Project Practitioners > What's Sales Got to Do With It?

What's Sales Got to Do With It?

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


“The value of attentiveness varies in proportion to its object. You are better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


As a project manager, the focus is the triple constraint of scope, budget, and schedule. If you stay within those three areas, you will run a successful project.

Nowhere does it say anything about marketing or selling. Why would a project manager need to know about these disciplines? Because you have ideas that need to get out into the world. You need to sell or pitch your ideas to senior managers or executives. The way you market these ideas help to develop their inception.

Some ideas sell themselves. They fix an obvious problem simply. Everyone can get on board with that. However, some breakthrough ideas can be hard to follow and therefore, disappear. You sound crazy, eccentric, or like a dreamer. These organizational shifting ideas are the ones that need the marketing and selling.

Grant Cardone, the author of Sell or Be Sold, gives his ten traits of a great salesperson. The quote above references small things not deserving attention. However, these ten traits should be magnified. They are small in appearance but carry major impact.


  1. Is willing to be told no.

Sometimes, it just is not meant to be. You have the latest and greatest idea, yet no one buys in. The timing is not right. The resources do not exist. Personnel does not get on board. The technology does not exist. A variety of factors add up to nixing an idea. In this case, you must be able to deal with rejection.


  1. Asks for the order regardless.

Even if the client or owner says no, still give them the offer. They may need time to think about it, and over time, they may warm to the idea. With more marketing and selling on your part, they may come around and eventually sign off. If you do not offer, there is nothing to close or negotiate. Take the next step and give an option of moving forward.


  1. Listens selectively.

There will be naysayers. You will have people who knock down an idea because they like playing devil’s advocate or going against the group is their nature. Do not listen to these individuals. They are always negative. Have a mentor or someone you trust who gives you honest feedback. An objective eye on your idea is important. People with skin in the game or the change will affect them should also be considered. Everyone can have an opinion, only few matter.


  1. Stays sold on his/her own story.

People are impacted most when a story is attached to the idea. Think of a performance or show you have watched. The emotions and connections to the performance are what makes it great. If the artist is just singing a song to get it over with, it comes through in the performance. Pour your heart out in pitching the idea you think will create a great, positive impact. Your body language and nonverbal cues give the audience a reaction. Make sure that reaction is for you rather than against you.


  1. Asks questions.

Asking questions allows you to figure out what the client needs and wants. Play to the needs of the client. Wants are icing on the cake. Essential functions present themselves through questioning. Some people might not tell you anything unless you ask. If you are given short, one-word style answers, continue to pry.


  1. Gets answers to questions.

Questions are great, but they remain useless unless you get the answers. The answers should not be ones you are looking for. Leading questions present your bias and could lead to a product or service the client has no intentions of using. Do not make the answers fit your storyline you wish to create. Take them for what they are and adjust.


  1. Knows that price is not the issue.

A client has a problem. You have the solution. Price becomes negligent. Sometimes, the higher priced item may serve the client better. A budget needs to be adhered to, but if needs come up as the project progresses, that budget can increase. Your solution should be so rock solid that it is undeniable.


  1. Is willing to pressure and persist.

Unanswered questions should be followed up. Maybe the client did not see the original email or voicemail. Maybe the person is sick or on vacation. There is a litany of reasons for someone not to get in touch with you. Take the initiative and reach out again. Continue to persist until you get an answer. If the answer is to wait a week or two, be sure to follow up again.


  1. Believes in selling as a good thing.

Selling can have a negative connotation. The used car salesman with the slicked-back hair, gold rings or chains, and a fancy suit trying to sell you a car that does not work. If that is the view you have of selling, your ideas will go nowhere. You must look at it positively. You are providing a solution to a problem, not generating more problems. Keep in mind selling your idea, product, or service is helping the client.


  1. Trains and prepares constantly.

Becoming great at anything takes time. You must put the work in to receive the benefits. Some people have natural ability. Others need to put in more effort. Either way, work is required to become great. This work includes courses, training, seminars, videos, and so on. Remain a student. Continue to progress.  No one is perfect, so there is always something to improve.



Some organizations have marketing and sales as separate departments. A project manager should incorporate as much of both departments as they can. Selling your ideas leads to projects you have a passion for. Marketing those ideas lead to buy-in from your team. Both create an environment where you are motivated to do anything it takes for this to work and your team will follow.

Projects should be looked at like a product or a service. Both can be bought and sold. As the leader of the project, use these ten tips to drive the product or service forward. Do not rely on others to realize its greatness. Show them why they need it. Make that connection with them. Give them the solution they seek.

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