Do you wish to break into an exciting career in B2B product management? Then ensure you have the right skills before commencing a B2B product manager job.
According to a recent report, 50 Best Jobs in America in 2022, by Glassdoor, the product manager is ranked 10th despite the challenging nature of the job. It also applies to B2B product managers as it’s a subset of the entire product manager career.
B2B Product management guides the activities of the entire product life cycle from product indentation to its final launch. To name a few, these activities include product development, positioning, and pricing according to customer satisfaction.
So product managers require many skills, including technical, marketing, customer feedback, data management, project management, and market evaluation skills. Let’s start with the skills you need for a B2B (Business to Business) product manager, starting with industry trends and KPIs.
1. Knowledge of Industry Trends and KPIs
A crucial B2B product manager’s core skills are knowing the latest industry trends and setting KPIs. Due to the B2B product manager’s hectic job, it’s easy to forget that there is a world outside. As a result, the competitor of the company that B2B product managers work for has the edge in winning customers.
So B2B product managers need to expose themselves to the outside world and conduct market evaluations for new products. In this regard, they gain knowledge by identifying customer needs based on asking questions relative to the user base and competitors.
When a B2B product manager conceptualizes a new product, they need to ask questions according to user base or market size. Some vital questions include:
- Who is the target audience for the product, and whats the size of the new market?
- What problems does the new product tend to solve?
- What markets do you intend to target the new product in?
So as a B2B product manager, before you set the green light to move on with product development, you need to have some numbers in front of you.
A business analyst or sales team gets this data for you in reputed companies. However, in start-ups, it’s the product manager’s role to dig for that information. Next, let’s turn our attention to how to acquire such information.
- Direct communication: when B2B product managers communicate with end users, it helps acquire as much product information as possible through surveys, questionnaires, interviews, etc.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is an excellent source for acquiring market size information. For example, consider a scenario where a B2B product manager decides to create a new marketing tool targeting marketing professionals. Then there is a greater probability that most of these marketers are on LinkedIn. All you have to do is filter the results from your LinkedIn search to get the market size.
- Built with: a tool that lets you look at online traffic by verticals and offers insights into prospective industry numbers.
- Google trends: When searching for ideas for new products, it is an ideal place to find them as it provides data on current trends. It also provides assess to industry news.
Besides having the numbers in front of them for the tools mentioned above, they also need to track crucial KPIs, including the cost of acquiring customer data, the rate at which the customers convert, the number of functioning users, and the Net Promoter Score. You execute all these tasks by data analysis at a large scale.
How to Gain Data Acquisition Skills:
In order to understand more about acquiring data for Industry trends and KPIs, undertaking Product HQ’s Product Led Growth Certification helps.
As for the competitors, the B2B product managers need to answer the following question before proceeding with the product development process:
Are your competitors offering the product you plan to create, or is it brand new?
If the competitors are offering the same product, then analyze the product by gathering information about it by contacting them as their prospect or getting customer data. Then a B2B product manager has to decide whether to proceed with a new strategy for the same product.
Competition is always a beneficial aspect which implies that the product already addresses a particular problem that customers confront. So the challenge for a product manager is determining how their product addresses those concerns compared to competitors.
2. Ability to Tell Stories
Product storytelling is a crucial skill everyone seems to miss when defining a B2B product manager’s skillset. Impeccable storytelling skills are the order of the day for B2B product managers. So to narrate a great story, B2B product managers need to know the breadth and depth of their audience.
Telling a great story about the product is a challenging task. So, where to start?
Since B2B product managers need to know their entire audience, the ideal approach is to conduct user research. In a nutshell, user research is a UX design skill that analyzes products to identify the customers’ pain points.
Once the B2B product manager identifies these pain points, they bring them to the table of the company’s stakeholders to start initiating the product story.
However, B2B product managers need to be cautious that stakeholders have different perspectives on the story. In such circumstances, product managers must bring stakeholders closer to product development.
Then when stakeholders see the product development process, the B2B product managers collect information from them, and they have a better story to tell.
Besides the above steps, taking a certification course such as Product HQ’s Certified Technical Product Manager helps to improve a product manager’s storytelling ability as the course covers comprehensive areas in technical product management.
3. Strategic Skills and Thinking
Building a product strategy is one of the critical areas in product management. Often the bosses of B2B product managers ask them to prepare product strategies that most don’t know where to begin. Besides, according to a survey in 2020 by Feedback Loop, 84% of B2B product managers are accountable for product strategy. This is why it’s essential to improve their strategic thinking. So let’s look at ways to improve a B2B product manager’s strategic skills:
- Recognize your own prejudices to improve your strategic thinking abilities.
- Listen to subjects’ experts and get high-quality information in various areas they’re working on within the product development life cycle.
- Always ask strategic questions, be more inquisitive and look at the information at hand from diverse angles. For example, some of the questions that B2B product managers need to ask are:
- What critical people’s pain points your product solves, and who is the product’s end user?
- Is the product customer-centric?
- What first impression comes to clients’ minds when they hear the company’s brand name?
- What are your product’s objectives? What are your aims and the most significant elements that prove you have accomplished your objectives?
