How Can a Salesperson be a Product Manager?

I responded to the following question on Ask A Good Product Manager recently. If we have any readers working in Sales, please come and join us in Product Management!

Question:

I’ve been a sales manager, then a director of operations for a small web
based software company for about 5 Years. Lately, for the last two years I
have been an independent consultant for creating and implementing sales
strategies and processes. Since my work has been around small companies, we
never had a formal ‘product management’ role, but I have always been
intrigued by the work that is involved in bringing a product to life.

I have now decided to pursue this passion, and am currently looking for a
job in product management. Being a product manager yourself, what would your
advice be on how I can best position myself considering my experience in
sales? How can I best persuade a fellow product manager to consider me as a
candidate for the job?

Answer:

Your best tactic for persuading a Product Manager that you are interested in
Product Management is talking about the customer and the needs of the
customer. Sales people have the added benefit of being at the forefront of
organisations and have the opportunity to interact with customers. Having a
solid understanding of customers will stand you in good stead in the realm
of Product Management.

One of the key roles of a Product Manager is to understand and solve
customer problems, and ultimately create products that customers love.
Without a clear understanding of the customer problem, the products you
develop may be solutions that “miss the mark”.

Its important to distinguish that Product Managers do not create product
solutions for individual customers or individual groups of customers.
Product Managers look at the aggregate view of the customer and target a
particular segment, a segment that will hopefully derive a return to the
business.

You will also want to highlight your work as a Director of Operations when
persuading a Product Manager that you are interested in Product Management.
Good processes are fundamental to delivering a product. Product Managers
that create great core products without the supporting operational processes
will not be successful in the market place. Customers will tend to a find a
substition to avoid the frustrations of poor processes.

You may want to review your work in small companies to determine the steps
you took to “bring a product to life”. You may find that you’ve acted as the
Product Manager in parts or throughout the whole development process. This
information demonstrates that you’ve had hands on experience as a Product
Manager even if you didn’t have the formal title.

Your passion for Product Management should also be noted.