What is Discovery ALL about?

Let’s start with “how valuable is the Discovery process”?  No matter what you sell and who you sell to, the discovery Process is the MOST critical stage of your sales process.  WHY? Because it will help you uncover the unknowns so you tailor your “Value Proposition” and it will help you build your Action Plan / Roadmap to close your sale.

Just a reminder, before I dive into the details of the discovery process, about the fundamental traits a sales professional needs to possess as a foundation in order to be successful.  Use those fundamental traits (Structure, Result-oriented, Goal-driven, Confidence …) to drive your discovery process as you’re going to need them.

What do you do during a discovery session?  It is critical, during discovery, to “ASK BEFORE YOU TELL”.  Asking is the actual discovery part and telling is when you present your tailored “Value Proposition” to your future Customer.  During the discovery process, it is ALL about your future Customer and NOT about you or your product / service so LISTEN very well.  Do NOT talk about the product / service you are selling during the discovery process, unless you’re asked but keep in mind NOT to dive into a lot of details and rather focus only on answering specific questions.

Now, let’s talk about Timing!  So when do you ask your future Customer to hold a discovery session?  It is really driven by the stage you’re at with the opportunity so you might hold the discovery session when the opportunity becomes a lead, or post an RFI (Request for Information), or through an RFP (Request for Proposal), etc.  It is important though if you could hold the discovery session post qualifying your lead which means, as early as possible.  But, there is nothing wrong with asking and pushing for a discovery session, at ANY time in the sales process, WHY?  Because it is important to present a tailored “VALUE Proposition” to address your prospect’s specific needs and not shoot in the dark and provide a “one-size-fit-all” presentation.  At times, I asked my prospects to hold a discovery post RFP / shortlist and I got rejections while other times, I got pretty much good acceptance from prospects because they wanted to capitalize on the best value possible (time, value, etc.)  Use your confidence to ask for a discovery session as the worst they could do say is “NO” if it is too late in the process but at least you try, so don’t be shy or think it is inappropriate.

In order to be successful and achieve the desired results in your discovery process, your discovery questions must focus on two specific areas:

  • Product and/or Services you are selling – “Value Proposition”
  • Roadmap for your sales success

Keep in mind that discovery is NOT about identifying the Knowns like:

  • System in use
  • How long it’s been used
  • What interfaces needs to be built
  • How many departments will be using your software
  • How many users and their job function …

The above items are known and could be discovered through other means including your market analysis and understanding, some research, etc.  The intent behind the discovery process is very simple:

  • Uncover the “unknown” so you could differentiate yourself from the competition
  • Build a Trust relationship – Consultative Selling
  • Show that your Company is professional, structured, and prepared and willing to invest valuable time that is important to both parties
  • Position your product / service as the best option to your future Customer
  • Tailor your “Value Proposition” based on the collected answers

BTW, I am assuming all along, when talking about discovery, that your “Value Message” is fully defined and you know how to pitch it very well.  So have your “Value Message” drive some of your discovery questions and based on the answers provided by your prospect, you can tailor your “Value Proposition” accordingly.

Now, what type of questions do you need to ask so you can uncover the unknown?  Definitely “open ended” & “provoking” questions as Keenan provided some examples of open ended and provoking questions.  Here’s another sample of discovery questions, provided by Kelley Robertson, and there are many more questions out there, but at the end make them yours.  Even though you use Structure to drive your discovery process, the order of using your questions needs to be dynamic so you could challenge your prospect and make him/her think when they provide a response to your questions – Always think of your “Value Message”.  These types of questions could help your prospect realize the impact of decision / action / “status quo” is having on their business.  These types of questions make the prospect feel the pains he/she is experiencing with their current system or business processes.

Time to talk about your Audience!  Do you drive your Value Proposition to IT only or do you drive it to End Users only?  Your Value Proposition must cater to ALL levels of stakeholders (IT, End Users, Supervisors, Managers, and Executives) and definitely to those that have impact on the purchasing decision process.

Once you guide your prospect through the discovery process, things become CLEAR to both of you and through Clarity, you can succeed.  The discovery outcome is your roadmap to a successful sale so make the best out of it to position your product and/or services as the best option for your future customer.

Do NOT let your competition discover their way to your prospects – Get ahead of them.


A Project Manager – LOOK WITHIN

I am not addressing here what makes a Project fail or succeed but rather the question is: “What makes YOU fail or succeed as a Project Manager?”  TRUST ME, it starts & ends with ONLY YOU, as a Project could fail due to the many below listed and unlisted factors but you can ONLY fail because of YOU so “LOOK WITHIN” as a starting point.  The Traits of a Project Manager are the foundation for individually succeeding.

