[00:00:00.130] - Chris
In this episode of Great Practices, we'll find out what the typical day of a salesperson looks like. The best
time for a project manager to get involved in a project. What project managers do that help or hurt a deal
and find out the secret to creating a great working relationship with customers and salespeople alike.
Plus, listen in as our guest, Sal DeMarco, attempts to hijack the podcast and make it his own.
[00:00:27.220] - Narrator
It's hard to say when something is a best practice, but it's much easier to know when something is a great
practice. And that's what this podcast is all about. Interviews with PMO and project management leaders
who through years of trial and error have discovered their own great practices and are now sharing their
insights with you. Now sit back and enjoy the conversation as Chris Copp uncovers another great
practice. In this episode.
[00:00:56.870] - Chris
We'd like to welcome you to this month's episode of Great Practices. And we have another great one that
we're going to be going over today because here's the deal. Nothing happens until something is sold. And
on the flip side of that, selling can't be sustained or continue unless something is delivered. So both
selling and delivering must exist for a company to be viable. But there's many times this tug of war that
comes between the sales organization and delivery people, and I've always wondered why that was. And
my realization is that salespeople and delivery people think PMO think project managers are typically cut
from two very different types of claw, so there's no set rule. And this is probably stereotyping. But
salespeople are all about relationships and opportunities and they can handle ambiguity and plans
changing on a dime. They're coming up with creative and sometimes unconventional ways to solve clients
problems. So that is a very needed skill set. Delivery people, however, are many times about schedules,
deadlines, cost containment, raining and scope, getting the project out the door so people can be freed
up to work on the next project. So this necessary friction sometimes will cause problems to arise between
a PMO and salespeople.
[00:02:23.990] - Chris
Well, that's what we're going to talk about today with our guest, Sal DeMarco, who has been a
professional salesperson for many decades now and is going to help us really to figure out how we can
get the best of both worlds. So, Sal, we'd like to welcome you to this episode of Great Practices. We
appreciate you being here.
[00:02:40.930] - Sal
Yeah, thanks, Chris. I appreciate the invite.
[00:02:43.550] - Chris
So can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you have done over your career?
[00:02:50.270] - Sal
Yeah, sure. I've been in sales for high tech sales for over 30 years, and it's mostly been in infrastructure,
telecommunications, data center. I spent some time at Cisco work for a few resellers of data center gear,
and I did take a little bit of a career change going to work for NCR selling services, meaning we would
service anything that happened inside a store, whether that be point of sale laptops, Apple products,
wireless router servers, anything. So it's a little bit different. And I actually enjoyed that, but I missed some
of the high tech engagement. So I moved into software sales, which now and I'm enjoying that quite a bit.
[00:03:42.860] - Chris
Nice. So basically you've got decades of sales experience under your belt and just really being able to
see it from a high tech perspective and infrastructure as well. So definitely sounds like you're going to
know what you're talking about.
[00:03:57.350] - Sal
[00:03:59.930] - Chris
Fair enough. Well, let's start with this. I know you're going to know the answer to this. Can you tell us what
is the typical day in the life of a salesperson help us PMO people relate to what that is?
[00:04:14.090] - Sal
Well, there's a couple of objectives that we need to do each day. Each salesperson is a little bit different,
but my first priority is an existing customer to make sure that existing projects are running well. And that's
why I'm passionate about good project management. So I'm on top of things that I've already sold
because happy customer buys more. However, as you mentioned, there's ambiguity. Plus, we do have
some stress that we've got a quota hangoverhead, and our total compensation is typically made up of
50% salary. The other 50% is Commission. So we're always looking for the next customer's problems that
we can solve and therefore bring more revenue in for the company that we're working for. And that adds
to the Commission and our total compensation.
[00:05:19.920] - Chris
Yeah. So that's a balancing act there, I would imagine then. Right. So you've got the current customers
and then you've also I mean, in the fact that your paycheck is balanced on that as well. That can bring a
little bit of stress.
