How great project management could lead to a great sales cycle

man-at-white-board

The project management and sales lifecycles have much in common.

Consider the main attributes of great program and project managers. Problem solving and time management skills, abilities to hit deadlines and motivate teams — these are all vital in the sales cycle. The ability to respond to an RFP in a timely fashion, with all work streams contributing and working to the submission deadline — this is project management 101.

Indeed, the ability to challenge and push-back is essential. A rigorous qualification process run by a PM is required. For example, have we been able to influence the RFP, or are we being used as ‘column fodder’?

An interesting experiment was done by Google in 2002, when Sergey Brin and Larry Page decided to create a totally flat structure, and eliminate engineering managers. Predictably perhaps, Page soon got overwhelmed by the number of personnel issues brought to him directly. Issues that managers would have previously dealt with. Google soon realized that the skills of prioritization, collaboration, communication, career development and corporate alignment were not engineering skills. They needed managers. Good managers.

It is my thesis that the sales cycle also needs good managers. And because each sales cycle is a one-off, unique event, it is ideally suited to the role of project managers.

To measure this, we could contrast the sales cycles where a PM was involved against those where they were not. From there a ratio could be obtained. If the ratios are the same, then a project manager adds no value. If the ratio improves when a PM manages the process – then the PMs have proven their value.

Indeed, project managers are already recognized for adding value within the sales cycle (as opposed to managing the sales cycle). Their provision of detailed activity schedules, communication plans, governance models and organizational structures gives confidence to the purchasing organization that the supplier can deliver.

So here is a call to action, to apply the discipline of project management to the ‘exuberance’ of the sales process:

  1. Ask a PM to streamline the sales process. Project managers hate duplication and wasted effort, and a streamlined sales process is a more successful sales process.
  2. Ensure strategy is not confused with tactics. A good PM will delegate the tactical activities whilst managing stakeholders with regard to sales strategy.
  3. Constantly engage in stakeholder management. The sales process can be long, drawn out and tortuous. A good PM can build consensus for action, set expectations and ensure all key stakeholders have buy-in to the sale.

RELATED LINKS

Extending the Scrum framework for better project management

Thank VUCA for project management!

Innovation in project management: Can it be done?

Comments

  1. Excellent article. This is especially true for sales of services (non-product) where the teams may be larger than 4-5 members and sales cycles are long and complex.

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