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Is your project team a sales force in disguise?

Jon SwainThis is a guest post by Jon Swain, President of Ten Six Consulting.

Strong project sponsorship is critical to ensuring that your project is a success. One of the roles of a sponsor is to champion the project and the project team. This includes making sure the project gets the recognition and resources it requires. But it is not only the project sponsor who can shout about the project and spread the word about the team’s achievements.

Your project team can be ambassadors for the project and sell the story of the change you are delivering. People often worry about using the word ‘sales’ but really it’s about ensuring that the rest of the organization gets to hear about the work the team is doing and the benefits that the project is delivering.

Every project manager and team can be a sales force in disguise. You have a number of tools at your disposal to generate interest in your project. Here are five ways you can sell the story of your project.

1. Perfect your elevator pitch

You have probably heard about having an elevator pitch – a short statement that sums up the project that you can use if you are ever in an elevator with the CEO and are asked what you are working on

Everyone on the project team should know the elevator pitch. Don’t drill it into them (there is no benefit gained by having them repeat a stock phrase verbatim). However, they should all be clear about the project’s benefits and goals. In other words, if asked, every member of the project team should be able to articulate what they are working on, why it is important and how it contributes to the company’s overall objectives.

2. Tap into social media channels

Social media, like wikis and blogs, can be useful tools used within the organization. They are a different type of communication channel to monthly status reports and they can reach a different audience. They also offer a higher level of interactivity than ‘standard’ communication channels meaning that you have the opportunity to respond to comments made by the people you are trying to reach.

You can also use social media channels like Facebook pages and Twitter to reach the public outside your organization. They may also be a key stakeholder group and if you are working on a public sector project or an initiative that is very much in the public eye, then this could be a good way to sell the story of your project to a wider audience.

3. Use your allies

The sponsor is not the only person who can generate interest in the project. Tap into his or her network and try to find other key people in the company who can sell the benefits of the project on your behalf. Ask them to mention the project to their colleagues. Find other people to co-opt onto your stealth sales force and share the key messages with them too.

4. Ask questions

You are selling interest in your project, and one of the best ways to find out what people think of it is to ask questions. When you meet colleagues at internal networking events or at meetings, ask them how your project is going to help them. Hopefully they will know, but if they don’t, this is another opportunity to spread the word about what you are achieving.

Questions are also a low cost way to gather insights into the problems colleagues are facing. You can learn a lot from listening, and good sales is as much about listening as it is about offering information.

5. Create internal PR

This is perhaps the most traditional way of talking about your project. Use all the internal channels that are available to you. You probably have a staff magazine – could you ask the editor to include updates about your project? Check out the corporate intranet. If the PMO or the department who will benefit most from the project has an intranet page, could you post regular news about the project there? Most company intranets will have a section for internal news and announcements, so even if there is no central PMO page for project updates you could write a regular news piece for the intranet.

Think about ways you can generate interest in your project before it is finished: the story of the project probably includes some interim milestones. If you have a project celebration, take photos. Use them to sell the benefits of the change you are delivering. Print them on mugs or mouse mats, along with a short statement explaining the goals of the project, or achievements to date.

There are plenty of creative ways for the project team to become ambassadors for your project. Work with them to help them become a sales force in disguise, championing your project and its benefits whenever they can. What other ways have you found to spread the word about your project?

Jon Swain is President of Virginia Beach-based firm Ten Six Consulting. Ten Six specialises in enterprise project management tool deployment.

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