[00:05:31.990] - Sal
Yeah. I prioritize. I keep a list at my desk and I cross out and change and move things up and down. I
don't know how many probably a dozen times a day because things change constantly.
[00:05:44.970] - Chris
Sure. Yeah. So again, there's that ambiguity. Right. That you guys can deal with so. Well. So when is it
then in the sales process, when you're taking care of existing customers or you're looking for new
opportunities? When would you typically engage with the PMO and or project managers? Is there a time
that's too soon? Time too late. What does that look like for you?
[00:06:09.310] - Sal
Yeah. Well, with an existing customer, we've already established the project manager, so it might be a
better discussion to talk about a new prospect.
[00:06:19.770] - Chris
[00:06:20.550] - Sal
And so I would not bring in PS until the customer knew. Well, together we determine what their issues are
and which ones I can solve. As soon as I figure that out, I try to bring in professional services right away,
not necessarily the project manager, because that comes in a little bit later. But bring in professional
services so that the solution that I'm selling can be supported by Professional Services. And usually we
don't bring the project manager in until we're really close to getting the sale. And earlier is always better.
But you don't want to go too early because what if it doesn't happen? So I don't want to waste anybody's
time. But when I feel real good about, hey, looks like this project is going to be a go. I'll ask Professional
Services, my counterpart on that side of the business, to bring in a project manager, and together we'll
explain to that PM exactly what the customer is looking for. And the time frame, as you know, Chris, is
extremely important to the customer and the companies that are providing the solution. And the customer
timeline aren't always the same. And that's where you get into a little friction.
[00:07:48.270] - Chris
Yeah. So would you say the salesperson is looking for the opportunity Professional Services is helping
solve or bring the solution to the table, and then at that point in time, that's when it's going to transition
over to the project manager. Once that solution really has been defined?
[00:08:06.470] - Sal
Well, two things need to happen. It has to be defined, and then we have to feel comfortable that this is
going to go forward. Again, I don't want to bring them in once it's defined because the customer may not
ever move forward with the project. So again, I could do that, and it's just not fair for me to bring folks in
unless we're pretty sure it's going to happen.
[00:08:28.840] - Chris
Got it. So let me ask you this then. What would happen if project manager gets involved too late? What's
the consequences of that?
[00:08:39.890] - Sal
Well, as you know, the project manager plays a very important role in the success of the project. And
again, that's why I like to bring them in as early as possible, but not too early. If you bring them in too late,
they have to scramble to understand the solution as well as what the customer's needs are. And the
customer picks up on that immediately. They sense, hey, this project manager who's responsible for the
success of this project has not been adequately updated and educated as to how this is going to go. And
the reason why they know that obvious is you really get into detail when you have a project kick off as an
example. And if that project manager stumbles and misses a couple of key dates or key important parts of
the solution, they immediately sense that the credibility may not be what they want it to be with not only
the project manager, but what they just bought, but they just wrote a big check for.
[00:09:54.220] - Chris
[00:09:54.590] - Sal
This was a very recent event, probably two or three weeks ago. We had sold two use cases to a very
large cable company for their business intelligence to be able to interconnect a database to an application
which would allow data scientists to really analyze what's going on in the business. So pretty important
stuff because business decisions are often made now with data. Right. I mean, that's how the decision
should be made. But with the technology today, there's so much data out there that you really need to
gather all of that and analyze it correctly. So that's what these two projects were all about. And the
customer was getting a little anxious because they didn't hear from us after the deal was sold. And it's
because we were scrambling to get resources. And I'm sure project managers out there shake their
heads. Yes, that happens a lot. Right. So by the time we found the resources in this case, we hadn't
found the architect and the consultant yet, but we did find the project manager. And to appease the
customer because they were getting really nervous, we said, hey, this is not a kick off, but we're going to
have a kind of a general meeting to get to know the project manager and that she'll get to know you guys.
[00:11:29.370] - Sal
Unfortunately, the professional services sales guy counterpart was not able to attend. And Thankfully I
did, because the first words out of her mouth when we got with the customer was, hey, I noticed in this
order that there's not an architect that you guys only agreed to. Consultants and architects are a little bit
higher level and more expensive resource. And I quickly jumped in and said, hey, we've already done a
very detailed discovery, and it's already architected. So in this solution, we just need a consultant to help
get these two use cases going.
