July 25, 2023

Top 9 Product Manager Skills to Develop

Explore a meticulously compiled list of the top 9 crucial skills to refine for succeeding in product management. Our analysis delves deep into each skill set, offering insights into development strategies and their impact on product success. Discover new techniques, technologies, and contrarian perspectives to give you an edge in this dynamic field.

Product managers play a fundamental role in the development and management of a product or product line. As well as getting the ball rolling regarding new product launches and ideation, the product manager must keep an eye on the product lifecycle, ensuring the company’s offerings continue to meet customer needs and business objectives.
Given the holistic nature of the role, a successful product manager must liaise with a variety of teams to pull off a product strategy. They will need to work with engineering, development, design, marketing, sales, and potentially other teams to define the product vision, create a feasible product roadmap, and ultimately ensure the company achieves growth in the short and long term.  
Product management possesses some similarities to project management insofar as it involves leadership, delegation, bridging communication gaps between teams, tracking success metrics, and making tactical decisions. However, the role is different from project management in that it involves looking after the long-term success of a product. As such, product managers often focus more heavily on user experience and adapting to changes within an organization. Project management, on the other hand, tends to involve shorter-term projects with clearly defined timeframes, budgets, and objectives. 
While the product manager role is relatively broad and differs between companies and sectors, there are certain skills you’ll need to make product management your long-term occupation. To help guide your career development, we’ve put together a helpful guide to the skills you’ll need in a product manager job. 

