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Successfully Closing a Sales Enablement Project

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Working on large projects can sometimes feel endless. When you are so hyper-focused on something for an extended period of time, it can be difficult to see that light at the end of the tunnel – or even believe it exists, for that matter. That’s why setting a clear process to bring a sales enablement project to a smooth finish is critical for successful project management.

Here are four key components to consider to create an impactful finale for sales enablement projects: gauging success, presenting deliverables, handing off authority and control, and capturing lessons learned.

Gauging Success

Over the course of a project, a gamut of new information is uncovered through trial and error. The post-mortem is a useful way to capture key learnings and share them so that future projects may benefit from what you learned. Take the time to do the post-mortem while the information is fresh—it will be easier and more accurate if you do.

Use the project post-mortem to do the following:

Evaluate the business case

Did the project meet stakeholder expectations as outlined in the approval process? This should expand beyond qualitative feedback and general sentiments about the success or failure of a project. What did the project actually achieve in terms of business impact? How does that compare to initial hypotheses?

Evaluate the project plan

Was the plan reasonable and appropriate for the project goal and business conditions? Essentially, was it the right plan? Even if you achieved your goals, be sure to thoroughly assess potential areas of weakness or elements of the plan that caused conflict along the way.

“If you as an enablement person can show how you’re optimizing resources and…you’re working together to solve a problem, it’s a big win for the team,” said Jennifer Lopopolo, director of global sales enablement at Poly.

Evaluate project management methodology

Were procedures and systems put into place for the project beneficial in the long run? Should other options be considered in the future? As part of this, consider areas where processes could be streamlined or where more steps might be needed to better execute within time, budget, and resource parameters.

Evaluate individual performance

Provide feedback to the core team members involved in the project. Rather than having this feedback come solely from you, ask the team to nominate the MVPs of the project. This exercise can help reward those that went above and beyond, as well as publicly reinforce the benefits of contributing your best for the overall success of the group.

In the end, there may be varying opinions about the success of the project, and a post-mortem provides a straightforward and metrics-based approach to judging overall performance.

Presenting Deliverables

The format(s) in which you present deliverables will vary, depending on the nature of the deliverable itself. Often, deliverables will come in a combination of forms, from presentation files and documents to spreadsheets and code libraries. Whatever the type, it all comes down to how you communicate the impact of those deliverables to stakeholders.

To articulate the meaning of your deliverables effectively, it’s important to tell a compelling story that shows stakeholders not only what the deliverable is and how it was achieved, but why they should care. For each deliverable, ask yourself these questions to cull out key results to highlight and begin crafting your story arc:

  • Did the deliverables meet the timeline?
  • Were they on budget?
  • Were they high quality?
    • Did they do what they were supposed to do?
    • How well do they work?
  • Did the deliverables achieve the intended outcomes?

“It is not a failure if you don’t have the results that you expected,” said Kristen McCrae, enablement and performance at Intuit. “That’s a compelling story in itself. So really dive deep, commit to understanding the metadata and the core KPI. What happened, what worked really well, and then build upon that as a foundation.”

By assessing deliverables in this way, you can also identify areas for improvement in the next project, as well as offer appreciation and acknowledgment to those who created the deliverables for the closed project.

Handing Over Authority and Control

Though a project must be closed out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the project’s work is actually over. In fact, project close-out is often only the end of the first chapter to launch long-term organizational initiatives.

Depending on the scope of the project and the size and health of the business, sales enablement leaders will often take one of the following approaches to close a project:

  • Hand off the project to themselves: The project team will continue to handle and manage tasks associated with the ongoing nature of a project
  • Hand off the project to another team: The project team will delegate responsibility for all tasks associate with the ongoing nature of a project to a new team
  • Terminate the project: The project had a clear beginning and end, and its work is complete with no ongoing maintenance required
  • Integrate the project: The project changed the way work is done and its outputs are integrated into the normal course of business

With any of these approaches, it’s important to create a visible finish line to keep a project within scope and define clear responsibility, authority, and control – especially if a project is ongoing in nature. Consider these three methods to signal the end of your project duties:

  • Punchlist: Create final to-do list and agree on it with stakeholders; Once the list is finished, so is project
  • Stakeholder handshake: Meet with stakeholders to compare project outcomes with scope to show that project is done
  • Scope creep parking lot: If stakeholders continue to ask for “one more thing,” create a list of additional asks and agree to pass off as next-up priorities with the handoff of the project

Capturing Lessons Learned

A critical component in summing up the project, lessons learned documentation should describe both what went right and what went wrong in the project, with suggestions of what to do again and how to avoid potential pitfalls in the future.

These lessons are generally obvious after the post-mortem is complete.

Some sales enablement leaders prefer to use a spreadsheet template, while others use documents or presentation files. Regardless of format, these outputs should include:

  • Insights from the project team: Which points from the team debrief/post-mortem should be applied going forward?
  • Project future status: What will happen to the project and its components now that it is complete? Was it standalone or part of a larger initiative?
  • Status of ongoing critical tasks: What is the state of ongoing tasks that either carry risks or are being carried out by outside vendors/consultants?
  • Risk assessment: Could/did any risks result in project failure, financial loss, or other liabilities?
  • Limitations of the audit: Is any information missing or incomplete?

Closing Out the Project

When the post-mortem and its components have been delivered, your role as the project manager is complete – at least until your next project, that is. In addition to organizational knowledge gained, each project presents a unique opportunity for professional learning and development as well as personal growth.

Just as you assessed the project’s effectiveness from the lens of its business impact, assess the project through the lens of personal impact. Take a moment to think about how those lessons learned will impact the way you approach your next project as a sales enablement leader. No doubt you will do some things the same, some differently, and incorporate new ideas and approaches.

And of course, successfully managing a project from start to finish is no small feat. Be sure to take the time to congratulate your team – and yourself – on a job well done.

“It’s okay to give yourself a pat on the back, said McCrae. “I think the really exciting part about this is if you are really able to quantify your results and your learnings, then you are really able to justify your ROI.”