As a PM, how to ask customers the “tough questions”

Being a product manager at Jana means we work closely with our customers. In many organizations, being a product manager can be rather technical. At Jana, product managers are actively involved in refining our understanding of the market and customers in order to define a product roadmap.

Dinner with customers after a long day at a conference. Lots of learnings!

March 2016, Gurgaon, India. Dinner with customers after an exciting day at the ad:tech conference. Lots of learnings!

The “why”

Product managers thrive if they have a clear vision of what drives customers to spend long-term. Product and sales people can work together in order to get the full picture of what the client needs. Asking tough questions in order to understand deeper needs and where the market is headed is seen as important in order to build a long-term relationship. We product managers often need to develop that knowledge of deeper needs and the market ourselves in direct conversation with the customer.

The What and the How

When talking with our customers, we aim to understand 4 things. Never ask what they want.

  1. What’s their experience with our product? Which metric have we driven successfully (or not) with them?
  2. How do they view the market going forward? (How they answer also tells you how they view themselves in it.)
  3. Who else are they working with and why (i.e. our competition)?
  4. How is their success measured within their team or organization?

I try to ask our customers these questions whenever I meet them. Industry conferences are a great place for this – low risk, lots of attendees, and lots of opportunities for conversation.

Summing up

  • Don’t get your customer insights only from sales, get lots of data yourself.
  • It is easier to understand how you’re perceived vis-a-vis your competitors when you’re physically in-market/with your customer rather than back in the office.
  • If your customers are not where your product team sits, send your product people in-market to get a richer set of data.




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