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10 Essential Competencies for Successful SaaS Product Managers

Kate William

14 March 2023

10 min read

Building a product successfully requires a litany of skills. And one of the most crucial people in building SaaS products is a product manager. They are the flag bearers that hold the fort together during product development. Without a highly-skilled product manager, the product will never gain the traction it aspires to. 

In this article, we look at 10 of the most essential product manager competencies required to build successful SaaS products. 

10 Essential Product Manager Competencies You Need to Thrive

#1. Product feature skills:

A successful product manager has in-depth knowledge of the product and its many features. They need to know the ins and outs of it.

For example: Who does the product help? How exactly does it add value to the target market? Who are the people in the organization who will be searching for a product similar to yours?

One of the skills required to be a product manager is that they should be able to communicate the product’s value to all the stakeholders. Here are a few ways in which a product manager can improve their knowledge of the product:

  • Know the latest trends and technologies in the industry.
  • Have a clear idea of how people will use the product in their organization. 
  • Understand at what stage the prospective customers identify their pain points. 
  • Send customer feedback surveys at regular intervals to get a picture of what the customers think. 
  • Find out how your product fares when compared with that of the competitors. 
  • Create marketing materials that explain your products to your target market. 

#2. Ability to develop a product roadmap:

Building a product roadmap is a complex task that involves establishing product goals and outlining the efforts that will be required for it.

After they are clearly defined, the product manager should decide on the releases and features that align with your strategy.  Product strategy will only work if there is a buy-in from all the relevant stakeholders. 

The product roadmap helps in the development and release of your product. Whenever questions arise, you can quickly refer to the roadmap to see if you are going in the right direction. The product manager leads the charge in collecting research, ideas, and opinions. 

A product roadmap has the following goals:

  • Describe vision and strategy. 
  • Create a document for executing the product roadmap strategy.
  • Make sure that all the stakeholders are in alignment with how the product is built.

There are different types of product roadmaps that have varying degrees of specificity. 

Product manager competencies: Data analysis
Product beta testing data from SurveySparrow

#3. Understanding of data and analytics:

Product management technical skills should include a basic understanding of analyzing data. And SaaS products generate a lot of data, making it all the more important for product managers to be well-versed in data analysis.

No SaaS product can be built without using data, but it isn’t always leveraged the way it is supposed to. 

When there is data at your disposal, you do not have to rely on guesswork and intuition to make business decisions. Your actions will be based on insights and research. Product managers should be obsessed with data, and that’s precisely how revolutionary products can be made. 

Additionally, PMs should leverage data to get answers to the following questions:

  • How can the product be made better?
  • Which are the features and functionalities that prospective customers expect from you? 
  • What is the current state of the product?
  • What changes should we make to the product based on customer feedback and usage data? 

Here’s how PMs should leverage data for making decisions:

  • Track the performance of a particular product. By doing so, they will know where to allocate resources and how to maximize profitability for the product. 
  • PMs should identify trends in how customers make purchasing decisions. The information can be used to develop strategies for marketing campaigns to create targeted promotions. 
  • Data gives you a deep understanding of how customers are satisfied with your product. Analyzing data tells the PMs about the areas that have issues.
  • It helps PMs understand the competitive landscape and find ways to create a better offering when compared with everyone else. 

#4. User experience (UX):

UX design is a critical part of product manager competencies that is highly sought after. After all, providing the right user experience is at the core of delivering a successful product.

Even though PMs don’t require design expertise, they must understand the underlying principles of UX. In turn, the product roadmap that the PM creates acts as a base for the UX design team. 

Additionally, the UX designers have to work closely with the PM and the engineering team to understand the customers’ practical requirements. They should also be aware of the technical limitations so that they can give the best possible experience within the constraints. 

Bad UX will result in products that fail. If your users don’t get to experience a seamless interaction, they will leave. That’s why the PM is tasked with changing the perspective of everybody who is a part of the project and making them look at every single aspect from the POV of the customer. It can be challenging to get this mindset. 