[00:12:11.590] - Chris
[00:12:12.180] - Sal
And that was the first words out of her mouth. So I knew right away credibility was probably going down
and it kind of got worse from there. So we kind of focused in on the consultant, what they're going to be
doing. And then she asked the customer, what sort of skills do you need in a consultant? So I know what
to look for. And again, I had to jump in and say, we've done a discovery, we know exactly what the skill
set needs to be, and we'll have a very detailed sales, I'm sorry, solution kick off when that consultant has
been determined and customers usually know with special services that we need to take some time to
find the right resource. But those two questions right up front did not bode well.
[00:13:13.810] - Chris
And I think that brings up a valid point. Like, as far as the timing of getting them involved, even if they
come in too late, they may be asking some of the same questions. Right. And things that already things
that have already been covered. And if they had been involved at the right time earlier on, they would
have been up to speed with that. And that would have certainly hopefully helped with that situation you
were in. Were they able to recover from that situation?
[00:13:43.030] - Sal
Well, yes and no. We got a kind of a nasty email from the customer saying, hey, this is not what we
expected. And we really need to get this project kicked off properly. So we did recover. We got a very
good consultant. I mean, in a way, it was good because I demanded that we get one of the best
consultants now that we sort of fell down. And so the customer is very pleased. But I just get anxious
when I sense the customer's anxiety.
[00:14:18.490] - Chris
Yes. And I think for the most part, usually if you've gone that far in the relationship and the sales process,
they are going to give you a second chance. Maybe, but that's a big maybe, and that's probably about it.
[00:14:32.820] - Sal
That's a good point, Christian. And you mentioned this upfront about sales. People generally focus on
relationship, and we did have a very good relationship, and that's why we didn't get thrown out on our ear.
But if you don't establish that relationship and confidence, they'll say, gosh, I've got no confidence in you
guys. I'm going to move on.
[00:14:57.490] - Chris
Yeah. What are some other things? I don't like to dwell on the negative, but I do like to look at some of the
things that project managers may do that could kill a deal. What are some of the other things that you've
seen that just don't help move things forward?
[00:15:13.380] - Sal
Well, I mentioned that time frames are extremely important to both sides and usually getting to know what
the solution is and when the customer needs it by we have already talked to professional services about
when we can actually deploy this, and oftentimes when the customer needs a quick turn, we can either do
it or we can't. So if we can't, you have to be honest and say, listen, here's why we can't. And a lot of times
if you explain why, whatever that reason is, they're somewhat forgiving, or they would say, no, this has to
be done, or else we'll lose this or we'll lose that account or it's the end of our quarter. And Wall Street,
there are all kinds of reasons why something has to be done at a certain time. And usually we'll know that
upfront and we'll find the resources to pull it off. But sometimes that communication doesn't happen. The
customer doesn't tell you why it's so important. And we thought, well, I'm sure it'll be fine if we conclude
this project a couple of weeks later. Timing is important. And I've seen this happen more than once where
the project manager doesn't understand the importance of the timing, and they'll say, oh, we can't do that
in that period of time.
[00:16:43.350] - Sal
And again, you know, somebody's going to have to jump in and say, no, we talked about that. We have
the resources because a lot of project managers go by experience of how long certain things will take.
Well, there's always exceptions, and so they need to be aware of the exceptions. So I'm not saying that's
the project manager's fault, it's the salesperson's fault, it's professional services fault for not having a
really good internal kick off. So I insist anytime we're going to talk to the customer that I make sure that
the project manager is well acquainted with the solution and the time frame to pull these things off.