If you’re thrown at a Project where you know from the get-go that it is going to fail, it is your responsibility to address all your risks and issues from the initial initiation / planning stage, or NOT take on a Project like that.  If you see no behavioral adjustment in the organization to support a change then, after you have done your part, then move on.  Yes, say NO to Projects that will make you, as the Project Manager, fail.

Do NOT blame others and do not try to say “I was setup for failure”.  Because if you had a 360 View of your Project based on your Traits / Skills and toolkit of techniques then you should have seen it coming – ASSESS everything & everyone  – Yes everyone on your Project as people and their commitments make or break your Project.  Use the toolkit of techniques to create your plans (WBS, risk, acceptance, communication, etc.), where they need to be managed and executed throughout the Project.  Do not create those plans and have them sit there, never checked, followed, and executed including your communication plan.  Use your traits to help you structure your Project towards the specific Goal while enjoying it and having the passion to do it right.

Every time I write an article, I focus on the “LOOK WITHIN” area, but I say it a bit differently, as it is so important for you as a Project Manager.  You CAN control many aspects of your Project and do NOT let others dictate and drive your Project as your responsibility is to be CLEAR & TRANSPARENT so tell it the “WAY IT IS”.  Remember, you are the Leader.

YES, I know there are changes in moods, requirements, objectives, goal, inadequate support, etc. but you as the Project Manager can use the traits / skills & toolkit of techniques to DRIVE your Project.

There are many factors that drive your Project to succeed and here are some of them:

  • YOU are in charge
  • Strong communication plan and execution
  • End user involvement
  • Strong Project closure
  • Executive Management support & engagement
  • Clear requirements minimizing big scope expansions
  • Proper planning
  • Realistic expectations
  • The project is well-defined
  • Clearly defined goals
  • The timetable is realistic
  • People are committed and accountable
  • The skills and resources needed are available
  • The client (internal or external) is part of the solution
  • The right personnel
  • Partnership between implementers and stakeholders
  • Functional ownership of the project
  • Effective Project meetings
  • Client sign-off every step of the way and not just at the end
  • Strong & detailed plan and YES, kept up-to-date
  • Risk planning from the initiation stage and NOT during execution only
  • Adequate communication channels
  • Solicit regular feedback
  • Effective change management
  • Strong business case/sound basis for project
  • Sufficient/well allocated resources
  • Good leadership
  • Realistic schedule
  • Risks addressed, assessed, and managed
  • Project sponsor / champion
  • Effective monitoring & control
  • Adequate budget
  • Organizational adaptation / culture / structure
  • Good performance by suppliers / contractors / consultants
  • Proper project management methodology
  • Learning from past experiences
  • Detailed training provisions
  • More than enough time for acceptance testing coupled with a solid acceptance plan

There are many factors that drive your Project to fail and here are some of them:

  • YOU are NOT in charge
  • Project tracking and management
  • Unclear Goal and vision
  • Team issues
  • Planning
  • Decision making problems
  • Lack of leadership vision
  • Requirements Issues
  • Risk management
  • Quality
  • Stakeholder engagement issues
  • Estimated costs
  • Unclear Project Objectives
  • No Visibility into resources workload
  • Gaps in communication
  • Poorly managed
  • Lack of a solid project plan
  • Poorly defined roles and responsibilities
  • Team weaknesses
  • Poor communication
  • Overruns of schedule and cost
  • Scope creep
  • Ignoring project warning signs
  • Undefined objectives and goals
  • Lack of user input
  • Enterprise management of budget resources
  • Inadequate or vague requirements
  • Unrealistic timeframes and tasks
  • Insufficient resources (funding and personnel)
  • Estimates for cost and schedule are erroneous
  • No change control process
  • Inadequate testing processes
  • Weak Project plan
  • Incomplete Project plan
  • Unrealistic Project plan
  • Not enough testing
  • Training was inadequate
  • Too many attendees per training session
  • We didn’t know this Project was coming so quick – I hate CHANGE
  • R&D is behind on delivery of roadmap items
  • R&D had a shift in roadmap priorities
  • Trainer was inefficient

As a Project Manager, you can definitely use ALL the above, plus many others out there, as lessons learned for your Project.  Lessons learned is not about your Projects only but all the other projects that have succeeded or failed out there as learning from others’ mistakes, as well as successes, could be of extreme value to you.

If you have done everything in your power to combine your Traits / Skills with the Toolkit of Techniques and you still face some of the above listed failure factors then it might be time for you to move on to a better place.


“What makes YOU fail or succeed as a Sales Professional?”