Product managers should hone their UX skills by evaluating all sorts of designs. They should try to look at every product from a customer’s perspective. Following design magazines and designers will help develop an eye for good UX design. 

Product manager competencies: User experience
Product experience: feedback

#5. Problem-solving skills:

When you build a product from the ground up, it will be fraught with challenges. So a product manager should have the necessary skill set to identify and address difficult problems.

There will be issues at every stage of the product development and when customers start using it. But a clear vision of how you want the product to work for the customer will make the task of solving problems simpler. 

One of the key skills for a SaaS product manager is the ability to think on their feet and come up with quick solutions. That’s because SaaS products have high adoption rates. It will be used by several people who are looking to solve specific pain points with it. But if there is something that is stopping from solving it, the onus is on the PM to address it immediately.

So communication with all the stakeholders to identify concerns, and find solutions one of the key skills for a product manager.

Here’s how a product manager can improve their problem-solving skills:

  • Go through case studies of how issues were solved with the product.
  • Talk to the customer support team to understand areas where there are frequent issues. 
  • Get on calls with customers to identify touchpoints that are complex. 
  • Communicate regularly with all the stakeholders during the course of product development. 
  • Stay updated with the latest trends and technologies.

#6. Expertise with user onboarding:

An in-depth understanding of user onboarding and its best practices will keep a PM in good stead.

After all, user onboarding can make or break a product’s success. Imagine how terrible it will be if a product that captured the imagination of your entire target audience crashes after using it for five minutes. It will result in a bad rep, and in some cases, it might be impossible to recover. 

There are user onboarding tools like Userpilot, Chameleon, Appcues, etc., that help customers get value from your product immediately. PMs don’t have to be familiar with coding onboarding tours from scratch. But, they must have an understanding of the best practices that must be followed. They should know how to make the user get value from the product without them having to spend a lot of time on it. 

User onboarding is all about making customers experience their “wow” moment with your product. They know about your product and are ready to use it. So the onus is on you to make them feel that your product is special. 

Mobile data collection for user onboarding

#7. Prioritization skills:

Even if you have all the resources available, knowing which one to prioritize is a skill that all product managers should have.

PMs are always busy, and they have to give their attention to multiple aspects of product development at the same time. That’s precisely why product managers should allocate their time to areas that require immediate attention. 

PMs should ask the following questions regularly:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how important is this feature/functionality for me?
  • What projects should I prioritize, and in what order?
  • Which are the resources I need for this project? 
  • What are the resources that I can do away with?
  • Are there projects that can be stalled right now without any repercussions?
  • Which are the features that I need to work on immediately? 

Below are a few tips on how PMs should prioritize their projects:

  • They should make business decisions based on data. Data will tell you which features are important and which ones are not, at least in the current scenario. It can also tell you which areas provide the biggest impact. 
  • PMs should know which are the most important features that will make the product successful.
  • Not allocating resources to features or functionalities that can be left out is a skill that every PM should possess. Otherwise, they will be working on things that don’t matter. 
  • PMs must be aware of the constraints in terms of resources, money, and time. It will help them build products that provide value. 

#8. Research skills:

Understanding the target market, competitors, user requirements, and the latest trends and technologies involve a lot of research. A PM who has the ability to research all of them will be immensely successful. Because when building a successful SaaS product, the right research abilities can make a huge difference in how the eventual product shapes up. 

Strong research skills help you make better decisions for the product and for the organization. You will know which features customers are expecting from you. You will also end up finding functionalities that your end customers will like, even if it was never available in the market previously. The ability to do proper research will help find opportunities that were not thought about previously. 

Additionally, building a successful SaaS product from scratch is a challenging affair. The product manager should put a lot of thought into the research to build a viable product. If product development isn’t backed by proper research and analysis, the end product might not be alluring. 

As a part of their product manager competencies, the PM should make it a habit of being abreast of what is happening with one’s customers and competitors. Knowing what your customers want and what competitors are offering will help you come up with a product that’s the best fit in the market.

