In an ideal world, the project management and sales teams would work hand in hand to discover, analyze, and resolve a client’s needs in a seamless flow of efficiency and teamwork. In reality, however, some sales reps have bad habits that cause a lot of stress in the workplace, for both the project team and the client.
Sales teams operate under a quota system. And when you have trouble meeting your quota, you’re sometimes tempted to over-promise to attract a sale. Maybe you commit to an overly aggressive timeline. Or maybe you exaggerate the product’s benefits. Or maybe you add in features that are difficult to implement.
Do these promises help make the sale? Maybe they do. But what the project management team gets is a complex, high-stress project that is priced too low to be worth the work. Someone is going to have to pay for the difference—either the company eats up the extra cost, or it gets passed down to the client, who will be very surprised at the additional charges.
It’s a bad sales tactic for sure, but when quotas are looming, the temptation is hard to resist. You can say no to the client, but can you say no to yourself?
Even if your sales people come from a sufficiently technical background, few of them will know enough to match a project manager or developer’s knowledge of the product. This won’t be a problem as long as the sales rep knows how to take advice. But what if he doesn’t?
When advised to choose between giving a realistic but undesirable estimate and an inaccurate but saleable one, some salesmen would pick the latter. They ignore inconvenient advice and charge on ahead, never mind that they might be getting the team—and themselves—in a difficult situation.
To combat this, any technology companies assign sales engineers. These “middle men” come from a technical background and are present during product demos to bridge the gap between sales rep and project team. They keep the sales rep’s promises grounded in reality while still offering the customer the best possible options.
Passing the Buck
When things go wrong, a sales person might dodge the blame and point fingers at the project management team. This speaks more of a person’s character than it does about the sales role itself, but it’s still very aggravating when a sales person passes the buck – especially after committing the first two sins above. Behavior like this aggravates inter-department rivalries and makes it more difficult for PMOs to work together as a single unit.
Professionals need to know how to take responsibility for their own actions, whether you’re a sales person, project manager, or team member. Passing it along may save your skin in the short term, but you burn the bridges to your own co-workers. This isn’t just bad for you—it’s bad for the company: morale-wise and efficiency-wise.
Now, it may sound like I’m condemning all sales people, but I’m really not. Most sales teams are very professional and know how to work well with the project team. It’s the few bad apples that spoil things for everyone else.
If we can work with these overzealous sales reps and help them see the consequences of their short-sighted behavior, we may be able to help turn them into selfless, conscientious members of the team. And that will go a longer way to improving the company than a few rushed sales.
Image credit, Flickr, Diana Parkhouse