Episode 117 – Project Manager: How to Get Along With The Sales Team

Episode #117
Original Air Date: 11.17.2020


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Our Guest This Episode: James Morse

Ever been burned by your sales team? Did the sales guy promise the customer something that doesn’t exist? When the sales team promises something the project team cannot deliver, no one wins. Many project managers are unaware of the pressure placed on the sales team to close deals. Our guest, James Morse has been in both roles. He offers recommendations on how the PM can gain a better understanding of the role of sales team, and he helps us walk in the shoes of a sales guy to feel that burden.

James offers advice for project teams who have to deliver what sales has sold and recommends paying attention to changes in contract language, addendums, and Statements of Work (SOW). Hear why he recommends performing a SWOT analysis with the sales team, and why sales professionals should be kept engaged in the project from start to finish. Healthier communication between the project team and the sales team leads to valuable accountability and improved project success. When PMs and sales teams work in concert, great things happen.

James serves as Vice President Product Management for BrandMuscle, a leader in integrated local and channel marketing, serving over 300 of the world’s top brands. He has grown within the BrandMuscle ranks from new client implementation project management, to leading the sales engineer function, to his current role, applying project management best practices within all areas of the organization.

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"...as you balance that relationship with sales, you naturally develop a trusting relationship between the project team and the sales team. And that’s so helpful because then I trust the salesperson to deliver something correctly, and they trust me to actually deliver on that and make sure that that project gets in time, is in budget, is in scope, and it delivers a happy customer."

- James Morse

"...they don’t want to tarnish that reputation or relationship that they have by promising something that the team can’t deliver on."

- James Morse

"I wish I had early on in my career better understood that it’s going to happen, and here’s what I need to do afterwards, instead of proactively being afraid of failure as I went along in projects."

- James Morse

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The podcast for project managers by project managers. The sales team and the project manager – how to improve that complex relationship.  Advice for the project teams who have to deliver what sales has sold and why sales professionals should be kept engaged in the project from start to finish.

Table ofContents

01:56 … Meet James
03:06 … BrandMuscle
04:17 … The Sales Guy’s Perspective
08:56 … The Pressure on the Sales Team
11:37 … How to Deliver what Sales has Sold
15:17 … Project Handoff
17:20 … Scrutinize the Contract
18:48 … Advice for the Sales Team
21:33 … The Project Kickoff
23:57 … Sales and Identifying Risks
25:13 … The Project Handoff
26:56 … Leadership Influencers
28:07 … Career Advice
29:42 … Connect with James
30:23 … Closing

JAMES MORSE:  …as you balance that relationship with sales, you naturally develop a trusting relationship between the project team and the sales team.  And that’s so helpful because then I trust the salesperson to deliver something correctly, and they trust me to actually deliver on that and make sure that that project gets in time, is in budget, is in scope, and it delivers a happy customer.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  This is our opportunity to meet with you and talk about issues that project managers are facing today.  We hope you’ll continue to tell us what you like and offer your suggestions.  You can leave a comment on Google, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or whatever podcast listening app you use.  You can also leave comments on the Velociteach.com website or on our social media pages.  I am Wendy Grounds, and with me in the studio is Bill Yates.

BILL YATES:  Wendy, we’re going to have a fun conversation today.  We’ve got a great topic.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes, we have.  And we have a great guest, too.  So his name is James Morse, and he serves as the Vice President and Head of Product for BrandMuscle.  He’ll tell us a little bit more about BrandMuscle coming up.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  And James is unique in that he served the project manager role and also the sales role, project manager first in his career and then later in sales, and so really what we’re going to talk about is the hatred between project managers and sales.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I’d say a particularly strong dislike.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, there’s so many project managers who have discovered that their sales team has made some promises or overcommitments that now the project manager and the team have to deliver.  So we’re going to talk about that.

WENDY GROUNDS:  I think so, we’re going to boil it down to communication.

BILL YATES:  Yes, we are.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Let’s talk with James.


