15: Product management is selling

15: Product management is selling

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

Contrary to what you may think, most of product management is actually selling.  You are continually selling new product concepts, ideas for improvement as well as pitches for projects.  What you may not realise is that what most people think is selling isn’t actually selling.  Selling is listening, understanding, empathy and only then does persuasion factor in.

Selling is listening, understanding, empathy and only then does persuasion factor in

You need to understand what is important to the people you’re talking to and explain why your proposal will be in their interest.  Although it may seem a little counter-intuitive, tell them what will be the downsides for them and how you plan to mitigate them.  It’s generally better to be up-front rather than give the misleading impression that everything will be peachy.  Moreover, it will demonstrate you’ve thought through your proposal with some diligence and understood what matters to them.

Explain your reasoning and at best you’ll achieve consensus, at worst you’ll uncover new information that may cause you to rethink and improve your approach.

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The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a freelance head of product, product management coach and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn.

2 Comments on “15: Product management is selling

  1. Jock,
    Great post, and one that makes me think about the role of sales. You, rightly, point out that Product Management is sales at its most instinctual basis. It is also marketing. Promotion, product, placement, all activities that a product manager has to do as naturally as breathing.

    One place I was, I had a boss that took another view. He reclassified us as “inside sales” (I am not kidding, my job code changed) and ordered us to go out and help the sales team close orders. That is a little too much sales for my taste.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Geoffrey,

    You’ve highlighted a really common misunderstanding in organisations that don’t “get” product management, often where it reports into the Sales organisation. Because we happen to be good at listening, know our market and products, and are relatively articulate (except me on Monday mornings), some VPs think we should work in Sales. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what you enjoy, knock yourself out.

    What will happen is that, without a group of product managers keeping one eye on the short-term, one eye on the longer-term view, the organisation will increasingly suffer from an overall lack of strategy. This is characterised by a very reactive roadmap, incoherent products that try to be all things to all people, and loss of ground to competitors with a more disciplined approach.

    It takes a while to get the point across, though!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.



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