How To Be A Good Product Manager

Tips on product management and product marketing for product managers. By Jeff Lash

Do not react to every customer complaint

Posted on March 2, 2007 by Jeff Lash · 6 Comments

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If you want to be a bad product manager, react swiftly to any objections pointed out during the sales process. Any issue that customer raises could potentially cause you to lose a sale, so you must make immediate changes to prevent that from happening. If a competing product has a type of content that yours doesn’t, start a special project to create and add that content into your product. If a customer comments that they’d like to be able to export to 10 different file types, not just eight, add in those other two. When a potential customer asks if your product supports OS/2 and PCL 4 printers, make sure to stop all other development work and prioritize those features. After all, being a product manager is about giving customers what they ask for, right?

If you want to be a good product manager, identify and focus on areas that are actually impacting sales. There may be some issues that are creating uncomfortable moments during the sales process, but you should not immediately react to them.

Instead, when issues are pointed out during the sales cycle, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Does this fit with the overall strategic direction for the product?
  2. Are we losing sales because of this?
  3. Would the cost to make the change or addition be less than the additional revenue gained?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you would likely benefit more from focusing on issues where you can answer all three of these questions with a “yes.”

Product management is not just about giving customers what they ask for; customers always want to have everything and pay for nothing. Instead, you need to focus on what will make your product valuable and worth customers paying for.

In the examples provided above, there may be logical reasons not to give customers what they ask for. The competitor’s product with different content may be pursuing a strategy that is different than yours, and adding that content to your product may go against the vision you have established for your product’s future. The customer may want to export to 10 different types of files, but they may still buy your product because the 8 options is still much better than any other product available. Supporting antiquated technology may be a huge cost that much greater than the potential loss of that one customer out of thousands dropping your product.

ZIGZAG Marketing addresses these issues in a tip entitled Problem Discovery and Product Objections:

In reality, many objections raised during the sales cycle are not that important relative to the big picture. The challenge is helping your prospects see it the same way. But it’s nearly impossible to do if we don’t understand the real issues driving the decision. It’s a big reason we often get fooled into thinking product features are driving the decision. It’s rarely the case.

So you don’t have every productivity or efficiency feature? No big deal! Redirect the focus of your value proposition to the capabilities that address larger scale issues such as growth or competitive pressures.

Good product managers keep their product development focused on the overall value proposition and work with sales and marketing to ensure that value is communicated to customers customers. Listen to objections that are raised during the sales cycle, as those could be legitimate areas that need to be addressed, but do not respond to every issue mentioned by customers.

How To Be A Good Product Manager features tips on product management and product marketing, written by Jeff Lash (@jefflash on Twitter), Vice President and Group Director for the Product Management and Portfolio Marketing research and advisory services at SiriusDecisions.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • ijaz jiffry // Sep 6, 2008 at 8:55 am

    how to be a good salesman?

  • David Locke // Sep 11, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Once you get past the tornado, luckily you are the market leader in your category. If so, the market determines the product that gets bought, and the market already decided that you are it. Individual customers no longer matter. You will get your cut of the market regardless.

    If you are not the market leader, or you are a market leader that will spend money on a good reputation regardless, you still have to understand that customers are not alike in terms of their contribution to your business. You lose money on some customers. You make money on some customers. You gain evangelism from some customers. You get nothing, but complaints from other customers. Which ones are you listening to? Do you know which customers are which?

  • kannan // Sep 22, 2008 at 6:55 am

    take him off

  • kannan // Sep 22, 2008 at 6:56 am

    take him off means we wiil take off

  • kannan // Sep 22, 2008 at 7:01 am

    we are expecting only for a product not for sale

    see there is one thing we have to do & which things they should taken in thier mind they are become a good product manager

  • David Locke // Sep 23, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    If you are not building a customer base, sale or free, then you don’t need a product manager. Your team lead should be able to handle getting the code done, since it still won’t be a product.

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