Essentials to Becoming a Successful PM by DocuSign Product Leader, Suman Seshadri

Let's define “Successful Product Manager”

A successful product manager is someone who understands the needs of the client, is able to lead the team towards a shared vision and goal, and is someone who delivers value to the client.

A Product manager's role

The role of a product manager is very complex. He has to work with a large number of teams, communicate with clients, learn about his pain points, what alternatives the client can use if not for his product, communicate with partners, tooling teams, engineering teams, sales, UX content, work with tools. The most important thing is that you have to deal with different people with different backgrounds, so it is very important to use different skills to achieve the goals - to inspire the team to realize the vision of the roadmap, to be able to launch, implement and complement.

Essential Skills for being a successful Product Manager

  • Research Skills

  • Communication Skills

  • Listening Skills

  • Sales Skills

  • Analytical Skills

  • End to End Thinking Skills

  • Organization Skills

  • Interpersonal Skills

Research Skills

  • What is it? Ability to analyze, interpret and evaluate

  • Why you need it: Helps with comprehension, getting facts and solutions to a problem

Examples of where you will need it:

  • Finding a PM job

  • Understanding customers and competitors

  • Guiding the vision and roadmap of your product

Communication Skills

  • What is it? Ability to articulate effectively using the best communication channel/medium

  • Why you need it: Helps you work effectively and efficiently

Examples of where you will need it:

  • Speaking to your customers

  • Speaking to your stakeholders

  • Reviewing requirements and getting work done.

Listening Skills

  • What is it? Ability to keep an open mind to accurately receive and understand spoken and unspoken messages

  • Why you need it: Helps you empathize, build trust

Examples of where you will need it:

  • To empathize with your customers

  • To understand what stakeholders and leadership is looking for.

Which are the good ways to let other people know you are listening?

  1. Staying quiet and allow them to speak

  2. Do not interrupt; acknowledge by nodding; summarize; ask questions

  3. Listen without judgement and keep an open mind

Sales Skills

  • What is it? The ability to sell by demonstrating conviction, confidence

  • Why you need it: To influence teams and to get things done in a manner that moves the business forward

Examples of where you will need it:

  • Everyday meetings

  • When you pitch an idea to a customer, investor, leadership

  • To negotiate a good contract with your partners

Analytical Skills

  • What is it? Ability to analyze a problem at hand

  • Why you need it: To better understand your business metrics, brainstorming, problem solving, for data driven decision making

Examples of where you will need it:

  • To find areas of optimization

  • To help prioritize roadmap items

  • Product monetization and establishing business model

End to End Thinking Skills

  • What is it? Ability to step back and take a broader look at what is in hand

  • Why you need it: To understand how changes in one part of the system can affect another area and thereby know the pros and cons, assess risks

Examples of where you will need it:

  • Day to day operations and troubleshooting

  • Providing product requirements

  • Product launch preparations

Organization Skills

  • What is it? Ability to maximize efficiency by using structure or process in the ways of working

  • Why you need it: Improves productivity, increases focus and clarity of thought, reduces errors

Examples of where you will need it:

  • Planning and conducting meetings

  • Launch planning

Interpersonal Skills

  • What is it? Ability to interact well with others using effective communication skills while demonstrating respect and emotional intelligence

  • Why you need it: Earn trust, to work effectively

Examples of where you will need it:

  • Negotiate and arrive at a decision

  • To get stakeholder alignment

  • To make work more enjoyable

What steps would you take to resolve a disagreement with a coworker?

  1. Separate the person from the problem

  2. Keep an open mind and understand the source of concern

  3. Listen objectively

  4. Show credibility and be poised

  5. Continue to work at it

  6. Try to find common ground

How will you acquire and hone these skills?

  1. Conscious learning

    - Read books

    - Listen to Podcasts

    - Attend classes

    - Learn from mentors and role models

    - Be present

  2. Observation


    - team dynamics during meetings

    - body language and non-verbal cues

    - Patterns that repeat, for better future preparation

    - Meeting structure

    - What is productive and what is not

  3. Practice

    - Practice your skills everyday!

    - Practice to make progress

    - Don't strive for perfection

    - Ask for feedback and aim to do your work well consistently

One must be conscious, learning to observe and practice.

Suman Seshadri, DocuSign Product Leader