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What Role Does A Project Manager Play in The Sales Process?
By Nicki James

The business acumen required of a successful project manager should encompass an understanding of the nature of the organization, what it does—and where it’s going. It should also extend to include a solid understanding of the organization’s sales cycle and associated processes. The project manager should have an appreciation of the business goals and objectives for the organization, and in conjunction, a comprehension of the types of business deals and clients that are needed to move forward to fulfill those goals and objectives.

A strong project manager will be in a position to understand product strategy, customer economics, competitive barriers, the organization’s methodologies and practices, and production costs—a position effective in balancing new business acquisition with client retention and the management of existing projects.

Armed with this knowledge, the successful project manager will be a true asset when involved in the development of proposals and the definition of proposed solutions. Being involved in this manner will ensure that the resulting projects and clients are kept aligned with the organization’s goals, development, and practices.

A solid project manager can partner with sales to help the organization avoid some classic “overselling” pitfalls, focusing on and ensuring that:

  • any new products sold fit into the organization’s development model and strategy;
  • processes pushed during a sale will fit within the organization’s tactical processes; and
  • deliverables schedules are set that exhibit an understanding of organizational time, resource, and/or people constraints.

The project manager is someone within an organization who is in a position to see the big picture. The project manager already should have, as a key trait, the ability to step back, analyze situations, and see how pieces fit to become the whole.

In return, the most successful sales process will ensure that both strategic goals and the tactical practices are not overrun. The capable and reliable project manager will be aligned with these sales practices to ensure that the sales process serves to grow the organization to its fullest potential.

Overall, the answer to the question may appear too short and simple on the surface. However, if creating synergy between sales and project management were simple, more project managers would find themselves treated as a fundamental step within the sales process. Yet in some organizations, the project manager’s involvement in the sales process is still superficial, allowing interaction between sales and the PMO only after a deal has been completed.

If a relationship between sales and project management is lacking within an organization, a smart step to take would be to approach building the relationship the same way building a project would be approached. This way, relationship standards and processes can be created to ensure harmony, cooperation, and effectiveness between sales and project management.

Nicki James is a free-range project management and training professional who enthusiastically practices her trade in Austin, TX. James believes that fulfillment in one’s professional life may be found through working with logical, smart, grounded people—those who are generally remarkable all around. James works to surround herself with these types of people and wants you to, too.

James moderates Your42, a newly-launched professional collaborative blog focused on project management, training, leadership, the business of social networking, general business, whatever else is both professional and interesting—and ultimately, helping other professionals discover what they love (their “42”) through down-to-earth, plain-language posts that are both informative and realistic. Your42’s name is derived from the Ultimate Answer revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it may be found at http://your42.wordpress.com.

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