As sales professionals, we don’t tend to talk much about project management–at least from our customers’ points of views. Sure, within our own organizations we have lots of project going on–but somehow we don’t tie project management to the work we do with our customers.
There’s a lot of talk about the customer buying journey, frankly, I’m rethinking my views about a lot of the buying journey discussions. But one of the most important parts, at least for sales, is when the customer commits to change. At some point, the customer determines, “Our current ways of working are no longer satisfactory, we need to change!”
The buying journey becomes more focused and purposeful. At this point the customer buying journey intersects project management—even though customers may not think of it that way. The customer has established a specific goal or objective. They have a timeframes in which they hope to achieve that goal. They are beginning to establish the steps, actions, dependencies they need to accomplish on the path.
For those of you experienced in project planning and management, you are starting to see some of the common elements of those disciplines emerge.
Effective project planning requires us to have:
- A clear definition of the problem and the goal we wish to achieve.
- Identification of the critical steps and actions that have to be taken to achieve that goal.
- Identification of the resources and dependencies needed to achieve the goal.
- Identification of the risks that impact the attainment of the goal.
- Understanding of the dependencies and sequencing of activities that must take place to achieve the goal.
- Development of a schedule, with milestones in which to track our progress.
A project plan, once established is never static. Things that weren’t anticipated arise, problems arise, perhaps a slight shift in objectives. The plan is constantly updated–but the end goal, both the objective and timeframe for completion is held constant, as much as possible.
Project managers know that it the project completion slips for each challenge faced in the project, nothing would ever be accomplished. As a result, they do everything they can to continue to adjust and manage to the critical path, keeping everything on schedule.
When we step back, reflecting on buying and selling, effective buying and selling is nothing more than good project management.
Are your customers establishing a project plan–one that clearly defines the problem they want to solve, when they want to see the results, and what they need to do to achieve those goals? Many struggle with this, it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to help them establish that plan.
Think of your sales process, it’s nothing more than a project plan. We establish a goal and a timeframe we want to achieve the goal. (Close a deal by this date). We outline the critical things we and the customer must do to achieve that goal.
Project planning and strong project management are critical to getting things done.
Help your customers achieve their goals by establishing and managing the project–remember the project isn’t to buy, but to solve a problem. Buying becomes a critical activity in that plan.
Leverage project planning to increase your own effectiveness in closing deals.