I recently heard a Product Manager ranting about how poorly her company was getting products to market. Comments included the likes of "the sales people just don't understand the technology" and "the engineers have not spoken to our customer and do not understand the real needs of this market". This Product Manager is similar to others I have run across throughout my career, alone at the center of their universe. (Note: I have intentionally positioned this Product Manager as both a PM and PMM -- the story could apply in similar ways to both roles).
Product Managers have often been touted as the CEO of their Product. From their vantage point, they can see inward toward development, guiding new features through PRDs and MRDs, and possibly directing product road maps. They can see outward toward the markets, speaking with customers, analyzing market research, and sending the latest marketing content to the sales organization. Their position between development and sales is a privileged one giving them visibility across some of the most important operations of the company.
From the center of their universe, the less experienced Product Manager needs to learn to not only absorb information but to relay it in new ways. Their conversation needs to move from being self-centered to being a steward of information. When examining statements like "the sales people just don't understand the technology", we can often find that what is clearly understood in the Product Manager's head has not been communicated clearly enough to the sales audience. The sales people need to understand something about the technology, product, or service they are offering, but also need to understand why a customer would want to purchase it in the first place. What may seem like an obvious value proposition to the Product Manager, is probably not that obvious at all. Sales people want to understand who their best potential customer is, what problem they have, and how their product or service best solves that problem. Additionally, they want to know things important to the center of their universe like "how much will I earn by selling product A over product B, can I achieve my quota faster with product A, or is the new Product C going to establish a beach head for future sales or kill my chances to ever sell into this account again?". A similar exercise of examining key needs of other stakeholders across the Product Managers universe at the company could be done.
Overall, Product Managers can become more effective by using their privileged position at the center of activity to help other's be more effective in their own roles. As a Product Manager, think about how you can apply your knowledge, market awareness, and product expertise, to help improve the universe for your key stakeholders in Sales, Development, Field Marketing, Channel Marketing, etc. Taking less of a self-centered approach in favor of stewardship and being responsible for other's success.
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