Ask A Good Product Manager

Your product management questions answered

How can I take charge of my product?

Posted on March 1, 2008 · No Comments

Question: How do I get others to let me manage my product?

I am coordinating the launch of a new product. The Company is small, attempting to move to the next level. The Sales group recently cut the price of our core software in half to a potential customer, which I found out only after presenting my 2008 product plan. How do I convince/encourage the small business owners to let go of decision making on the product, without offending them?

Answer from Steve Johnson of Pragmatic Marketing: Honestly, it is indeed ridiculous for sales people to discount a brand-new product and you’re right to be upset. Perhaps that’s why 28% of product managers have authority to reject contracts for excessive discounting. But the sales situation is just one part of the problem, isn’t it? I’m guessing that developers add features that weren’t part of the plan and executives add major initiatives to the roadmap and tell clients without your knowledge. Am I close?

How do you get the company to let the product manager manage the product?

When I was just starting out in business, I took a presentations class that taught me how to deal with difficult situations. In short, set aside your emotions and focus on facts. Write down all the features that you want to deliver (or better yet, problems that you want to solve), put them in a spreadsheet, prioritize with a simple formula, and publish it to the execs. Every new idea gets added to the list in priority order. When an someone has a new idea, fine, put it on the list and prioritize it. Sales people won’t understand because they are thinking only of the deal of the day but execs will get it. And pretty soon the execs will see that you are indeed managing the product. Instead of saying “this is my product,” say “this is the list of your priorities that I’m managing for you.”

So instead of being frustrated, just report the facts to the exec team. Development delivered features that were not requested. Sales discounted the product excessively. Here’s the impact of these decisions on my business case. What do you execs want to do about it?

Another view of this situation can be found in One Voice of Priority.