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The Sales Process as a Project

Phil_624_Fav_2015-01-10_cmykThe Sales Process as a Project

By Phil Perkins

President and CEO, ACUMEN Corporation

In 2015 my friend and colleague Dan Schultheis, a former IBM executive and management consultant, and I published a book called “Willing To Buy; A Questioning Framework for Effective Closing”. What follows is an excerpt from a follow up book due this summer called “The Willing To Buy Coach”. I’m a big believer in following tried and true procedures during the implementation of everything from new processes to new software. In this discussion we overlay project management tools and techniques to the sales function. Let me know if you agree.


“Our company ACUMEN Corporation was founded and became successful as a result of our belief that there are certain techniques that can be employed to insure consistent and measurable positive results in the implementation of complex software systems. To be certain, managing a project depends less on a pretty Gantt chart and a lot more on setting realistic goals and finding a way to measure success along the way. It also depends upon the skillset that allows certain trained/learned behaviors to pave the way.

All well run projects have several attributes in common. Here are just a few:

  • Project Narrative – The pre-project discovery process should yield a narrative of what areas of concern need to be addressed by the software, tool or process being implemented. The narrative should include a clear definition of the goals to be attained and by what means success along the critical path will be determined and measured. At ACUMEN Corporation we call this the discovery document.
  • Assumption Set – In software implementation projects an assumption might be “it is assumed that all key stakeholders will attend the training sessions in their respective areas of interest”. In a sales process an assumption might be something like “it is assumed that the prospect has a budget allocated and will inform us of said budget”.  Those of you already familiar with the Willing To Buy Framework will recognize this part of the process as the “Money Available (MA)” pillar.
  •  Illustration of Dependencies –During a software project the dependency might be availability of a third party consultant at an exact time on the critical path. In a complex sales process availability of a corresponding consulting or technical resource to add credibility to the value proposition is a solid example of a dependency.
  • Time Pegged Project Plan –I am a believer in the building of a graphic representation of the “who, what and when” of any type of project. Many modern CRM (Customer Relationship Management) packages allow a sales representative to build a plan defining a step by step process leading to closure. Moreover, these plans can be made visible to sales management and business owners. In the world of Willing To Buy one might time peg the gaining of information to clarify the needed data in the four pillars of the Framework rather than simply the milestones such as first call, presentation, demo, proposal as is often the fallback.
  • Weekly Project Accountability Report – In the world of software implementation (you’ll pardon my frequent references to the software marketplace, my baseline for perspective) a weekly report to both the client and management is invaluable in measuring the progress of the project and setting the stage for corrective action if and where necessary. In sales the representatives should be given a standard report format and required to submit it for top prospects.”

I hope this perspective helps as you build your business and sales team.