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Recently my company insists that the PM should be strongly engaged in sales activities like writing offers, negotiating with clients, supervising the sales process. Sometimes it happens that the PM leads the process from client request to order.

On the one hand it is good because when the project is starting PM knows what kind of work it will be, and also he develops his skills.

On the other hand, such operations sometimes interfere with actual PM's work, forcing him to do tasks, which in my opinion does not fall within the competence of Project Manager.

I wonder if it's a good direction in PM's work, and how common it is in the IT industry.

So, is it correct / valuable to have the Project Manager also conducting sales activities for the same project? What are the benefits or caveats on this approach?

  • good comments, my industry is residential roofing, I have worked for my father and four well established companies locally. We did the traditional Sales staff and Production staff then you had upper management and back office. I'll just mention we transitioned to Sales & Project Managers and during a hail storm we were so busy with Production we had little time to sell, we were given assignments/leads from a Sales Manager and were required to meet with homeowners within 48 hours. At first I would have 10-20 leads a day and would tail off to 5-8. When we sold the job we wrote the work order, ha – user21296 Nov 25 '15 at 17:39
  • I'm not sure what this has to do with project management. – Mark C. Wallace Nov 27 '15 at 12:11
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I consider it beneficial when the PM is deeply involved in the sales process. Quotes, contracts and statements of work all define the environment in which the project will be done and therefore what the PM will be dealing with.

Being able to be part of it from the beginning increases the chances of being successful. Here is a short blog post speaking specifically to being involved with contracts, for example.

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The PM role should not be selling. But the individual who occupies such a role will likely also occupy a sales role, too. A one trick pony is no longer a relevant or an appropriate type of employee in today's competitve work environment. If you are not selling, there is no work for a PM to do. If this individual does not have the competence to play in the sales cycle, then (s)he is no longer competitve.

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I tend to agree with David, that nowadays we need to do all at once.

But I see a point (not specifically a caveat, but something similar) to be taken into account when going for this model (as far as I can see):

Usually salesman is the person who tells the client that a couple of people will do magic in half a month, while the PM is the person to halt and remember that the work will take at least 4 people and also doubling estimations.

In the end, having the sales person also managing projects will make projects being sold less attractive (mainly because they'll be more realistic than optimistic) BUT also with higher chances to meet the agreements.

Cheers

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Consider yourself lucky to be included in pre-Sales discussions. Most problem projects are set up to fail from the beginning. Whether it's an unrealistic budget, or forgotten requirements, bad things happen when the PM is not involved in pre-Sales. You want to be involved in these discussions, and find a way to invest the time for it. If you save 40 hours by skipping the early pre-signature customer meetings, plan on spending 400 hours down the road.

  • 1
    I second this because of the first two sentences. – Valentin May 14 '12 at 21:33
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It depends on the industry, and how you define 'sales'.

As a construction PM, I have always been involved in the bidding/estimating, and contract negotiation process. Part of this reason is that I have the expertise and past experience in the construction process that the sales/business dev guys may not. The second, and most important, is that once the contract is negotiated and signed, I'm the one that has to live with it and bring the project in per the terms. My being involved insures that I'm in agreement with what we're committing to.

True that this may not be a direct comparison, but it illustrates that sometimes there are a lot of overlaps between the PM's job and the other processes involved.

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Actually, I find it very important to be involved in the process of creating an offer and talking to the customer. In many cases a sales representative does not have a complete overview over the project and there are only questions which can come from a tec guy.

In my eyes the involvement should be limited, though. I don't spend more than an hour for small and not more than 3 hours for larger offers.

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Having a PM involved in sales and pre-sales engineering is extremely useful for the client, the company, and the PM but I am concerned by this portion of your question:

On the other hand, such operations sometimes interfere with actual PM's work

If this sales related activity has been added as an afterthought to someone who is already fully loaded with work, this could be a very bad idea. Sales related work has urgent deadline after urgent deadline with really unpredictable workflow. That can easily lead to burn out.

If the company finds the PM involvement useful, they need to add people or shuffle job duties to accommodate the workload.

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Where I work, 95% of the time a PM is involved with a project as soon as it gets past the point of introducing a prospective client to our company. This includes (at various levels depending on the project) product discovery, requirements gathering / analysis, proposal writing / reviewing, and wrangling estimation (actual estimation is done by developers).

Just a few of positive side effects:

  • better continuity in client interactions, client can talk to the same person throughout the life of the project
  • client's generally feel more comfortable knowing that the people making the promises are those that will have to meet them
  • fewer handoffs of knowledge leads to fewer cases of dropped information or corrupted information
  • PM is able to bring up questions (and identify risks) early in the discussion process rather than when implementation time comes
  • PM gets a better feel for the overall shape of the project, more of the "whys" behind requirements, and what the client's true goals are - all of which lead to being able to make better decisions during the life of the project

The only real downsides:

  • we have a harder time filling these roles (whether hiring from outside or training people into the role)
  • we have to understand that this extra work does take time (I don't know whether this is truly a "downside" as much as a basic fact)
  • One more downside about extra work which taking time. Often it affects the current work in other projects, which also is much, so you have to assume a very different trade-offs and try to get any of the subjects has not been neglected. And this is often not that easy. – Paweł Wawrzyczek May 21 '12 at 16:23

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