Is project leadership really that different from project management? Lots of people talk about it, and it is of growing importance as projects are being executed in an increasingly more complex and uncertain environment. However, in sales very few have actually put project leadership principles into practice. Here are some core concepts to understanding project leadership in sales.
Project Management vs. Project Leadership
In general, a project leader can be a project manager, but it doesn’t go both ways. They have certain similar responsibilities, tasks and plans, carry out the projects and make sure everything is completed in time. Their roles, however, are radically different. A project manager follows a more tactical approach, with set objectives, tasks and deliverables, and makes sure that the team gets the job done. A project leader is about managing people. She or he adds significant value to the project and team by paying close attention to the people, the atmosphere and drive of those people. This inspires true dedication and allows the work to be done productively. Project leadership sets the course and motivates the players, so that project management can take us where we need to go. What will project management do without project leadership?
Practice the art of an Orchestrator
As in an orchestra, the orchestrator commands different instruments and organizes the musicians to play their roles in a musical masterpiece. It takes a lot of practice, communication and time in order to achieve the desired harmony. With a commercial project this is not different. The project leader is the orchestrator of the client, the account team and other stakeholders involved. In order for the project leader to accomplish his or her desired outcomes and converting sales leads into deals, it is key that the customer buying process is synchronized with its own (internal) commercial process. The project leader needs to take ownership and should ensure buy-in of the entire team and its customer, from start to finish and follow-up.
Stages of team formation
As the orchestrator of a commercial project, it is vital to understand the different stages of team formation. Making sure your client and (internal) commercial teams function well together takes time, and members often go through familiar stages as they change from being a bunch of strangers to a united ensemble with common goals. Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing model explains these stages, and are inevitable in order for a team to grow, face up to challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work, and deliver results effectively. When the project leader understands it and knows how to act upon this, they can guide their team and clients through these stages and support their commercial team to become more effective towards their clients.
Plan – Manage – Reinforce
These three key words are the mantra of a project leader. Salespeople should have the capability to plan and manage opportunities as a project with a clear end goal in mind as well as all the steps in between. Goals give direction to our actions and create contagious enthusiasm, also with the clients. However, if the plan is in place, it is essential to keep in mind that sales is a dynamic process. The project leader needs to be able to recognize changes and signals in the clients’ organization and adjust the plan accordingly. Sales reinforcement is vital, as it ensures the commercial teams and your client to proactively identify gaps and address them accordingly.
Sales leadership impact
Leadership is not about the control over others. It is about setting a clear direction, providing objectives, and motivating others by developing their capabilities in managing and leading their own projects. It is about empowering the team and create cohesion with the client. A good project (sales) leader wants to understand the client and communicates in a compelling and effective manner. Besides a shared vision, and nurturing its fruitful collaboration, the project sales leader is not afraid to push for enhancing the performance and cultivating learnings at the client’s organization. He or she is committed to ensure results, for both the client and own organization.
Together with our clients, we, at Motion5, support organizations to effectively implement project leadership for sales. Want to know more or get in touch? Let’s talk.