3 Skills That Most Product Managers Are Missing

by drjim on September 27, 2010

You Can't Be A Complete Product Manager Without These Skills

You Can’t Be A Complete Product Manager Without These Skills

I’m guessing that you wouldn’tgo to work naked. Then why-oh-why are heading off to your product management job when you don’t have all of the skills that you’ll need to do the job correctly?

I’m not sure if this is going to make you feel any better, but it turns out that most product managers are showing up for work only partially dressed when you consider what skills they are missing. Maybe we’d better have a talk about this…

Can You Communicate?

All too often, we marketing folks assume that good communication skills simply means that you have the ability to get up in front of a group of people and deliver a speech without bursting into flames. Yes, this is good skill to have, but a product manager has to have more.

Remember, communication is a two-way street and not only does a product manager need to be able to tell others what to do, but you are also going to have to be able to listen to what others are telling you.

No, we’re not talking about having the ability to sit there and listen when someone else is talking to you just waiting for them to pause so that you can start talking again. Instead, a product manager needs to be able to listen, process what has been said, and then ask good, pointed questions that will help get to the bottom of any discussion.

Just to round things out, a product manager also needs to have the communication skill that will allow them to “close” a discussion. This is when you ask a final question and then have the strength to keep you mouth closed and allow the other person to provide an answer. This is how you wrap things up cleanly.

Promote, Promote, Promote!

All too often product managers seem to have a “build it and they will come” sort of attitude. They believe that if they do a good job then the rest of the company will realize it and their value to the company will increase. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

What product managers need to be doing is constantly promoting both themselves and their product. Now you have to be careful here, note that I didn’t say “bragging”. The difference is subtle, but important.

One way that a product manager can show the value of both his position as well as the value that his / her product brings to the company is to become the thought leader on all things about the market that the product addresses. By researching what drives the market and then taking the time to educate the rest of the company about what customers are really looking for, both the product manager and their product will become recognized as a valuable resource.

Make A Friend (or Two)

Within the world of marketing, there is often a “loner” attitude that many of us hold: I can do it all by myself. As a product manager, you need to stop thinking this way and start making as many contacts as you can.

A product manager is only as strong as his / her network and that means taking the time to develop real relationships with as many people as possible. Not all product managers have this skill.

What All Of This Means For You

If you really want to become a successful product manager, you’ve got some work to do. There are a set of skills that you’ll need to develop in order to ensure that both your career and your product get the kind of positive attention that you both deserve.

In order to become a successful product manager, you’re going to have to have the ability to be a good two-way communicator. You’ll have to learn to spend your time tirelessly promoting both your product’s value as well as your own value to the company. Finally, you are going to have to get good at that critical job skill: networking.

None of these three skills are impossible to do. However, the key to being a successful product manager is to get good at doing all three at the same time…!

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

Question For You: Which of these three skills do you think is the most important for a product manager to have?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every product manager likes to think that once their customer has purchased their product, that’s the end of the story. The reality is just a bit different: for a whole bunch of reasons, our customers can change their mind about buying our product and decide to return it. What’s a product manager to do when this happens?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Herwarth von Bittenfeld September 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Good points. I will constantly work on fine-tuning them for myself.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson September 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Paul: Fantastic! We can never become perfect, but we can keep getting better…!

Reply

Eric Toulouse October 27, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Agreed these skills are necessary, but in the fast paced – high tech environment we’re in, they might not be sufficient to win. For example, capturing the voice of the customer regarding future needs is important but by the time the customers can clearly articulate their needs it is often too late to start product development (an expect to intercept their timing). Which means that anticipating the customer needs is the new requirement. How Product Mgr can anticipate market needs is another story, one that could possibly deserve another discussion.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson October 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Eric: great points. Just goes to show that the product manager who could read the future would be invaluable! I guess the best that the rest of us mortals can do is to work at learning how to understand what the customer REALLY wants, not necessarily just what they are saying…!

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Eric Toulouse October 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Agree on all accounts.
Important to distinguish between Customer’s needs Vs wants. Regarding predicting the future and how it can be done practically: vast topic. One useful activity for personal experience: Increasing the number of meaningful contacts up and down the supply chain is one practical way to increase the probability of future success. Talking to customers’ customers is usually pretty enlightening and increases the likelihood to ‘win at the winners’.

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Jayant Thakre January 14, 2011 at 5:12 am

When I read this article I could recollect few Product Managers I worked with, who failed on the aspects you have mentioned. I believe it’s very important that both Product Managers and Product Management aspirants pay heed to the skills you have mentioned. Good post!

With regards to your “Promote, Promote, Promote” & “Make A Friend (or Two)” points, maintaining the balance is very important. I also believe that Product Manager has to be complete package as I wrote in blog @ http://productquadrant.com/?tag=product-manager.

Regards,
Jayant Thakre

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Jerry Gervacio May 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm

After reading this article, I am inspired because this I “see” what I need to become successful PM. I always emphasize the importance of communication since I am working with staff from different countries. Thank you for sharing this. I learn also the importance of showing my value (as PM) in the company as well as the importance of networking.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson May 6, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Jerry: fantastic! Don’t get all caught up in the different product management frameworks that are out there — in the end career success all comes down to being able to communicate with others clearly. Good luck!

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