PRODUCTHEAD: Speaking the same language

PRODUCTHEAD: Speaking the same language

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

product cars #

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Speak the language of C-level by focusing on revenue, customer benefits, and financials

Without understanding, there can be no empathy

Product managers need to be able to communicate with a wide range of people using different languages

“The worst product managers only speak in the language of product management”


What happens when we start to frame product management staples such as the roadmap in ways that other teams would relate to better?

Product roadmap is a collection of bets #

A product roadmap is a collection of bets. We’re betting our team’s time, which equates to a finite financial budget. We’re betting on whether doing or creating something has the intended effect. Bets have higher or lower odds of success. Typically a roadmap will have a mixture of bets so that we’re neither playing it too safe (and so not really learning), or betting too big, too often and risk bankrupting ourselves.

They’re bets because we don’t have 100% clarity on what causes what. Even if our bet doesn’t pay off, we should still be learning something that will make our next bet more informed, and so have a greater chance of success.

But when we do have 100% certainty, we’re not betting any more. We just crank the handle when we want the desired effect. In that situation, we’re also no longer adding or learning anything when that happens. The product manager is relegated to ‘backlog jockey’ or ‘requirements taker’ and is largely superfluous.

Sales pipeline is a collection of bets #

If you’ve worked in a B2B company with a sales team, think about the spread of opportunities a typical sales person has in their pipeline at any given time. Their manager usually reviews the value and probability of closing each of those opportunities. In aggregate, they give an indication of the likely revenue that each sales person in the team will book that month, and for the team as a whole.

Each of those sales opportunities sounds rather like a bet. It’s a bet that the prospect will see that the product or service on offer meets their needs and budget sufficiently well that they purchase it. The odds of closing the deal successfully can be increased by the sales person being better informed about the prospect’s needs, context, procurement procedures, and so on. However, there will always be factors outside their control or information they’re not privy to, so there’s rarely a deal that’s a sure thing.

The better sales people out there learn from the deals they lose, assess whether the reason was something in their control, and adjust their approach accordingly for the future. And for balance, the worse sales people out there will learn nothing. They’ll just doggedly keep chucking spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks, using volume, brute force and the balance of probabilities to make their monthly quotas.

And in a hot market, when the product is selling itself faster than the sales people can pitch it, the odds of closing deals rocket to near 100%. The sales person is relegated to ‘order taker’, and they’re no longer adding nor learning anything. The product will sell with or without the sales person being involved.

Rather than ‘roadmap’, talk about ‘pipeline’ instead? #

Talking this through with someone recently, it occurred to me that a sales person’s pipeline of opportunities is in many ways not dissimilar to a product roadmap. Perhaps if we reframed the product roadmap (which has a veneer of certainty implied, even if unintentionally) more as a pipeline of opportunities, our work would resonate more with our colleagues in sales.

For every product opportunity that shifts around in time, or doesn’t pay off as intended, you can point to sales opportunities that have done the same. Product managers and sales people are both working in scenarios of uncertainty and incomplete information. So we should get along far better than we generally seem to.

(I fully acknowledge that there are good and bad examples of sales people and product managers alike. In general, my observation is that product managers and sales people seem to encounter friction more often than not.)

Maybe we should start to frame our product management jargon and rituals differently to show how closely aligned we are in reality, rather than using the same jargon and rituals as a barrier to the rest of the business (whether inadvertently or otherwise)?

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

How to speak the language of C-level

Rich Mironov, an entrepreneur and product management consultant, is interviewed about the importance of product managers being able to communicate with different teams within a company and understand the financial implications of their decisions.

[VIDEO] Understand and make friends with all the roles in your company

[Rich Mironov / Productized]

Learning a new language helped me become a better product manager

Before this role, I was in Product Marketing so I was familiar with the priorities of the Marketing team. However, working with designers and engineers was fairly new to me, so I stepped back and empowered them to lead the way.

I felt like a ‘tourist’ in their worlds and was not yet familiar with what ‘success’ meant for these teams. I was not able to share their pains as well because I did not have context on what they were struggling with.

“Understanding them allows me to understand my role better”

[Smriti Garga / Medium]

Languages of product management

As a product manager, you’ll interact with a variety of people on any given day. It is the job to deeply understand and define a goal then strengthen that through conversations across the many necessary aspects of building technology. A product manager speaks many languages in those conversations. From enterprise to startup, these languages remain constant.

Detailing the roles and what they talk about

[Crystal Hoyer / Medium]

The languages of product management

The worst product managers forever speak, “Producti.” They just speak in the language of PMs: terms like jobs to be done, user needs, empowered teams, putting the problem first, and product sense. While stakeholders and cross-functional partners have a sense of what these terms mean, they lack the deep neural net of context tied to each term product folks do.

Corporatish, Marketindi, Salesian, Designese, Techugu, and Analytian

[Aakash Gupta / Product Growth]

recent posts

Moving up to a CPO or VP Product role

Stepping up to a Chief Product Officer (CPO) or VP Product role doesn’t so much change what you do. Rather it amplifies everything. This guide lets you know what to expect.

Liberating and terrifying in equal measure

[I Manage Products]

I want to update my pricing strategy. Where do I start?

“My product currently has one tier of per-seat pricing for all customers. I want to change my pricing strategy to cater differently for SMEs and enterprise customers. Where do I start?”

A few pricing concepts to consider + further reading

[I Manage Products]

How do I make my product roadmap a better communication tool?

“My product roadmap is not getting the right information across to other people in my company. In particular, my customer success and marketing teams are struggling to plan their work for upcoming product releases. I’m also not sure how I can show my roadmap’s relationship to the half-yearly OKRs we set. How can I improve it?”

Your product roadmap is a communication tool

[I Manage Products]

can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from a router on a stick.

Read more from Jock

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 product management and leadership coach, product leader 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, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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