PM Articles > Carl Pritchard > The Wind-up! The PITCH!

The Wind-up! The PITCH!

Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP

Somehow, the whole notion of selling project management seems distasteful -- perhaps even tawdry. How could we? Why should we? We're trying to prove ourselves as professionals, aren't we? Do doctors advertise? Sell themselves?

Actually, yes. Everyone does. Even if they don't hang so much as a shingle on the door, professionals everywhere sell themselves. And in the project management profession, we should do no less. In every meeting and every encounter, we should sell the profession, its benefits, and our ability to further those goals through our professional endeavors. If we are not the "pitchmen" for our profession, no one else will be.

I just finished a class with a group of IT professionals, and their perspective on how they manage presenting themselves was compelling. Half of the group seemed completely on board in terms of wanting to promote the profession and its value. The other half seemed convinced that such insights should become purely self-evident.

Our hard work is only potentially evident. It's far from self-evident.

But we can leverage some of the basics of advertising if we're going to send a clear message that our work has value. Some of those basics?

  • Get to the heart of the message EARLY
  • Tell the receiver of your message what action you want them to take
  • Distinguish yourself

Early Messaging

The military has a practice for presentations known as BLUF -- Bottom Line Up Front. It's a stellar practice. It's a no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase kind of attitude that says "here's the real point of our meeting." A soft sell doesn't really reflect well on project management practice. It's antithetical to the practices we do. We're supposed to cut away the fat and get the job done. Sadly, we sometimes feel compelled to share a huge volume of background information before expressing why we're meeting or what we want from those in attendance. Bad idea. By the time we get to the bottom line, we may have lost them. Giving them our core message early (and often) gives them the opportunity for early agreement. That's a wonderful gift for everyone concerned.

Actionable Discussions

If you're having a conversation with someone, know what you want out of the conversation. I often speak of my best interview (when I was in the media) with Mister Rogers. Fred Rogers (the late PBS children's TV celebrity) took me completely off guard when he asked me: "When this interview is over, 45 minutes from now, how do you want the world to look different?" It's a very powerful question. It led to actionable goals, a richer discussion and a profound respect for Fred Rogers' ability as a communicator. It's a lesson we should take to heart. If there's no action behind the conversation, then we need to ask ourselves if the conversation is business or pleasure. And then, we'd better make sure that the other participant in that conversation shares our perspective.

Making Yourself Special

Project managers are special people. We take on multi-million-dollar efforts with no committed staff. We lead regulatory, development, compliance and research projects with zero formal authority. That makes us special. So we need to wear that mantle with pride. I love it when I hear project managers who know their distinguishing characteristics. Me? I'm normally "the Risk Guy." I had a woman in a class recently who defined herself as the "Requirements Queen." Another gentleman expressed that he was "Mister Rescue." Why does that matter? These are people who realize they have distinctive talents. And as such, they are acutely aware of their own value. And by knowing their own value, they can sell it. They can sell their role clearly, succinctly, and in a way that others can readily identify as prized.

It's one thing in project management to hammer away in obscurity, getting the job done. But we do far greater service to ourselves and to our profession when we know our value, share it clearly and serve others' goals in the process.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Thanks, Carl - an excellent articulation of the fact that ALL of us are selling, ALL the time, whether we think we are, want to or intend to. That said, it behooves us all (as well as our clients, both internal and external) to get good at it for their benefit as well as our own.

Thank you Carl!
Timeless advise no matter what stage of the PM profession you are in. I forgot where I heard or read that the reason we eat chicken eggs is because the chicken does a good job of "making herself special", she tells the world that she has laid an egg!!

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