“I’m less terrible at it” applies to marketing and sales too.Many teams consider product management the single source of subject matter expertise. “Just call product management if you have any questions on the product.”Yes, inherent in the job of product management is exposure to deep product and market information. They know the features of the current release plus the features planned for the next release; they know the long-term roadmap for the product. They know the messaging and positioning, and can often do a killer demo and presentation.But that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who should.Many product managers are expected to deliver product screen shots to marketing communications since, after all, marketing can’t be expected to know the product.Really?Perhaps that’s why so many organizations are now hiring product marketing managers—people who know the product and the market who define all the go-to-market deliverables so that the marketing folks can specialize on execution.A marketing team that doesn’t know the market, persona, problem, and product is just an agency. Don’t get me started on domain knowledge and marketing.Oh wait. Domain knowledge is necessary in sales too. Many product managers are tasked with providing basic product knowledge to the sales team, as the sales people can’t be bothered to learn the product.Really?A friend in sales explained to me that he learns about deals before any of his competitors because his clients call him directly. Why? Because he understands their business. He has built a relationship with them by knowing the domain. Relationships are not about the superficial personal stuff, like “I know where your kids go to school”; strong business relationships occur when clients believe that the sales team adds value to their search.Yet more than one product manager has told me a variant on this story. The client explains their environment and the sales guy keeps asking them to explain the basics. “You mentioned Windows. Is that something that we sell?” And the client looks with exasperation at the product manager: “See what I deal with?” he asks.Many sales teams are in fact understaffed with subject matter experts. Call them sales engineers, pre-sales consultants, application specialists, or something else. If the sales team won’t hire them, then product managers are pulled into every deal.The same is often true in support. If we hire people in customer support who only use the support scripts, product managers (and developers) get called into many customer problems because the support personnel don’t know the product well enough.Every customer-facing department in the company needs to know the product. We need to put product skills where they’re needed. That means that product managers can’t be the only ones who know the product.
Many product managers participate in design because, as they put it, “I’m less terrible at it than my developers.”
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