TRUST ME, it starts & ends with ONLY YOU as sales failures could be due to many reasons / factors / etc. (We WIN some & LOSE some – It’s life) but YOU, as a Sales Professional, can ONLY fail because of YOU so “LOOK WITHIN” as a starting point.  Evaluate whether you have the foundation, YES, I am talking here about the “Traits” first and above all.  Let’s review the Traits in a different manner to assess if they attribute to your personal success or failure:

  • Being Coach-able

What if you consider your Manager’s input as interference in your way of doing things and you never listen to their advice?  What if when you fail to close a deal, you never learn from the reasons why you lost the deal?  What if you do NOT learn from the mistakes you have done on some of the deals?  What if you do not learn from others’ mistakes?  …

Regardless of the stage of your sales career, you MUST be open for new ideas, new thoughts, and new approaches to help you succeed in climbing that success pole that never ends.  Never limit yourself – “Limitations live ONLY in our minds but if we use our imagination, Possibilities become Limitless”, Jamie Paolinetti.  Understanding, learning, and adapting is the foundation for anyone’s success.

  • Structured (Thinking / Process / Focus / Habits …)

What if you do not have a structure when approaching your sales approach and each opportunity individually?  What if you wait for things to fall on your desk and only act in a reactive mode to sales opportunities?  What if you wait for prospects to call you?  What if you do not have a structured follow-up process post your meetings, presentations, conferences, calls, etc.?  …

When you’re not structured and unorganized, you not only have a problem closing new sale, but you will end up losing business because of poor follow-up, structure and opportunity-based planning.  This is at best, sales complacency that will KILL you as a Sales Professional.

  • Hard working

Imagine you ONLY work from 9:00 to 5:00!  What if you do not have the drive to close deals and be successful?  Imagine you wait for opportunities to land on your desk!  What if you fill your pipeline with unrealistic leads and opportunities?  …

Not sure if I will call it hard working but rather hardly working or poor time management or poor work ethics but as a Sales Professional, you should never be driven by a set of work timeframe.  Put every effort possible to make it real for you and your company as a lot of jobs depend on the sale being successful.

  • Confident

What if you’re afraid to make cold calls within your territory?  What if you take rejection on deals personal against you?  What if you do NOT have the confidence to ask for the sale?  What if you not have the confidence to have your prospect’s commitment to a sale? …

If you do NOT believe in yourself then prospect will also have difficulties believing in you and they will see through you with every interaction you have with them.  Prospects will only buy from people they TRUST.  Confidence is a fundamental trait to help you deal with rejections and obstacles and drive stronger commitments from your prospects.

  • Result-Driven / Goal-Oriented = Takes responsibility for their Results

Imagine you do not know where your opportunity is in the sales cycle!  What if you cannot prioritize your opportunities and fish where the fish truly are?  Imagine you do not know what you want to accomplish and how to accomplish it opportunity-wise or territory-wise!  What if you do NOT ask for the sale/business, would you ever know where you stand against the competition or would you ever learn how to adjust your sales approach to close the sale? …

Make sure your goals are clear, measurable, achievable, and based on set timeframes.  Be realistic with every opportunity so you can close on time.  As a Sales Professional, you need to visualize your target, determine how you will achieve your goal, and take actions with specific mini-results in mind.

  • Empathetic

What if you do not address your prospect’s specific needs by throwing the same stuff you throw at everyone else?  What if you do not understand your prospect’s pains and potential gains with your proposed solution? …

It’s ALL about your “Value Proposition” and how it will meet your prospect’s immediate and long term needs.  With empathy, you show that listening is more important than talking as it reflects a genuine care for others.  The lifetime value of an ideal Customer is much more important than the quick sale.

  • Honest

What if you keep telling your prospect “Let me be honest with you”?  What if you focus on the quick sale and lack the truth and honesty? …

Not a lot to say about this trait – It only comes from WITHIN.

  • Passionate

Imagine you do not have the passion for the product / service you’re selling?  What if you do not believe in what you’re selling?  What if you do not know very well the product / service you are selling?  What if you do not have the passion to meet and exceed your goals? …

Your prospects will see through if you do not have the passion for what you are selling.  Your Manger will see through as well if you do not have the passion for the job.  Go find your passion.

Every time I write an article, I focus on the “LOOK WITHIN” area, but I say it a bit differently, as it is so important for you as a Sales Professional.  Once you have the foundation, learning the REST (tools and techniques) becomes an easy process.

Now, if you let your Traits drive your sales interactions where you have done everything in your power to incorporate the Tools & Techniques, and you still face loses then it might be time for you to move on as the grass might be greener somewhere else.

Why do Sales Reps Succeed or Fail?

What makes some Sales Reps so successful time in and time out while other Sales Reps keep on failing?

