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Addressing the Challenges of B2B Product Management

Saeed Khan

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I worked my entire product management career (about 20 years) in B2B companies in both Canada and the US, and for the last 5 years I have been consulting with B2B companies on their product and business challenges.

I’ve also had MANY discussions with other consultants and product leaders about the challenges in B2B companies. And while every company is different, there are MANY common challenges Product Managers face, across them.

These common problems include things like:

  • lack of strategy in companies
  • lack of real market discovery
  • the challenges of aligning executives and stakeholders
  • the (over) influence of large customers on product direction and more.

I recently joined forces with Jason Knight to try help B2B Product Managers and Product Leaders address some of these problem.

We put out a survey a couple of months back asking a couple of questions to the Product community. We received about 100 responses to the survey and I want to share some of the the results with you.

Makeup of the Survey Respondents

We didn’t ask for too much information from the respondents, but we did ask them for their number of years working in Product Management. The following chart shows the respondent breakout.

Breakout of Respondents by Years of PM Experience — Percentages rounded to nearest whole number.

As can be seen, there was a roughly even spread across most of the segments — for 0–2 years all the way up to 8–10 years. The most experienced — More than 10 years — represented about 11% of the respondents. This is a good sign as it mean no particular experience level is over-represented in the next section.

What Problems Do You Face?

We also asked respondents the following question with the following choices:

Which of these problems do you currently face in B2B product management?

  • Large customers have undue influence on product direction
  • No support for product discovery by leadership
  • Working in a Sales-led org. i.e. individual deals impact product direction
  • Lack of strategy beyond “more revenue”
  • Heavy focus on services to bring in revenue vs. product licenses
  • Weak or absent product leadership (to provide guidance or advocate for the team)
  • Lack of understanding or trust in product processes (ad-hoc environment)
  • Inability to move away from a “project” mindset

These are all problems both Jason and I have encountered on multiple occasions in companies we’ve worked for as well as clients we’ve worked with.

Respondents could choose as many problems as they encountered in their organizations. And here are the results.

Percentage of respondents for each type of company issue

Percentage of respondents for each type of company issue
Percentage of respondents for each type of company issue

The top 4 problems:

  • Working in a Sales-led organization
  • Inability to move away from a project mindset
  • Large customers have undue influence on product direction
  • Lack of strategy beyond “more revenue”

were selected by over 50% of respondents. Tbese fit the pattern both Jasan and I have seen in many companies.

The other 4 problems:

  • No support for product discovery by leadership
  • Lack of understanding or trust in product processes
  • Weak or absent product leadership
  • Heavy focus on services

were selected by under 50% of respondents.

This is an interesting divide. It should be noted that not all of these are completely independent from one another. e.g Lack of strategy and Large customers having undue influence are inter-related. Additionally, Inability to move from a Project mindset and No support for product discovery are also interrelated.

But those top 4 are really key.

How do these survey results match with what you’ve experienced in companies? Leave a comment on this post.

So we created a workshop

To help try and address these problems that are so common in our industry, Jason and I have created a workshop for B2B Product Managers and Leaders.

The workshop is called Succeeding in B2B Product Management.

We’ve taken the data from the survey as well as other data we both had from our consulting work and B2B work backgrounds, and given our combined B2B Product Management experience (about 40 years in total), created a workshop focused on helping solve these common problems.

We have 2 cohorts starting in January and February 2024 respectively.

  1. Starts January 17, 2 hours per week, 8 weeks. 12PM ET/5PM GMT — Good for North America, Europe and MENA nations.
  2. Starts February 14, 2 hours per week, 8 weeks. 9AM ET/2PM GMT — Good for Eastern North America, Europe, MENA and West/Central Asian nations.

These are IN-DEPTH, actionable workshops. We will dig into these problems (and more), have great discussions and provide strategies that you can apply the next day in your job to start making the changes needed so you can succeed in your role.

More information, Registration and a Discount!!

You can use this >>link<< to get more information and get $100 off the workshop. Or hit me up on Linkedin if you have questions. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in the class next year.

Saeed

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Saeed Khan

Product Consultant. Contact me for help in building great products, processes and people. http://www.transformationlabs.io