You identified a sales problem and solved it. Maybe your problem was a conflict between sales and operations and you started meeting weekly to smooth things out. Or your problem was inaccurate forecasting and you put together a task force to revise your definitions and templates.
So when are you done? Do you have to keep meeting every week, or can you stop now that the conflict is over? Do you have to keep the task force together and review the forecast every month?
We’re in the business of solving sales problems, and we run into this situation all the time. Some solutions wither away before they have a chance to effect real change, while others turn into ongoing meaningless activity with no real purpose.
Much of this confusion is a result of confusing a project with a process. How can you tell them apart? There are 3 key differences between projects and processes:
A project is something you do once to accomplish a specific goal, while a process is repeated. It could be repeated on a weekly, monthly, or annual schedule, or repeated based on a specific situation (for example, an RFP process that is activated when a RFP is received).
The goal of a project is to effect change. The goal of a process is to increase quality and achieve efficiency through consistency, which by its very nature resists change.
Projects require leadership; processes are managed. This tends to require a very different skill set.
Let’s take a look back at the examples from the beginning of this post.
Conflict between sales and operations is unfortunately somewhat repeatable. A process for meeting on a consistent basis can help prevent that conflict, and this process will need to be managed to ensure it is maintained.
Note that the process may change over time, such as by reducing the frequency of the meetings once the initial conflict has been resolved. Any change will require analysis, and significant change will trigger the creation of a new project.
Fixing an inaccurate forecast is (hopefully) a one-time project. Your goal is to lead the team to change whatever is broken. Once the definitions have been established and the templates have been created, you’re done.
One twist, though – this is a project that turns into a process. These new definitions and templates will become part of an ongoing forecasting process. At this point, the project leader will often hand off ownership to someone who can manage the forecast consistently. And if the problem crops back up, it will turn right back into a project! This is a very common cycle.
Check out our guide for troubleshooting sales problems, and let us know in the comments what sales problems you’re working to solve!