‘Tis the Season… for Conversations and Listening

I was talking with a client this week and when I asked how she was doing, she responded, “‘Tis the Season.” Now we all know that the holidays are around the corner and a New Year upon us. But the “season” she was referring to is the typical mad dash of month-end, quarter-end and year-end. Sometimes all three rolled up into one. For product management and product marketing, it can be a really quiet or crazy time of year. I asked her how the “season” was going and she said, “I’m getting  so much done and I’m finding there’s a lot of people available to talk to.” WOW. Did you hear that product management?

So, in the spirit of the season, here are my gifts to you.

  • Before the end of the month contact a new customer or one coming up for renewal. Let them talk, rant, wish and tell you what they like, dislike, love and despise about your product, support, account representation or company. Have three questions in mind and then call. ~ The outcome will be amazing. Who knows what you will hear and what innovation or changes it will inspire.
  • Take a development counterpart to lunch. Ask them what’s worked this year and what frustrates them most about product management. Listen, don’t debate and see what you hear.
  • Call one customer who has defected. Before you dive into the diatribe of why your product is better, ask them to honestly tell you why they left. Ask them how it’s going and offer a listening ear in the future. Wish them a Happy New Year and be sure to ask what top 3 things are on their list to accomplish next year. ~ You’ll be surprised what you hear.
  • Buy a salesperson a cup of coffee or favorite drink and then ask them what messages they heard and which ones resonate the most. Is it the same positioning you’ve labored over with marketing? ~ You might find a new way to enable sales next year.
  • Schedule 30 minutes with a junior product professional and ask them what they’ve learned this year and how it’s influenced their product management or product marketing success. ~ What can you learn from someone newer to product management?
  • Spend some time with your product management mentor. Ask them to share where they think product management is heading in 2012. ~ Then ask yourself if you’re heading in the same direction.
  • Contact a friend or family member not your age and ask them about their most recent product purchase, what they liked and disliked. Ask them why they bought and the steps they went through. ~ You’ll experience a buying process you weren’t involved in and personas that are new too you. You might use that information next year.
  • Contact a C-level executive over the holidays and ask if you can talk to them about the challenges of 2012. Create 3 questions and then listen. Write (yes, with paper and pen) a note of thanks. ~ See what you learn.
  • Schedule a face-to-face customer meeting out of the office. Now you’re thinking everyone will be on vacation. They won’t be and won’t it be nice to have a conversation while you’re both not looking at your mobile devices. Let them ask questions about your roadmap, product direction and see what happens.

I’d love to hear what you’d add to the gift list of Conversations and Listening. Feel free to share this via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.  ‘Tis the Season for Conversations & Listening – a new post by @jim_holland http://wp.me/pqeWU-mw #prodmgmt #prodmktg #leadership

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  • Barry Doctor  On December 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Jim and Readers, that is a lot of conversations to have in a short period of time. Don’t despair. It’s OK if you simply schedule some of them for next month, but get it booked! And, be thinking about how to turn this into a quarterly or even monthly ritual to enable year-round learning.

    • The Product Management Tribe  On December 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      Barry and readers – I agree. Pick one of two and focus on the conversations you need most. Not sure what you should pick, where were the gaps in market and customer understanding this year?

  • Michael Ray Hopkin  On December 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Jim, this is great advice for all product professionals. I especially like you suggestion to write a note of thanks. This not only works great with C-Level executives, but also with customers. I’ve formed the habit of keeping thank-you cards and stamps in my car; I write a note of thanks immediately after important meetings and send them right away.

    In working through my end-of-year meetings I’m finding that customers appreciate the contact, especially this time of year; and sales reps and dev guys appreciate the break.


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