Rupert Taylor

Rupert Taylor

October 2019

PPM| Blog

Why Sales Skills Take Priority for Programme Delivery Success

Few of us consider ourselves a salesperson as, unless we work in sales, selling is unlikely to be a part of our official job description. However, the most effective sales skills are critical to a variety of roles – particularly that of the Programme Director.

The Programme Director needs to know how to talk to people. In order to bring key stakeholders on the journey with them, they should be a master of the arts of persuasion and negotiation, and able to communicate effectively with individuals in various functions and jobs across the business. They are central to the all-important momentum and confidence required for successful delivery of programmes.

If key stakeholders are fully engaged then their project teams will be more likely to feel empowered to fulfil their role and responsibilities and understand the key milestones that they need to work towards through the programme lifecycle.

Enter the salesman

If one foundational project misses its deadlines or fails to meet its targets, it could impact the delivery of the entire programme. That’s why the Programme Director’s ability to influence their project teams and key stakeholders is so important. And that’s where sales skills come in.

There are various methods that can be used to cajole and encourage, and different tactics will work for different people. However, the key negotiation skills that any Programme Director should be looking to hone include:

  • Building trust and rapport: Employees are more likely to work effectively for people that they trust and respect. It’s important to know delivery teams, understand how to motivate them and demonstrate understanding of the issues they face in their everyday tasks. Programmes will run more smoothly as a result.
  • Empathy: Understanding people, what their motivations are, their personal objectives, their likes and dislikes is crucial to determine how you position and sell the message you need to sell to them and, ultimately, get them on board.
  • Listening actively: Listening to the delivery team’s thoughts, frustrations and difficulties will help ensure a speedy resolution to issues. Look to find a compromise that works for all parties.
  • Prior preparation: Good preparation is instrumental to successful negotiation. The more prepared that a Programme Director can be, the more likely negotiation will go smoothly and positively, and ultimately provide the desired result.
  • Having patience: Patience is a virtue when it comes to negotiation, and it is highly likely that negotiation will have to be tackled in stages. It will help the Programme Director focus on getting agreement from all parties, minimise the possibility of confusion and prevent problems arising in the first place.
  • Controlling emotions: Negotiating sensitive issues can be frustrating, but allowing emotions to take over will often worsen the situation and most likely lead to negative results.
  • Problem solving: Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is a vital skill for any negotiator. Achieving this will prevent misunderstanding and increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Sales excellence enables executive engagement

It’s essential that the Programme Director builds a rapport with the key stakeholders involved with their portfolio of projects. But perhaps the most important relationship of all is the one they build with their executive sponsor.

Ensuring their sponsor is bought into a programme and is ready to champion and lead the programme is vital to its success. For example, organisations with engaged executive sponsors hit their goals 76% of the time, versus 46% of companies that don’t have an executive sponsor involved, according to the Project Management Institute’s Pulse of the Profession study in 2016.

To achieve this requires that execs understand how a programme fits with their strategic objectives, and what is required from them as a sponsor. Once a Programme Director has sold their programme in to executive sponsors, it’s important that they keep their leadership team appraised of progress and challenges.

However, many Programme Directors make the mistake of providing execs with information that is text-based, too wordy and in complex formats. Instead, they should aim to be concise, visual where possible and aim to clearly communicate exactly what execs need to know. Only then can they begin to see the wood through the trees rather than having to search for the information that matters in generic programme reports. This will encourage more active engagement and involvement in the programme.

Kivue Perform generates customisable and executive-ready drillable dashboards at the click of a button, eliminating the challenges of using tools such as PowerPoint and Excel, and transforms the accuracy and accessibility of portfolio insights. This enables the Programme Director to provide execs with reports that provide information in a clear, concise and highly visual manner, in a format they can digest in seconds.

The Programme Director’s ability to encourage, negotiate and influence can make or break a programme. The sales skills they possess and the tools they use to communicate will play a key role in getting the programme up and running, and ensuring it is delivered smoothly, on time and in budget – whether they consider themselves a salesperson or not.

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