The Only Two Customers that Product Managers Have

I originally wrote this article on LinkedIn in September 2017.

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This is a follow-up to my article on the “3 Skills The Best Products Managers Have”.

I believe product managers have two customers:

1. The Engineering / Development team:

· Make sure they are building the right product and adding the right features, in the right priority. Of course, the inherent assumption here is that we make sure that the development team has the right skills, equipment, and resources.

2. The Sales team:

· Make sure you teach them how to sell the product we are building, which includes making sure we have the right sales team & sales channel, sales enablement material, client-ready collateral, demos, videos, marketing and PR air-cover, and lead-generation mechanisms.

To figure out what we should be building, the PM has to meet clients, understand their pain points, understand what pain points they will pay to address (often overlooked), test how much they will pay for it (tells you how strong the pain is), test the value proposition of a product or feature proposal, and so on.

To figure out how to teach the sales team sell the product, the product manager has to sell unit number one themselves. Unless the PM sells the product themselves, they will not figure out how hard it is to sell the product, what knowledge (translates to sales training) & collateral (presentations, PDFs, demos) is required, and if the pricing is right.

Its important for product managers to spend a lot of time with both the development team and the sales team. Often, PMs get sucked into one or the other; sometimes spending too much time in inbound work due to onerous product and program management processes, or because they are attending every development meeting, and other times, spending too much time with clients, because instead of teaching & helping sales team how to sell, they end up doing a lot of selling themselves.

There are many other constituents that PMs must spend time, including the PR / communications, marketing, and analyst teams and with upper management (to get alignment & resources). But keep your eye on the ball; all these folks are there to help the PM’s drive to serve their two primary customers: engineering and sales.

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