B2B Sales Is Project Management
There is a striking similarity between the typical B2B technology sales process and the world of project management. Not only do they share a lot of similarities from a process perspective, but there is also a lot in common between the attributes required to successfully manage a project and the sales evaluation process.
The discipline of project management and a typical sales process both rely on managing multiple tasks, the management of multiple stakeholders (both internal and external), as well as the concept of scope and budget.
Subsequently, great project managers and great sales people all must exhibit organization and attention to detail, and the ability to lead and build stakeholder confidence.
MANAGING MULTIPLE STAKEHOLDERS
There is a lot of talk about the 5.4 stakeholders in a typical evaluation process and how to best influence that group. A big part of effectively managing the 5.4 is the ability to manage the different expectations and deliverables that each of those stakeholders requires.
The CMO who is part of the evaluation committee will, in all likelihood, be looking at a different set of criteria and need different pieces of information than the VP of Sales will. These varying needs and expectations require project management savvy on the part of a sales person.
Conversely, larger and more complex opportunities often times require the support of multiple stakeholders internally. Whether it’s pooling the necessary resources to prep and run a demo, or asking marketing to put the finishing touches on a proposal for a prospect, good sales people must build and manage relationships with internal stakeholders.
JUGGLING MULTIPLE TASKS AND DEADLINES
All projects have deadlines, both for the project as a whole, as well as for milestone tasks throughout. All sales processes do too, even if there is not a firm deadline set by the prospect regarding completion of the evaluation process (as is the case in most RFP scenarios). It’s the job of the sales person to create a soft deadline in order to maintain momentum and create a sense of urgency.
In addition to the standard tasks that are built into the sales process, every buyer will come to the table with a unique set of needs requiring additional steps. From coordinating calls with various resources, customizing or getting information ready to share, or even basic follow up work, there are many tasks to manage throughout the sales process.
Without tracking and managing these tasks in a highly organized fashion, and ensuring that deadlines and deliverables are met, the rep will lose control of the sales process. Lose control of the sales process and not only do you come across as unprofessional, but you also hand over more control to the buyer. This leads to the next component – organization.
The characteristics of a more complex B2B sales process require that the individual(s) involved be highly organized. With multiple stakeholders, tasks, deadlines, and a large amount of opportunity critical information, being highly organized is paramount. This is a foundational skill that both good project managers and sales reps must possess in order to be effective.
SCOPE AND BUDGET
Scope and budget are critical components of every project; it’s the project manager’s job to manage both. It’s also the sales rep’s job to manage both of these during the evaluation process.
However, it goes beyond simply managing scope and budget. It extends to understanding the relationship between the two and how one affects the other. One of the more common challenges in managing a project is scope creep. What starts out as a project with one relatively limited set of requirements can quickly turn into a larger project with a lot more moving pieces.
The same can be said for many sales processes. What begins as a need for a basic CRM system, becomes CRM system plus contract management add-on, and an ERP integration. The problem is that this increases budget and overall risk, and affects implementation timelines. It’s the job of the sales person to mitigate scope creep as much as possible and properly manage the prospect’s expectations around how increased scope will also impact the required investment and timelines.
CONFIDENCE AND AN ABILITY TO LEAD
Good project managers all have a certain level of confidence and subsequently an ability to lead their team to ensure deliverables and timelines are met, and overall project success is achieved. The best sales people possess these traits as well. When it comes to managing the sales process and stakeholders, sales people must steer the process and maintain momentum; this requires leadership ability.
Secondly, by conveying confidence a sales rep strengthens his ability to lead, and most importantly increases the confidence and trust that prospects have in him and his offering.
MAKING THE CASE FOR TAKING A PROJECT MANAGEMENT BASED APPROACH TO SALES
Taking a project management based approach to sales produces several benefits that will have a substantial impact on a sales leader’s ability to maximize sales team effectiveness and efficiency.
Measurability: By rigorously tracking the progress of stages within the sales process sales leaders can more easily measure and track effectiveness and bottlenecks at each stage. This makes basic reporting easier as well.
Scalability: Clearly defined and repeatable processes are the most scalable ones. Using project templates to track tasks and stages within the sales process makes scalability more achievable.
Performance Improvement: Taking a project management based approach will absolutely improve the performance of your sales reps. They will become more organized, be able to more easily collaborate with prospects, and better maintain deal momentum.
The level of organization and collaboration that project management adds to the sales process significantly enhances a sales rep’s efficiency and effectiveness. And by building project templates, and using a straightforward user-friendly project management tool like Asana or simple CRM add-on there is very little to no drain on selling time.
Efficiency, effectiveness, and measurability are the backbone of a scalable revenue machine; a project management based approach to sales goes a long way in building that machine.