Choosing Who Should Write Your Content

This article is an excerpt from Proposal Best Practices by David Seibert. You can read more about the book here.

There are few things in the world as difficult and challenging as asking people who are not writers to write something. So how do you teach your SMEs and other staff how to write if they really don’t want to? The answer is you don’t. You don’t ask them to write anything.

Writers write, everybody else supports the writing effort

What role do SMEs and salespeople have in drafting content? This question is a contentious issue in many organizations. Some argue each of these groups should be intrinsically involved in drafting content, that it’s part of their job responsibilities. Others argue they shouldn’t be involved at all; after all, they are salespeople and SMEs, not proposal writers.

I’ve struggled with this question. I’ve even argued both sides of the issue. After long and careful deliberation, though, I’ve concluded SMEs and salespeople should not be writing proposal content.

There are exceptions, of course—there are always exceptions. If you’re a small company, without the resources of a huge company like a GE or IBM, you may not be able to afford a dedicated proposal writer. Indeed, I’ve been involved in projects where everyone from the president of the company to the receptionist was involved in preparing, writing, editing, reviewing, or assembling a proposal because the company wasn’t large enough to have anyone dedicated to the function.

This exception aside, we shouldn’t generally be asking our SMEs and salespeople to be writers. Salespeople and SMEs still need to be involved in the process, of course, but these people are not writers, so let’s stop asking them to be something they aren’t.

Proposal writers add value

A good proposal writer knows how to take a complicated, technical dissertation or convoluted explanation drafted by SMEs, doctors, scientists, and academics, and then translate it all into something mere mortals can understand.

SMEs and salespeople don’t always have this ability. That’s because they’re not writers. Your company doesn’t hire SMEs or salespeople because of their ability to write, you hire them because of their specialization in whatever it is they do. So stop trying to make them do something they either don’t want to do or aren’t very good at. Instead, let the proposal writers do what their good at–writing effective proposal content.

So the rule is this: writers write, everybody else supports the writing effort.

David Seibert is a professional salesperson and consultant for businesses that respond to formal procurements in non-federal markets. Dave publishes a comprehensive curriculum of online, self-paced proposal training classes, delivers onsite and online proposal training programs for dedicated proposal teams, and provides proposal and business development consulting services for businesses that want to improve their win rates. 

Dave is founder and president of The Seibert Group, a proposal consulting and training organization serving businesses that sell to other businesses, A/E/C firms, schools, and to state and local governments. Dave authored the popular proposal book, Proposal Best Practices, is active with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and is a member of the APMP Speakers Bureau. You can contact Dave at [email protected].

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