- Is this concept from a reliable source, and is the idea rational?
- Examine conflicting viewpoints by considering the outcomes of various tactics and trajectories.
- Make sure you have time to think about the future, see trends as mentioned-above, schedule work among team members, and decide how to distribute resources.
- Take a certification course such as Product HQ’s Certified Data Product Manager.
4. Technical Skills
The B2B product manager doesn’t have to be technically competent or understand the technical subjects in-depth. However, comprehensive knowledge of technical concepts like web development and technical writing separates a good B2B product manager from a great product manager. So, let’s dive into some of these critical skills.
Regarding web development, there are two primary components the front end and the back end. The front end deals with the client-facing side of the website, whereas the backend is where the server-side processing of web applications takes place.
Client-side coding skills that you need to be familiar with are:
- HTML: Provides the structure to a web page
- CSS: Adds styles and presentation to a web page
Also, when it comes to the backend, most firms use one or more of these languages:
How to Acquire web Development Skills:
- There are plenty of web development tutorials like this, which help you learn the skills and lay a solid foundation for product management.
- On the other hand, being an experienced B2B product manager helps you learn by speaking to your company’s web developers and technical project managers.
Technical Documentation Skills
Since B2B product managers are responsible for generating product ideas, product development, and product marketing, they need to communicate these ideas to various teams. One way of achieving this communication is through technical writing.
Therefore B2B product managers need to know the fundamentals of software documentation skills to communicate product specifications, product strategy, product features, and new features.
How to Acquire Technical Documentation Skills:
Often, many assume that technical documentation consists of technical jargon that they find complicated. However, in reality, the best form of technical writing consists of product specifications, user manuals, and product manuals that technical writers write in simple English, regardless of whether English is their first language.
So to learn technical writing, B2B product managers need to look for examples of product briefs, specification sheets, etc., in their company’s documentation repository, such as Confluence. Also, talking to technical content creators of the company helps.
Furthermore, Product HQ’s Product Writing Certification is an ideal course for you to enhance your technical documentation skills.
5. Design and User Experience Knowledge
As with technical skills product manager doesn’t require deep knowledge of User Experience(UX) and User Interface (UI), as it is the job of creative product designers. However, the area in which these creative designers lacks is long-term product strategy, business requirements, allocation of the limited resources available, etc.
On the other hand, product managers lack the knowledge and creativity skills that a designer possesses when designing products. In their day-to-day activities, product managers require to communicate with graphic designers on the product roadmap and other factors mentioned above.
Therefore, as someone in charge of the entire product life cycle and accountable for product success, it helps to know some of the following UX and UI skills.
- User Modelling: To ensure that the product manager and the customer speak the same language regarding requirements, they need to build user personas with their name, image, traits, and product objectives. To learn how to create user personas talking with designers helps.
- User research and product validation: A great product manager understands customer requirements and eases their pain points. So to provide insights into the products that product managers are responsible for, they need user research skills. Thus, product managers gain these skills with knowledge of product demonstrations, an eye for detail, A/B testing, and usability testing.
- Design element’s visual appearance: As a product manager, it’s vital to know the visual layout of the ingredients. You begin to comprehend the tradeoffs involved in graphic design and how the UX team chooses its options. For instance, when expressing your views concerning design elements, it’s better to describe them using terms such as typography, alignment, hierarchy, and legibility. For instance, instead of saying the logo doesn’t appear, it’s better to say the designer has not aligned the logo.
6. Value Creation Skills
In order to understand that, at its core, the world of business and products exists as a means of exchanging money and offering value between people and businesses. Regardless of what the product manager generates, it is vital for the product manager to get the idea of value.
For instance, if I run a company that develops customer registration web applications following are my core values assuming that we focus on the functionality:
- An error-free cross-browser compatible app that runs across all browsers.
- A mobile-friendly responsive app that works across mobile devices.
- User-friendly app with ease of use, straightforward navigation, and instructions that are simpler to understand.
- An app with a smooth transaction within a split second.
- Time-saving app as customers no longer have to go through the manual process of waiting in queues.
As a web application development company for user registration, the above are the core services. There are also new opportunities to create new value for my customers, including running online marketing campaigns such as PPC ads, Search Engine Optimization, email newsletter campaigns, and so on.
How to Acquire Value Creations Skills
So as you see from the above example, it is clear that value propositions are flexible and change based on how customers respond to the initial value offering and the shifting market conditions.
It’s the responsibility of the product managers to identify the need for the product and create value. Although marketing and sales teams play an integral role in this process, they ensure the delivery of this value to the customers by letting them be aware of it. So product managers have to have an analytical mind to identify the core values and any other values that evolve from its core.
Also, there are certification courses such as PMHQ’s Certified Product Manager, which provides overall product management skills, including acquiring value creation skills to enhance your career.
So here are the six skills that product managers need to learn to be competent in their careers.
There is much more to learn to become a product manager, including soft skills we have not covered in this article.
Keep updating and refreshing your skills through various sources like this article by staying ahead of your peer product managers. In addition, PMHQ provides certification courses such as the Certified Product Owner to enhance your product management skills.