8 October 2009

Project success requires sales

Melissa Raffoni gives us “Eight Questions to Assess Your Sales Organization.” She is discussing sales in the context of CEOs and their organizational priorities.

When you look at a project team it, too, is an organization with suppliers, customers and stakeholders. So these prompts for CEOs might be useful for the project leadership community.

I’ve lifted Melissa’s questions and offered my own thoughts on each topic. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

"Ok, tell us again, what's your value proposition? Why should customers choose you over the competitors?"

Who and what are your competitors?

Firstly there is the option to simply not run the project and instead invest into another problem or opportunity. Ask yourself where your project sits against the strategic goals of your organization. If you can’t draw a straight line to a significant value proposition you need to be asking yourself whether the project is really viable.

Secondly, will other projects and business priorities cause you problems? Will you have trouble hiring people, and buying the tools and equipment you need? Will you have the right people for the job?

Thirdly, why are you building a software solution? Can the product be bought? If so, what has made you decide to start from scratch with all the costs and delays this entails?

"What is your sales process and how does your organizational structure map to it?"

The sales process is one of listening and mapping value back to your capability, and helping your customer make the decision that the value proposition you offer is the right one for them.

Stop and think about that for a moment.

Now think about your requirements management process.

Is requirements management sales? Does it incorporate sales? Do your requirements people think (know) they are in the sales business? Do they have the skills to do this work?

If you have a requirements management plan, how does it map to a structured sales process?

"Do you think your overall cost of sales is where it should be? What makes you think that? Are you comparing to an industry standard or mapping to a projected financial model?"

Back to requirements management. What portion of the project budget is allocated to requirements management? What portion of that work is allocated to the sales part of the job?

Does this feel right to you? Do you need to put more in? Or less?

“What key measures are you using to track sales effectiveness? Do you have a sales dashboard?"

In the enterprise project space this sounds like tracking stakeholder satisfaction. How do you measure this? I know many of you are tracking stakeholder engagement, but does engagement matter as much as satisfaction?

And what is the right thing to measure? Working software is a good option. Prototypes are another. But if you can’t quickly get to something tangible, what are your alternatives? Are they good options or bad ones?

"If you believe there are two ways to drive sales--increase the funnel and/or increase the close ratio--what are you doing to achieve those increases?"

For me this question asks me about the front and back phases of a project. Are we shooting for many diverse benefits in the business case, or focusing on just one or two main goals? Are we delivering on our targets once we get to the end of a project?

"Is sales compensation driving the right behaviors?"

Rewards in the enterprise are a tough thing. The HR structures appear to be removed from line management with the express purpose of blocking rewards for good work. (Is it just me here people?)

So without addressing money, are we rewarding the right things?

Defining what Success is for projects is slippery enough. How do I optimize the measures I use to get the best out of my team?

"It's a new world, how are you taking advantage of it?”

New world = new technology + new modes of interaction.

Modern project management, requirements management and software development tools add a lot to our capability. Even more important are the industry lessons that have been learned and shared via blogs, forums, newsletters, podcasts and other media. You don’t have to repeat the mistakes of others.

What have you learned about your trade in recent months?

“Do you have the right people?”
Every investigation into project success and failure highlights the importance of people. Projects are impossible without good people. But no-one is perfect, nobody is always at the top of their game, and not everybody is an experienced and motivated expert.

So I have two questions;
  • What can you do to make your team perform to the best of their abilities?
  • Are you checking with your people before you make promises about schedule, scope and costs?

With that I leave you to reflect and maybe book yourself on to a sales training course. Let me know your thoughts.

Picture from Wisconsin Historical Society CC at Flickr here

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