Good product managers know how to network well

Good product managers know how to network well
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In the end, it turns out that product management is all about more than just creating a good product development definition, you have to be a good communicator. However, before you can become a good communicator, you first have to have a network to communicate with. Building that network can be a challenge. What product managers need are some tips on just exactly how to go about building the network that they’ll then be able to leverage in order to ensure that their product will be a success.

Your Comfort Zone Larger

You know what I mean by “comfort zone” don’t you? As product managers, once we understand what our job requires, we tend to hang out and to associate with the people that we know. These are the people that we need to work with on a day-to-day basis in order to get things done.

However, you need to always be growing your network. This means that you’ve got to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. At work this means that you are going to have to seek out people whom you don’t know. The people will work in other departments and may do jobs that you don’t know anything about. Find them and ask them what their jobs are. If you can get good at doing this, you’ll have something else to add to your product manager resume.

When you go out to industry events no matter if they are trade shows or just seminars, take the time to arrive early Use your time to introduce yourself to everyone who is there. Yes, I do mean that you should also meet your competition. Come away from these events with a bigger network.

Each And Every Relationship Matters

Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell who was going to be important to us the first time that we met them? This way we could quickly identify the people who were of no value to our networking goals and we could safely ignore them. Bad news – you can’t tell this and you just might be surprised who becomes important later on.

What this means for you is that you need to view every new contact that you make as being very, very important. These contacts can show up in the most unlikely of places. They may be your product’s customers, other employees at your company, or even the vendors who are trying to sell you a product.

The reason that each and every person that you meet is so important is because you never know where they’ll go. Any one of these people could end up being a key decision maker at their or another company in the future. You’d like to be on their good side wouldn’t you?

Not Everyone Is Going To Like You

I’m sorry to have to be the one who tells you this, but not everyone that you try to add to your network is going to want to be added. There can be a wide range of reasons for this, but you need to learn how to let it go.

When someone rejects your offer to network with them, you need to learn to not take it personally. You have no idea what is going on in their life right now. They might just not have the bandwidth to be networking or they may be so focused that they are just shutting everything else down.

When you get rejected, use this as a reminder. What you need to keep in mind is how you are feeling right now is how other people feel when you reject them. It never feels good, so you should be careful to not reject others who want to network with you.

Persistence Pays Off

As with all such things in life, the key to successful networking is persistence. If you just try to get in contact with a person once with no follow up, then you’re not really trying.

A much better way to go about doing this is to make sure that you always follow up after the first contact. If you reach out to someone and they don’t get back to you, then keep reaching out. This persistence can turn almost any non- response into yet another network contact over time. This is why “being persistent” should be a part of every product manager job description.

You have to keep at it. It is very important to never assume that just one message is going to be enough. Keep reaching out until you’ve successfully been able to have a dialog with the person that you want to add to your network.

What All Of This Means For You

The more people that you know, the better a job of making your product successful you’ll be able to do. The challenge that most product managers have is that they simply don’t know how to go about networking in the first place.

In order to successfully network, you first have to make your community of people that you interact with larger. After doing this, you then need to manage each and every relationship that you have. Realize that not every relationship is going to work out – you are going to have to have some tough skin. Finally, this networking stuff does not happen overnight. You are going to have to be persistent and keep at it.

The power of having an effective network cannot be overstated. Taking the time to develop your networking skills will provide you with a network that you’ll be able to rely on in order to make your product a success. Time spent networking is time well spent.

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How much time each week do you think a product manager should spend networking?

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P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As product managers, after we create our product development definition our goal is to get as many customers as we possibly can for our product. However, after we’ve gotten some customers, what then? This is one of the things that they never taught us in product manager school: what to do with the customers that you already have It turns out that the answer is that you want to find ways to connect with them.

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Your internal customers are almost as important as your real customers are

Your internal customers are almost as important as your real customers are
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Product launches are one of the most difficult things that product managers are called on to do. The reason that they are so difficult to do well is because no matter how detailed of a product development definition you’ve created, there are still a large number of moving parts that are involved. It can be very easy to focus on the target customers who you are hoping will select your product. However, it turns out that there are even more types of customers that you should be worrying about: internal customers.

Sales

Let’s face it: your product will never be a success if the sales team does not go out and sell it. What this means for you as a product manager is that you need to make sure that you take the time to communicate with your sales teams long before the product get launched. Get this right and you’ll have an important addition to your product manager resume.

This is an area where you need to make sure that you are not guessing. What does your sales team really need from you? You could end up creating all sorts of presentations and brochures for them; however, if this is not the way that they sell your product then your time will have been wasted.

Instead, you need to have a talk with sales. Find out how they expect that they will be selling your product. If it’s possible to do so, go out with them and shadow them as they visit customers. Discover what customers want to know about your products and then equip your sales teams to provide it to them.

Support

Right after support, the next internal department that is going to contribute the most to the success of your product will be your support team. Once the product has been sold, these are the people that will be getting the calls directly from the customer in order to get answers to questions and to get issues resolved.

One of the most important things that a product manager can do is to make sure that the support team has plenty of advance notice about a new product. You need to ensure that there will be no surprises. They need to know what the product does and any limitations that you know about before it goes out the door.

In addition to making sure that your support team knows what is going on, you need to make sure that you’ve reserved enough time for them to get trained on your product. You want them to be intimate with how the product works before they get the first call from a customer about your product.

Finance

One department that many product managers forget to think about as an important internal customer is the finance department. This is a mistake. The finance department helped your product to get off the ground, it’s now critical that you keep them in the loop as the product is launched.

One area that will have the interest of the finance department has to do with the decisions that you make during the product launch regarding pricing. The initial pricing of the product, the proposed discounts, and the actual discounts will all have an impact on the company’s bottom line.

Before, during, and after the product launch you need to be working with your finance department. The two of you will have to be watching your profit targets, and the product costs so that you can ensure that your product will be profitable.

What All Of This Means For You

There is no one thing that will make a new product a success. Ultimately it comes down to a number of different, but interconnected, items. All too often a product manager can focus on the customers who will be buying the product and forget about the internal customers whose support is needed in order to make the product a success. Working closely with these internal teams should be a part of every product manager job description.

There are many different internal groups who make up your internal customers. The sales teams are among the most important. You need to work closely with them to understand what they need from you and to provide them with it. The support teams will have the most contact with customers who purchase your product. Make sure that they know what the plan for launching the product is. Finally, your finance team is not always considered when launching a product, but they can be key to making sure that you have any additional funding that you need and supporting your next product launch.

No, being a product manager is not an easy job. However, understanding all of the various parties from whom you need support in order for your product to be a success is a key step in being a successful product manager. Make sure that you take the time to meet the needs of your internal customers and they’ll be willing to help you to make your next product launch a success.

- Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How much prior to a launch should you start working with your sales team?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In the end, it turns out that product management is all about more than just creating a good product development definition, you have to be a good communicator. However, before you can become a good communicator, you first have to have a network to communicate with. Building that network can be a challenge. What product managers need are some tips on just exactly how to go about building the network that they’ll then be able to leverage in order to ensure that their product will be a success.

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