Friday, June 10, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Salesperson/Project Manager (PM) as Relationship-Builder

When selling a complex job, most information is shared with the people who must execute at the start and finish of each job—at the start, because the job has to be done; and at the end, because the job’s run into problems and now everyone’s backtracking to find out what happened. (But getting the most info at the start of the job doesn’t mean you’re getting the best info).

Over time, this sense of working in a dark vacuum makes individuals tired and wary, and more prone to being task-oriented. Departmentally, this produces the silo effect, where everyone “minds their own business” and don’t freely and easily communicate across departments on anticipating quality concerns (“if it’s going to hit the fan, let it hit in someone else’s area”).

But the success of any company lies in how well each employee understands how their function contributes to their client’s goals. A good PM will convey that, not only at the start of each job, but throughout the process, because those discussions invite people to contribute problem-solving ideas. And this generates excitement and ownership.
  • The PM must be a people person — he has to like working with people. At some level, the individual has to understand that humans are flawed, and human communications is an imperfect process, so the PM anticipates and addresses those gaps before they become has a hair-trigger temper. A sense of humor helps.
  • She needs to have strong liaison skills. This would include skillful, patient listening even when everything’s hit the fan. Also, trust is a big deal to a good PM, because she knows an unreasonable, one-off buyer of talents or services will not have lasting work relationships. Her career contains longterm work relationships, and the trust she inspires will be one of her employer’s intangible assets.
  • He has a Rolodex of preferred talents and services but is not tied exclusively to any. Whenever possible, he checks out new talents and services to keep that Rolodex well-supplied. He maintains currency of relationships with all vendors involved on the project, and shares accountability with accounts payable to make sure those vendors are paid promptly.
  • She keeps a calm, proactive head when all others are deeply stressed or acting out. She’s not a whiner, but focuses on finding solutions and taking action.
  • He is diligent at tracking and following up, and understands the needs of different people within the plant—ie, everyone can feel more ownership of the client’s project, and more comfortable with what’s expected of them, if the PM is willing to talk through production issues and questions with them as the job is evolving, not merely at the beginning or the end of each job.

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