Being a project manager is a tough job. I get that. PMs are charged with keeping the client happy, delivering a technically sound solution, meeting the budget and schedule, coordinating the project team, interacting with multiple project stakeholders, ensuring the quality of deliverables, and often a myriad of other management, supervisory, and administrative duties outside of their project work.
I mention business development? Is it fair to add that responsibility
to an already long to-do list? According to a Zweig Group survey, only
4% of PMs claimed no involvement in BD activities. Over 80% indicated
they contribute to proposals, 60% make presentations, and 55%
participate in sales activities. That last number surprises me. I think
it should be closer to 100%.
can hear the howls of disapproval. Numerous PMs have told me they don't
have the time or the personality or the desire to get involved in
selling. Many firms seem to concur, putting little if any pressure on
PMs to actively support sales activities. But there are several reasons
why I believe PMs are needed to have a truly successful sales process:
PMs are the primary contacts with clients.
Or at least they should be. PMs are typically the ones who work closest
with clients on projects. I've seen situations where principals or
department heads assumed this role, but it's less than ideal. In
interviewing hundreds of clients over the years, it's clear that the
overwhelming majority favor strong PMs who take charge of ensuring
project success and serve as the primary liaison with the client and
other stakeholders. This role alone makes PMs the logical choice to
support the firm's sales efforts.
PMs are one of the critical assets you are selling. You
can try to sell the firm's qualifications, but most clients want to
know about the individuals who specifically will be working on their
project. Chief among these project team members is the PM. Who can best
sell the PM's strengths to the client? The PM, ideally. Not by telling,
but by demonstrating. The nature of professional services is that we
sell the people who perform the services. And the person who most needs
to gain the client's confidence, in most cases, is the PM.
Selling should be about serving.
I've encountered many PMs who were reluctant to sell to existing
clients because they feared it might taint the project relationship. I
understand their concern, if you look at it through the lens of
traditional selling. But the most effective way to develop new business
with clients in the A/E business is not by pushing your services. It's
about serving—about meeting needs, providing advice, identifying
solutions. If PMs really care about their relationship with clients,
they should be looking for other ways to help.
PMs have the right skill set for selling. If
you accept my previous point that serving clients is the best way to
"sell," then it follows that PMs (good ones, at least) are particularly
suited for this task. Who better to help clients? Strong PMs generally
are more effective at bringing a broader, multidisciplinary perspective
to the project than the technical practitioners who will make up the
rest of the project team. PMs should have client skills that readily
transfer to a service-centered approach to sales.
Despite claims to the
contrary, the skill set for project management is much the same as for
selling in this manner: Interpersonal skills, communication, problem
solving, planning, collaboration, follow-through, etc. Any PM who cannot
sell is probably not very good at project management either. And the
claim that they don't have the personality? Research shows no
correlation between personality and sales success.
Participation in sales increases a sense of ownership.
There's something about building a relationship from scratch with a
client that engenders a deeper sense of ownership of that relationship.
My observation is that PMs who are actively involved in selling are
generally more committed to keeping clients happy. Perhaps that's
because they engaged the client before the relationship could be
mistaken as simply completing a scope of work.
At a minimum, I think it's
critically important to involve the PM in defining the proposal
strategy, winning the shortlist interview, and negotiating the contract.
PMs should always be involved in determining the scope, schedule, and
budget of the project—they shouldn't be asked to deliver something they
had no part in defining.
Agree or disagree? I'd love to
hear what you think about the PM's role in sales. Next post I'll offer
some suggestions for helping PMs succeed in selling.