Top 9 Skills Successful Product Managers Share

If you like the sound of product management, you may be wondering how to secure a product manager job this year. Key product manager skills are wide-ranging and require consistent development if you want to excel in the role. What’s more, you’ll need to focus on both technical and non-technical abilities, ensuring you don’t overlook highly valued soft skills. For example, you’ll need to communicate clearly with stakeholders throughout the working day, utilizing a combination of oral and written skills to create a health product development plan. While this may sound simple, it requires agile and strategic thinking skills combined with strong technical knowledge. 
So, before you start honing your communication and leadership skills, what hard skills should you nurture to thrive in the world of product management? Crucial technical skills include (but are by no means limited to):
1. Performing market research
Before pitching a new product idea, a product manager must assess whether it will succeed in the current market environment. Comprehensive market research helps product managers achieve this aim, assessing the size of the prospective audience, the possibility of competitors developing bigger or better products, and current market trends. Conducting market research requires analytical skills and the ability to collect valuable primary data. One of the best ways to assess audience needs and behaviors is to collect first-hand information via surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Once you have enough information from your target customers, you can adapt your product plans to maximize the potential for engagement and profits.
Other market research methodologies could include monitoring industry developments, technological advancements, and regulatory changes – all of which require high-level technical knowledge about your sector. You may also need to use statistical techniques such as data visualization and statistical analysis to make informed decisions that stakeholders trust. It’s also worth noting that market research represents an ongoing process that you’ll need to conduct throughout the product lifecycle, ensuring it remains competitive and drives revenues. 
2. Aptitude for product roadmap creation
Creating a product roadmap involves outlining the vision, direction, and timeline for a given product. The ultimate purpose of the roadmap is to ensure relevant stakeholders and team members work toward a common goal and understand the product’s foundational objectives. Skills involved with creating a supportive roadmap include the ability to prioritize product features into coherent themes or objectives, the ability to establish realistic timelines for each phase of the roadmap, communication skills to ensure everyone understands the roadmap, and a willingness to regularly assess the progress of certain milestones and adjust the roadmap accordingly.
If you’re a fan of Gantt charts and timelines, you’ll probably be an effective roadmap creator, just keep in mind there are a few roadmapping pitfalls to avoid. Creating this asset also requires a strategic mindset and an ability to foresee practical issues far in advance. Broadly speaking, these are skills you’re likely to nurture while on the job, especially if you’re working in a high-pressure environment.
3. Predictive analysis and performance measurement
Every successful product manager is good at making predictions regarding how their products need to adapt in future to align with a constantly shifting market. This is a multi-faceted skill that involves at least some of the following approaches:
  • Defining key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the product’s goals and objectives. Typical KPIs could include conversion rates, customer satisfaction scores, or sales. 
  • Collecting and analyzing data from a diversity of sources, including customer feedback surveys, sales reports, and market research.
  • Conducting cohort analysis to compare different types of user behavior over time and predict the future performance of your product.
  • Using predictive modeling – including statistical techniques and historical data analysis – to forecast future performance outcomes.
  • Conducting A/B testing to assess the success of different versions of your product.
  • Monitoring user feedback about your product, regularly incorporating their insights into your product planning processes.
As you can probably tell, a confident product manager needs a head for numbers and critical thinking skills if they want to make accurate predictions about products. 
4. Knowledge of user onboarding best practices 
As well as knowing the market landscape like the backs of their hands, product managers must consider how to onboard users effectively. Smooth and hassle-free onboarding processes will reduce the number of users who drop off after signing up, reduce the churn rate, and ensure the customer base grows steadily. Of course, no two onboarding processes are the same.
You’ll need to consider your customer’s needs and preferences to ensure their first encounter with your product is impressive and surpasses expectations. It also helps to offer tailored experiences that ensure you please as many key demographics as necessary.
Other best practices could include offering in-app user guides, product tools, and interactive quick tips. In short, product managers need to keep abreast of the onboarding landscape and ensure their clients receive top-notch customer service that convinces them to stay for the long haul. 
Of course, being a product manager requires more than a comprehensive knowledge of user experience best practices and how to write technical specs. Product managers must also employ soft skills that help them bridge knowledge gaps between teams and ensure projects run smoothly. Key non-technical skills to develop include:
5. Effective leadership abilities
Leadership skills are vital for supporting the teams involved in designing, creating, and promoting the product.
Good leaders require discipline and unrivalled organizational skills, ensuring that every team completes their tasks effectively and on time. If you’re naturally a little disorganized, it can help to implement good habits such as writing lists and prioritizing tasks. 
Strong leaders are also master delegators who can resolve disputes and ensure everyone works together effectively. If you notice any workflow bottlenecks or conflicts starting to develop, you’ll need to address them as quickly as possible to prevent projects from veering off track and maintain the efficacy of cross-functional teams. 
6. Emotional awareness and intelligence
Emotional intelligence helps product managers manage team stress, deliver constructive and sensitive feedback, and collaborate effectively with others. Some people believe that emotional intelligence is something you’re born with. However, it’s possible to develop these interpersonal skills by focusing on a few key competencies, including:
  • Self-awareness: Developing an awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses will help you recognize the impact of your actions on your team’s performance. You can develop self-awareness by asking for constructive feedback from peers, superiors, and relevant stakeholders. While receiving honest feedback can be tough, successful product managers are committed to constantly improving their practice and interacting more positively with others. 
  • Emotional regulation: Regulating your emotions during stressful situations (and there are likely to be a few!) provides a good example for team members and ensures the product development process isn’t impacted by negative emotional responses. 
  • Relationship management: Strong relationship management allows product managers to influence and mentor their teams, as well as resolve conflict effectively. While confronting conflict can be uncomfortable, it improves productivity by ensuring time isn’t wasted on gossip and in-fighting. 
7. Competence in applying analytical thinking to decision-making
Even the most analytical minds can sometimes struggle to apply tricky concepts to real-world decisions. Product management requires applying data-driven approaches to human problems – a valuable skill that suits people who can look beyond spreadsheets and graphs to consider their products will work in practice.
If you’re struggling to make quick and effective decisions, the following strategies could help improve your efficiency as a product manager:
  • Define the problem: Sometimes, carefully articulating the problem you need to solve will help you break it down into its constituent parts and better understand the next steps required.
  • Identify opportunities and threats: Once you’ve identified patterns and trends regarding the problem you’re trying to solve, try to assess the real-world threats and opportunities they present.
  • Consider multiple perspectives: Try to assess the issue from multiple perspectives, asking others’ opinions wherever relevant. This will ensure you avoid making rash decisions that affect the overall success of your product.
  • Evaluate alternatives: Assessing the pros and cons of different product options helps product managers optimize the cost-efficiency and impact of their projects. 
8. Proficient communication abilities
Product managers must constantly communicate with both internal and external stakeholders to ensure products are launched on time and deliver excellent value to customers. Communication includes both written, oral, and other types of presentation skills.
For example, a product manager may know that conveying information with a graph or visual aid will work more effectively than a long email. Similarly, conveying sensitive information may be easier in a one-to-one meeting.
If you’re looking to improve your communication abilities, you may wish to embark on a relevant Maven course that boosts your confidence in an area such as writing or public speaking.
9. Expertise in captivating storytelling
Developing a new product isn’t just about problem-solving and managing relationships between team members. You’ll also need to articulate the vision and value proposition of your product in an engaging way.
Crafting a strong narrative around a product can capture the attention of team members, customers, investors, and more, ensuring you gain support for your ideas. Similarly, storytelling allows product managers to bring concepts to life through anecdotes and testimonials, rather than data alone.
In the long run, this skill can boost adoption rates and foster trust among customers. 

Thrive as a Product Manager

As you can see, the role of a product manager requires an impressive combination of technical and non-technical skills. If you’re knowledgeable about software development and have a passion for working with others and supporting their future careers, it could well be the job for you. Of course, we recommend you conduct plenty of in-depth research into product management before you start sending off applications. After all, knowing the ins and outs of the role will help you perfect your resume and answer difficult interview questions.
If you’re wondering where to start, Maven offers a variety of courses related to product management and similar senior roles. Our ‘Up-level your career as a Program Manager’ course will equip you with the technical and non-technical know-how required to manage complex projects such as product development. If you’d like something a little more targeted and specific, our ‘ChatGPT for Project Management’ course will help you make the most of the ongoing AI revolution. Finally, our ‘Pivot to Program Management’ course will help tackle any speedbumps you encounter during a career switch, such as imposter syndrome and navigating work-life balance.
Of course, there are plenty more fantastic career development options to explore on the Maven website, so don’t hesitate to browse our extensive catalog today!
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