[00:17:27.250] - Chris
Yeah, that's a good suggestion, because you got to set everybody up for success and make sure they've
got the same information going in. And I'll tell you, I was guilty of this years ago. As a Dutiful project
manager, I would go along with some of our salespeople. And I remember vividly one conversation we
were having with a customer, and he had committed to a date. And I looked at him and I said, we can't do
that in front of the customer. And I learned the lesson that day because he did exactly. He jumped in. He
says, well, this has to be in place, and this has to be in place, and this has to be in place. And then I
walked away from there, and that was a lesson learned. It's yes. And it's yes, if it's yes, but there is room
for negotiation and there's room for being able to bring other resources to the mix or being able to extend
dates, whatever. But to just have that arbitrary and I'm sorry, but that's what sometimes we will do as
project managers have that arbitrary. We can't do that. That does not serve a deal well, right.
[00:18:35.300] - Sal
That reminds me, Chris, of a specific situation where project managers know this. There's responsibilities
on both sides. It's not just the company providing the solution. The customer has to do certain things.
When I was selling data center, they had to have the electric and they had to have air conditioning. They
had to have all these things. Racks needed to be there. The wiring needs to be there was a lot of that
stuff. And then on some more simple projects, a lot of times the installation team, they'll need
documentation about, hey, how do I interconnect? We're installing point of sale or laptops or this and that.
They need documentation from the customer that says, this is how our network works, or this is how you
connect. Simple as these are the cables we need. And if we don't get that from the customer, then the
project gets delayed. So it's also important for the project manager to be pretty stern and say, we could
meet this date. As long as we get the documentation, we get this, we get that your room is set up,
whatever needs to be done. So the project manager sometimes has to be a little bit of a bad guy.
[00:20:04.990] - Sal
And I completely support that as long as it's done professionally, because it lets the customer know we
both have skin in the game.
[00:20:14.240] - Chris
Yeah. Everybody's got to carry their own weight is what needs to happen. Everybody's got to move that
forward. And to your point, they know what needs to be done. So let me shift it a little bit. What are some
of the things that you've seen project managers, PMOs, that do help move the deal forward or perhaps
even help close it? What's the positive side of things there?
[00:20:36.190] - Sal
Well, at a high level, it's exuding confidence, right. Confidence in the team that we're bringing to the table
to get this project successfully deployed, confidence that the date can be met. It's really pretty simple to
have that confidence come from the project manager, but I think it's important for project managers to
know how important it is in your body language and your voice. And when I was at NCR, we're doing a
real big deal for one of the country's largest Department stores. And it was a huge thing where we were
going to take over all the stores maintenance from point of sale to printers to Apple laptops to even the
CEO's video screen in their headquarters in New York City. So it was a pretty intense project. And the
project manager that we had on it, her body language, just didn't exude that confidence. And there were
some comments about, well, we've never done that before, which is true, but you can kind of keep that to
[00:22:12.450] - Chris
These three words. I've got these little three word things that I work by, basically. And one of them is
competence, confidence, credibility. You got to know what you're doing, and if you know what you're
doing, that will exude confidence. And if you can exude that confidence, then you can establish that
credibility. And that's what that whole thing is about with that strong relationship. So I think in those
situations where you can exude that confidence, a lot can get done. And I've seen very successful
projects transition from professional services, from the sales side of things because of that confidence
[00:22:46.140] - Sal
Yeah, I'm going to write that down, Chris, and I think the listeners may want to do that, too. So what are
those three C's again, what was the first one?
[00:22:53.570] - Chris
So wait, am I on your show? What is the deal here? So the first one is competence. You have to know
what you're doing. Second one is confidence. If you know what you're doing, you will be able to exude
that confidence. And then the third one is that that will lend itself towards credibility. And that's a big deal,
because then at that point in time, you can say, trust me, this is what is going to happen, or trust me, I
know we haven't done this before, but this will work out, and that's a big deal in order to that's the only
thing you've got going for you as a project manager is really that credibility.
[00:23:29.350] - Sal
Yeah, I agree that last C is extremely important, and you're not going to get there without I talked a lot
about having the confidence coming in. And of course, we expect project managers to be competent, but
sometimes they're not. So that's when we have to really do extra education and internal meetings to make
them competent. Right. We want to support people. There's new project managers that come in and we
can't expect them to nail it.
