2002 Newsletter Archive
The average Product Manager is 35 years old; 84% claim to be 'somewhat' or 'very' technical; 92% have completed college, 51% have some MBA classes; and 40% have completed a masters program; 35% are female, 65% are male. The typical product manager has responsibility for three products.
Is management asking you to do more to generate sales? If so, you're not alone. But be careful about how you respond. Marketing should contribute to sales results, but you should not become a sales support organization. How do you know when you're crossing the line into sales? If you're building customized presentations and proposals, or delivering prospect demos for the reps, you're in sales support. Yet every time a deal closes the pipeline gets smaller. A productive marketing organization supports sales by constantly bringing new leads into the pipeline, and then drives those leads to closure with effective tools and programs.
Everyone seems to be on the 'Voice of the Customer' bandwagon. But I seriously doubt that most companies really understand what this means. They pay lip service to listening to the customer (that's what customers expect), but they often don't know how to do it proactively. And, being reactive, they often just listen to the noisy customers (not necessarily their best customers) and react to the squeaky wheels rather than focusing on the best interest of their market at large, creating real value that benefits many rather than a few.
Sales Engineers (SEs) are the technical glue of a technical sale. Sometimes called 'systems engineers, ' 'pre-sales support, ' or 'field consultants, ' SEs act as the 'technical encyclopedia' during the sale, representing the technical aspects of how the product solves specific customer problems. They perform technical presentations for the product. They own the demonstration script for the product. With adequate staffing of trained SEs, product management typically does not go on sales calls and customer demos.
Recent evaluators can make the truest assessment of our products. Having just evaluated the product against the competition, they can assess our company's strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps most importantly, from evaluators we can learn about problems with the product and also problems with the buying and selling process.
What is your comfort zone as a product manager? Is it the product? The technology? The competition? The customer? When you first became product manager, how did you get up to speed on the job? Unfortunately, many new product managers gravitate towards their comfort zone: the product. They learn about 'the product' by reading the user guides and brochures, going through the tutorial, attending formal training, surfing the web, and sitting through product demonstrations on sales calls. Although product knowledge is important, spending time listening to the market is where the real learning takes place, and the quicker you become acclimated, the more value you add.
Can you believe the angst between product managers and developers? Many product managers think their developers are incompetent. The feeling is mutual: developers don't think product managers bring any value to the process. Yet we all want to get products to market but our understanding of roles keeps getting in the way. Who writes requirements? Who writes specifications? And what's the difference between a req and a spec?
What is the product management role in prioritizing product defects versus new features? We have limited development resources and can only do so much in each release cycle. We have dozens (or hundreds) of product bugs in the tracking database. We have pressure for new requirements from our sales force and execs. Should we fix defects or add new features?
It's time for a re-organization. After all, it's been almost 18 months since the last one. It seems that many corporations try to solve internal process problems by moving people around. And product management gets tossed around more than most. Maybe this is because few executives understand the role of product management. Because they don't know what to do with product management, executives find it difficult to find the proper organization within the company. Where should product management be in the company?
One of the most challenging aspects of building products is articulating a customer need to developers and engineers. The industry has chosen to use 'requirements' as that communications vehicle. But how do you write effective requirements?
The average Product manager is 35 years old;
80% claim to be 'somewhat' or 'very' technical;
87% have completed college and 33% have a masters;
39% are female, 61% are male.
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