Tools - Pre-Sales Checklist

Do not underestimate "Pre-Sales or Concept" work activities that need to occur before you Initiate a project. The level of formality should be aligned with the Tier Rating of the project.

As discussed, before a project starts, you can set up a foundation (well worth it)..... or set up a mud pit (do not be surprised when that extra level of stress and anxiety appear - and help others understand this too).

PMI does not even do this approach justice. The PMI process groups start with Initiation.

I would like to see the following process groups:

  • Concept/PreSales
  • Propsal
  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Control
  • Closure

This also helps people understand, business, operations and projects are all in the same family, they need each other and integrate with each other to deliver ultimate value for the client.

In this very first stage, one could leverage a checklist such as below:

ID #
Project Tasks
Confirm key owners, influencers and recipients
Define Justification (e.g. market demand, business need, technology, legal, societal, client request, etc)
Analyze Sales/RFP or other project documents that are associated with starting a project
Define very high level resource requirements (money, people, material, equipment, tools, time, etc)
Identify possible sources for resources
Confirm engagement strategy
Analyze Organizational Design capability and strength associated with potential work
Review project potential with business vision, mission, mandate, values, strategy, model and objectives
Conduct peer reviews
Complete Account Plan
Complete Sales Response Strategy and Documentation
Start Project Proposal or Charter (as per methodology)
Review Key Information accuracy and levels of risk/source of error
Confirm Project approach (phased/staged workflow)
Understand negotiation strategies and boundaries
Review Plans with resources
Refine and Present SOW and PSA
Attain final approval/modifications on formal documents
Sign off on SOW, PSA and formal documents
Identify and begin Project Acceptance Table
Start a high level (informal) lessons learned / feedback forum
Present and ensure understanding of project vs operational environments and approaches to be taken
Temper the excitement of “wanting it all – or scope creep before we know what we are even doing” - with the understanding of trade-offs, constraints and prioritization (support management of expectations)
Enhance the excitement of new value for the organization
Communicate project gate closure and move to next stage

And of course, assumed it already an integral part of the Pre-Sales/Concept stage, is to ensure the value and the business case work.   WE ALWAYS do work for a return in value and the level of probability of success associated with receiving that value is dependent on the risk tolerance of the organization.  Ensure that is talked about and very clear, as always right at the start!

Thoughts - How Critical is Sales in Project Management

Some say Sales is the # 1 role in business. And business is very much made up of projects.

A great PM I know recently took 3 days of sales training which reminded me how important sales is within a project environment. 

We all need to understand, respect and embrace sales.  We are always selling tangible products/services, ideas, approaches, innovations, perspectives, and of course, aspects of: scope, schedule, budget, quality, resources, communications, risk management, procurement, safety, environment, documentation, etc.

The key for these types of sales is what we exchange for the sale.  It does not have to be a monetary exchange, it is of the more pure form of sales.  Think of it as more of a barter, which is "back to the basics" of selling.  We sell something and we get something in return.

Thus sales is critical and we must also understand what helps it become more successful. 

One thing to remember is that we all sell in different ways. I'd like to share a few tools and thoughts you may or may not agree with, but that is the beauty of sales (much like Project Management)...... there is no TRUE SINGLE approach, it depends on the person and the product/service and stakeholders involved. 

So remember the similarities between sales and project management and ensure they both receive attention.

Lets cover a few simple myths and truths about sales:

Myth - sales is about numbers, and one should expect to fail the majority of the time
Truth:  sales is about relationships and planning. With relationships come trust, that is what people want to have in a transaction or in a decision that needs to be made.  Planning provides the confidence that what you say you can do you will be able to do.  Especially if it is a plan that incorporates a systematic approach (e.g. project management methodology)!.  Often junior sales processes do not have a solid plan, thus have that high rate of failure.  Senior sales pick their battles and say no to ones that are not aligned with their plans and abilities.

Myth - all people can sell anything
Truth: there are many, many variables that make a successful sales person, and even then, you still have to align that skillset with the correct product/service to have success.  You may also be more successful selling different things at different stages of your career, simply because your different levels of patience, confidence, expectations, judging of people, desire, humbleness, entitlement, persistence, passion, etc.  Many personality traits influence success and it is very rare to see people that can sell diverse products/services within diverse cultures, environments and with diverse tools, equipment, support and training.  Sales is tough and there is a reason that it is one of the highest paid professions.

Myth - with the right training you can quickly change your sales success
Truth:  I wanted to emphasize this, so see the Truth above. Often we think to get trained and then it will be easy.  That is not the case.   Key thing is to pick your strengths and then align them to the job.  Know what style you have and what can you sell with that style. Love and believe what you do and things will follow. 

We truly live in a borderless world, where there is an over-abundance of choice.  It is less and less about the product/service, since they can be found everywhere.  And it seems that we all get too busy in the grind so often can't discover when we need to be sold something to help us get to that next level. Humans do not do well with so many choices, they buy less if there is more choice and delay longer before making a decision. Or we just stick to what works and get nervous about change.

Great people in sales understand how to bring forth and then manage a client's expectations.  Be up front, ensure the sale is clear as to what is included in the exchange.  It will never be perfect and there will be gaps, just ensure there is an incremental gain in value that follows a plan and then listen and focus on growth of the relationship to get to that next level and keep on climbing in a structured manner as possible.