You’re probably wondering what does a salesperson know about Project Management. Well, now that I have you questioning that – think about what happens after the sale.
When my work is done, it’s up to the Project Manager to take over. I have been in this industry for over a decade on both the Language Service Provider side as well as the Technology Service Provider side. There’s actually less difference between the two than one might initially think! Today I want to share my perspective on what non-trainable skills make a Project Manager. Specifically, what skills you should look for to make the lives of your clients, your providers, (and your salespeople) easier.
One that’s obvious across all industries is negotiation. Some might say that’s trainable and not really a soft skill, but it’s hard to agree on that when you look into the details. You see, sales reps negotiate to get the best outcome for themselves and their company. Whereas in a PM’s case it’s not so simple. When they negotiate rates with their provider and their clients, they are always in the middle of the actual project and oftentimes bear all the responsibility for the outcome. If they push the provider too far, they may improve the cost side, but the effect on quality may suffer. At all times, the Project Manager has to keep both the client and the provider happy with the outcome of such rate negotiations. If that sounds easy, let’s look at an even more specific case.
Clients are important and one way to keep them happy is by maintaining quality. In order to do that, you need a dedicated team of linguists. The Translator and the Reviser are both critical to the end result, but they can’t always agree if you want them to be really useful. The Project Manager has to arbitrate, but the person whose satisfaction is at stake here is neither of the two. It’s actually the client.
In a subjective matter, such as translation, how can all stakeholders agree to give up a little for the common good? There’s one thing that makes it easier, but it does not come easy. Namely, the Project Manager needs to be a good trust builder. Oftentimes the Project Manager effectively acts as an Account Manager who actively shapes the relationship with the client. If neither of them speaks the language that is required as a target in a project, trust is key (and quality metrics). It gets even more delicate if you fail to deliver on time or on quality and a very important project comes up next. As a client, you need to know that you can trust the person who commits to getting the job done.
Before that trust reaches a comfortable level, everyone in this complex relationship – between linguist, client and Project Manager – sees certain risks involved. You can’t eliminate all of them, and only what can be measured can be minimized. That’s when you need a Project Manager to show courage and sometimes be ready to make a bold decision. This will not be a new example to anyone, but if you’re a translator reading this – please factor this in when waiting for your first assignment from a new company. It’s true that it takes the right project to hit the ground running, but it also takes courage from the Project Manager to reach out and offer you the chance.
Typically, such articles list five traits and so far I’ve only named four. If I were to give one more soft skill to look for it would have to be an organization. However, nowadays there are apps and systems for that…
If there’s anything that should have made it to the top 5 in your opinion, but didn’t – let me know. I’d be interested to hear your point of view.