Seth Godin gives some advice to real estate agents. Allow me to paraphrase his advice for Product Managers:
Here’s my best advice (everyone knows a product manager or two, so feel free to forward this along).
Plan A: You should quit being a Product Manager. I’m serious.
Quit being a PM. Get a job doing something else.
Some of you have been waiting to hear that. My pleasure.
The ones that are left, that’s you, can consider Plan B:
If you’re not going to be able to make a living by helping sales, by checking to see which bugs have been fixed, by using the never-ending ream of support calls to answer, then what are you going to do? Whining is not an option.
In fact, I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for you.
As [Seth] wrote in The Dip, you’re either the best in the world (where ‘world’ can be a tiny slice of the environment) or you’re invisible.
So become the best in the world at understanding your customers. This means being Draconian in your choices. No, you can’t also do a little of this or a little of that. Best in your world means burning your other bridges and obsessing.
You become the source of information, the watercooler, the person to turn to.
“I have no time!”
Of course you have that time available. Remember nine months ago when you were three times as busy with sales calls as you are now? Invest that time in building up your expertise and becoming the person people who don’t even like you turn to for insight.
The opportunity is to reinvent the way you interact with current users, with prospects, with the mildly interested and with your past clients. The opportunity, in other words, is to stop waiting around for the phone to ring and instead figure out how to do what you do best… connect users and developers in a way that makes them both confident.
Some of you will stick with the standard business card with the standard photo, the standard office and the standard feature request strategy and the standard approach to making the phone ring. It’s going to be a long haul if that’s your route.
I’m betting, though, that the best of you will end up with a product that will survive, thrive and prosper. Best time to start is right now.