[00:24:00.080] - Chris
Yeah. They got to get up to speed quickly. I mean, they're going in a million different directions and
there's outside of the box solutions coming in, and there's a lot to that there. So let me change directions
a little bit back toward let's talk about sales people a little bit more. So sales people, all salespeople are
not created equal. What have you seen with perhaps other sales people? Not you, of course. But that
causes problem with the PMO, of course.
[00:24:28.800] - Sal
[00:24:30.130] - Chris
What have you seen with other salespeople that causes problems with the PMO? And what advice would
[00:24:38.170] - Sal
Well, I think the big thing is promising something that they know can't be delivered either as a solution or
in the right time frame. That's either kind of an incompetent salesperson, uneducated salesperson, or
somebody who's just trying to get the deal and move on. I don't see that too much in large corporations
because they usually hire correctly. But some of the young folks coming up, they don't have some of the
skills that older guys do that have seen it all and kind of know how to navigate through issues. But yeah.
See if I could say this. Right. You want to under promise and over deliver. So those are just two words,
Chris. I have to come up with the third word, since she likes three words. But I think if you do that as
opposed to over promise and under deliver.
[00:25:48.230] - Chris
[00:25:49.690] - Sal
Then that's not good. The good sales people do it right. And the bad ones don't or they don't
communicate with project management or professional services. Again, there's got to be a lot of internal
communication before you have a kick off meeting with a customer.
[00:26:13.510] - Chris
Let's just pick one of those. The overseller. Right. What's a good way to work with an oversell or
somebody that over commits? Like, what advice would you give in that scenario for project manager
that's working for project manager?
[00:26:29.710] - Sal
Yeah. The worst cases you have to go to the person's boss. Right. But sometimes that's needed. But
before you get to that point, I think, again, not in front of the customer and say we can't do that and you
want to have a conversation before you get to the customer. But in this day and age, we're all moving
fast. Let's say that doesn't happen. And, you know, as a project manager, you've been around for a long
time. You've got the confidence and credibility. And the salesperson in front of the customer says, yeah,
we could do that in half the time or we could meet your date or, yeah, the solution works. I certainly
wouldn't recommend as a project manager saying anything in front of the customer, but certainly
afterwards, educating the salesperson hey, here's why we can't do this. And together let's figure out a
solution in a dialogue that we can go back to the customer and kind of save face here.
[00:27:43.470] - Chris
And you know what? I think you netted it out there's. The great practice is that the project manager and
the salesperson, they need to collaborate, they need to work together, they need to partner, they need to
educate each other, they need to communicate with each other. And in doing so, that relationship is really
what can bring the success of that project and deliver what that customer is expecting. So I think that's a
really good point as far as that would solve all problems.
[00:28:16.630] - Sal
Talk to me.
[00:28:17.540] - Chris
Just talk to me. That's it it's like whether you're overselling, whether you're setting dates, arbitrarily,
whether you're just coming up with these wild prices out of anywhere, just talk to me and we can figure it
out together and we can work through it. So I think that's great advice. Any other advice or insights that
you would offer as far as relating to working with project managers or PMOs and that whole relationship
between sales and delivery side of things.
[00:28:47.570] - Sal
I think relationships with the customers shouldn't be fall just on the salesperson. I think, again, it depends
on what industry you're in and what company policies are. But I'm big on bringing the team together also
with the customer. If you have that relationship, if something falls down, you could get back up and fix it. If
you don't have that relationship, it's going to be tougher to turn that bad situation around. So I encourage
project managers to also not just rely on the salesperson to get to know the customers on a semi
personnel basis. Make sure you get invited to kick off. A lot of times after kick off meetings, they'll say,
let's go out for dinner and maybe recommend to the salesperson, if they don't invite you, just say, hey,
I've found it helpful to be involved in these things, to also have a relationship where that helps establish
[00:30:04.650] - Chris
Yeah. So basically, just talk to me. That's all. That's what it comes down to.
[00:30:10.530] - Sal
That's right? Yeah.
