Salespeople: Friend or Foe of Project Managers?

July 12, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Miscellaneous

Salespeople: Friend or Foe of Project Managers?
By Jennifer Whitt

Salespeople and Project Managers are typically two very different individuals and mix about as well as oil and water. Salespeople have the uncanny ability to over-commit, over-promise, and not necessarily be encumbered with the facts. Project Managers are then left holding the bag to deliver on these over-promises and over-commitments.

There are two choices that a project manager can make: they can either fight against salespeople or they can embrace them. I have chosen to embrace salespeople for the sake of a more successful project.

Here are three reasons why and how you can do the same:

  1. Change Your Attitude about Salespeople

    The first thing you need to do to embrace your salesperson colleague is to change your attitude. Nothing happens unless something is sold! You will not have a job unless something in it is sold. It is the responsibility of the salesperson to go out and make something happen. Granted, they won’t have a delivery on the backside of that without your involvement, but you won’t have a job without them on the front end. So change your attitude and appreciate what they bring to the table. There is a special mix of skill, intuition, and tenaciousness good salespeople have and something we can all learn from.

  2. Keep Salespeople Involved

    You can involve salespeople in your weekly standard status meetings. The more informed they are, the better for everybody involved. They may not know of all the nuances or all of the conversations that have taken place on a project, but this is a great opportunity for them to get up to speed and know what’s going on within their project. This will prevent both you and them from getting blindsided with something you may not have known about the project.

  3. Use Salespeople for Escalations

    The third way that you can embrace salespeople is to use them for client escalations. It may be easy for you to escalate within your own company. However, many times it will require the salesperson and the relationships that they have within the client organization to get some things done that may have stalled or may not be moving as quickly as you need them to happen. You can use their influence in addition to what you are doing in order to get these things done.

Throughout my Project Management career I have tried both ways of working with salespeople. I have fought against them and I have embraced them. I have found that embracing salespeople and bringing them into the process it makes for a much better project.

What do you think? Should salespeople just do a clean handoff and have nothing to do with the project once it has been sold or should they stay involved?

Jennifer Whitt, PMP is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n’ Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit

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