Personally I have few traits that I believe differentiate an extraordinary sales rep from a moderate one but I would like to definitely focus on what industry experts say first.  Here are some characteristics of good sales representatives:

  • Set big goals
  • Enthusiastic
  • Hard workers
  • Persistent
  • Great listeners
  • Lots of passion
  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Collaborate
  • Responsible
  • Optimism
  • Ego-driven
  • Goal setters
  • Planning before cold calling
  • Ask quality questions
  • Keep in touch with their clients
  • Tenacity
  • Confidence
  • And many more

When I look at any individual, I always try to separate the traits / skills, which you can NEVER be taught, from the tools and techniques.  The Traits / Skills are typically the foundation for everything you do as they reflect the “LOOK WITHIN” motto that I keep talking about.

Sales Reps MUST possess the traits in order to be successful and they should have the most important characteristic of ALL: “Be COACH-ABLE”, Yes coach-able because if they’re not then there is nothing that could help them get out of their bad habits, learn from their mistake and earn the $ they want every year.  Coach-able goes hand-in-hand with TRUE listening skills.

Coach-ability reflects your ability to listen, learn and evolve so you could be more successful. During my career, I have met an extraordinary gentlemen who is the Executive Vice President of Sales where he brought the Value Selling Proposition and new selling techniques to the Sales Team.  Some of us kept joking about drinking his “Kool-Aid” and if you don’t enjoy drinking it then you will not be around forever.  The “Kool-Aid” for us, funny guys, was truly our reference to being coach-able and have the ability to learn new processes so we could get better consistently.  NOT drinking the “Kool-Aid” gave him a clearer indication that you’re potentially an uncoachable individual.  If he ever faced some resistance from some Sales Reps, he did let them do what they believed is right but the monthly, quarterly, and annual achievements spoke to the expected end results.

Learning is important to any individual, don’t you agree? Without learning, you would have been doing something totally different in life and not reading this article!

I am NOT talking about tools and techniques here but I personally believe that the fundamental Traits a Sales Rep MUST possess are:

  • Being Coach-able;
  • Structured (Thinking / Process / Focus / Habits …);
  • Hard working;
  • Confident;
  • Result-Driven / Goal-Oriented = Takes responsibility for their Results;
  • Empathetic;
  • Honest; and
  • Passionate.

The above Traits somewhat remind me of the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) definition of a Project Manager as they define a Project Manager as an individual that is “organized, passionate and goal-oriented“. Now, let us look at the above Traits of a successful Sales Rep:

  • Coach-able
    Why did I list coach-able as the number one? Unless you are PERFECT, which does not exist in any profession, learning is vital to your improvement and success.  Being coach-able starts from WITHIN first as you MUST evaluate every win, loss, and stall you come across during a sales process to learn from it so you could repeat the good and adjust the things that are not working.

Learning and mastering the tools of techniques and adjusting the behavior are driven by how coach-able we are as individuals.  When you possess the foundation, the rest is nothing but a learning process.  Look at it from a different angle, do you think you could learn how to:

  1. Set big, realistic, and accurate goals through lessons learned, through trial and error, with guidance from your peers or manager, …
  2. Be persistent so when your sale reaches a stall you become persistently creative in your approach.
  3. Qualify your opportunities harder so you could spend your time where your fish are and not spending hours in the same spot with no fish around.
  4. Be a Great Listener since sometime we get carried away / excited and we talk more than we ever listen.
  5. Ask quality questions by taking the discovery model to your meetings and uncover the unknown rather than the known and basic stuff …

Of course you can, if you are coach-able.

Being coach-able is to do something different than you’ve ever done it before – It’s the “Kool-Aid”.  If you are asked to do something in a certain way, do it that way even if you have always done in a different way.

  • Structured

You have to have a structured mind and process in every step of your sales process while building your sales strategy, to establishing your overall action plan, to individualizing your strategy for each opportunity, etc. Successful Sales Reps are very well organized.

Structure, organization, and efficiency drive a Sales Rep to be more conscientious about their work and take pride in what they do. Through structure, you can systematically lead your prospects through YOUR sales process and follow through.

  • Hard Working & NOT Hardly Working

There is NO TIME LIMIT for a Sales Rep as it is NOT a 9 to 5 job – It’s a career, your compensation and your future.  Successful Sales Reps have a strong work ethic and do what it takes to get the job done, regardless of whether they are on vacation or at night or the weekend.  They should be willing to roll up their sleeves and work long hours to reach and surpass their goals.  When you are Goal-oriented & Result-driven the hard work is given.

Hard working Sales Rep relates to being independent and focused on knowing what they want to over-achieve.  Hard working Sales Reps will take all measures, available to them, to make their job a successful reality.  Successful Sales Reps are self-motivators as they can build themselves up to do a lot more then what has been set by others for them.  Independent Sales Reps do not have to be thanked for success as they feel the satisfaction from “WITHIN”.

Sales Reps should over commit and over deliver every time so they reap the benefits of their hard work.

  • Confident

Sales is not a stroll in the park as you will be faced with continuous rejections and you must possess the confidence to know that it is NEVER personal.

