Did you know I majored in sales and marketing?
When I got into the business school at the end of my sophomore year, I gravitated towards marketing and sales. I had worked various retail jobs throughout high school and college. I knew I liked the relationship building aspect of sales and I was interested in the branding and storytelling of marketing.
After college I took a sales rep job with PepsiCo. At 23 years old, I managed 31 grocery stores in the South Orange County area. I up-sold additionall pallets of Gatorade, built countless shippers of Quaker Oats and Life cereal, and gained a great insight of the consumer package goods industry.
Ultimately, I decided to leave PepsiCo but unexpectedly I took the lessons I learned in sales into the Boeing Company. I jumped into finance and then into project management in my third year out of college. While I’ve found that project management is a better fit, I’m surprised that I’m still using the same techniques I learned in school and on the grocery floor.
Today: I’m a project manager
As a project manager I have no formal authority over employees (I don’t have people reporting to me), but I still have to be able to motivate, influence others, and drive action. I’ve learned over the last two years as a project manager that I still need the cooperation and buy in to plan, execute, and close out projects. So today I wanted to share a few sales techniques I use every week, if not every day as a project manager. I’ve used these specific techniques to drive both employee and leadership buy in as well as accelerate cross functional teams to specific milestones and dates.
Here are the 4 Sales Techniques Help Me as Project Manager:
Sales Techniques #1: Understand & Uncover Different Types of Motivations
In my sales classes during college, I learned that people are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. In my sales and project management roles, I’ve learned that some people are motivated by doing what helps and what is best for the Boeing Company (intrinsic motivation). And other people are motivated to be recognized or to be rewarded in their roles (extrinsic motivation).
When I get a new project and have to pull together a new team of people, I make it a priority to understand and uncover how each person on the team is motivated.
For instance, I once had a manager tell me he wouldn’t move forward with making a decision with the team because he believed that executive management needed to make the decision. After I learned this was a requirement for him and his greater team, I went ahead and brought the decision to executive management. I got the agreement and approval from several levels above and the manager agreed to be involved in the project we were driving.
This manager was extrinsically motivated by the direction formally flowed down by executive management. He needed to hear the buy in at the top before he could buy into the project himself.
You can learn more about types of motivation here.
Sales Techniques #2: Use Open Questions
As a project manager, I’m not an expert in how to design or build an airplane but I need to understand how and why the process works the way it does. I work heavily with engineers and mechanics who are experts in their field. Because I don’t have the expertise, I need their help and cooperation to complete projects and tasks.
I use open questions to learn their statement of work, their pain points, and how they fit into the greater business of the Boeing Company. I also ask if they can identify the problem or challenge with the process or product.
By taking the time to understand their piece of the business, the mechanics and engineers realize that I’m truly trying find the best solutions that would improve cost, time, or safety in their teams.
Sales Techniques #3: The Option Close Technique
I’ve worked on long term projects that have been going on for over a year and a half. I’ve also worked with short term projects that are 3 to 6 months. Regardless of the length of project, I’m typically driving to date of completion. I’ve learned to use the option close sales technique over and over again to get people to commit to finishing their actions by a certain date.
Here’s how I use the option close technique:
“Hi “INSERT NAME HERE”,
“Thank you for participating in the initial workshop for X PROJECT. Will we be receiving “X ACTION” by Friday or next Monday? Please advise and I’ll include it in the agenda for the next team weekly meeting.
In the option close technique, you’ve assumed that the person has already committed to the sale OR committed to the action. I don’t ask when they can provide status or completed work, instead I provide two options and ask which day they’re going to provide it by.
Sales Techniques #4: The Assumptive Closing Technique
In the assumptive close technique, I simply assume the sale or buy in from the team. I use this technique once I’ve build a good relationship with the team and I need to schedule follow up meetings. For instance, I’ll ask:
“We had great discussion around X PROJECT today. I’ll be scheduling follow up meetings with each of the airplane programs. “INSERT NAME HERE”, we’ll start with your team. What day works for you next week?”
Then I’ll send the meeting notice out to the person or team right after we wrap up the meeting. Using this sales closing technique has helped me continue the momentum of teams. I’ve been able to meet with teams consistently once a week to implement or vote on new changes as well as gather feedback to take to leadership.
What did you major in college? Did you find what you learned has helped you in the different roles you’ve taken on in your career?
For more career related advice and lessons:
Thank you for reading!
Photos: Karya Schanilec