WENDY GROUNDS:  James, welcome to Manage This.  Thank you for being our guest today.

JAMES MORSE:  Thanks for having me.

Meet James

WENDY GROUNDS:  Can you tell us how you started your career, and how you ended up in the role that you’re in today?

JAMES MORSE:  Yeah, absolutely. So I think I’m very lucky to, right out of school, have gotten an opportunity within project management, which I think a lot of my peers didn’t necessarily do.  They started with other careers and kind of paced into that, so I really hit the ground running.  I was doing new client onboardings and implementations, which has really just been a lot of the breadth of my career when it comes to project management.  And then I’ve slowly just transitioned into different opportunities, typically in SaaS and software, which has taken me to where I am currently with BrandMuscle.

So I’ve been with BrandMuscle for a little over seven years, similar background even within the organization.  I started with new client onboardings and implementations in the project lead role and just slowly grew within that to project manager, to senior project manager, leading our team of project managers within implementation, and then transitioning to more of that pre-sales role, the sales engineer, solutions consultant, however we want to think about that.  And then ultimately I actually just moved into our product team, leading up our entire product strategy space.


WENDY GROUNDS:  Tell us about BrandMuscle, the company that you work for.

JAMES MORSE:  So we fall into the – we call it “Through-Channel Marketing Automation.”  So if you look at the analyst space, that’s the title and terminology they’ll use.  But really what it is, is technology that empowers channel partners of all types.  And when I think of channel partners, ultimately these are people who sell products and services through a channel on behalf of our clients.  So it could be a nationwide insurance agent.  It could be a Pandora jewelry retailer, a franchisee, an alcohol and beverage distributor.  Ultimately they take corporate brand assets, their messaging, the advertising, co-op funds, really demand generation activities to drive local sales and market locally to reach their customers, and so that’s where BrandMuscle steps in.  So we offer both software and services to act on behalf of corporate at that national or global level to enable local marketing.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Where are your offices based?

JAMES MORSE:  So we have four offices in the U.S. – Cleveland, Ohio; our headquarters is in Chicago; Kansas City; Austin, Texas.  And then we have two offices in India, in Bangalore and Noida.

The Sales Guy’s Perspective

BILL YATES:  James, the experience that you’ve had with BrandMuscle I think is going to help you relate to so many of our listeners, and the fact that you’ve done project management.  So you’ve also been the liaison between a project manager and the sales team, and you’ve done the sales role, as well.  Which brings me to the elephant in the room, which is many times project managers dislike, despise, want to torture the sales team.  Do you agree with me that that can be the case in many instances?

JAMES MORSE:  I completely agree.  I wouldn’t even limit it to just project managers; right?  The entire organization can sometimes loathe the sales team.

BILL YATES:  Yup.  Yeah, it’s a love/hate.  I mean, if you don’t have sales, you’ve got nothing.  You’ve got to sell something before any other business will happen.  So it is the catalyst.  But all kidding aside, I mean, there are times when we can look back on our careers as project managers and go, wow, that project was especially difficult because there was a miscommunication between sales and the customer and us, you know, the team that actually had to implement it.  So that’s the elephant in the room that we thought, this is the perfect opportunity for us to discuss this issue and share some advice.  There are some reasons that sales and project managers, sometimes they don’t get along.

And one of those, I think back, because a lot of my background is software, many times we would go in as a team to implement a solution, and we had a very clear understanding of how this was going to work.  We’d done these types of projects before.  And then we realized the salesperson has sold vaporware to our customer.  There’s a capability that doesn’t exist, and we’ve got to figure it out, and so many times, you know, we’re finding that out in front of the customer.  The customer says, “Okay, well, Bill, I’m excited about you and your team doing XYZ.  So this is going to completely change how we do our business, and we’re excited about it.”  And I’m looking at him going, “Whoa, it doesn’t work that way.”


