The role of product managers is ever-evolving as a direct result of the rapid development of new technological products. These professionals must be able to perform several duties including overseeing teams of engineers and developers and guiding a product's development from inception to completion. These duties require both hard and soft skills, with some of the most important being analytical skills, technical expertise and communication skills. In this article, we discuss the top skills needed by product managers to be successful and effective in their positions.
What is a product manager?
A product manager is a professional who oversees the development of products for a company or brand. They are responsible for guiding a cross-functional team to create, develop and implement a product. The term product most often refers to a service or item being sold to consumers and can be either virtual, physical or both.
Common duties of a product manager include:
- Performing research to determine customer needs
- Creating and communicating a strategy for the development of a product
- Defining the product vision and roadmap
- Overseeing product team as it works on the development of the product
- Setting sales objectives that align with consumer demand to reach sales goals
- Developing and implementing marketing campaigns related to the product
Read more: Learn About Being a Product Manager
Top skills for product managers
To successfully complete their duties, product managers must possess several skills. These include both soft and hard skills and contribute to the product manager's ability to lead, make decisions and be more successful in their job role. The following are the top skills that product managers are expected to have:
- Communication skills
- Technical expertise
- Business skills
- Research skills
- Analytical skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Marketing skills
- Delegation skills
- Strategic thinking
- Prioritization skills
1. Communication skills
Product managers spend much of their days communicating in one form or another. From product meetings to presentations to communicating with clients on their goals and expectations, these professionals are regularly having to speak or write in a way that conveys their objectives and priorities in an easy-to-understand manner. Product managers must also frequently communicate with their teams to provide direction and guidance and ensure product development is on the right track. Without excellent communication skills, product managers won't be able to effectively perform many of their duties.
2. Technical expertise
Product managers who work with virtual products, such as software and apps, often need basic if not extensive technical knowledge. They must be able to work with the engineers on their team to identify performance bugs and ensure the product is up to par in terms of function, design and user experience.
3. Business skills
Many product managers need to understand basic business competencies to effectively do their jobs. For example, when developing a product strategy, a product manager should know how profits, budgeting, cash flow and profit-and-loss all play a part in the product development project. Additionally, product managers may need to communicate with clients on current and projected revenues as well as make a case for a product development budget.
4. Research skills
These professionals regularly perform extensive market research to determine what type of products their consumers need as well as where the competition stands in relation to your organization. Good research skills and data analysis can keep product managers in the know about marketing opportunities and threats and give them a solid foundation for creating a successful product.
Read more: Research Skills: Definition and Examples
5. Analytical skills
Analytical skills and research skills go hand-in-hand for product managers. After completing marketing research, product managers must then analyze and use this data to make educated product decisions. Good product managers know how to use the data they have found to address issues and develop solutions that will ultimately lead to a successful product.
6. Interpersonal skills
In addition to solid communication skills, product managers must also possess excellent interpersonal skills to effectively influence and lead the people they work with. From customers to stakeholders to team members, product managers are regularly trying to get others on board with their product vision. Good interpersonal skills for product managers to have include presentation, emotional intelligence, active listening, collaboration and negotiating skills.
7. Marketing skills
Marketing skills are essential for product managers as they often must develop ways to make their product as marketable as possible to consumers. Marketing skills include the ability to promote and deliver products and services in the most successful way possible. Good marketing skills needed by product managers include the ability to respond to changing demands, develop marketing strategies for product launches and create pricing frameworks.
8. Delegation skills
Product managers cannot successfully oversee a product development team without excellent delegation skills. A development team is often made up of multi-functional team members, all of whom are responsible for certain roles in the development of a product. Product managers must be able to identify each team member's strengths and delegate tasks based on team members' abilities. Good delegation skills including being able to clearly portray expectations for tasks, resist micromanaging team members and regularly check in with team members to see what worked and what didn't during the completion of a task.
9. Strategic thinking
Product managers should be able to think strategically throughout every phase of a product's development. From understanding the market to deciding how to launch a new product, many product management duties require strategic thinking to be successfully executed. Product managers should have a solid understanding of the product life cycle, audience segmentation, the project management process and forecasting sales. Additional strategic thinking skills include problem-solving skills, mind-map software, risk management and goal orientation.
10. Prioritization skills
Product managers must be able to objectively enforce prioritization to successfully complete tasks and meet goals and deadlines. Good prioritization skills ensure that all team members are always working on what's most important at the time and keep the project moving along smoothly and in the timeline requirements.