Product Managers Need To Know Who Their Internal Customers Are

by drjim on October 20, 2014

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?

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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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