BILL YATES:  So that’s one of them.  Wendy, we were talking through this.  Sometimes it’s a scheduling issue, too.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Yes.  Sometimes there’s a bit of unrealistic timing.  The salesperson could have said, oh, yes, we’re going to have that done.  We’ll have it done before Christmas, or before the holidays or something like that, and this isn’t going to happen.  Timing is off.

BILL YATES:  As a project manager, you are meeting with the customer, and you realize, okay, there’s a disconnect here. So James, maybe bring us some fresh ideas, help us look at it from both perspectives since you’ve served in both roles.  Share the perspective of the sales guy.

JAMES MORSE:  You know, I don’t think it’s very different in the grand scheme of things from us as project managers; right?  Ultimately, the salesperson wants to do right by the buyer, the client, the stakeholder, however we want to think about them.  It’s just in a different term, and so I think that a lot of times the salesperson might not be ingrained into the everyday activity.  So we talk about software; right?  They may not know every little bell and whistle the software can do, and oftentimes they may hear something and think something else, and so there’s just a disconnect there.

So at the end of the day I think that their intent is pure.  I think sometimes that the execution could be off.  And you know, oftentimes I think that even as project managers, whoever we deliver to, the client or even internally, who our stakeholders are, might think the same thing about us at times.  I was given this project.  What do I do with it, whatever it may be.  It’s just where do we look at that in the overall stream.  So I think that moving to the sales role really helped put that into perspective for me, having done project management.  And honestly, that’s how it was sold to me within BrandMuscle.  Because that elephant in the room is how I felt about sales, is I had been delivering projects and being handed things that, when I think of that iron triangle, right, its scope, its cost, its timing, I thought all the sales team cared about was the cost.  They wanted to look at it from a top line revenue perspective.  And I cared about all three.

And so I think moving into the sales role helped me understand where they were coming from because that still is a lot of it.  That’s their job is to deliver new sales to the organization.  But ultimately what I wanted to do with that sales organization is explain the other sides of that triangle.  You know, there is scope that we need to make sure is properly defined.  And there’s timing that needs to be properly set.  We can’t be aiming for the end of the year, a Jan. 1 launch, when we all know that there’s time off to think about around the holidays, for us and the client, at all times; that they’re doing it just as well.  So how do we communicate those other sides of that triangle to make sure that we understand what our deliverables are?  Or even if one changes, it’s going to impact the others.

The Pressure on the Sales Team

BILL YATES:  That’s good.  I think as we’re talking about this, you know, having an understanding of both roles, one of the pieces that was helpful to me was just starting to get a better appreciation for some of the pressures that the sales team were under, knowing what did success look like for them, what are they being gauged on, how are they being compensated.  The better we understand that, the better we’ll understand those potential risks or potholes that we could step into.

For many of my friends who are in sales, especially on the IT side with very large companies – Lenovo, Microsoft, HP, et cetera – they just had a ton of pressure.  I’d talk with them and they would tell me about some of the sales numbers and projections that were put out there for them to hit.  I mean, some of the numbers were just so big.  I think about, okay, this is the pressure they’re under.  It kind of helped out with my understanding of, all right, now I can see what pressure they have to close the deal and perhaps have some surprises, and what I as a project manager have to then implement?  But maybe you can speak to that a bit more, just some of the pressure a salesperson has.

JAMES MORSE:  Yeah, so I think the pressure’s always there, and to your point, it’s very much revenue driven.  And it’s not even once a year, right?  It’s not around a fiscal calendar, it’s on a quarterly basis, a monthly basis these goals get broken down into, and expectations, and so really their job’s on the line in a lot of times.  And so I think that there’s heavy expectations for a salesperson to deliver. 

But ultimately I think it goes back to that perspective of salespeople don’t want to deliver something that can’t be completed by the organization.  They have a reputation at hand.  There are so many great salespeople I’ve worked with over the years who developed client relationships, and they sell to those buyers multiple times at multiple different jobs and roles because they trust that salesperson.  And so they don’t want to tarnish that reputation or relationship that they have by promising something that the team can’t deliver on.

