Why Product Managers Need to Know How to Sell (Their Vision)
When I first transitioned into product management, I assumed my work, and the projects I had on my plate, would speak for themselves and I wouldn’t be responsible for making slide decks or sharing my ideas.
I was, of course, quite wrong.
Selling your product vision to your peers and to the leadership team is crucial to product management. It is your responsibility to create alignment and excitement around how you plan to make the customer’s life better and move the company forward. You are, after all, responsible for deciding how to utilize some of your company’s most precious resources and communicating that plan clearly to the rest of your organization. Over the years, I’ve honed my selling skills in my time as a product manager, and I’ve experienced three key benefits from it. Let’s break them down.
As a product manager, you are responsible for deciding how to utilize some of your company’s most precious resources and communicating that plan clearly to the rest of your organization.
1. You get the most out of your team
Teams that have a shared understanding of the long-term goals and mission are more productive and creative. When engineers, designers, product marketers and other members of your core team know what the end state of the product looks like, they have the opportunity to think critically about how to approach it, how to prioritize which features to build, and how they’d suggest it be improved.
You wouldn’t ask a team of pastry chefs for a cake, icing, filling and decoration in isolation. You’d ask them for a tiered cake, and give them the flavors and components to be included before they start any work. Without communicating the end state, what the customer wants, and why it’s important, you rob your team of the chance to make the most of their time and skills and, more importantly, make your ideas better.
2. You secure your resources
In fast-paced environments, priorities are always subject to change. That means team composition and the amount of resources allocated towards various initiatives can be in flux.
Selling and sharing your product vision throughout your organization is a way of ensuring you protect your team and your resources needed to execute your initiative. If there is a discussion around how to shift resources to accommodate changing priorities, the worst thing that can happen is someone ask what your team is working on and those participating in the discussion don’t know the answer. But by selling that vision regularly to your team and to leadership, you can avoid that question altogether.
The worst thing that can happen is someone ask what your team is working on and those participating in the discussion don’t know the answer.
3. You build visibility within the organization
The association between you, the product manager, and your product vision are invaluable to your career. Promotion committees are typically closed door meetings where you won’t be able to advocate for yourself.
Over-communicating who you are and what your vision is allows you to build a base of allies and advocates who can make the decision to promote you much easier. The more people and leaders who can say, “that’s [name] who works on [product],” the better.
Clearly and consistently selling your product vision will make your team more efficient, it will make you more equipped to realize your vision, and it will make your work more visible across the company.
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but I have found it’s best to over-communicate through multiple formats. Include the vision in your written documentation and requirements, present it at team all-hands and discuss it in smaller stakeholder meetings. If you feel like you’re hitting them over the head, you’re on the right track. I’d bet a lot of money that you’ve never heard someone complain about having too much context or being too close to customer needs.
To hear more from Paige, tune in to her interview, about roadmapping your career in product management, on the Better Product Podcast.