Product Management Basics: The 5 Steps Of Buying

Product Managers need to lead customers to their product
Product Managers need to lead customers to their product
Image Credit: Jacqui Brown

As product managers it can be all too easy to get caught up in the fancy and complicated parts of our job. You know, things like product release maps, feature planning, metrics, crafting a complete product development definition, etc. However, sometimes it is worth it to take a step back and make sure that we still have a firm grasp on the basics of product management. One key part of this is doing a review of the process that your customers go through when they decide to buy your product.

Understanding That They Have A Problem

No customer will ever buy your product if they don’t think that they need it. They have to first realize that there is something wrong in their life. It is the job of your sales team to make sure that the customer realizes that they have this problem in the first place.

A really good salesperson has the ability, simply by talking with a potential customer, to identify what things are “bugging” them. This salesperson can then explore what the customer considers to be a minor annoyance and, with a little bit of luck, uncover something that is actually a big problem for the customer.

Realizing That They Need A Product Like The One You Manage

Once your sales person has convinced the potential customer that they really do have a problem, now the goal is to point them towards your type of product as a solution to the customer’s problem. However, before they can do that, a salesperson knows that they have to get the customer to acknowledge that what they need is a solution that is like your product.

What all of this means is that if you were selling a specific brand of kitchen knives, then first you’d need to convince the potential customer that the solution to their problem was a new set of knives. At this point in time we’re not talking about your knives, but rather kitchen knives in general.

Discovering That They Need YOUR Product

Up until this stage, getting a potential customer interested in your product has pretty much been the job of your sales team. That’s good news, because there are more of them and fewer of you. Once we reach this stage of your customer’s decision making process, they are going to buy something, it’s just not clear that they are going to buy your product.

It’s at this stage that a product manager needs to jump in. This is the kind of skill that you can put on your product manager resume. The customer is looking at your product and a lot of other similar products. What needs to happen here is you need to very clearly communicate to them why your product is the best one for them. As product managers, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to go about doing this step correctly.

Accepting Your Price / Value Proposition

Once the customer has decided that your product best meets their needs, they need to come to an acceptance of just exactly how much you plan on charging them for the privilege of providing them with your product. The key thing to keep in mind here is that it’s not just your price that you need to manage, but it’s also the complete value proposition that you’ll be offering your customers.

Keep in mind that people do purchase the very expensive Lamborghini cars. Clearly someone has convinced them that the value of owning a ridiculously priced car like this is worth it. If that can happen, then certainly you can convince potential customers that your product is worth the price that you are charging for it.

Taking Action To Buy Your Product

All of the effort that you and your sales team have gone to will have been wasted if your potential customer never ends up buying your product. This means that it’s going to be up to you to get your customer to move from thinking about buying your product to actually making a purchase.

Your salesperson should be able to help you out here by simply asking the potential customer to make a purchase. However, as the product manager you need to help to move things along by making right now the time for your customer to make a purchase. This can mean having a sale, offing a limited time discount, or doing something special to motivate the potential customer to turn into a real customer.

What All Of This Means For You

Being a product manager is a complicated job – just look at your product manager job description. There are a lot of sophisticated things that we need to spend our time working on. However, it can often be all too easy to start to overlook the fundamentals of marketing that come into play in every sale to a customer.

As product managers we need to remember that every sale starts with a customer becoming aware that they have a problem that needs to be solved. The next step is for the customer to realize that they need a product like the one that you are offering. From that you need to guide them to your product and have them start to desire it. They’ll have to come to accept the price / value proposition that you are offering them. Finally, no sale will ever happen if you can’t get your customer to take an action.

The great thing about this process of turning potential customers into customers is that there is nothing difficult or tricky about it. We all get it. However, you do need to keep in mind that this is the process that will play out with your salespeople and potential customers day after day. As product managers, we need to make sure that everyone is equipped to make sure that the potential customers end up making the right decisions.

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

Question For You: How can a product manager help the sales team to uncover customer issues?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Congratulations, you are managing a good product. It might even be a great product. However, when it comes time for one of your potential customers to pick a product to solve their problem, why should they choose yours over all of the other options that they have?