The Most Important Skills for Product Managers are …

By Saeed Khan

Last week, I asked you (the readers), to answer the following questions –

What are the base skills, tools, knowledge etc. that are either necessary or VERY useful to have to be a great Product Manager?

And what’s typically missing that people should go out and learn?

There were a lot of great responses.Here’s a summary of what you said:

  • Communicating with customers. Being able to understand how they use the product and what they need is crucial.
  • Ability to talk to different audiences (from the high level discussion with the top management to very in-deep discussion with support)
  • Presentation skills
  • Understanding the technology behind the product
  • Domain knowledge for their products
  • Understanding development processes
  • Understanding UI/UX processes and working with those team members
  • Project management skills
  • Leading by influence
  • Market knowledge (current situation and what may happen on a short&long term, your market share, understanding of the competition)
  • Market research techniques
  • Customer vision (which are your customers, what reasons have they had when choosing your product, which are the competition’s customer, which is there profile, etc)
  • Ability to create medium and long term strategy
  • Enthusiasm and humor spirit
  • Analytical thinking, logical thinking

So what do you think of this list?  It’s not a bad list, but I’m surprised no one mentioned business skills and sales skills! Does that mean they are not important, or are not an issue with most PMs, or simply that they just weren’t mentioned?

Is there anything else missing? Are there tools or skills you’ve learned along the way that you’d recommend others learn about?

What would you say are the most important skills that most Product Managers (and their bosses) need to learn? i.e. that they don’t have today?


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26 thoughts on “The Most Important Skills for Product Managers are …

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  3. simona Reply

    Regarding the sales skills maybe we are just doing such a great job meeting our customers needs that our sales colleagues have an easier job;)

    In my case, the real answer is that I had a good communication with sales and ,in general, we helped eachother. Still as a PM we have to be on top of each sales situation or to leave the impression that we are…and in case a mistake has been made, then shortly assume it and very quickly more forward and change the focus. ( it happened to me once that I spent more than 10 seconds in assuming that something was wrong and that have generated almost a month of though meetings, repositioning, regain the trust, etc)

    But, we still need to build a product before we can talk about sales.

    • Saeed Post authorReply

      For Product Management, “sales skills” are not related to selling products, but selling ideas, concepts, getting people (executives and others) to “buy in” to a vision or a plan.

      I wrote in the article Product Management Axioms — — that “Every activity is part of a Sale”. What I meant by that is that for Product Managers who must lead by influence and don’t always have direct authority over other teams, sales skills are critical in getting ideas and concepts moving forward.

      And in the cases when you are talking to a customer or a prospect, even if you are not selling directly or working an opportunity, that conversation you are have is a sales conversation, whether you think so or not.

  4. Courtney Reply

    Communication skills are definitely highly important – whether written or oral. And not just with the customer, either. Communication can be vital when communicating with different types of people who are working on the project (ie – designers vs developers) who might not always understand each other.

  5. Leslie McKay Reply

    You asked what is missing: writing skills. I believe the ability to write a coherent sentence–much less an interesting or compelling sentence–is becoming a lost art form. I have been going over resumes for a position in our department, and I am shocked at the number of applicants who do not understand basic grammar and punctuation. And some of these applicants went to top schools–one was a graduate of Carnegie Mellon!

    • Saeed Post authorReply


      I couldn’t agree with you more. This is unfortunately a widespread problem in our society, particularly, but not exclusively with younger employees. Good writing skills are not taught in schools and not valued (widely) in business.

      A friend of mine, who is a university professor told me that over the past 12 years, he’s seen a steady decline in the quality of writing in essays he gets from students. He said last year, about 30% of papers handed in were basically unintelligible.

      Another friend — a Ph.D candidate — said that she regularly receives essays that include TXT-speak and short forms in them.

      Between this lack of education and then a business culture that prefers Powerpoint over written documents it’s tough to see a way out of this.

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