Question: What advice would you give to someone new to product management?
I have just secured a job as Product Manager. Though I have been in sales all along, I have never worked as a Product Manager before. I have the confidence that I can do the job, but I feel I can do even better with your professional advise. What kind of approach should I give to my job?
Answer from Jeff Lash of How To Be a Good Product Manager: Congratulations on the new position! It’s great to hear that you’re excited and confident about your new role. Starting off as a product manager for the first time is an exciting and challenging experience. New product managers can easily be overwhelmed with the position, with so many different responsibilities to learn all at once. I hate to put in a blatant plug, though since you’ve given me the opportunity, I’d first recommend a (free) webinar I presented on the subject: Ten Tips for New Product Managers. You can also download the slides (2MB PPT). For the quick summary, here’s the ten tips:
- Spend time with customers
- Ask “dumb” questions
- Let go of your past
- Surround yourself with experts
- Gather data
- Concentrate on what, not how
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Sell your product internally
- Do whatever it takes
With your background in sales, I would especially pay attention to tip #3. Your background in sales will be helpful, though you are not in sales anymore. You need to learn how to interact with customers without being in “sales mode.” You need to learn more about the other areas of the business about which you are less familiar.
My one other “bonus” tip which I include at the end of the presentation is to learn from other product managers. There are plenty of books, blogs, newsletters, webinars, conferences, professional associations, local groups, mailing lists, and other resources available. I have a number of them listed on the Resources page of How To Be a Good Product Manager.
I’d also suggest some product management training. As beneficial as these resources are, they are no substitute for attending professional development classes in person. Unfortunately, many new product managers face resistance when they try to get funding for training. I’m not sure why a company would agree to provide a hefty salary and benefits for a new product manager, yet not spend an extra 1-2% more to provide that person with training to help them be significantly more effective. I strongly urge you to research different training options and pick the one that is best for your situation. The benefits to you and your organization will be significant.
Best of luck in your new position!