How to be a B2B Product Manager by Zalando Product Leader, Gopika E.M.

Whether you are creating B2C or B2B products, you have a vision, a strategy that you need to apply to achieve that vision, and a product manager who tries to navigate every possible way to achieve that vision. Therefore, regardless of the sector, we use the same tools and frameworks to create and deliver products and we keep users at the center of all our solutions.

Key differences B2B to B2C

The basic process of creating or working with B2B or B2C is largely the same. But there are some key differences between when you're building a B2B or B2C product. One of the main areas where this difference exists is in how we create characters. In B2C we focus on the person as a person, while in B2B we are talking about the organization of the company. Especially for B2B, the end user and consumer is very different from the buyer and much more conscious effort is required to develop empathy with customers and users in the B2B space.

Product Experience

The second major difference in product management is the perception of the product. For consumer products, success is all about getting users to love your product. In a corporate setting, the buyer and the user are different personalities. For enterprise products, success is all about enabling your end users to bring more value to their business using your product.
In B2B settings, improving workflow efficiency is more important than improving user experience. Creating new features takes precedence over improving the user experience.

Relationship with Sales

A strong relationship with the sales team is what sets B2B apart.
One of the main tasks of a product manager is to achieve alignment with multiple stakeholders. In a B2B setting, one of your key stakeholders as a product manager needs to be aligned with what's going on with the sales team. Consumer products rely on marketing and advertising, word of mouth and B2B. The main tool is salespeople, so they need to think of the sales department as the next client. We also need to make sure that the value proposition we are creating for is the same one that the sales team communicates to end users while they are selling it. Product managers need to improve this relationship with the sales team, understand the sales process, the information they receive from users, because they are in direct contact with them. In a B2B setting, you will notice that this stakeholder that you are more like carries more weight than your other stakeholders.

User Base

You need to learn and group users based on different aspects of how they run the business, their organizational structure, how their organizational team works, how their organizational structure is divided, what it is based on. These ideas will help you create your product, you will design your product based on their business structures. So understanding and segmenting your user base is one of the most important factors in B2B.

Data Literacy

What is your plan for how data will be generated, collected, and consumed?

In B2B, you need to have knowledge of the data dashboard and data science.

Building products with data requires a data strategy, and it's beyond what a business strategy is. A data strategy is a way and your plan that you develop to understand how data is generated, how data can be used to improve the product and the long-term success of your product.
The data driven product manager makes the decisions that drive the data flywheel.

It is useful to study and learn know-how about what kind of infrastructure is required to support a product. Data scientists will always answer your questions. Learning the infrastructure and learning the trade-offs will allow you to develop better in this role.

Sales Collaboration

Use sales input to evaluate the underlying problem that the product isn't currently solving.

The sales team is the account managers, anyone who is in direct contact with your partners or end users. They can help you understand their needs and concerns and highlight what you can build next.
The skill that a product manager should have is to understand not to create something as feedback comes in, but to learn about a problem that the current product does not solve, and decide if a scalable solution is needed for these problems. And for this reason, not only an exchange of views is needed, but also a prioritization, as well as a deeper second-level study that needs to be carried out after these discussions. Many of these conversations may be in the form of a solution rather than a problem. This is where the product manager needs to dive into the problem before jumping straight into the solution.

Prioritization & Expectation Management

B2B products tend to have fewer customers. Therefore, individual users carry more weight.

You can receive inquiries from both the sales team and your existing clients. The key difference from B2C is that B2B has fewer customers and there is a chance that those few customers will actually bring in a lot of revenue and will have a lot of weight in what you create. What you're building may be specific to that one client, and if you're heavily customizing your product for that client, think about how your product can be scaled to other clients. It is a key challenge for Product Managers, in a B2B context, to walk that fine line between a satisfied customer and sufficient revenue and build features that scale to the majority of users of your product.
Expectations management. Your team wants to have more visibility into your roadmap. A roadmap is something that changes quarterly or every 6 months. Sometimes the sales department or individual clients want to understand what you are building and whether you are building for what is requested. So product managers need to navigate that line between having enough visibility for customers and the sales team, the flexibility to deliver the highest value product, and destroy the non-revenue product. You need to improve communication with customers and sales every time there is a change in your roadmap, when you go in a different direction. Communication is the key to managing stakeholder expectations. This is one of the key skills that a product manager needs to develop.

  1. Aimless Exploration

It may be that you don't know where to start, especially if it's a new product or feature. You can interview many users and partners, see what comes up during the discussions, and draw conclusions from there. One of the common mistakes is that what you do should be more specific.


Wandering aimlessly < Wandering with a purpose

  1. Sunk Cost Delusion

This happens when you submit a product without a lot of popularity, but continue to develop it, because. think that you can attract more customers and make the product more attractive in this way.

Sunk cost is the tendency to double down on our mistakes just because we spent a whole lot of time and effort making them.

Instead of improving the product, ask yourself questions: what is your product value proposition? What problem are you trying to solve? Who are you trying to solve this problem for? How do your users solve this problem?
If your real users don't do much to solve the problem, then it may not be a real problem.
If you think you're not building a product for a specific target group, or if you're building the wrong product, then you need to take a turn and not move on with the product development process.

  1. Biases

This is the wrong signal distortion to test.

This challenge is about misinterpreting or skewing the signals for validation.

Solution 1

Instead of asking yourself, what's going well, ask what's declining or stagnant.

Solution 2

Consider product management as a team sport.

Separate self-esteem from the idea and it turns out that if the idea fails, it wasn’t you who caused it to fail, many people were involved so that you would not become a victim of cognitive or survival biases. Involve as many people as possible in the ideation phase, the validation phase, and the feedback phase. And this is one way to keep self-esteem from the idea.

Gopika E.M., Zalando Product Leader