Are you a new product manager?

Learning the product management discipline takes time and practice. All product managers were new to the process at some point in their careers, so do not get discouraged. Here are a few suggestions for how to kick-start your understanding of the product, market, customer and value your product delivers:

  • Know your boss’ goals
    At the end of the day, as a product manager, you’ll be measured not only on the success of your product but also how well you’re able to align to the company goals and objectives. Understanding how your boss is measured helps guide you to understand what is important to upper management and the person who is directly responsible for mentoring and coaching you.

  • Friend a sales engineer
    Sales engineers are in constant communications with customers and know the product inside and out. A sales engineer who is willing to let you shadow him or her will give you a deep level of insight and appreciation for the interworking of the product as well as how customers leverage the product in their day-to-day jobs or life.

  • Talk to five customers
    Do not be afraid to engage directly with customers. In most cases, customers who are actively using your product will want to tell you what they most enjoy (or loath) which gives you insight and power to make decisions and trade-offs. The only way to really understand your product value is to speak with the people who use if the most—your customers.

  • Use the product
    For consumer product companies, this is a no-brainer and you should be using the product on a daily basis. If you work in a high-tech company developing business-to-business applications, ask your engineers to give you access to a demo or staging environment where you can tinker with it yourself. There is no better learning experience than through hands-on use. Typically sales engineers have access to demo and staging areas, so even more reason to friend a sales engineer.

  • Sit on at least ten customer support calls
    The customer support team is constantly fielding questions and issues from customers. They are the ones blocking and tackling the tough questions that bubble up from customers and partners. Listen to the feedback and questions that customers bring to the team. Understand how the customer support team engages with customers and use that knowledge to further your insight of the customer and product. If you’re not able to be on the calls, meet with the customer support manager and individual support reps to review their issues list and top questions that come in on a weekly basis.

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