In nearly every case, I witness and experience the act of selling as a Project Manager. On a daily basis, I provide to my clients the same exact steps as a consultative sales professional does. There are two distinct differences between the sales professional and the Project Manager:
1. The Project Manager doesn’t “sell” as a full time job – it is a skill that is needed for parts of the project management method.
2. The Project Manager rarely “prospects”.
The first difference should not come as a shock – the fact is that PMs have lots of skills that we use to great affect that don’t consume a huge amount of bandwidth. The second difference may not make any sense if you have never had the fortune of selling or have been exposed to the selling process.
Like project management, sales methodologies are varied and numerous. The basis for all consultative sales processes is the same underneath all the fodder. They are to prospect, define a specific need, develop a solution, convince the customer that you can fulfill that need and close the deal. We all know how to perform a needs assessment (at some level), and how to develop a solution, gain buy-in and reach a decision to go with a specific plan. This parallel to the selling process is where the savvy PM can leverage the work performed by sales professionals for themselves.
Prospecting, on the other hand, is strictly a sales process step. You might relate some early steps in the PM process to prospecting, but I think it is a stretch. When a sales professional prospects, they are seeking opportunities to continue the rest of the process of selling with prospects and ultimately to make the customer happy, fulfill their needs and get paid. PMs rarely go through these steps – and thank goodness! Prospecting is what typically drives half of all sales persons out of selling altogether. The fear and dread of consistent rejection is enough to make them take up new lines of work.
Recognizing the role that selling has in your personal PM toolbox, you can leverage these selling skills and techniques to ensure you can “close the deal” with your projects. In the next entry, we’ll talk about how.