A guest post by Stephen Greet Co-founder @ BeamJobs firstname.lastname@example.org
A product manager combines business strategy, design, and customer needs to:
- Create and develop a product that is relevant, feasible, and valuable
- Optimize business products to maximize both user functionality and ROI
- Manage the life cycle of a product
To accomplish these goals, you need to develop the right skills. You will, by reading this article, not only learn what those skills are and how to develop them, but also how to demonstrate them on a resume template.
In order to be a successful product manager, you must possess, and master, the right skills. You will, by reading this section, learn what these skills are and how they work.
As a product manager, you will be managing numerous tasks simultaneously. To do so effectively you must be able to determine which tasks are the most important. This way, you can then direct the efforts of your team towards completing those exact tasks.
Let’s say you are the PM leading a product team developing a new payment system.
You have determined that your first priority is clarifying the features needed, based on market research. The next step would be finding the tools necessary to bring those features to life. But, perhaps you have identified several tools that could meet most of the functionality required, but not all.
Should you move forward with a tool that does not meet all the needs, or should you reassess tools? Or, perhaps examine building a custom tool?
Depending on how many resources you have available, you may have to prioritize these options, or even eliminate one or more of them. This is all in a day’s work for a product manager.
- Strategic Thinking
A product manager is not only accountable for driving the strategic initiatives of the company, but also developing the strategies for the product or products they oversee.
Given this fact, strategic thinking is a core skill for PMs. You must be able to make decisions that determine the direction of a product’s development, and do so within the confines of your organization’s objectives and long-term strategies.
Let’s return to our previous example of the team creating a new payment system.
When developing any new system, one of the most important questions to ask is “What are the product’s most important features?”
For this example, those features are:
- Being able to handle a large volume of payments
- Registering payments quickly
- Accepting a variety of debit cards/credit cards
A PM must be able to create a strategy that enables those features to be developed, while working within the resources given to them and their organization’s business goals.
- Giving Good Feedback
A product manager must be able to lead and motivate the people they work with. Doing so requires empathy, discretion, and communication.
One of the best ways to develop those skills, while also being an effective leader, is learning how to give solid, constructive feedback.
Returning to our earlier example, you (the PM) notice that the last parts of the transaction process are convoluted and confusing.
You need to explain to your head UI designer that the UI is striking and elegant, relying on good aesthetic design principles, but the final steps to completing a payment are unclear.
Software development projects are creative endeavors, and developers are often personally connected to their projects. You must take this into account when you discuss criticisms of the product.
Discuss the issue in private with the head designer. Be objective and clear about the shortfalls of the UI. Point to the requirements (ease of use and simple). Have examples from several testers that cite the same issue.
Being factual, clear, and specific will ensure that this is a productive conversation.
- Basic Financial Literacy
As a product manager your goal is both making a good product and ensuring that this product meets your organizations larger goals and objectives.
To meet these larger goals and objectives, you will need to create pricing and growth estimates, which involves knowing the market, as well as your competitors.
All of this information will allow you to produce fact-based insights that enable you to guide the product throughout its lifecycle and maintain its profitability.
For those reasons, basic financial literacy, which allows you to understand and work with this data, is absolutely essential.
In our continuing example, your team must estimate the new payment system’s revenue by looking at the expected number of users versus the costs of running the system.
Working backwards, from the target revenue or margins needed for the product to be profitable, your team can calculate the transaction fee needed to generate the revenue required.
This can be an iterative process. Say the team initially comes up with a 5% transaction fee, and you feel this is too high, based on the current market and competitive rates. You must then go back to the team and brainstorm on how to get costs down or do something to increase the number of users.
- Product Management Metrics
As we noted in the financial literacy skill section, you must be able to produce fact-based insights. Doing so allows you to understand your products current performance and make decisions that will further improve performance.
To make each one of those tasks easier, you can use product management metrics. There are a myriad of metrics used for product management. Knowing which ones to use takes expertise and experience, but being familiar with the basics of each metric is a great start.
Having the right metrics is one challenge, but knowing how to evaluate them can also pose issues. Not all metrics are equal, and this is where your skills come in. Data analysis is a role unto itself, but it pays for a PM to develop skills in this area too.
Once again, we will use our example of the new payment system.
