Is Everyone a Product Manager?

Everyone's a Product Manager

Is it possible that every person at every company in the world is actually a product manager?

The question may sound odd at first. Product managers already go by many avatars  — 256, according to one recent independent survey of 1,500 respondents.

But could others within a company — salespeople, purchasing managers, marketing managers support staff — also be considered “product managers”?

Our thinking is that everyone in a company must be vitally concerned with whether their firm’s products are built to sell and then sold effectively. If every worker in a company thinks like a product manager, then the company can be more effective at maximizing sales and profitability.

Imagine a salesperson preparing to call on a customer. Of course she has lots of information on her own firm’s products. But what if she could go into that meeting with a real-time view of what that buyer has already bought from the competition — down to the color, mix and price? What if she had data on the buzz a new make or model has been creating on Facebook and Twitter?

Or consider a sales manager trying, as always, to maximize profitability. He knows his own costs and prices. But what if he also knew the prices for each item sold by every competitor? How much better could he see where his company was leaving money on the table or losing sales because others are charging more or less than his company?

What if a phone-support staffer at a firm with a lowest-price policy could easily verify a customer’s claim that a competitor was selling a product for $1 less two weeks ago? Or if a designer could shop for a key component of his firm’s new electronic product and shave half a cent from its cost? Or if a financial exec could negotiate better deals for the company based on her knowledge of what was going on in the market?

In truth, not everyone is a product manager as that title is usually used. Most don’t have to care every minute of every day about the things a designated product manager worries about. But — from their own vantage points — everyone still needs intelligence about the market, the competition, the customers and the product itself along with its price, promotion and distribution.

While everyone may not be a product manager, everyone in a company needs access to the same tools and market intelligence that a product manager has. They need to think like a product manager so they can influence the product manager.

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