So I think understanding those internal and external pressures are both very important, and it takes a village.  I say that all the time as a project manager, it takes a village, and so I think it does for the salesperson, as well.  I think that as much as the salesperson’s a part of our village as project managers, it has to be reciprocated.  We’ve got to be a part of theirs and help educate and inform and make sure that they can do their job easier upstream, which downstream will help us even more because they’re promising things that are within our scope, that are feasible, so that as project managers, when we get to that seat at the table, whether it’s a kickoff meeting or even knee deep in the requirements, there’s no large surprises because that impacts everyone negatively at the end of the day.

How to Deliver What Sales has Sold

BILL YATES:  That’s so true.  Okay, so I think this is a good time to jump into this next question, which is given the role of the salesperson, the role of the project manager, what advice do you have for those project managers who have to deliver what sales has sold? 

JAMES MORSE:  So I think a lot of it comes with role clarity.  And so I think that’s just an internal piece of it, understanding where those handoffs happen internally so that externally they’re not fumbled, which I think we’ve seen quite often.  At least I personally have experienced it quite often, to deliver on those things, it’s setting the expectation.  I guess I’ll use an example that’s outside of project management that’s with my wife.  So my wife’s a speech therapist.  And whether you know what a speech therapist does or not doesn’t matter to this.  What she finds in the hospital world is that nurses, doctors, et cetera, don’t understand when to bring her in.  So she’s constantly educating these other teams.

And I try to steal this from her because she does such an incredible job of informing them of when to bring speech in.  When does it make sense in the overall patient care?  So I think the same can be said about project managers.  When do we utilize this?  And it’s not once the contract is sold; right?  That’s not going to be successful for any of us, it’s in the sales process to again help inform but also be informed.  What’s coming down the pike that we’re going to need to deliver on so that we can properly resource, that we can make sure the scope is in line with what we can deliver on all of those things as project managers we know are important.

I think the other thing is with that internal transition is doing those internal kickoffs ahead of time.  So this is something that moving to a sales role I really strived to implement within BrandMuscle as a whole was teaching our sales team or working with our sales team to do a SWOT analysis.  So overall with the opportunity, what are our strengths?  What are our weaknesses?  What are our opportunities?  And what are the threats?  And really taking that and understanding, okay, here’s our overall opportunity.  Here’s our project at hand.  Well, what are my external factors and internal factors?  What am I working with, and what’s working against me?  And ultimately I think that that starts to feed into your project plan as a whole.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, completely agree.  Let me just interject one thing, James, because I am, man, I am totally with you on that, and I love the idea of the project manager, maybe some other key team members meeting with that salesperson and talking through doing SWOT analysis, talking through it.  Hey, you’ve been there talking with a customer.  What have you seen so far?  What kind of resistance are they getting internally, or are they all supportive of this?  Are there key departments that you feel like are either engaged with this, that we’re going to need their support?

  Or are they too busy?  They’re completely slammed with whatever they’re doing, and then this looks like a risk that we should put in the risk register; right?  You look at those threats and our internal weaknesses.  Those should show up on the risk register, so why not have the sales team help us identify those, since they’ve really had the first eyes on that customer? 

JAMES MORSE:  Yeah, 100 percent.  I think if there is one thing I wish I had been told early on in my career, just jumping into project management, I naturally just looked at requirements and said, so how do we get there?  So what I didn’t take into account early on was the relationships that you’re working with, and the different personality types.  I think a lot of that’s in that SWOT analysis, as well, then that leads to the risk register of a big risk is this person who may be anti your corporation. 

They didn’t want to choose you, they wanted to go with the incumbent or another vendor; right? So that’s a good thing to know as a project manager.  It’s managing the project, but it’s also managing so many different personality types as part of that.  There needs to be a leadership component there, and so I think as much information as we can garner from the salesperson, the more success we’re going to be able to have.