As a Sales Rep, you cannot have thin skin because rejection is a common place in sales.  Sales Reps hear the word “NO” all the time, but successful Sales Reps have the confidence to take “NO” as a challenge and not as a personal rejection.

With confidence, walk into every meeting whether internal or external.  With confidence, walk into every presentation.  With confidence, make your calls. With confidence talk to people.  Notice, I have said “Confidence” & NOT arrogance!

  • Result-Driven / Goal-Oriented

How can you be in sales without Goals and Results?  You know you have quota to meet, every quarter and every year, but I would actually say “you know you have quota to exceed as people set your quota and you need to aim for higher targets! unless their quota setting is totally unrealistic based on many factors”.

Successful Sales Reps know what they want to accomplish and they plan to achieve their goals through result-driven steps and action plans.  They make sure their goals are clear, measurable, achievable, and based on set timeframes. Results & goals, go hand-in-hand with structure as successful Sales Reps visualize their target, determine how they will achieve their goal through structure, and take actions to meet there goal.

Maintain your focus on achieving your goals by reaching smaller results every step of the way.

  • Empathetic

Empathy is the ability to identify with prospects, to feel what they are feeling and make them feel respected.  You have to relate to the prospects on a personal level and support them through their selection process.  Personal empathy is an essential quality for a Sales Rep.  Through empathy, you can gain trust and establish rapport with your prospects.  Empathy allows a Sales Rep to read the prospects very well, show concern, and clearly demonstrate interest in providing them with the right solution.

With empathy, you show that listening is more important than talking as it reflects a genuine care for others.  The lifetime value of an ideal Customer is much more important than the quick sale, so empathy is crucial.

  • Honesty & Integrity

Honesty & integrity are fundamental to your sales process.  No one can teach you how to be honest as it has to come from “WITHIN”, bring integrity to your process and build the trust with the prospect.  Do NOT mislead a prospect because of a quick sale as you will pay the consequences in the LONG haul.  You will be haunted forever, as peers do talk on many occasions, and you will never get another sale in the industry if you are dishonest.  Sales is NOT about the immediate win but the LONG TERM value of having references so use your Honesty & Integrity in everything you do.

Bring integrity and honesty to the sales process and you will build the TRUST needed to offer a consultative model and go to the next steps.  Wouldn’t it make you feel so good and proud of your actions and achievements when a prospect, now a customer, talks about you and your sales process in the following manner?

“Richard represents the company in an exceptional manner.  He is quite the expert and he really has the respect of those he works with … – Julie”

“The sales portion of our project was outstanding … – Neal”

That makes me feel so proud of ME and what I bring to my prospects.  It is ALL about ETHICS, my friend so TRULY live by your values.

  • Passion

Successful Sales Reps actually enjoy their sales job and if they hate it, they should take on another career.  Keep in mind that passion is NOT ONLY about your job, whether you like it or not, and the passion to be successful, it is also about the passion for what you are selling.

When you’re talking to your prospects and during your presentations, it will clearly show whether you have the passion for what you’re selling or not.  Sales Rep should be passionate about the products or services they’re selling.  If they’re on board with the Value Message then they can excitedly share that vision with their prospects.

Passion should be clear in your voice during a telephone call, in your responses to proposals, in your presentations and definitely, in your regular communication with your prospects.

Passion is like creativity – It cannot be faked so it has to come from “WITHIN” and resonate with your prospects.

How can you be successful as a Sales Rep?  Just look at the traits I have listed and evaluate whether you have them or not then use the tools and techniques by learning them through many means based on the foundation of being coach-able.

Value Selling


What is Value Selling?

Value Selling is the promise of value to be delivered through the product or service you are selling.  It represents the primary reason WHY a prospect should buy from you.

What is a Value Message?

A Value Message is NOT a slogan but rather a CLEAR statement that is:

  • Relevant – It clearly explains how your product or service solves your prospects’ problems or improves their operation.
  • Quantifiable – It delivers specific benefits and value to your prospects.
  • Unique – It outlines to your prospects why they should buy from you and not from the competition.

As a first step, evaluate the product or service you are selling and determine if you can create the “Value Message”.  To define your “Value Message”, start by answering the following questions:

  • What product or service are you selling and who is your competition?
  • What makes your product or service unique in your industry?
  • What are the values and benefits of using your product or service?

Keep in mind that a great Value Message:

  • Is CLEAR.
  • Is EASY to understand in about 30 seconds or less.
  • Can quantify the results from buying your product or service.
  • Outlines the differentiator(s) against your competitors’ offerings.
  • Resonates with your prospects.

What is a Value Proposition?

A Value Proposition is a promise of value that is based on a collection of reasons as to why a prospect should buy your offerings.  The Value Proposition should convince a prospect that your solution or service will add more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings in the industry and brings unique quantifiable value to your prospects.  If you believe that Value Proposition is just a statement, then you have a lot of work ahead to do.

