Dating in the world of Product Management

“Lets get some coffee, I would love to learn more about what you are up to!”

That was basically the header of every email, telephone, and chat message I’ve sent as I hunt for the next potential customer meeting. Sounds a lot like dating, and in some ways I go through the same fears (of rejection) and excitement (when they accept my “date”).

As a Product Manager that focuses on Cloud and DevOps, my users come from eclectic backgrounds and walks-of-life. Some are athletes, artists, coffee-lovers, wine drinkers, or photographers… But what they all have in common is the need to accelerate their delivery of software and refine their processes.

Being a product manager is sometimes ambiguous, but often times misunderstood. The main goal of every product manager is to focus on and learn about the market/user problems that you are trying to solve. Its not about selling a product, theres a sales team that handles that. You’re meeting current, potential and past customers, understanding what problems they are having currently then refining your product vision and strategy.

The most important thing is that “coffee” date becomes actionable. Like dating, your goal is to meet and understand your significant other. Its a relationship that is not just about that first date. Even if that potential user won’t buy the product , they are just as valuable, because you will need to learn WHY they didn’t choose it. You’re there to also test your assumptions that your company has made with your product. Keep engaged, asking the right questions (based on those assumptions) helps you validate your roadmap and connect with them further. Thats why as product managers, we have to really understand our segment and be in-depth with our consumers’ problems.

All successful product engagements, like dating, is about really listening and understanding your audience. Don’t go in there ready to pitch your product, or even try to sell it to them. You have to go in with the mindset that you are here to evaluate, to see if theres a match (between their problem and your solution). Successful product engagements end up being more consultative and the potential customer is left with the impression that you really care (and you should!) and even if your product isn’t perfect for them, it could be (if you work on it!).

Like any first date, talk less (ask the right engaging questions) and listen way more, and maybe…hopefully… you’ll get that second date