Recently, I wrote, The Next-Gen Sales Methodology. In it, I posited that project management and problem solving methods are core to a much more modern sales methodology. Be sure to read that, to understand the thinking and rationale.
Let’s first understand the basics of project management.
- Project management is basically a work plan/process that enables us to accomplish our objectives in a disciplined, effective, and efficient manner.
- In good project plans, we identify a goal we want to achieve and a target completion date. For example, we might have a project to design and launch a mobile phone. We establish the goal to be able to announce, launch, and ship it by a certain date. That’s the end goal, when we meet it, we will have completed the project.
- In complex projects, such as designing a phone, we establish some key milestones to help keep us on target in achieving our goals. In this case, milestones might be to 1. Establish the product design goals, 2. Complete the prototype design and testing, 3. Finalize the product design and release to manufacturing, 4. Develop the launch, marketing, and sales plans. 5. Begin manufacturing. 6. Announce, launch, begin shipping the product.
- In establishing the milestones, we set dates for reaching those milestones and the goals for each milestone. Again, project completion really becomes the final milestones.
- There is never a single path through the milestones, there are, almost always, multiple parallel paths, to achieve the final goals, each with their own milestones. For example, we may be doing design/prototyping in parallel with marketing and sales developing launch plans and materials. Manufacturing, may also be putting manufacturing capacity in place, sometimes before the product design has been completed.
- With each milestone, there are lots of activities required to achieve the milestone. Some of these activities are conducted in parallel, some are conducted sequentially.
Below is how a project might be mapped (there are all sorts of mapping technologies)
There are all sorts of tools that we can use to help us better map, measure, manage the project. There are agile and lean tools we can use to help us in this process. “Scrums” are a tool to help us identify where we are, where we might have problems, and what we might do to fix them.”
One fundamental principle of great project management, is that great project managers try to keep the end goal fixed–both in terms of what they are trying to achieve, and when they are trying to achieve it.
As the project faces delays, as new things arise, great project managers do everything they can to keep the goal and completion date fixed. They reassess and adjust the project plan to achieve what they want at the date they need to complete the project.
I can’t think of any new initiative or any change our customers undertake without developing a plan, a project plan, for how they achieve it. Project planning is something common across all parts of our customers. Project planning methods are how different functions in the organization work together to achieve things.
What’s this mean to sales?
First, we already know a lot about project planning and execution–perhaps without being conscious of it. Our sales methodology is really a project based approach. Within each of our sales stages, we have critical activities we must execute in the stage. We move from stage to stage based on achieving milestones.
But our sales process is unique to us–it doesn’t translate to the processes our customers are already using to achieve their goals.
So if we want to work effectively with our customers, why don’t we align ourselves with the way they get work done? Why don’t we look at project planning, execution and management to help them get things done?
Rather than looking at our sales process/methodology as something we do to our customers, why don’t we look at using the project management process as the way we work with our customers?
Project management is the way our customers implement change. Project management–and the rich array of tools that exist for project managers–must become the core of our next gen sales methodologies.
Problem solving tools and methods are the way we address issues that arise during the execution of our project plans. I’ll address those in another post.