5 Crucial Product Manager Skills and How To Develop Them

Product Management
November 21, 2022
5 mins read
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The product manager’s role is a fundamental one that sits in the convergence of various functions and capacities. To carry out those responsibilities successfully, your product manager skills list needs to be diverse. 

From prototyping to running A/B tests to analyzing and understanding development workflows to managing a business and understanding user needs, you have a lot on your plate as a product manager. 

Product manager skills

Of course, you definitely need the product manager's technical skills as they are important for running daily operations.

But there are certain key skills for product managers that separate the good from the great.

In this article, we shine a light on those top product manager skills.

1. Product sense

Product sense (or product intuition) is a skill to understand what can make a product credible. Great product managers should be able to judge the proposed solutions for the customer and come up with or choose the best features which will make their product superior. 

This skill of product managers consists of four elements:

Product sense

Although it develops with time, you can still develop this skill with more practice and experiments. Here are some actionable tips that will help you do that:

  • Thoroughly understand the objective of the product keeping both business and clients in mind. Questions like “why would your target audience pay for this product” will help.
  • Continuously evaluate the product deliverables and their dependencies.
  • Research! Discover opportunities and areas of development for the product. Keep a close eye on your competitors and stay in touch with your customers and get their feedback.
  • Learn to seek the truth that can direct your actions not validate what you already know.

2. Being an Empath

Empathy is the greatest and perhaps the most important skill a product manager can have. It helps you do the following:

  • Slow down enough to tune in and watch 
  • Humble to learn and change
  • Ready to acknowledge everyone’s feelings

Empathy is feeling with people plus intellectually recognizing their circumstances. It helps you understand the customer’s pain points and build a product that they need. That in-depth understanding comes from empathy. 

This helps you avoid focusing on the wrong problem, which is often the cause of a product’s failure. You may miss out on insights about the best solutions to your customer’s problems even after using proven approaches without empathy. 

Another reason why empathy is so important is that it will make you a great leader. Product management is a continuous process with multiple workflows that run simultaneously. Being empathetic towards your team members will establish trust, transparency, and respect.

How to master this skill? The following tips will help you level up your empathetic skills:

  • Be a good listener
  • Put yourself in their (your customers' and team members’) shoes
  • Turn insights into action
  • Ask open-ended questions

3. Being stupid

Product management is an ongoing process. Also, every time that process runs, it is unique, even though the product remains the same.

No matter how experienced you are, always ask — Why, How, When, and What? Start with accepting the fact that you know nothing about what your customers want, or what solutions you must deliver. Always be in a state to learn. 

This will push you to explore more and come up with better creative ideas. Not to mention, this will help you adopt a measured approach toward various stages of product management which will minimize risks. 

You might have to abandon your ideas, certain features, or the whole product, as there is always a scope for improvement. And this skill will help in enhancing your product more beautifully.

4. First principle thinking

First principle thinking is a problem-solving technique that reverse-engineers a complex problem and establishes foundational truths to facilitate creative thinking to propose feasible solutions.

This helps them to stick with their basics.

The first principle is fundamental and can’t be broken down further. Many great thinkers, including Aristotle, did this. Here is an example that will help you understand this better.

Imagine you went to Starbucks for a cup of coffee (or whatever they call it). It cost you $6. While taking a sip you realize that you are paying too much. You bought some instant coffee from the supermarket which reduced the cost of a cup of coffee to a dollar!

That’s exactly what Elon Musk did when SpaceX needed a rocket. Instead of buying one for $65 million, he decided to build his own.

You can hone this skill by asking questions like these:

  • Why do I believe this to be true?
  • How do I know this is true?
  • How can I support this belief?
  • What alternative viewpoints might exist?

In other words, become a curious child.

5. Emotionally Strong

Product managers are the major decision-makers in product development with a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes they need to say ‘no’ to some proposals, become the bearer of not-so-good news, and even abandon ship. 

Doing all of that requires a very high emotional quotient (EQ).

Another reason is that product managers sometimes get attached to their products. This is unsurprising as they are heavily invested throughout the product management process. But this sets them up for making wrong decisions. 

There are situations where they have to discontinue their products. Google+ is the best example of this. It was launched in 2011 and it was taken down in 2019. The journey was full of experiments and risks but ultimately after the failure, they took it off the market. 

You may face criticism, your product may not have a good launch, and your product may fail but this is not the end. In these circumstances, this skill plays a big role.

Skills of product manager

Summing up

You will need more than technical knowledge to become a great product manager. 

Good product sense, being empathetic towards your customers and team members, asking questions before proceeding, proposing solutions based on established truths, and having a high emotional quotient are just as important.

These product manager key skills are becoming increasingly important, especially in cross-functional agile teams. You can use a product manager skills matrix to find out the areas you can improve in.

One last thing.

You also need the right tool to help you through all the stages of product management. One place where you can take a look at all the updates and make decisions accordingly.

That’s where Zeda.io comes in.

Zeda.io is a super app for product teams where you can do everything from collecting customer feedback to tracking your product’s usage. You can bring data from all the other tools in your tech stack through integrations and make it your all-in-one product management tool within minutes.

Start your free trial today.

FAQs

  1. What skills does a product manager need?

Research, analytical, communication, reasoning, leadership, emotion management, business management, and UX skills for product managers are important.

  1. What are the four 4 critical skills of a product manager?

In general, technical, analytical, communication, and leadership are critical in a product manager’s skill set. However, the core competencies depend on the organization.

  1. What are the 3 major areas of product management?

The three areas of product management are discovery, planning, and development.

  1. Is product manager a technical role?

Yes. Overseeing product development, improving production workflow, and collaborating between developers and stakeholders are the technical skills required for product managers.

  1. What is the role of a product manager?

A product manager oversees all the processes that build and maintain a product while leading the product management team.

  1. What skills do you need to be a product manager?

Technical, analytical, communication, and leadership are the primary skills needed to be a product manager.

  1. What are hard and soft product manager skills?

Both are important skills required to be a product manager. Hard skills are technical skills and soft skills are personal characteristics and traits. Product management hard skills include business intelligence, proficiency in research and analysis, experience with various development principles, and some finance knowledge. Product management soft skills are analytical thinking, leadership qualities, problem-solving, empathy, flexibility, communication, and time management.

Jacob Koshy
Product Marketer at Zeda.io
A marketer in love with SaaS products. When away from work, I'm either spending time with my cats or adding miles on my motorcycle.
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