By Dr. Shree Nanguneri on March 22nd, 2013
“Is it true that we should always be closing?” Should we be so focused on current project execution and revenue or should we leave it to someone else as their deliverable? Yes and No, as I recall the movie “Boiler Room,” back in 2000 when I got started in consulting and one of my roles as a project manager in my own gig was to secure contracts. My mentor said “Shree – You need to watch Boiler Room.” I had no idea what he was talking about.
I then watched the movie a couple of years later, prior to that kept promoting it to several others, when it came to closing contracts in business. By watching it, I learned a few valuable lessons not counting ones with the experience of seeking new project accounts in my business.
We learn that while the US Navy Seals rescue a hostage from their kidnaper, and use weapons in the process, one can anticipate a level of collateral damage or losses in friendly fire. Likewise, we project mangers face situations where we attempt seeking new projects we should expect a collateral damage that can dilute efforts in our current projects.
There was a saying “At Wal Mart You Are Always Next in Line.” To me it conveyed the message that they are not concerned with the customer at hand who needs their executive attention, but more focused on the next customer or next sale. While Wal Mart pitched that ad, they wanted to convey the message that my waiting time is going to be almost instantaneous or insignificant.
Thus as a project manager in a given existing contract, my work should reflect brilliance that the customer is influenced by my pull rather than the push of asking for new projects. What exactly does this mean? Do I wait for them to ask or make subtle suggestions? This is a tightrope balance and as project managers we should take the message of being aggressive as the guys in Boiler Room, however, never misrepresent or do anything that we wouldn’t want our vendors or partners or customers do to us.
So how does one walk on this tight rope without taking the fatal fall in business? The pointers listed below turned out to work well lately, as I share those toward your professional and career success.
Ask yourself these tough questions:
- If my work is so great, why aren’t they begging me for additional work?
- What more do I need to do to get the Client to talk?
- How is my client viewing my performance? Does he rave about it?
- How do I know what needs to get done now?
- Would I embarrass myself if I ask and get rejected?
- Should I risk this, leave it to my manager or wait it out?
Yes, these are tough questions if you are not quite seasoned in such matters. However, there is on assumption regardless of whether you wish to deal the hand. That would be – Deliver your 4th Dimension and shine through leaving your DNA trace of differentiation.
The uniqueness of our work leaves tangible evidence and a positive memory in the customer’s mind that opens the window, if not, a gateway to dialogue without any digression. When you have arrived, there is nothing better than just asking them directly, however, politely, as to what other areas (specify the ones that you have observed even outside your current project domain area) would help him in his KPI if you were to work projects to success? If you have done some homework on the 4th D, this is the time to share it and highlight it.
“In decades, I never had anyone come ask me for permission to be efficient and effective, they “Nike it” – “Just Do it!”
So if you don’t ask there is high chance you would never receive, and when you do ask properly, there is a great chance of getting it. Most of our managers would agree and encourage us bringing the bacon in addition to cooking it. This means, they want us to create revenue in addition to merely executing projects.
By focusing on the 3 Ds and getting to the 4th dimension, you are well placed to ask and receive. Be cognizant of subtle messages of your project success. Client will rave about it in different ways. The same professor in graduate school that condemned me for doing poorly in his class (although I lacked the background and was sitting in for no-credit, we used to call it audit), he couldn’t help raving about it to my advisor when I aced it and even beat his own favorites who were supposed to be mastering it. That is a special kind of joy, just purely ethereal.
By the same token, if I am failing in my project, I would get subtle message and sometimes louder based on the criticality pretty much written on their forehead that they don’t want me there unless I turn over a new leaf and get my act together. All sorts of messages such as a sudden delay in payment receivables, ignoring emails or shorter phrased messages, that is unusual. The socializing aspect will just drop like a sack of potatoes, and the friendly face just disappears. It is more important to ask now, but not the marketing question.
What can I do to erase your concerns or what is it that I am missing here, or am I in the noise area avoiding big smoke signals. As a seasoned project manager, you shouldn’t face this and if you did, recall the calming the customer caution in part I earlier this week on delighting the customer. If for some reason you dropped the ball, admit it and find a way to amend. This is not the time to speak to the jury or get defensive or look for mercy. Time to eat the humble pie and move faster than ever before.
So to deal your hand, as a project manager, check out a few cues:
1) Proactively shine in brilliance
2) Ask questions intelligently b watching for non verbal gestures
3) Scope out areas of future opportunity and be prepared to illustrate
4) Operate within the KPI of your client account manager
5) Don’t ask for permission to be efficient and effective – just Nike it!
Project Managers in this millennium face additional responsibilities of creating accounts in addition to running them to success. Don’t feel shy or overwhelmed and just get in and do the right thing. Work with your seniors to communicate your message and intentions and definitely avoid crossing paths with the sales guys if any.
Most importantly, it gives you better control on your schedule, timing, revenue and stability rather than waiting for the ball to drop, which may or may not happen.
Good luck to all of you in 2013 and beyond!