[00:30:12.160] - Chris
Just talk together and everybody can figure it out heading in the same direction.
[00:30:16.930] - Sal
And then when you have these kind of offsite meetings, of course, Covet stopped that couple of years.
But once that turns around a little bit, you'll also find more things out about the project that didn't come up
because you can't cover everything in a document or kick off meeting. When you're kind of having lunch
or dinner, invariably work comes up. Of course you wanted to and you find out some other things. Oh, I
didn't know that. That's good to know. Based on that, I'm going to do things a little differently. Sure. And
again, that gives even more credibility and confidence in the project management team.
[00:31:04.890] - Chris
Well, Sal, we appreciate you coming on today. This was very insightful. Just as far as just understanding
more of the sales process, understanding how PMOs project managers can partner better with
professional services, with the sales team working closely with the customers. So we really appreciate
you being on today. Now, what's a good way if somebody wanted to get in touch with you, what's a good
way for them to get in touch with you?
[00:31:33.390] - Sal
Yeah, sure. They could send an email to Sal [email protected], it's S-A-L-D-E-M as in Mary
[email protected]. And be glad to entertain any questions or comments.
[00:31:52.350] - Chris
Perfect. And you're on LinkedIn, too, I would presume.
[00:31:55.200] - Sal
Yeah, I am.
[00:31:56.040] - Chris
So that's a good way as well.
[00:31:58.050] - Sal
[00:31:59.550] - Chris
All right. Well, thanks again for your time today, and we will talk to you soon.
[00:32:04.170] - Sal
Chris, appreciate the invite.
[00:32:10.990] - Chris
And we certainly do appreciate Sal joining us today. What did were we able to glean out of today's
episode? Well, I like his description of a typical day in the life of a salesperson. He's taking care of
existing customers and projects, and then he's also balancing that with finding new customers to help
solve their problems and bring revenue into the company. What about when a project manager should get
involved? It's kind of like Goldilocks, right? Not too soon, not too late. Has to be just right, because if we
bring in a project manager too early, we waste our time. If the deal doesn't move forward, if we bring them
in too late, we find that they have to scramble to get up to speed and become educated. So I liked his
criteria of the timing was, number one, can this project be supported? So Professional Services has been
involved? And they say, yes, this solution number one, can this project be supported? So Professional
Services has been involved? And they say, yes, this solution is viable. And two, is there a good chance of
this project moving forward? Now, you'll have to determine what that is for your company.
[00:33:22.890] - Chris
But if the percentage is high and it says that it can be supported by Professional Services, that'll be the
perfect time to get a project manager involved. Now what about the horror story of that project manager
that wasn't up to speed starts asking a lot of questions that have already been answered certainly
undermines their credibility. Now, we could certainly blame that on the salesperson who didn't invite them
or debrief them earlier, but it's also within our right as project managers to demand that debrief or to be
able to understand what that project is about before we're sitting in front of the customer. So certainly
something to keep in mind as well, because it's up to us to exude that confidence. That's when
confidence that comes across in our body language, in the voice and the questions that we ask and how
we carry ourselves and part of carrying ourselves the correct way is not being so quick to say no. I also
appreciated his point there because we as project managers are probably wired to say no because it
doesn't fit in with this box or within this scope or within this timeline, but maybe just reposition that a little
bit and say yes if this happens or yes but this won't get done until later so we can at least move things
forward, start getting things done with the caveat that some things may happen later or if other things
happen to be true.
[00:34:56.110] - Chris
And I like the point about the different types of salespersons that there are like what about the one that
will over promise or overcommit how do we work with somebody like that? Just have the conversation not
in front of the customer but just before we're meeting with a customer? Maybe after met with a customer,
but you need to have a United front and the only way that can happen is with communication. So again
we'd like to thank Sal for being on today. We certainly got a lot of great practices out of that conversation.
And speaking of great practices, if you have one that you'd like to share, go to thepmoleader.com click on
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[00:36:05.420] - Chris
So thanks again for listening to this episode. So thanks again for listening to this episode and keep
putting great practices into practice.