Yes, you even need to know how to sell

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on July 10, 2009 in: Branding, Project Management

In medium-to-large organizations, middle managers have a real project management challenge: They need to run their part of the organization efficiently and implement programs and projects to do their job effectively. And, in order to do that, they need to get buy-in from levels above them (for sponsorship and project funding) and levels below them (for the roll-up-the-sleeves work required to implement the project).

Sorry to deliver the bad news, folks, but this requires an ability to sell. Now I suspect that those who like to sell are in the sales department and that those who prefer to do anything other than selling are in other departments. You may have joined IT because you liked IT; sales was never something you’d consider doing. You may have joined a product-development department because you liked R&D, branding, and bringing products to market; sales was never something you’d consider doing.

But, if you want upper management to give you the money you need for a project, and if you want your subordinates to put in the necessary effort, you need to sell the project to them.

Internal sales is similar to external sales (except with the advantage that you don’t have to cold call). So here are a couple of sales tips to help you:

First, focus on the benefits. For upper management, focus on the benefits of the project to the company. Will it earn more revenue? Will it solidify customer loyalty? Don’t confuse these with the features of the project, which merely describe the project itself. Instead, focus on what the company will get out of the “deal”. For subordinates who are expected to squeeze this project into an already full schedule of work, focus on what this will do for their careers – perhaps turn them into superstars or achieve tenure.

Second, be prepared to discuss objections. Upper management will talk about the cost of the project so use hard evidence (perhaps from case studies or market tests) to show how their investment is small compared to the return they’ll get. Subordinates will talk about not having the time or attention to give to yet another project so point to other successful projects in the company and highlight how project participants have gone on to bigger and better roles in the company.

Third, lay out your expectations and be prepared to talk about why a lesser commitment is unacceptable. For example, be specific when you request a large budget from upper management and be prepared to point out exactly how the project will fail with a smaller budget. Or, be specific about your request for specific amounts of time and effort from your subordinates and be prepared to point out exactly how the project will fail (and their careers will falter!) if they don’t give it the focus it needs.

Many people who enjoy selling go into sales, leaving most other roles as “non-sellers”. But when a new project is on the horizon, selling is a skill that everyone needs!

Happy Blogging!

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