So the “Value Proposition” is to take the “Value Message” and deliver it using the “Ethos, Logos, Pathos” method, as defined by the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, where your goal is to persuade your audience that the product or service you are selling bring value than your competitors in the industry.

Where do you Pitch Your Value Proposition?

Once your “Value Message” and “Value Proposition” are defined, it is time to know who your target market is.  For example, you CANNOT sell a Mercedes McLaren to somebody who makes $25,000 a year nor can you sell a VW Beetle to someone who wants a Mercedes McLaren – It just does not make sense so FIND your sweet spot and ideal customer.  The Message and Proposition in your territory have to be founded on:

  • Target Market; and
  • Competitive landscape.

So, the first step is to tart with a complete analysis of your Territory so you could have a “360 View” of where, when, and how to pitch your Value Proposition.

Should your Value Message & Value Proposition CHANGE?

Yes, ONLY if your product or service evolve and bring more values to your prospects otherwise; I believe your “Value Message” should NEVER change as it is about who you are, what you offer, and what value you bring to your prospects.

Your “Value Proposition”, on the other hand, should evolve based on specific prospects’ needs as one-size-fits-all approach will NEVER work in every instance and therefore you must evolve your Value Proposition to make it successful.  Make your “Value Propositionconfigurable to each and every opportunity.  Now, how do you that?

Could Consultative Selling & Value Proposition Relate?

Let’s us first examine the definition of Consultative Selling.  Consultative Selling is an exchange of value between two parties as it includes one-on-one interaction between the Sales Rep and a prospect where the Sales Rep acts as consultant and not an aggressive and disorganized Rep with poor knowledge of the industry and the product he or she is selling.  Through Consultative Selling, a Sales Representative, acting as a consultant, MUST:

  • Have expertise in the industry and related discussion subject.
  • Ask the right questions to fully understand the prospect’s values, factors, fears, and needs while a Business Consultant asks more of direct questions to help them understand processes, existing environment, etc.
  • Build the TRUST as you must always maintain your prospect’s best interest first. Do NOT talk about your offering during this process as it NOT about you but rather it is ALL about your prospect.
  • Formulate solutions / propositions that can help your prospect see the value your product or service brings to them.

Through Consultative Selling, a Sales Representative must use a discovery-style approach to asking consultative questions to help them uncover not only the known but also the unknown.  Many times, the known are gathered through research so there is nothing wrong with asking open-ended and provocative questions during your Consultative Selling process to help you uncover the unknowns you desperately need to know to help you build a proper and successful Value Proposition.

The unknowns, you find in the discovery process, will help you configure and position your Value Proposition to your prospect’s specific needs.  So now you see that Consultative Selling and Value Proposition go hand-in-hand together.


Is it a Project Failure or Success?

A common question in the industry as many Projects did fail while many others range from just a Go-Live to extremely successful.  Before writing this blog and instead of the above subject, I was tempted to ask “Why do Projects Succeed?” as I am more interested in Success than Failure.

Let us Start with the Fundamentals

When defining Project Management, the Project Management Institute (PMI) first defines a Project as “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”, in a way that it has “a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources”.  The PMI goes on to indicate that each project is unique with specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.

Project Management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

When talking about Project Managers, the PMI defines Project Managers as “organized, passionate and goal-oriented“ who understand what projects have in common, and their strategic role in how organizations succeed, learn and change.

They have a broad and flexible toolkit of techniques, resolving complex, interdependent activities into tasks and sub-tasks that are documented, monitored and controlled. They adapt their approach to the context and constraints of each project, knowing that no “one size” can fit all the variety of projects. And they are always improving their own and their teams’ skills through lessons-learned reviews at project completion.

That SUMS it up with such two important trends to the PMI definition of Project Managers: “Traits / Skills” & “Toolkit of Techniques” as I personally believe that the Toolkit of Techniques, anyone can master but the TRAITS & SKILLS are fundamental to the Project Manager leading the Project.

Now, Let’s Look at Causes / Reasons / Blames / etc. of Failures

Many experts in the industry outline causes, issues, factors, challenges, and drivers for such failures.  Let’s examine what some of the industry experts have to say about this topic.  By reviewing the 101 causes for Projects’ failure, http://calleam.com/WTPF/?page_id=2338, but summarized at a high level as follows:

Goal and vision Leadership and governance Stakeholder engagement issues
Team issues Requirements Issues Estimation
Planning Risk management Architecture and design
Configuration and information management Quality Project tracking and management
Decision making problems

Project Insight focuses on 4 Challenges while providing 4 Solutions to Project failures:

