Product Managers: Use Your Influence to Drive Product Success Across Teams
To be effective as a product manager, you absolutely have to take ownership of the success or failure of your product. However, as a product manager, you’re not likely to have direct authority in your organization. Without authority, you likely feel that some things are simply out of your control. You don’t sell the product. You’re not the one building marketing campaigns. And you’re not going to be the one answering support calls. Although, you will certainly get an earful from sales if quotas aren’t hit, or from support if tickets seem too high.
While you might lack authority, you still have something powerful: Influence. And influence is exactly the tool you should use to reach your desired outcomes.
You might ask, who do I need to influence? Isn’t my job to ensure we’re building the right product to solve the right problems for our users? Yes… and no.
While building the right stuff for the right reasons is certainly part of your job, it’s only the beginning. As a product friend of mine from IBM once put it, “If you have a cure for cancer and nobody knows you have it, what it is, where to get it, and how to use it, then it doesn’t matter that you have it at all.” Quite simply, a product manager’s job is to make sure everyone in the organization is aligned as you prepare to bring a new product or feature to market.
If you have a cure for cancer and nobody knows you have it, what it is, where to get it, and how to use it, then it doesn’t matter that you have it at all.
Product + Marketing
It’s not enough to simply build something and then let marketing figure out how to position it, message it, and price it. There must be ongoing collaboration between product and marketing. It’s your job to enable your marketing counterparts to do their best work. They should know which persona this feature was built for, what problem existed that it solves and whether it solves a broadly unmet need in the market or if it’s differentiated from how competitors attempt to solve it. If that discussion isn’t happening, then how do you expect the marketing message to be consistent with what you built? And if the prospect or the user is confused or finds that their expectations weren’t met, then you’ve lost.
Product + Sales
The pain doesn’t stop with the marketing disconnect. It impacts sales as well. If you already have consistency between product and marketing, then it becomes much easier to deliver the key points of messaging, positioning, and differentiation to your sales team. But you need to make sure they have it. Getting the right message to prospects is the first step to increase conversion at the top of the funnel. Then, there has to be continuity in the message when the prospect gets to your sales team. It’s your job as product manager to ensure everyone is on the same page.
You don’t market your features or products, and you don’t sell them either. But neither you, marketing or sales will be successful if you’re not working together closely as you prepare to go to market with something new. Putting in the work up front to align these teams will create pay off in the funnel, in meeting sales quotas, and ultimately in your product forecasts. Everyone plays a part on this success, but the burden is and should be on your shoulders. Heck, you’re the one who made the decision to build it; it should be on you to ensure the success of it.
Putting in the work up front to align these teams will create pay off in the funnel, in meeting sales quotas, and ultimately in your product forecasts.
If your organization works in silos, it can be difficult to change the culture overnight. But it can be changed quickly if you find the right points of influence. It’s in marketing’s best interest to collaborate to hit their metrics and bring in the right leads. If the right leads aren’t coming in, how can the sales team close deals? You might have multiple departments, but you’re all on the same team, with the same goal. You’re trying to build a product that solves more needs, and in better ways, than your competitors. And if you’re aligned as an organization, it is much easier to accomplish that goal.
While product managers don’t have direct authority or control, you do have an incredible amount of influence. You rely on your organization for your product’s success, and they lean on you to enable that success. Influence equals leadership, and leadership means responsibility. You’re a leader, whether you have direct authority or not, so it is your responsibility to take ownership of your product’s success.