You are tasked with determining the budget needed for marketing the new product. You can utilize the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) metric to determine the cost of getting a customer. Then, in conjunction with CAC Payback, you can determine the amount of money a new customer could bring in and what the optimal amount to spend on marketing would be.
The average revenue per user (ARPU) and customer lifetime value (CLTV) are other metrics that can be used to evaluate the total revenues generated versus the costs associated with generating that money.
Having good metrics and the information systems to generate them are of key importance for any data analysis. Make sure you understand where the metrics are coming from and how reliable they are.
- Product Management Software
The product manager has many options available for software tools, and you should be aware of what is out there.
Some of the most popular product management software tools are Monday, Scoro, Wrike, TeamGantt, and Asana, just to name a few. Each one of these tools can be used to manage your work efforts and crucial business data.
A highly skilled PM must be able to use software tools in an effective manner. Being able to do so allows for better decision-making and effective goal-setting/tracking.
You do not need to be intimately familiar with every tool in the world. But you should know how to use some of the most widely-used tools.
Returning to our example of the new payment system, creating a new technology system requires time and effort, both of which must be well-managed. The right software tools can aid in making these management tasks much easier.
Just as an example, a PM can use Monday to track each team members’ progress and efforts. This way, the process of assessing the payment system’s progress, and determining which team members should be working on which goals, is much more efficient.
- Clear Verbal Communication
A product manager must be able to speak with people in a way that clarifies exactly what is needed. But, to go along with that, a PM must also be able to listen to people, as the best way to find out what someone needs is to listen to them. This goes for your colleagues and teammates, as well as your customers.
In our classic scenario of the new payment system, the PM must be able to articulate the key factors of this project. Key factors, such as the system’s purpose, the individual objectives that comprise the project, as well as the resources necessary to bring the system to fruition.
Regular and clear communication is paramount for leading any team. Obviously, speaking to and leading the overall team is important, but it is just as important for the PM to communicate directly with individuals about their roles and responsibilities.
Clearly delineating each person’s job ensures they know what is expected of them. Individual communication also gives the PM the opportunity to explain why they are important to the effort and motivate them.
We’ve covered seven crucial skills every product manager should have. Now we are going to give you some tips on how to exercise and build those skills. Mastering these skills will not guarantee your success as a product manager, but they will go a long way towards making you a better product manager.
- Learning Prioritization
Prioritization is a basic skill for any manager. But, effective prioritization can be difficult, due to multiple competing projects, tasks, and changing requirements.
One of the best ways to learn prioritization is to create a fictional product and, then, emulate the processes necessary to bring that product to fruition.
Create a schedule for all the tasks by
- Setting up a calendar
- Recording the goals
- Breaking down the simple tasks necessary to achieve those goals
Prioritize and order each task accordingly and imagine working through those tasks and marking when you accomplish the corresponding goals.
- Developing Your Strategic Thinking Skills
Strategic product management thinking is rooted in asking questions. When examining a project or initiative, it is essential that you ask focused “what” questions, such as:
- What should our product’s overall direction be?
- What are the product’s most important features?
- What are the key characteristics of our target market?
- What should we prioritize first?
Remember, you have to answer all of these questions under the lens of your organization’s goals. Developing a product that is in sync with the company’s overall strategy is a must.
If you can answer all these questions and map the results back to the company’s needs, then your product will have a much higher chance of succeeding.
- Mastering The Art of Giving Good Feedback
A PM must be able to give good, productive feedback. A proven way to do so is to clearly describe what worked and why it worked. Or, alternatively, what didn’t and why not.
Be detailed and objective. Use facts, not speculation or opinions. End the discussion by outlining a clear path to success and the necessary changes needed to get there.
- Growing Financial Literacy
As a PM, you will be working with financial data on a regular basis. Some of the most common financial data you will be engaging with include:
- Income statements
- Balance sheets
- Cash flow statements
- 10-K filings
You must be familiar with each one of these financial data points. To do so, you can review this blog on financial literacy for product managers.
- Understanding Product Management Metrics
Every PM must be able to determine which metrics will be effective in assessing the data that will drive their product’s success. Then, you must be able to use these metrics in a way that creates the results you depend upon.