  Challenge Solution
1 Lack of Visibility of all Projects Publish Projects to a Visible Location
2 Unclear Project Objectives Rank Project Initiatives
3 No Visibility into Resource Workload Create a Resource Management Grid
4 Gaps in Communication Provide a Centralized Location for Communication

Project Smart lists the most common reasons for failure as follows (my apologies for changing UK English to …):

Poorly managed Undefined objectives and goals Lack of management commitment
Lack of a solid project plan Lack of user input Lack of organizational support
Centralized proactive management initiatives to combat project risk Enterprise management of budget resources Provides universal templates and documentation
Poorly defined roles and responsibilities Inadequate or vague requirements Stakeholder conflict
Team weaknesses Unrealistic timeframes and tasks Competing priorities
Poor communication Insufficient resources (funding and personnel) Business politics
Overruns of schedule and cost Estimates for cost and schedule are erroneous Lack of prioritization and project portfolio management
Scope creep No change control process Meeting end user expectations
Ignoring project warning signs Inadequate testing processes Bad decisions

If we look at all above causes, do you think PMI certifies organizations or individuals on Project Management?  As I understand, PMI certifies individuals with the Project Management Professional designation.  Project Managers learn from reading related books, attending Project Management courses, browsing the web for related topics, etc. and NOW, you have the Toolkit of Techniques to accomplish what you need.  Project Managers are the LEADERS of their Projects and therefore the success or failure of a Project lies on their shoulder.  Success or Failure of a Project Manager is driven by if they:

  • Have the foundation; and
  • Manage extremely well what they cannot control.

A wise man once told me: “CONTROL what’s in YOUR Control, and work with / manage what is OUT of YOUR Control”, right Will?

Let’s examine some of those causes, factors, and drivers of a Project failure:

  • Issues: You MUST log, assign resolution, manage, and close the issues that are encountered in your Project.  It is your responsibility, as a Project Manager, to see them resolved.
  • Unclear Goals & Objectives: Starting a Project is not just about kick-off, resources, put the plan together, etc. but as part of your own Project initiation process, it is also a complete understanding and clarity of the Project’s goals & objectives coupled with a true understanding of the Stakeholders’ & Sponsors’ vision of what they want accomplished.  Not only goals and objectives should be clear but they should also be understood by everyone on the Project.
  • Shift in priorities: Regardless of what THEY TELL you about the priority of YOUR Project and with the start of a Project, you need to perform your own evaluation of the organization you’re working with as to whether they have old technology in other areas, potential change in leadership (sponsors), understand their heavy processes and related timeframes that might impact your Project, etc.  Perform risk assessment from the get go, likelihood of them occurring, their impact on your Project and the plan to mitigate them.  The Risk Plan should be completed early in your Project and not reacting to risks that might surface during the execution stage.
  • Gaps in Communication: Constant, clear, and structured (different levels of Stakeholders) communication is crucial to the success of your Project.  You should continuously and effectively communicate throughout the life cycle of your project regardless of the news.  When you receive incoming communication, respond ASAP even when the response involves unpleasant news, as “Bad News never get better with time”.

Now. Let’s restructure ALL the above challenges, causes, reasons, factors, drivers, and blames, whatever you would like to call them, in a different way – BTW, the appropriate header for each column is in the bottom of the table:

Goal and vision
Team issues
Configuration and information management
Decision making problems
Leadership and governance
Requirements Issues
Risk management
Stakeholder engagement issues
Architecture and design
Project tracking and management
Unclear Project Objectives
No Visibility into Resource Workload
Gaps in Communication
Poorly managed
Lack of a solid project plan
Centralized proactive management initiatives to combat project risk
Poorly defined roles and responsibilities
Team weaknesses
Poor communication
Overruns of schedule and cost
Scope creep
Ignoring project warning signs
Undefined objectives and goals
Lack of user input
Enterprise management of budget resources
Inadequate or vague requirements
Unrealistic timeframes and tasks
Insufficient resources (funding and personnel)
Estimates for cost and schedule are erroneous
No change control process
Inadequate testing processes
Weak Project plan
Incomplete Project plan
Unrealistic Project plan
Not enough testing
Training was inadequate
TOO many attendees per training session
We didn’t know this Project was coming so quick – I hate CHANGE
R&D is behind on delivery of roadmap items
R&D had a shift in roadmap priorities
Trainer was inefficient
Project Manager    

Whether you run into internal, external, or organizational issues, it is YOUR responsibility, as a Project Manager, to manage all those and succeed in your endeavor.  We can definitely blame other individuals, organizations’ behavior, external factors, lack of vision, goals and objective but let’s start first from within.  When you lead a Project, you MUST possess a complete 360View of all your Project’s requirements including organizations’ goals, objectives, target production move, available resources, etc. with the foresight needed to recognize warning signs and take corrective actions.

