Saturday, January 5, 2013

Should the Project Manager be on the sales call?

I can hear the resounding YES from all of the Project Managers (PMs). We would love to be on the call so that we can correct the misstatements and confirm the scope before the project starts. I can also hear the resounding NO from all of the salespersons. Sales is supposed to do just that— sell—and if a slight exaggeration is used to get the sale, so be it.
We all know the arguments, but let’s look at the positive and negative effects from both the PM’s and Sales’ point of view. 
The Sales Perspective
From a Sales perspective, there may be more negatives than positives for the organization if the PM is on the sales call. Does the PM really want to contradict the salesperson in front of the client? This could do irreparable harm to the relationship that the salesperson has worked hard to attain with the client. This also could make the PM look bad in front of the client. If the client has a close relationship with the salesperson, the client could be thinking that the PM is not a “team player.” If the salesperson is successful “going rogue” regarding the product or service and takes “liberties” on the benefits of either, the PM could step on the toes of a successful salesperson. Who do you think the salesperson will call first? If the PM is lucky, the PM’s manager will get the first call. The salesperson may call his manager, or worse, the executive manager of the sales team. These are negative consequences that the PM must now rectify. Also, at the next sales and PM meeting, that salesperson can use his or her clout and make that meeting very uncomfortable for the PM and the PM’s manager. This damage may take a long time to repair, especially if the sale does not go through because of the contradiction by the PM.
So, how does the PM or the PM group handle this salesperson and others like him or her? This goes back to my article on “Fostering Partnerships in Professional Service Organizations (PSOs).” This can lead to a learning experience for both organizations. With this education, professional relationships can be forged. As I discussed in that article, a meeting between the two groups is necessary and beneficial for both groups.
There are also positives that could be presented here. If the salesperson and PM have a good professional relationship, the salesperson would bring the PM to help “qualify” the sale. This only adds to the client relationship in that the client sees a collaborative effort between the salesperson and the PM. The more comfortable the client is, the easier it is for the salesperson to “discuss” other services and products that will lead to additional projects for the PM and the PM Group. 
The PM’s Perspective
Let’s face it: we want to ensure when we kickoff a project that the scope of that project is already understood by the client. It is imperative that the PM establishes this fact so scope creep is kept off the radar. However, when the PM hears questions about scope that were not discussed prior to the kickoff, the PM has a right to be upset.  It is the salesperson’s responsibility to qualify the sale prior to handing a project to the PM Group. This may mean an educational process for the client. Most salespersons do not want to do this because of the time it takes to do this properly.  However, if a salesperson is consistently handing off projects with misunderstood scope, then Sales and PM management have to have a discussion about sales education or a discussion regarding the specific salesperson.   
The first step a PM should take is to discuss scope at a kickoff meeting with the complete project team. This must be done methodically and specifically and define what is in scope and what is not. During this discussion the PM must be prepared to react to confusion, anger, and even resentment. The client may have agreed to a different type of project that what the PM has presented. The PM must have the signed contract or SOW as part of this kickoff. However, the PM should not use the contract or SOW as a tool of “I told you so” retribution. What the PM should be doing is using the contract or SOW as a tool for explanation to the client. There is an opportunity here to prove the project team’s worth by ensuring that client needs are met, even if it means a change order before the project starts.  The PM must be able to obtain agreement from the project team and to let the client present any changes to their senior management as well as the PM’s senior management.
Sales and the PM team must be able to meet in the middle regarding any difference of style and be able to educate each other during this process and each mission going forward.  
I am open to discussion at any time on these blogs or anything else related to project management you would like to explore. If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by posting on this blog or by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine.You may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

1 comment:

  1. Benny, I love your articles. As a sales coach and trainer I have some thoughts on this one.

    I think it's GREAT to have a PM on the sales call--when it's time to iron out details. The salesperson should NOT be 'taking liberties' if they constitute misstatements. So that's not an issue.

    As far as not being a team player--it's about rules of engagement. The salesperson isn't exaggerating and the PM isn't correcting him. "We'll need to take a look at that to be sure" or a similar statement works where there may be things brought up that are impractical.

    The issue shouldn't be about whether the PM is on the call or not, but how the sales person and PM present themselves as a team. The call will always work if that team effort is present.