Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

How to Sell Function, Feature and Benefit to Stakeholders

~ By John Reiling

Womans hands pointing to the resources of a project

Top executives and stakeholders are often "sold" certain projects from within the organisation. This normally happens, where a sales team first handles a project and then later assigns it to a project manager who "inherits" it.

The concept here is that the selling to the stakeholders actually continues once the project manager takes over. Because of this reality, the project manager must to some extent use sales skills and continue to build (and even sometimes repair!) the relationships with the stakeholders.

Most projects have numerous and diverse stakeholders. One of the first tasks of the project manager is to identify those stakeholders and establish a working rapport with them. The starting point must be to clarify expectations, initially set when the project was "sold" and to refine those expectations for the next phase. The project manager, in the end, must ensure that stakeholder needs are understood and will be met. In addition, systems must be put into place to ensure that they are providing regular input and feedback in the process of delivering the project. The project manager must continue to be attentive to stakeholder needs throughout the project, and there are a number of techniques for doing that.

One way that project managers can leverage sales skills to establish stakeholder relationships is to think in terms of features, functions, and benefits. Typically, there is one and occasionally a few stakeholders that are critical to the project. They may have a major benefit related to the core benefits of the project. In all likelihood, the project manager will be in touch with these select stakeholders on a very regular basis, and they will be included in most communications. The project manager keeps in mind the driving benefits that they want, and continuously communicates about the delivery of those benefits.

Since there are typically many other stakeholders, there often is a stakeholder who is not necessarily going to be one of the top beneficiaries of the project. By contrast, many stakeholders will benefit in peripheral ways, or, if they might benefit by avoiding integration issues that could result when the new project is implemented. Perhaps there is a data interface to that system that will enhance the system, or will at least permit the application to continue to be effective and relevant.

One way to think about these secondary stakeholder, like the primary stakeholders, is to think in terms of feature, functions, and benefits. Core stakeholders may see these features as covering all of the project's potential results; for the peripheral stakeholders, however, these features may be only a couple to a few. The key in using this thought pattern is to look at the features related to that stakeholder, break those features down into the important functions that those features bring to the table, and then as the final step, break down those functions into the actual tangible benefits that will be derived by that stakeholder.

As a first step, all stakeholders need to be identified, and their needs must be understood. With this information at hand, the key then is to think through the features, functions, and benefits of the project to each and every stakeholder, and to communicate that to each stakeholder. A side benefit is a much deeper understanding of the project, and even an expansion of the broader benefits of the project to the organisation.

By thinking in terms of features, functions, and benefits for each stakeholder, a project manager can train himself to think in the terms of the stakeholders. This helps to recognise specific issues that need to be communicated to specific stakeholders, and also helps to identify the issues that are unimportant to stakeholders. Thus, it will helps to always think and speak of your stakeholder needs or interests. In order to properly deal with stakeholders, you must think and act like a salesperson would.


John Reiling, PMP, has experienced portfolio, programme, and project management in organisations of all sizes. John's website Project Management Training Online provides numerous courses on these topics for PDUs, PMP Prep, and PgMP Prep. See John's related article on Programme Management with a nice graphic on the topic, at John's blog, PMcrunch.com.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
1500
Out of 56, 14 or 27, which is the smallest?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Top 10 Qualities of an Excellent Manager

The word excellent on a virtual interface with a businessman standing behind it

What are the most important qualities of an excellent manager that allows them to tap into talents and resources in order to support and bring out the best in others.

How to Deliver Project Status

Close-up of a businessman's hand with a gilded pen writing a document

This article recommendations how to deliver project status to management and the project team that you will hopefully find to be very effective.

How to Avoid Project Burnout

Exhausted businessman resting on a pile of paperwork with tongue hanging out from overwork

Resources on projects can be susceptible to burning out before the project finishes. Here are a few ideas to prevent burnout in project teams.

Estimating Project Costs

Money and a calculator

Tips and advice for estimating project costs, including three point estimating and Monte Carlo Simulation in MS Excel.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

John Corbett commented on…
10 Rules of Highly Successful Project Management
- Mon 19 September 1:36pm

London Management Centre commented on…
Get Maximum Benefits of Merging Top-down and Bottom-up Project Management
- Mon 19 September 11:29am

Mikey commented on…
PMP vs. PRINCE2 Certificates
- Tue 13 September 2:24am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: What do you think about instinctive managers? https://t.co/ZthJHn8jVH #pm #projectsmart about 2 days ago

Why Group Brainstorming Doesn't Work https://t.co/trKtZNtWp5 via @trello #projectsmart about 2 days ago

General Project Management • What do you think about instinctive managers? https://t.co/jpiKgiWLod #pm #projectsmart about 3 days ago