Product management is much more than stories and backlogs. The art of the profession comes from understanding business and people. Carrying a sales bag is a skill that defines many Product leaders as they learn to drill down through what people say is the problem or need to the true core of the problem.
The mechanics of running roadmaps and releases can be mastered in months on the job. Getting into the field and learning to contextually interview and observe is where the great things happen. Sales are there for a completely different reason and this includes folks in the C-Suite. You as a product leader have the ability and responsibility to connect with the user, become their advocate, become the trusted conduit that has no agenda but to make their days better!
So outside of field work how does a PM gain these skills? Like most things Practice, Practice, Practice. Training in how to question or interview helps, I also like training that prepares focus group leadership, mediation, or facilitation. Strong pundits often miss the messages people give off as they present ideas and visions. There is a time for vision but customer interaction is not it.
If you are presenting a vision to a customer there better be a sales exec to follow through or approve of your ideas and how they align with the sales strategy for the account. I have seen PMs lay out a road map and the prospect say “ok I will wait for version 3 in the fall!” Ouch!
As a Product pro you are a sponge, there to soak up data and probe what you hear and say, your are the new advocate and the customers personal envoy to the vendor. You can walk a mile in their shoes, feel their pain and help them find that innovation. You help them become raving fans and own a piece of the roadmap.
Product pros develop a keen ability to project empathy while seeding ideas or testing hypothesis. You create deep friendships that produce referrals for others and call you first before the account churns. Your allies in the market are your best tools when building roadmaps, then you respect sales or customer service who have the responsibility for revenue.
Elevate your game don’t step on others!