Issue Management is not just a matter of logging issues in your Issue Log and assigning them but it is a matter of managing them and bringing them to closure otherwise; they will have impact on your Project.  Don’t let issues become risks to your Project – Mitigate any risks through corrective actions of any issues.

As Tom Carlos, from Project Smart, indicates “Even with the best of intentions or solid plans, project can go awry if they are not managed properly.  All too often, mishaps can occur (and usually do).  This is when the project manager must recognize a warning sign and take action.  During the course of managing a project, the project manager must monitor activities (and distractions) from many sources and directions”.

By going back to the definition of a Project Manager by the PMI, I most admire the following: “Organized, Passionate and Goal-oriented” (Traits / Skills) as they set the foundation for a successful Project Leader.  For me, I am going to look at each of them:

  • Organized: Structured in your mind and behavior is important to your Project’s success as there are too many moving pieces in your Project that get you to the target Goal.  Not having a FULL Vision of What you need to accomplish, using Who and to meet Who‘s objectives, goals, and expectations in order to deliver When based on Which budget $, then you are IN TROUBLE.  Having the structured mind and process, to see your Project’s Goal and all the pieces (tasks, deliverables, milestones, resources, stakeholders, vendors, risks, tools & techniques) that will get you there, is crucial to your success.
  • Passionate: Project Management is NOT just another job, it is a passion that you enjoy doing, know how to do it, and excel at it.  Excellence, in everything you do, should be obvious in your Projects.
  • Goal-oriented: You MUST be Goal-oriented, and manage ALL the pieces of your project, in order to attain Your TARGET GOAL.


When I went the other way around in my research and asked “Why do Projects Succeed?”, I received multiple lists but I will use one for example where they gave 26 reasons to make a Project successful so they listed the MOST Critical Factors for Projects success:

  1. Clear realistic objectives
  2. Strong/detailed plan kept up to date
  3. Good communication/ feedback
  4. User/client involvement
  5. Skilled/suitably qualified/sufficient staff/team
  6. Effective change management
  7. Competent project manager
  8. Strong business case/sound basis for project
  9. Sufficient/well allocated resources
  10. Good leadership
  11. Proven/familiar technology
  12. Realistic schedule
  13. Risks addressed/ assessed/ managed
  14. Project sponsor/champion
  15. Effective monitoring/control
  16. Adequate budget
  17. Organizational adaptation/culture/ structure
  18. Good performance by suppliers/ contractors/ consultants
  19. Planned close down/review/ acceptance of possible failure
  20. Training provision
  21. Political stability
  22. Correct choice/ past experience of project management methodology/tools
  23. Environmental influences
  24. Learning from Past experience
  25. Appreciating Different viewpoints

When looking at other websites, I realized as well that NONE really gave the success factors an order of priority.  I personally believe that when you provide a list, your instinct will tell you to list the one that is MOST critical first.  Therefore and if I am listing Project success factors, I would definitely list a “Competent Project Manager” FIRST as it is the most important success factor in every Project.  When you are a competent Project Manager with the needed Traits / Skills along with the toolkit of techniques then you will be able to manage the remaining items and drive your Project towards success.

As a Project Manager, it is your full responsibility to succeed or fail.  You must have and enhance your Traits / Skills to be successful while learning and building the toolkit of techniques from every possible avenue (training, reading, researching, lessons learned, etc.)

Now, Let us Look at Project Success

Are you ready to bring your Project to Success?  What constitutes a successful Project?  Project success means that the Project has:

  • Been On-time & within budget
  • At the proper performance & quality levels
  • Met specification levels as documented and approved – Remember Project Manager, Sign-Offs are so crucial to you
  • Been accepted by the Customer / Stakeholders
  • Adoption / Buy-in from the User community
  • Mutually agreed to, yet manageable, scope changes
  • Without having impact on the day-to-day operation of the involved department(s)

The ultimate sign of a successful Project is that your Customer asks you to do more work for them and you know that you have a STRONG Reference.

Utilize your traits / skills & toolkit of techniques to make YOU & YOUR Project successful as it ALL starts and ends with YOU.



In any process, there are multiple steps that get you to the end result.  Each step is somewhat independent of the others, yet they are linked and dependent on the completion of prior steps.  It reminds me of the Waterfall Methodology in Project Management.

Many people talk about the “Sales Process”, and they frame it as it is independent of ALL other processes a company goes through – In my humble opinion, that is NOT TRUE.  “Sales” depends on ALL other departments (R&D, Implementation, Support …) to be successful as there will be no “Sale” without strong product, successful implementations, happy Customers and references while ALL other departments depend on Sales so businesses can survive and grow.

As a Sales Rep, is “your sale done when a contract is executed”?  The answer may vary depending on the type of sales approach you use as a Sales Rep.

I personally believe the sales process should never ends with an executed contract.