As a product manager, you probably have no subordinates — but it is critical that you have leadership skills.
Because you simply cannot do everything that is necessary for your product to be successful. Throughout the product lifecycle, you rely on active participation from many internal stakeholders in various roles.
But how can you as a product manager get everything you need from all stakeholders without formal power?
The most effective way to get help is to share it generously.
Give help —> Receive help.
When you help your stakeholders achieve their goals, you will receive favors in return. So whenever possible, take the chance to use your own competencies and knowledge to make work easier for your most important stakeholders.
You can help your internal customers achieve their goals by applying the same techniques and models you do for the end customers. Treat internal customers like partners and view their needs from their perspective. Then it will be easier to find shared interests and common goals.
So, as a product manager, stop and think about each stakeholder.
- What is their goal and what are they trying to achieve?
- What product manager’s knowledge/skill will help them achieve their goals?
In the below section, I have listed the most common needs a product manager’s stakeholders face, and where your competence can help them achieve their goals.
Your important stakeholders can be found in company (or product line) management, product development, sales, marketing, customer support, and production.
1. Your company’s technology manager
This is typically the Chief Technology Officer. As a product manager, you can help the CTO achieve his goals in the following ways.
- Develop a clear, actionable product strategy that helps the CTO forward within the tech strategy.
- Keep the sales team disciplined by not agreeing to technical choices requested directly by the customers.
- Communicate frequently with the CTO so that there is a common understanding of the expected product life cycles.
- When speaking with customers, transfer what you learn from those conversations into direct benefits and value to the customers. Spare your customers from too much technical detail. Assure them that your product solves their problems without their direct involvement or input.
2. The person in charge of marketing
This is typically the Chief Marketing Officer. As a product manager, you can help the CMO by doing the following.
- Clearly state your products’ value propositions.
- Define the key customer segments, who the target customers are, and how these prefer to buy.
- Together with the sales and marketing team, create buyer personas to represent the typical buyers within the most important customer segments.
- Help marketing to focus their content marketing on things that interest the customer. The customers are interested in getting their own work done and are not interested in the internal affairs of your company.
- Be an ambassador of your brand in all outbound product activities.
3. The person in charge of a company or product line
This is often the Chief Executive officer. As a product manager, help your CEO with their goals in the following ways.
- Manage (take care of) products according to their needs at each stage of their life cycles, ensuring your company gets maximum value from them.
- Share information with the CEO about the product and market performance.
- Prepare clear business cases for new projects, based on real data. And if there is no data, clearly present the biggest uncertainties and risks. This enables the CEO to make faster decisions.
- Break down silos in your organization. Act as a hub for cooperation between sales, marketing, product development, and production.
4. The person in charge of sales
Without sales, there is no more product (or company). As a product manager, you can help the person responsible for it in the following ways.
- Ensure each product and service meet the real needs of the market.
- Understand the changes taking place in the customer's environment. You need to continuously develop the products and customer experiences to develop long-lasting customer relationships. By doing this, the sales process doesn’t always need to start with a cold call. (Nobody wants to do those)
- Ensure the sales material is always up-to-date and meets your main buyer personas’ needs and preferences. And don’t forget the needs at the different phases of the sales process.
- Help communicate the value of the products and services to buyers so that the conversation does not always end in a price reduction.
- Create a pricing model based on value to the customer, rather than mere delivery cost.
5. The person responsible for product development
Your fates are intertwined. And as a product manager, you can help this person in the following ways.
- Document the product vision and strategy, and thus define ''what's important''.
- Make sure you solve the right customer problems — or rather the market problems of an entire customer segment or market.
- Understand the changes taking place in the market, and anticipate and inform about the future needs of your target customers.
- Throughout the entire life cycle of each product or service, manage all requirements, especially customer problems and needs.
- Set (hard) priorities on what to do, so that the development pipeline is not blocked.
- Protect product development teams from external pressure by defining what is going to be built and why.
6. The person responsible for your customer support
As a product manager, help this person keep your customers happy in the following ways.
- Ensure the service team has up-to-date information about new product features, new products, and product changes.
- Understand the changes taking place in the market or markets, and inform about future needs your target customers may develop. Your experts can then make the best decisions about both support services and the actual products, today and in the future.
- Actively solve repeating customer problems. This improves customer satisfaction and decreases support requests, saving time for all parties.
7. The person in charge of the company’s production
As a product manager, you can help this stakeholder in the following ways.
- Maintain a realistic forecast of delivery volumes. This is especially important when launching new products.
- Manage each product’s life cycle. If you frequently share the life cycle information with the production team, they can ensure you have sufficient delivery capability, combined with good quality and reasonable costs.
- You are responsible for the end-of-life (EOL) process of aging products or product features. Planning this well together with the production team, you can avoid extra costs in licensing, cloud capacity, or component inventories of physical products.
If you read this blog as a product manager, you may be surprised about the amount of work. Luckily, many of these activities are strongly linked to a specific life cycle phase — you don’t have to concentrate on all of these at once.
If you use a systematic product management framework, you will notice that most of the deliverables are managed there, at least on some level.
If you are simply interested in product management, you should by now have a clearer view of what kind of value a competent product manager can bring to your company. Whatever your role is, a competent product manager will most certainly be able to make your life easier!
Published: March 17, 2023