You may not realize it but as a project manager, you are also in sales and marketing.
Sure, your primary job may be to plan and execute projects that are delivered on time, and within budget and scope.
But if you’ve created a great product and nobody uses it, have you really delivered to value?
If you’ve made something but it’s sitting on the shelf not being used, the intended value is never realized.
You may work with an organization that has sales and marketing teams to handle that work with external customers.
But what if your customers are internal to the company?
You likely won’t have a marketing team to share the information with your internal customers.
Or maybe you need to get buy-in from challenging stakeholders.
In these cases, you’ll need to not only play the role of project manager, but also do some sales and marketing work.
I’ve had multiple jobs where I’ve needed to do this, and it becomes more obvious over time that it’s a key component for successful projects.
You may not have considered that you’re already selling.
If you’re a parent, you’re constantly selling why your little one must get dressed, eat her veggies, take a bath, brush her teeth, and share her toys.
Spouses sell the appeal of that special vacation or new piece of furniture.
Friends sell that restaurant they want you to try with them.
My friend Kim sold me on hot yoga, even after I almost threw up the first time I tried it. Her past career was actually in sales, and she easily talked me into it. And I almost threw up the second time. It would take an amazing salesperson to make me try it again.
And at work, you need to be selling. You may not have realized it before, but it’s a key part of your job as a project manager.
And it can elevate you to new levels of leadership once you understand why.
5 Reasons to Think from a Sales and Marketing Perspective
Here’s why you as a project manager need to think about your project like a sales person or marketer:
1. You Need to Get Customers Ready
If you want to make sure your customers know about your project, you need to get their attention.
If they never hear about your project until the day it’s ready, they’ll be unprepared.
They need to be ready for the rollout. There are changes and adjustments the customers need to make. You want them ready.
If they’re not ready, this could cause more work for you. And even worse, it may delay your rollout. This
If customers aren’t ready to adopt the solution when you give it to them, it can impact the user experience, productivity, and even team morale.
2. You Need to Create Buzz
It’s good to share information about your project with your customers directly. But it’s even better if you can create excitement about the product and get others sharing the information, too.
You’ll have to work less if others are doing some of the work for you and sharing information about your product. If you can get them excited, then they’ll talk about it with others.
I’ve worked on and seen projects where customers were so excited about the project that they were asking if they could move their adoption dates sooner. This isn’t always possible, but it can be good to have people ready and waiting for you when it’s time.
3. You Need to Know How to Position Your Product.
You need to know how to position your project in the context of the larger picture.
If your project
When talking about your project you need to help other people understand not only what your product does, but what it means and how it fits in the context of the big picture. In order to best do that, you need to be able to think about it in different ways.
Understand how your project fits in the big picture of the organization and why it’s important from that perspective.
4. You’re Competing for Dollars and Time
There are limited resources and only so many projects that your company and team can do.
Organizations are working with limited budgets. Teams are working with limited numbers of people. And that often means that you’re competing with other projects for those precious dollars.
You need to think like a salesman when writing business cases and going before portfolio prioritization boards. You’re selling your project and competing for funding.
5. You Need to Make Customers Want Your Product
You and your team have worked hard on the project. You may know how wonderful it is and how much it can help the customers. But this doesn’t mean they’ll feel the same way. Helping them see the value and selling them on its merits can result in better adoption rates.
And even if your customers don’t have a choice and are required to use it, helping them see the benefits can produce a smoother adoption.
For example, if you have to retire a legacy system with a newer solution, and the employees are forced to use the new system, they don’t have a choice. But users often resist change and complain every step of the way. This isn’t pleasant for anyone.
When users resist the change, often they skip training, don’t make the effort to learn how the new system works, and this can result in added support activities for the team.
As a project manager, take time to understand pain points of the old system. Learn what they care about and how the new solution will make their lives better. This increases the chance of a more successful transition.
The users will more readily embrace the change and that may mean less work for the team in the long run.
Customers are happier, the team is happier, and you’re happier.
Ask yourself why your customers will want your solution:
What’s in it for them?
How to Make People Care
Just because you know how great your project is, doesn’t mean others automatically do, too.
There are many opportunities to share information about your project, and times when it’s absolutely critical.
And you’ve got to be ready, so don’t wait to prepare.
Look at your project from different angles and different perspectives. Think about it from the perspective of stakeholders, customers, and executives. Ask yourself what they care about and how you can make the product meaningful and appealing to them. What’s the business impact your project will make? What’s the value it will deliver.
Why would anyone care? What’s in it for them?
To better understand customer needs and desires, you can interview them via focus groups and Voice of the Customer sessions.
When you talk about your project or product, use language that resonates with your audience. Focus on what’s important to them.
Executives care about…
- Strategic goals
- Increasing revenue
- Saving money
- Saving time
- Increased efficiency
- Regulatory or legal compliance
Users care about…
- Ease of use
- Saving time
- Less frustration
If you can’t answer for yourself why anyone should care about the project or why it’s being done, you have gaps in your knowledge of why the project is being done.
If that’s the case, ask. It will help you communicate better to the different audiences you’ll interact with.
You need to make people care about your project.
Especially since you’re likely competing with other projects for funding.
And getting users ready and eager to adopt the solution will make the roll-out easier for everyone.
That means a happier project team, happier customers, and a little extra time to celebrate.