Project Handoff

BILL YATES:  I agree completely.  I think back to past projects that I led, and, man, I left so many opportunities on the table because I did not have those conversations with the sales team.  And so I should have, you know, they would have been helping us out, helping us think about risk, think about engagement strategies that we should have had.  And also, if we continue the conversation of the SWOT analysis, there may have been opportunities that we missed out on, or there could have been other modules of our software that would have fit in very nicely if I had gotten the sales guy to go back and ask a few questions about another department.

These are opportunities that we can exploit, we can really capitalize on, but I think you’re the perfect person to find those out for us.  So I feel like I’ve missed opportunities in the past with projects where I just didn’t – back to your point.  Just give me the requirements and what you think they are, and then we’ll go find out what they really need, and we’ll go make this project happen.  It was such an “us versus them” with the sales team, so that was missed opportunity.

JAMES MORSE:  And that’s a tough thing to overcome.  I think that sometimes the sales team, because they’re so revenue focused, thinks that I just need to get the revenue in the door and hand it off.  Going back to success and how to do that handoff, so I don’t think that it should be a cold handoff.  I don’t think the salesperson should just hand off anything and leave the table, I think that they still need to be involved.  And I don’t think that’s a primary point of contact or necessarily the primary voice in the room during these things.  But they need to understand what’s being delivered.

It also helps us as project managers ensure that there’s no surprises, or the client saying, “Well, you know what, Jake in the sales team told me this was okay.”  We want to make sure that we don’t have any of that.  And I think keeping the salesperson involved helps the relationship, but ultimately makes sure that there’s cross-education on both sides, that they understand what’s getting delivered. So it just helps them in their next opportunity to set the stage for what’s going to be delivered in the process; right?  So many buyers want to know, well, what’s the process once I’m done here?  And it helps them better articulate that.

Scrutinize the Contract

BILL YATES:  That’s so good.  When we had a conversation before, James, you shared really good advice about checking out the contract.  So back to that basic question of, as a project manager, what are some of the steps that I can take to make sure there are no surprises from the salesperson?  And this is something that we talk about a lot in our project management courses, which is I’ve got to look at the contracts first.  I need to be familiar with the contracts because that’s when I’m able to, as a project manager, look and see what little Easter eggs the salesperson has hidden for me.  So, you know, you talk about standardized contracts and looking those over and having those conversations, say a bit more about that.

JAMES MORSE:  Yeah, I think that moving into the sales role, that was a large impact I wanted to make, as well, which was standardizing all of that product language for us, being in software, but it’s that contract language no matter what.  What do those deliverables look like?  And then it helps you quickly flag what’s not happening or what’s new to a contract that may not have been there before, and that’s a big piece.  And then have the conversation with the salesperson, or even the client and stakeholder at that point of understanding what does this mean to us?  What does this mean to them?

Honestly, so the contract oftentimes in projects is my bible, it’s the first thing on my desktop.  I’m referencing it at all times, just making sure as we go through those different stage gates that what we’re delivering on is within that contract, and so it helps with scope creep at the end of the day.  It just makes sure that we stay in line. So we’re not gold-plating anything, and we’re not being pushed to deliver more scope that we haven’t promised to deliver.

Advice for Sales Team

WENDY GROUNDS:  What advice would you have for the sales team to help them understand the role of the project manager?

JAMES MORSE:  That’s a great question, so it definitely has to go both ways; right?  I think the project manager needs to understand the sales side, and then the sales side needs to understand what they’re delivering into.  I think it’s just cross-pollination of meetings helps quite a bit, and again, I mentioned having the salesperson still present during the project is huge, and it doesn’t have to be every status meeting or every update.  They need to be informed.

So when I think of – I do RACI charts for all my projects, they’re always in that informed column.  Sometimes the consulting column, but always in informed.  I want them to understand every step of the process that’s happening so that, A, they can flag something that might be out there, or identify even an opportunity for them, what may have been missed during the scoping process, during the sales cycle, that they can correct later on.

