54: How to stop common B2B dysfunctions in the product team

For those of you who work in business-to-business (B2B) companies, how many of these sound familiar?

“Our product team is always called in to fight customer fires post-sale.”

“Sales people bring product managers along to answer customers’ techie questions.”

“The product team isn’t allowed to speak to customers unless they’re in a sales meeting.”

“Our sales team will often sell something that doesn’t exist, then make it the product team’s problem to make it happen.”

“Our product backlog is full of priority feature requests that the sales person says the customer needs before they’ll purchase.”

You’re not going crazy – nor are you alone. These are common dysfunctions plaguing product teams in B2B companies the world over.

How do you stop them happening? Read on for some suggestions.

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44: A good picture can save 1,000 words

For those of us who are artistically challenged (read: crap at drawing), it can be daunting to contemplate the use of pictures over text to make a point. I’m a perfect case in point. For years I’ve been shamed by the gorgeous presentations by Macbook-toting designers. So I’ve resolved to change for the better.

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17: Remember your manners

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

My folks brought me up to remember my manners.  I consider I’ve perhaps taken this a little too far when I find myself apologising to people in London who have just shoulder-barged me into the path of an oncoming bus.  But manners are important, especially for a product manager, where your success relies on the help of many others.

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15: Product management is selling

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

Contrary to what you may think, most of product management is actually selling.  You are continually selling new product concepts, ideas for improvement as well as pitches for projects.  What you may not realise is that what most people think is selling isn’t actually selling.  Selling is listening, understanding, empathy and only then does persuasion factor in.

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8: Empathise, empathise, empathise

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?… He’s a mile away and you’ve got his shoes.”
Billy Connolly

Empathy is something every product manager needs to be able to do their job well. Without it, it’s impossible to be sure what matters most to your target market and how valuable a solution to their problems will be.

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3: Know your subject matter

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

So much of being a product manager depends on successfully persuading and influencing others.  Whether you’re presenting your product strategy, presenting a business case to the Board or talking with your customers, you need to demonstrate a good knowledge of your products and market to ensure that you come over as authoritative and credible.  Continue reading

1: Be fluent in the language of your audience

Over the coming weeks and months, I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

One of the roles a product manager or product marketing manager plays is to act as a translator between different groups of people.  Sometimes this can be in a literal sense, if your responsibilities span different countries, but more generally this means translating between the market, Sales, Marketing and Development as a minimum.  You could add any other department in your company to that list; you’ll most likely need their help at some point.

As with foreign languages, you won’t get anywhere just by speaking MORE LOUDLY AND SLOWLY to convey your point.  Rather, you need to invest some time and effort into learning and comprehending the language of your audience.  The first step is therefore to listen.

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ProductCamp London: Why product managers and entrepreneurs need to be more alike

Whether you’re part of a large, established company or a small, new start-up venture, you need to think like an entrepreneur if you manage products.  Here’s a round-up of some of the presentations and discussions I attended at London’s recent ProductCamp, with links to the slide decks and recommended reading where applicable.

Summary of advice:

  • Know your product, market, company, self: you need to go into your new venture / product management role with your eyes and ears open (via @cathyma)
  • Keep validating your business case: a business case will evolve over time, you need to continue to check your assumptions throughout the process, in parallel with development (via @SaintSal)
  • Learn how to influence others: whether they’re your investors, senior managers or other key stakeholders, convince them your approach is right through hard evidence and diplomacy (via @PaulLomax)

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