10-minute Conversation Ensures Your Sales Project Doesn’t Blow Up or Stall Out

When a quarter ends in a way that does not meet expectations, you’ll find no shortage of ideas to spin up new sales initiatives. Ideally, a project will have both immediate and lasting impact. But, too many fizzle out on the white board, get implemented half-way or just fade away. Here’s how to choose and execute a winner.

#1 Reason Sales Projects Fail

Sales Operations | 90-day Cycle Effective field engagement. Sales leaders are in the business of making quarters – period. They have a bias toward immediate  action because the window of time for strategic planning is short and quickly followed by complete immersion in current quarter business. Projects that don’t have sufficient focus, mind share and revenue impact cannot muster sufficient attention to change behavior and results in the field.

Social Triggers

Have you ever seen an otherwise even-tempered executive just blow up? Successful sales leaders and CEOs share a specific personality trait. They are highly committed to achieving the company’s goals and take it personally. Performance goals are so internalized they become part of their identity.

Sales Projects | Office Politics“People get upset when their expectations are violated.”

If your sales project fails to deliver, those goals are jeopardized. The emotional experience feels identical to a personal threat. You may see an extreme reaction in cases of incompetence, complacency or lack of effort. For the same reason, a positive outcome leads to trust, recognition and greater responsibility.

Understanding personal preferences and shaping expectations is your most important skill when dealing with powerful stakeholders and getting things done when the going gets tough.



Need to Know

Interview your stakeholders 1:1 prior to any group discussion. You want to validate the goal and desired outcome of the project as well as identify consensus, conflicts and landmines. You won’t always be able to change expectations when dealing with executives, but you sure better understand what those expectations are.

1. Clarity
  • We are implementing [specific change] because [past result] and we expect to achieve [future result] in the next [time frame] so that we can  [business implication].
  • Do I have that exactly right? How could we make it even more clear to the sales force so they will embrace the change?
2. Preference
  • Tell me exactly how [project outcome] will look 90 days from now if we’re successful.
3. Expectations
  • Given our time and resource constraints what would be [the minimum viable outcome] that you’d consider a success in phase 1?
  • Bonus Question:  Interesting point, tell me more about that…


Project Scope Meeting

Requirements for a “Go” decision:

  • Each stakeholder makes the project a high priority for their team
  • Stakeholders agree to a communication plan supporting the project as a field priority
  • Resources are committed and assigned to the project

In the spirit of clarity and keeping a sales mindset, remind participants that anything short of a Yes is a No. It’s common for conflicting priorities to emerge in the meeting. Your job is to make sure that you have the right people present to rearrange priorities and allocate scarce resources. If the CEO or my boss hasn’t told me this is a priority, then it’s probably just noise. Good sales reps are awesome at blocking out noise.



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About Neal Murphy

Neal Murphy is the publisher of Enterprise Sales Operations and former VP of Worldwide Sales & Operations with 20 years experience in enterprise technology.

+Neal Murphy +ESO