I need a project manager….

True conversation.

Caller: I need a project manager.

Me: Great, what are you looking for them to do? (I knew as soon as I asked I was a numpty but the words were out).

Caller: I want them to manage a project.

Me: (trying again). Ok, tell me about the project…

Caller: What do you mean?

Me: Things like what’s the outcome? Has it started? Are there third parties involved? Is it approved? Who does the role report to?

Caller: I thought you were a project expert? Can’t you just provide the right person?

Me: There are many types of projects and I want to make sure you get the right fit. For example here are some things I take into account.

Do you want the person to:

  • Manage the paperwork?
  • Manage the people?
  • Report on progress?
  • Drive the outcome?
  • Report to the Board?
  • Lead the project?
  • Report to a program leader?
  • Know the technical area of the project?

Caller: I think this is too hard.

Me: I can provide people who can do any or all of the above. Some clients want lower level administrative skills only, some want the higher order skills only (because they’ve already got someone doing the admin stuff). Yet others want the whole package.

It makes a difference and it matters. The wrong person can derail your project and it can be a devil to get it back on track.

Caller: So what you’re saying is there are different styles and levels of project manager depending on the project and the role we want them to play.

Me: Exactly, please don’t do business with anyone who just says yes without knowing more.

Caller: So what do you charge

Me: Well that depends on the style and level

Caller: I want the best.

Me: (Spare hand rubbing my face). So the person who can do everything costs around $X. Is that what you’re thinking?

Caller: I don’t think we can afford that.

Me: How about I come over and we can talk about the details and make it work?

Caller: I don’t have time. Thanks for the conversation but I think I’ll get my contingency people on it. I’m sure they’ll find someone.

Me: I understand. It’s hard when you don’t have time. Tell me, how much of next years profits depend on the outcome of this project?

Caller: A bucket load. It’s bet the farm.

Me: Can we find 30 minutes to meet? Even if you don’t use us you’ll be better equipped to make a good choice. I promise the time will be worth it.

Caller: Ok, 10 tomorrow in my office.

Me: I’ll be there, see you then.

I’ll go to the meeting and do my best in as few words as possible to help this potential client understand

  • leading and delivering projects is not a commodity skill
  • doing the paperwork might be but actually making the right things happen is not
  • the risk in expecting a paperwork PM to deliver a projected outcome is way high
  • the person leading a ‘bet the farm’ initiative is not the place to scrimp because the budget is already too high
  • getting the wrong person is a very expensive option.

I’ll work to help them work out what and who they really need to make sure they get the outcome. hope they choose us but if they don’t they’ll know more and be better equipped. Sometimes it’s all you can do.

Can you think of any other arguments I could have used?