The Art of Being Compelling Product Managers

Sachin Rekhi, Founder & CEO at Notejoy

As product managers, we spend so much of our time convincing stakeholders of the right path forward, whether it’s fellow product managers, engineers, designers, executives, or even customers. The most successful product managers become well versed in making compelling arguments every day around product vision, roadmap prioritization, design trade-offs, resource asks, and so much more. This session will share some of the most effective techniques I’ve found for mastering the art of being compelling.

TAKEAWAYS

  • The best product managers spend 60% of their time on the substance of product management and 40% on the style of product management.
  • Substance is the hard skills of PM. This includes customer discovery, prioritizing a roadmap, and deriving insights from data. Style is the soft skills of product management. These include having a good communication style, being able to influence without authority, and connecting with executive management.
  • Feeling unappreciated, thinking there are too many cooks in the kitchen, and feeling that decision-making is consensus-based and slow are all symptoms of lack of style.
  • How do you improve style? It all boils down to being compelling. As product managers, you do this with everyone: engineers, bosses, stakeholders, etc.
  • Being compelling is a combination of substance, style, and audience. For audience, identify the stakeholders that matter most and find out who’s succeeded with them.
  • Framing — Present a particular perspective to steer the audience to a desired conclusion. (Example: Reframe a risky initiative as an ambitious one.)
  • Social Proof — Leverage the shared opinion of others to convince key stakeholders. (Example: Basecamp’s use of stats as to how many people are using them.)
  • Goal Seek — Redefine your initiative in terms of a decision maker’s own goals.
    (Example: Convincing someone to green light a product. Reposition your initiative as the input for their goals. “All I’m trying to do is help you achieve [goal].”)
  • Other elements of making a compelling argument:
    • Inception — Make another believe the idea was his or her own.
    • Citation — Share data, test results, and customer voices.
    • Narration — Recast your argument as an engaging story.
  • Learn more: SachinRekhi.com

“Great speaker! I enjoyed the comparison between soft skills and hard skills. So much of product management is aimed at tasks, or ‘doing.’ It was important to highlight that there are things between the lines that need to happen so you’re actually allowed to do what you need to do.”

“I’m actually training younger product managers and am good at the style part. But the younger PMs don’t see or understand it. They think it’s just me being me. It’s definitely a senior-level skill — one that’s hard to find resources or content for. It was good for the people I brought with me to learn about this.”

“My takeaway was that it’s not enough to just be right or to have the right info. The way in which you communicate that is equally important. We’re each born with our own personality and communication style, but people assume their communication style is mirrored by everyone else. That’s not the case. You need to be conscious on how to present a story or argument so you’re able to convince the audience you want to convince.

Paul McAvinchey
Paul McAvinchey
paul@productcollective.com

For over 15 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a 15,000+ strong worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on Slack, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Lunch and get a weekly brief that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.