t want to feel dumb. Course design is a specific skill, one that everyone needs but few people learn.

Instead of scaring them off, you can point them towards this course. It’s nice and short – consumable over a decent lunch break – and it teaches (and demonstrates) great course design.

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