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Managing Enterprise Products is Product Management

Blair Reeves, Principal Product Manager at SAS, and Ben Gaines, Group Product Manager at Adobe, share what it takes to be successful as an enterprise product manager.

Building products for enterprise customer is very different than building products for consumers. However, most content is geared towards consumer product management. I was thrilled to have Blair and Ben on the show to shed light on the main differences between the two sectors and what it takes to be successful as an enterprise product manager.

Blair and Ben say that there are a lot of transferable skills, but that the biggest difference in enterprise product management is that you need to work with your sales team. They say that it’s critical to understand how your product is sold. Ben recommends shadowing a salesperson while they are working with a prospect. Blair goes as far as stepping in to help answer technical questions when major deals are on the line.

Another unique aspect of enterprise product management is that your buyers and end users are usually different. Buyers typically want a product that can grow their business. Users want a product that makes their job easier. Blair and Ben recommend distilling feedback from both stakeholders to develop a product roadmap that will help you achieve your long-term vision.

I was curious if enterprise product managers can apply the same experimentation and iteration practices that have become so common in consumer product management, given that in enterprise, customers often depend on your product to run their business. Ben says that most enterprise companies don’t work in an agile way, and that moving quicker and iterating can be a major advantage. However, he does advise against doing anything that could disrupt your customers’ workflow without them expecting it, and he shares some ways to run experiments without doing so.

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about collaborating with salespeople and building enterprise products.

Here are the highlights:

  • The skills a product manager would need to gain in order to transition from consumer to enterprise (3:48)
  • Ben and Blair’s recommendations for collaborating with a sales team (9:09)
  • Ben distinguishes between the needs of buyers and end users  (13:35)
  • Blair explains how handles customer requests (17:53)
  • How Ben strikes a balance between speed and quality (20:48)

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