A big one for us at BrandMuscle is we always have a user-accepted testing.  So when we’re delivering software, we want them to be able to test on it, whether it’s Agile or Waterfall, however we’re delivering that.  We need to get their hands on it and approval, and oftentimes before COVID that was a face-to-face meeting that we always wanted the salesperson to be involved in.  They could see what was delivered based on the what was sold.  So I think keeping them in those major transitions within the project definitely helps.  Honestly, it makes the buyer and our stakeholders feel more comfortable, as well, and then again, it helps them develop that relationship over time.  So, you know, if the goal for that individual is to sell to them at a later date and time, it helps with that. 

BILL YATES:  That’s true.  When the customer’s in this position where they’re having to educate the organization as to, oh, here’s what we agreed to, here’s what I was expecting, it’s awkward, right?  So your point of keeping the salesperson involved throughout, that makes a huge impression.  And I think specifically of CEOs, they’re impressed by it.  They notice when the salesperson stays engaged throughout the life of the project.

JAMES MORSE:  100 percent. So I think that trust is this understated variable in all projects, and it happens as project managers.  We need to develop trust with our clients, with our stakeholders.  Sales team has to build trust, and so I think as you balance that relationship with sales, you naturally develop a trusting relationship between the project team and the sales team.  And that’s so helpful because then I trust the salesperson to deliver something correctly, and they trust me to actually deliver on that and make sure that that project gets in time, is in budget, is in scope, and it delivers a happy customer. 

And so I think as the sales team can continue building those relationships which can lead to referrals or more projects, I trust those things coming through.  So it’s such a natural balance between these things that we just sometimes don’t appreciate overall when it comes to the relationship-building process.

The Project Kickoff

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it’s funny, so I’m sitting here thinking this is a lot like marriage counseling.  It’s like the project manager and the salesperson, they just need to understand each other.  So one of the things that you mentioned regarding communication is the project kickoff meeting involving sales and the project manager in front of the team and in front of key stakeholders.  Say more about that.

JAMES MORSE:  I think it’s very helpful, especially to kickoff, that’s where I see the most pressure from the client.  So oftentimes the client or customer you’re dealing with isn’t actually the buyer, they’re not putting pen to paper on that contract.  Their superior, their superior’s superior was doing that.  So these are typically the people who are in the weeds, know the pain points the best, and so they’re going to push and ask for things because they’ve assumed that whoever did put pen to paper was doing it for everything.  Everything was right, all the I’s were dotted, T’s were crossed, but that’s not necessarily the case.

So I think having the salesperson there can level set on the relationship that they’ve had.  I haven’t had as the project manager a relationship with that buyer necessarily, but my relationship is at this level with the person who is project managing from the customer side.  So I think it’s always good to have that person there to influence the conversation, to give background on why decisions were made, or even what decisions were made, and it forces us all to be on the same page right from the very beginning.

And it also forces us to level set on what that project is.  There are so many times now where I hear a customer say let’s take a crawl/walk/run approach, that’s great.  I’m all for that.  I think sometimes that is the best way, especially as we look iteratively in an Agile space.  So what are those Phase 2’s and Phase 3’s that they need?  And then it helps the salesperson go back to their customer and say, hey, this came out from our team.  So is this something that we need to look in and potentially sell enhancements on that project just down the road?

BILL YATES:  I think it’s such a strong message to the team, too, just to know that, here’s Rick.  He sold this gig that we’re about to go implement, and he seems to have a real depth of knowledge and understanding, both of our product and of the customer and the customer’s needs.  So for everybody to be on the same page and to see that throughout the organization, to actually have that salesperson in that meeting, answering questions from the project team, in agreement with my project manager, that just gives me a lot of confidence.

Sale Team and Identifying Risks

JAMES MORSE:  Right.  And we talked about earlier, you know, starting off with that risk register of having that SWOT analysis kind of flow into it, the risk register sometimes is one of the first artifacts that I create in a project.  I think that, if you don’t have a salesperson in that kickoff meeting, then that risk register blows up.  There are so many nuances and new items that come out of that meeting that can be mitigated just by having that salesperson in the room to help level set.