The best way to develop these skills is by becoming familiar with the best metrics for product management.
Once you have a handle on which metrics will work for your product, go through an exercise with your product and experiment with those metrics. See which numbers drive the results, and try different permutations to get a good feel for how the metrics work.
- Becoming Familiar With Product Management Software
Software is essential for any PM and the best way to become familiar with this software is to try out the most popular tools. Some of these tools include:
Many of these software tools offer either a free trial or free version you can experiment with. By doing so, you can see how they work and what they can do. This will allow you to figure out which tool suits your product management needs.
- Strengthening Clear Verbal Communication
No matter the organization you work for, or the product management goals you are pursuing, you must be able to communicate effectively. Being able to do so will allow you to lead your team all throughout your product’s life cycle.
When planning a business discussion, focus by thinking about exactly what you want to convey. Break this information into small, simple points that you can deliver in a manner that is clearcut and easy to understand.
You must also be able to listen to people carefully, hear what they are saying, and ask specific questions to confirm your understanding.
Possessing the right product management skills is a great start. But, now, to land that great new product manager job, you must be able to demonstrate your ownership of these skills.
Since companies still rely on resumes to identify the best candidates for positions, you must demonstrate these skills by writing an outstanding resume
Any time you are targeting a specific job, the best way to impress that HR person or hiring manager is to make your resume a perfect match for their job opening.
Study the job description and any other information you can glean from their website (or other places) to learn as much as you can about the position. Take a close look at the responsibilities you will need to fulfill and the skills they are looking for.
You can then use this information to tailor your product management resume to the needs of your potential employer.
EXAMPLE JOB DESCRIPTION:
BigGenerator Inc. is a product accelerator charged with pioneering new product ideas. We do it all, including assessing viability, launching MVP, iterating, and scaling our products.
BgiGenerator has over 1,000 employees across engineering, product, and design. We have 25 agile teams, and each one explores and executes on a new initiative. Metered funding rounds keep us in check – don’t kill good ideas too early, don’t let bad ideas run for too long.
- Lead a team of analysts focused on scaling analysis, building dashboards, and incubated planning by strategy teams
- Envision the future and build the near-term roadmap for our conversational platform strategy
- Build solutions that govern data, raise awareness of where to find data, and help reduce inefficiencies
- Conduct analysis of general business health across various metrics
- Create new datasets and tables that help us pivot data analysis in a more efficient manner
- Partner with engineering teams to ensure that new technologies are adopted by our team accordingly
- Excellent communicator and storyteller, presenting concepts and ideas in different formats, depending on the context
- Proven expertise with taking a product from beginning to end
- Ability to be hands-on, thrives as a player-coach, can flip between executing as an individual contributor and leading a wider team, and your superpower as an individual contributor is going deep on data analysis and design
- Hands-on experience with Slack, MS Project, and Monday, Sisense, Tableau or Power BI – preferred.
- Innovation – You have fresh ideas, don’t accept the status quo, but are interested in solving problems in novel ways
Considering the example above, here are some of the key skills this employer is looking for:
- Strategic thinker with a proven track record of developing and implementing business plans for successful product lines
- Strong financial management abilities and knowledge of accounting (GL, balance sheets, P&L) and financial reporting (tax statement, cash flow, 10-K)
- Expertise in data analysis, metrics, and KPIs including LTV, CAC, CES, NPS, web analytics, and burndown
- Highly experienced communicator with a history of leading teams, negotiating contracts, and cultivating strong customer relationships
- Knowledgeable in major software tools such as MS Office, Monday, Asana, Jira, Tableau, and MS Project
When you are building your resume, focus on the descriptions of your achievements to address specific things your potential employer is looking for. Some examples of this include:
- Led a team of six to develop a company-wide payment platform for all goods and services, which grew to 500 transactions per-day
- Created and executed a roadmap for a new online accounting service that generated over $100 million in revenue in its first year
- Gathered and analyzed market data and customer surveys to create product changes that lead to a 13% increase in sales and improved customer retention rate by 5%
We’ve shown you the skills you must have as a product manager. We’ve shown you how to develop those skills. We’ve shown you how to demonstrate those skills on a resume.
Now it is time to take what you have learned, build those skills, and go out and land your next amazing product management position!