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6 Must Have Skills for B2B SaaS Product Managers

A product manager is someone who owns every stage of the entire product lifecycle and the product roadmap, here is a list of things you must excel at, if you want to be successful in the field of product management.

Smruti Gutte
Top 6 Skills for Product Managers

Product management is a crucial role that resides at the intersection of multiple functions - right from research, planning, strategy, design and execution. A product manager consequently guides the entire development process of a product or a service - right from inception to completion. We’ve outlined some must-have product manager skills and discussed how to acquire them.  

Before we jump into the discussion about the skills, let’s get informed about the role. 

An Ideal Product Manager

Product managers are responsible for the development of products and services for an organization. They handle and guide a cross-functional team to plan, design and develop the desired product. They are also accountable for the successful execution and delivery of the product where the term product can refer to a product or a service in a virtual or a physical environment. 

A SaaS product manager does everything that is required to deliver a quality product to the user. A product manager is someone who owns every stage of the entire product lifecycle and the product roadmap. A product manager’s role depends on the size of a company, the type of the product and the stage of the product in its lifecycle. The roles can be further broken down into-

  • User and Market intelligence
  • Business strategy and business modeling
  • Analytics and growth 
  • Building a great user experience for the product
  • Product development

As the user expectations constantly keep evolving, it is important to constantly keep upgrading the quality of your product. The biggest room in this world is the room for improvement. Product managers need to constantly keep learning and upskilling themselves to maintain the competitive edge and surpass user expectations. 
Nevertheless, if you have worked as a product manager or are about to make your way to becoming a SaaS product manager, some skills will play a major role in your success. 

Strategic Thinking

To begin with, if you are a SaaS product manager, strategic thinking is very critical to your job description. It is among the mosthighly regarded business competencies. Strategic thinking capabilities will help you position the product effectively and make offerings and benefits easier to understand.  

According to a 2020 survey, 84% of product managers and leaders are primarily responsible for product strategy. Strategic thinking is necessary for defining the product roadmap, predicting each phase of the product life cycle and dependency on the market cycles. This skill helps in managing costs and overcoming the risks along the way. 

How to be a Strategic Thinker as a Product Manager?

You can improve your strategic thinking with the right mindset and practice. You can always ask strategic questions, become more curious and look at information from a different point of view. In addition to asking questions, you must observe and reflect on them carefully. In order to hone these skills, consider opposing ideas and conflict. You can also embrace formal training to build up your strategy skills quickly. 

Business Intelligence 

SaaS product managers should understand their customers and the market perfectly. Basic business intelligence is the first thing you need to become a SaaS product manager and do justice to your title. The ability to quickly assess a business idea based on the market potential is definitely a strong skill you can possess.
SaaS product managers need to monitor the entire process from ground zero. From budgeting, pricing and revenue modeling, to marketing and talent recruitment, they need to look after every decision as they can strongly impact the product development process. 

How to Develop Business Intelligence as a Product Manager?

There is no one way to develop business intelligence. It can be developed in both practical and theoretical sense. You can consider pursuing formal education to expand your business knowledge or opt for many online courses to better understand the business. Always read more and more about how profits, sales projections, budgets and cash flow play a role in the business development process.

Project Management 

As a product manager, you need various project management skills to succeed. A good product manager needs to be a great project manager to build what customers care about. In a nutshell, you need to manage the scope, communications, risks and notify stakeholders of the product roadmaps. 

An endless list of planning and implementation of projects, mapping out timelines, assessing project risks and opportunities can be overwhelming.  Additionally, managers should also have extensive knowledge of similar projects, their features, their frameworks and their positioning within the market. 

How to be Better at Product Management?

There are several ways to develop your project management skills that include reading more books, blogs and other resources that will help you lay a solid foundation of business understanding. Opting for project management courses from reputable organizations can help you develop your project management skills.

Understanding Data and Analytics

The technical world can be intimidating, but a basic understanding of reading and analysing data is a crucial skill to have. For SaaS managers, it’s even more critical to understand and analyse data insights as SaaS products tend to generate high volumes of data. 

A good technical know-how is crucial for a manager to set and track KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as customer acquisition costs, customer conversion rate, user churn and Net Promoter Score. You need to emphasise identifying, prioritising, and communicating metrics for strategic goal setting.  Ideally, a SaaS product manager should make data-driven decisions and have a data-driven approach to problem-solving and strategy. 

How to be Better at Data & Analytics as a Product Manager?

To master this skill, you’ll need a lot of training and practice. Don’t just find solutions to the problems but also know how things work. Read more books about the same, it may sound simple, but reading frequently is the key to improving your analytical thinking skills. Self-evaluate yourself on a regular basis, take note of your mistakes and try not to repeat them. Taking up courses from a powerful online community can help you find the ‘why’ behind metrics.

Design and User Experience Knowledge

Product managers should be impeccable when it comes to taste for a good design. What does a product manager have to do with design and user experience, you ask? While other skills are essential for a product manager, decent knowledge about UX design will help you deliver a meaningful user experience and define a conducive customer journey for your product. 

High-quality user experience design is a crucial dictator of product success. Effective and innovative design strategies will attract customers and leave a lasting impression. 

How to Hone Design and UX Accumen as a Product Manager?

To build an ability to recognize a great design, you need to go through all sorts of designs and try to evaluate what makes each of them good or bad. Having an eye for detail will help you understand from a user’s perspective and offer a better user experience. To develop your design and UX knowledge, you can follow designers that inspire and stay up to the minute with the design world. You can follow some great design magazines like UXmag.com or UXmovement.

Interpersonal skills

People skills help you understand and manage your team better. Effective communication helps you understand the skills and strengths of each individual and assign the tasks accordingly to optimize results and enhance productivity. 

Building healthy relationships with your team members will make managing them easier. It’s definitely not an easy skill but it’s an asset that can help you navigate complexity and day-to-day tasks seamlessly. 

How to Hone Interpersonal Skills as a Product Manager?

To quickly improve your interpersonal skills you should try and maintain a positive outlook towards your team. Show confidence and faith in them and they will be motivated to improve their performance. Always seek opportunities to build healthy relationships and put consistent efforts in order to maintain them. Always take time to review the interactions you’ve had with your colleagues, your body language and certain words you used and consider ways you could’ve interacted efficiently. ‘A little empathy goes a long way’.

Master of all

A SaaS product manager requires common core skills that include teamwork, time management, soft skills, decision-making ability, thorough product knowledge, good delegation skills and dynamic leadership skills. It is a complex role that requires mastery of a myriad of skills. You need to be a ‘jack of all trades’ to be on top of the game and stand out from the crowd. 

The Bottom Line

Product managers are rockstars of every company. If you want to be a great product manager, you need to have the right information and insights about the SaaS world and the skills to excel in it. 

Yes, the role of a SaaS Product Manager is quite recent as it is still being defined. Yes, product managers can be called the ‘Product CEO’ as they are the intersection of business, technology, and user experience. And yes, the product managers help define the vision, marketing and ROI. 

‘A great product manager has the brain of an engineer, the heart of a designer and the speech of a diplomat.’

  • Deep Nishar, VP, Product at LinkedIn. 

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