BILL YATES:  That’s so funny, I’m sitting here thinking about some of the project management framework and the different tools and techniques that we do in projects.  And again, so you think about bringing people in to identify risks, what a perfect person.  How about the one who spoke with the customer right from the beginning, identified their need, and then convinced them that we have a solution that’ll work?  So that’s the perfect person to have in there to make sure that we start the risk register the right way.

JAMES MORSE:  Absolutely.  I think as project managers we’ve all heard a customer say, “I told the salesperson this.  We’ve already talked about this.”  That’s the worst, trying to uncover their pain to really understand why we’re delivering on a business need, and so to your point, the salesperson has all that information.  So treating them as a partner within the process in the project is beneficial, and it helps all parties involved, there’s no risk involving the salesperson in that regard.

The Project Handoff

BILL YATES:  So as I’m thinking about this, I’m thinking about the beginning and the end of a project.  At the end of the project, the organization I was a part of, for a number of years, we got pretty good at doing that transition where, okay, so we’re finishing up the implementation.  Now, your team is trained up and knows how to use the software, if you ever need support, this is where you get it, so here’s the maintenance team.  Here’s the team that’s going to support you.  So we got better and better at that transition and knowing what information they needed to have so that they knew how to fully support the customer.

And so on the front end, yeah, how many times do we ask the same repetitive question to that client where they’re just rolling their eyes, going, “I’ve already answered this.”  I hate it.  If I’m on the phone with customer service and they say, you know, “I’m going to have to transfer you over to another department,” and I’ve already given my account information and verified address and all that, and then boom, second person comes on, and they’re “Tell me your name” again.  I’m like, come on; you know?  It’s annoying.  So how many times have I done that as a project manager where, if I had just on the front end of the project engaged the salesperson better, more effectively, we’d all look better as an organization.

JAMES MORSE:  Bill, I completely agree, so I look at it as the deliverables that I hand off to internal teams, internal stakeholders at a project launch, what of those deliverables do I wish I had had?  You know, that’s a big piece of project management.  We need to know what to hand off, but there are so many times where I have done that handoff and thought, man, this would have been great to have at my point. So I really set them up for success, I wish someone would do the same for me, I wish I was being set up for success.  And sometimes I think, going back to the elephant in the room, that’s why there’s so much distrust and uncomfort with the sales team.  So how do we help them deliver that so it is more cohesive across the engagement?

Leadership Influencers

BILL YATES:  James, so I want to ask a leadership question.  Looking in your past, who has influenced you as you’ve grown as a leader?

JAMES MORSE:  You know, I wouldn’t say it’s one person. So I think it’s a group of people, going back to “It takes a village,”  not to just beat that one.  I think that one of the things I was challenged with early on in my career was to find a mentor, and not just one, but multiple.  And I’ve had the luxury of finding some really incredible mentors, both within the organizations that I’ve worked and outside of the organizations.

I think that getting involved in your community really early on in your career, or later on, it doesn’t matter which, really introduces you to people that you might not meet in your everyday career.  So that’s really helped me find mentors externally that still work within my industry, my environment, whether it’s project management, whether it’s software-specific, whatever it may be.  I think there’s been a group of mentors that I’ve always felt I could go to to ask questions and just get feedback before making decisions.  And I think as a leader within any organization you need that, especially that wins externally, to make sure that you are making the right decisions, not just for you but for the overall organization, is crucial.

Career Advice

WENDY GROUNDS:  James, is there any advice that you wish you had received early in your career that you can leave with our audience?

JAMES MORSE:  I think a big one’s not to be afraid of failure.  I think that, as a project manager, there’s a lot of pressure on us to deliver that project successfully, and the pressure’s coming from all angles, whether it’s the customer, internal stakeholders, sponsors, there’s so much there.  But failure can be defined in so many ways.  But being afraid of failure I think ultimately caused more risk than not.

