How do you picture a salesperson? Slicked-back hair trying to get one over on you by exaggerating the facts to collect commissions? This vision was always my internal perspective on someone trying to sell me something. There was a sleazy feel to it all.
This perspective changed when I realized how important sales is to project management. These two professions are not often linked, but there is more in common than meets the eye.
Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, makes a suggestion to think of yourself as Me, Inc. In doing so, this allows you to take yourself out of the equation. The skills you possess are that of a corporation, not an individual. Many people, myself included, become shy or cannot think of anything good to say when discussing themselves. We are our worst enemy.
Me, Inc. allows you to promote yourself as a brand rather than as yourself. If you have creative, design, marketing, etc. skills, you can sell your audience better.
Grant Cardone, the author of Sell or Be Sold, writes, “Only to the degree you are sold can you sell.” This quote not only relates to physical products but to yourself as well. If you are not sold on your abilities, who is? You have to trust that your experiences, education, and knowledge are the best and that you can compete with anybody on this planet.
Spreading of Ideas
Project managers have to sell their ideas all the time. While it is not a physical item, ideas are as important. You create more good with the spread of ideas than the exchange of goods. An exchange of goods is a zero-sum game. I give you money for your good or service. However, the spreading of ideas becomes additive. If we share ideas, both of us have two ideas instead of one. The additive property of idea sharing creates a better profession.
In construction, there was always secrecy. Not only between organizations but also employees within the same organization. The attitude was if your trade secrets got out, you would be replaced. This selfishness impacted the success on many projects. People wanted to shine by having lesser developed people around them instead of constantly improving their skills.
Comedy provides classic examples of this. Headlining comedians will bring a less funny person on tour with them, so the headliner seems funnier. Instead of giving the audience the best show possible, they would rather be the only star.
It is almost never price.
Cardone states the reason for not selling is “almost NEVER price.” The buyer, sponsor, or stakeholder wants to be assured your product or project is worth the difference. This mindset relates to the old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Your job is to make the buyer realize this to be true.
Why should the sponsor select your company to perform the work if they can hire a cheaper contractor? What is the difference that makes you worth more? Your project manager title turns into salesperson. You must develop a sales pitch to give the sponsor to ensure them you are worth the difference. It may be your experience, technology, craftsmanship, and so on.
Cadillac is far more expensive than Hyundai, yet you see people driving Cadillacs all the time. To those drivers, the price difference was worth it. The same may go for the sponsor on a project. To some, the Hyundai is all they need. It gets them from point A to point B safely. To others, the Cadillac is better. They want those extra features a Cadillac provides and are willing to pay the price.
Your price may be too steep for the solution it provides. Why would I hire a contractor to lay sod when all that is required is seed? The extra cost is not justified.
Projects have contracts, and contracts are negotiated. Straight forward and simple concept yet many struggle with negotiation. Agreement is essential in negotiation. Even if the other parties are being absurd, you agree then follow up with your statement. Lack of agreement leads to a separating of ways.
Concessions will be made to come to an agreement. This compromise is part of the game. Rarely does a negotiation come out a win-win for both parties. You want the ‘sale.’ The quickest way to the sale is through agreement. The best way to start an argument or escalate one is to disagree. Find where the agreement lies.
Sales may seem like a separate profession from project management but look at all the applications of sales throughout the project management profession. Selling yourself as a project manager and your organization as a good fit can be the difference in a good or bad year.
Spread your ideas to create trust. Building trust leads to long lasting relationships which lead to more work. If you see an organization struggling, offer your services to start a relationship. That partnership may keep your organization afloat in lean years.
Reduce the emphasis on price. If someone says your price is too high, relate that to the solution you are providing. You are not worth the difference in price. You will have to change your solution to accompany your price.
Finally, negotiation is an important aspect of project management. Contracts and requirements are essentials to getting work done and getting paid. Your ability to negotiate will be the difference between success and failure.