That’s why product manager competencies include the ability to create online surveys that ask the right questions to their customers. The insights from the survey can be used to improve the product experience. 

Bonus Content

#9. Communication skills:

Proper communication skills help the product manager to communicate effectively with their team.

PMs should also be able to communicate with stakeholders who are not a part of the internal team. You must be able to articulate what you are building, who it is for, what the customers will expect from it, and so on.

Among the many product manager skills necessary for building successful SaaS products, the ability to communicate properly will always be one of the most important ones. 

Moreover, product management involves creating product specifications, user resources, and a variety of other documentation. So written and spoken communication are equally important product manager competencies.

A good communicator should be a good listener too. It is one of the easiest skills to develop, but it is extremely difficult for most people to calmly listen to someone on the other side. You must have empathy to understand the constraints of your team.  

Here’s how PMs can improve their communication skills:

  • They can directly ask for feedback from their product development team.
  • The PM should identify areas for improvement and work on them. 
  • Try practicing public speaking, as it will improve their confidence and give them the ability to communicate better. 
  • They should be able to manage stakeholder expectations by negotiating with both parties. 

In short , being a good communicator is pivotal for product managers. They have to make sure that there is alignment on all sides and that the work is going as planned. With clear communication, you can wade through problems with ease. 

10. Organization skills:

PMs oversee the entire product lifecycle. It involves everything from conceptualizing the idea to implementing it till the time it becomes good for customer use.

There are several stakeholders and innumerable resources that will be used. You must define what you need, how much you need, and where you need it. For a project of any magnitude to be successful, proper organizational skills are a must.

Moreover, a detail-oriented approach is quintessential for product managers. They cannot slack on the minutest of details, as it will show in the end product. The more organized the product manager is, the easier it is to build and maintain your product roadmap. 

Product manager competencies: Wrapping up

Investing in the above product manager competencies will help PMs build successful SaaS products. It will also help them in the long run as they will able to make products that are devoid of many challenges.

The kind of impact that a good product manager has on the success of a product is immense. Product managers are the ones who are responsible for creating a product that all the stakeholders love. 

If you are looking for an online survey tool to gather feedback from your customers to know the status of your SaaS product, SurveySparrow is here to help. We have some of the most powerful features and functionalities that you can ask for. Get in touch with us to understand how we can be your partner in helping you build a successful SaaS product. 

You can also test-drive all of our features with a free trial.

Product manager competencies: FAQs

What are the skills required to be a product manager?

Research, communication, user experience, analytical, and prioritization skills are some of the most important competencies to becoming a successful product manager. 

What does a product manager do in a SaaS company?

SaaS product managers are responsible for overseeing new products, right from conceptualization to launch. They are the ones who are responsible to manage stakeholders and are expected to be involved during all stages of product development. They will also be responsible for managing multiple cross-functional product teams. 

What do you think are some of the unique skills that a SaaS product manager would have to demonstrate?

Some of the unique and important skills that SaaS product managers should have are: data-driven decision-making, research skills, deep product knowledge, leadership skills, and delegation skills. 

How do I become a good SaaS product manager?

Here are some of the best practices to become a good SaaS product manager:

  • Ability to gather ideas from a variety of sources.
  • Ability to make decisions around product strategy that increases your ROI.
  • Caring about what your customers think and commit to talking to customers directly. 
  • Even though you don’t have to code, you should at least be interested in the technical aspects of your product. 

Even though there are many other things to follow, the above pointers will help you get started in your journey to becoming a good product manager. 

How can we make a successful SaaS product?

Here are the key steps to building a successful SaaS product:

  • Have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with your SaaS product.
  • The next step is to find knowledgeable and experienced developers.
  • Validate your SaaS idea by conducting feasibility studies.
  • Design the UX for the product.
  • Develop a minimum viable product (MVP) to gauge your target market’s interest. 
  • Market your product to your audience. 
Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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