There are certainly projects looking back on that I think it shoulda, coulda, woulda done these things, and I think a lot of that was just fear of failure. So I think some of these ones where I have failed or the team has failed, owning that, taking responsibility and picking up from there is huge.  And so I think that knowing that failure isn’t this overarching fear – it’s going to happen at some point.  There’s no if, ands, or buts about it, it’s going to happen, but understanding what to do with that after is a bigger piece of it.  So I wish I had early on in my career better understood that it’s going to happen, and here’s what I need to do afterwards, instead of just proactively being afraid of failure as I went along in projects.

BILL YATES:  That’s excellent advice.  There’s such a balance, early in the career especially, of I don’t want to come across as cocky and all-knowing because I’m not.  But I also want to be somebody who’s willing to create that trusting environment with my team and with my customer so that I can go for it and take those chances, and if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.  Let’s quickly adjust and come about it a different way, so that’s great advice.  Thank you so much for that.

Connect with James

James, so if somebody wants to contact you, what’s the best way for them to connect with you?

JAMES MORSE:  Sure.  You can go to my LinkedIn. So I’m always checking messages that come through there, I certainly don’t ignore them, or you could just email me.  My personal email is jamesleemorse@gmail.com.  So I’m open to any communication, but feel free to reach out.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Thank you so much.  We’re going to send you a Manage This coffee mug as a token of our appreciation, just to say thank you so much for being our guest today.

JAMES MORSE:  As an avid listener, I cannot tell you how excited I am for the mug.

BILL YATES:  James, thanks so much, man.  We really appreciate it.

JAMES MORSE:  Excellent.  Thank you.  And you guys stay safe.


WENDY GROUNDS:  And to our listeners, so the good news is that you just earned some Professional Development Units by listening to this podcast.  So to claim your free PDUs, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.  That’s all for this episode, thank you for joining us, until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

7 responses to “Episode 117 – Project Manager: How to Get Along With The Sales Team”

  1. Sandy kotes says:

    Excellent podcast. So true in software development and IT settings. I run into the scenarios discussed in my new IT PM position with my current company. In a former company – over a 35 year period – we had overcome the onboarding, delivery, and maintenance transition by involving harware, sales, software developers, and implementation staff on the delivery side. We also include those groups who were doing the work and not limiting input to only management.

  2. Zeenat says:

    When claiming PDU, it is giving error. This activity was retired on 2021-01-03. In order to submit a claim for this activity, you must have completed it prior to the retire date.

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      You can still claim your PDUs! There is just a new claim process. You can take a look at this blog post about the changes: Claim PDUs
      You can also follow the updated steps on our Claim PDUs webpage The process is just a little different. Be sure to type in “Velociteach” and don’t select the choice that comes up for “Velociteach, LLC” Choosing the auto-fill from PMI won’t work. Also in the Title box, type the title of the podcast episode, or you can copy/paste the title from our website. Choosing the auto-fill from PMI won’t work, you’ll get a message that the episode is retired.

  3. Liz Crivello says:

    I enjoyed this episode very much. It reminded me of the importance of establishing and maintaining a strong relationship with the sales team. I liked that the speaker has experience in both the sales and PM role.

    I was disappointed that the episode “expired” sometime in January of 2021 so I was not able to claim PDUs.

    Did you recently introduce the concept of expiration dates to claim PDUs?

    • Wendy Grounds says:

      Hi Liz, I’m glad to see you managed to get the PDUs for this episode. I am so sorry for the inconvenience.

  4. Liz Crivello says:

    I read the VERY HELPFUL INSTRUCTIONS on the “Claim Podcast PDUS” page and I successfully submitted the PDUs for this episode after 4 or 5 attempts. It is very tricky!

    Thank you for your excellent support.

  5. Tammi B says:

    Very good podcast. Internal customers/sales is just as important as our external customers. Relationship is pivotal.
    Thank you!

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