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  • JJ Rorie

Navigating the Landscape of Product Consulting


Episode 078

Get ready for a deep dive into the world of product consulting with our special guest, the seasoned consultant, entrepreneur, and leader, Mary Beth Snodgrass. Buckle in as we traverse the terrain of product consulting and its growing popularity, tackling topics from managing product challenges to exploring the gig economy. Mary Beth takes us inside her collective, the PAC, shedding light on their unique, results-oriented approach to advising product teams on strategy and diversity.


Stepping further into the sphere, we delve into the competencies of a product leader, the specific hurdles faced by women in tech, and the power of collective intelligence in driving product. Mary Beth discusses the importance of real-world learning and how product consultants can augment organizations. Pondering over the role of advisory boards and proper scoping in product consulting, we unravel the myriad ways consultants add value and how to determine the best fit for your organization.


In the grand finale, Mary Beth illuminates the path to setting up a consulting practice. From the financial aspects and risk profiles to the art of building your brand, she provides sage advice for budding consultants. We also turn our focus to the crucial role of business development in product consulting, touching on sales best practices and strategies for assessing your strengths. So, if you're ready to discover the depth and breadth of opportunities in product consulting, don't miss this enlightening conversation.


 

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Episode Transcript:


Intro (the incomparable Sandra Segrest) 00:03

Welcome to Product Voices, a podcast where we share valuable insights and useful resources to help us all be great in product management. Visit the show's website to access the resources discussed on the show, find more information on our fabulous guests, or to submit your product management question to be answered on our special Q&A episodes. That's all at ProductVoices.com, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform. Now here's our host, JJ Rorie, CEO of Great Product Management.

JJ 00:35 Hello and welcome to Product Voices. Today's conversation is all about product consulting and becoming a consultant in the product world and or using product consultants in your product team and for your product organization. And you know it's interesting I've been a consultant, advisor, trainer, coach for many years now. In addition to teaching at Johns Hopkins and through my corporate work of consulting, advising, training, I've learned a lot. I've learned that it is incredibly rewarding to help many different organizations. I've learned that it's quite difficult at times to be a consultant to show the value or to make organizations understand the value that an advisor or consultant can bring in in the product realm. And you know again, you're running your business and its business development and its finance and its accounting and its product and its sales and its all of the things right, all of the hats. And so it's not for everyone, but we are seeing a lot of people become interested in potentially becoming a consultant and working in the product world as a freelancer or consultant or coach etc. As opposed to having, you know, a full time product management or product leadership job. So today's conversation is all about that product consulting and what it can look like and what it can be like for both individuals and organizations. My guest today is awesome and I'm so excited that she's here to talk with me about this.

Mary Beth Snodgrass is a problem solver, an entrepreneurial product leader and a consultant to innovators who's passionate about using technology for positive impact. She spent nearly a decade leading product at early stage startups, including several zero to one products, and predominantly in highly regulated industries like energy and healthcare. Before leading product as an entrepreneur and consultant to entrepreneurs, she was a consultant to Fortune 500 companies on risk impact compliance, project finance and engagement. Most recently, she founded and leads an all female product advisory collective, the PAC, which takes a collaborative and outcomes driven approach to advising product teams on strategy and diversity. So excited to have you here. Thanks for joining me, Mary Beth.

Mary Beth 03:00 Thanks so much for having me. JJ, I'm really excited to be here and if you could see me when you were doing your introduction, you would have seen me nodding to everything you were saying about consulting in this space.

JJ 03:13 Yeah, it's going to be a fun conversation. We've obviously talked a little bit before on this and so I'm really excited that we're going to formalize it, formalize the conversation, through this episode. So, as I mentioned in that introduction, a lot of people are getting into consulting or at least considering it. Why do you think that is?

Mary Beth 03:35 I think there's so many things that are converging and happening at the same time, so obviously the tech industry has been going through layoffs and the economy is not great. So as part of layoffs, companies are deciding which functions are most relevant to the stage they're in. I actually just tried to look and see if product functions were hit more heavily, and what's interesting is that in a resource that came across, product isn't even listed as a separate function. So I'm not sure if product is more heavily hit. But I think if companies are focused on retaining customers right now, which is a great strategy during a downturn, it depends on which functions are more relevant to customer retention for them. Some aftermath of COVID is playing a role, so people have reevaluated their priorities, work-life balance, their personal values, whether they align with their employer or not, and in this aftermath, it's easier for us to connect with new connections online than ever before. So I think that makes consulting on product seem another I would say, technical or specialized roles more viable for people. I would also say the gig economy is becoming more established, so there's, I would even say, a higher comfort level among enterprises and engaging gig workers. And then, lastly, I think that consulting at least appears to be something that's relatively easy to leap into from a variety of backgrounds once you have a certain level of experience in product. So I'm curious what you think about that.

JJ 05:40 Yes, I agree with all of that. I think that's spot on. I think all of those elements and aspects are drivers of what is motivating people to think about consulting, if not, go ahead and take the leap. I also think there's just an element of and it might go into kind of the reevaluation of priorities that you mentioned and that sort of thing. But product management is a difficult job. It is highly visible. You've got people pulling at you constantly. There's a lot of burnout in product management and I think that's a somewhat of a separate conversation that I think we need to address as a product community. But I think that's part of you know, reevaluating what you want out of life and I think a lot of people and your careers and I think a lot of people are saying this is a very stressful role. Is there a way I can stay in product because I love it, but alleviate some of that stress and burnout? And I'm not sure the consulting is the answer and I think we'll talk about that a little bit through the conversation, but I also think that may be part of it. I think people like you said it's a somewhat easy leap from product, but it's not necessarily that where you land from, that leap is going to be greener, as they say greener on the other side of the pasture. But yeah, I completely agree with all of all of that and I think it's a great context to set for this conversation. So, speaking of that, and I just want to get a little bit more information and context on the pack, because I think that's amazing and I love learning about it. So tell us a little bit more about the product advisory collective and why you started it.

Mary Beth 07:26 Yeah. So the product advisory collective provides product leader fit to clients and outcomes driven advisory and consulting services to clients, and product leader fit for us is based on a process of curating matches between clients and product leaders, and this process is enabled by assessments that clients and product leaders both complete. The assessment of product leaders is much more robust. There's over 300 data points that product leaders can assess themselves on, and what's really important about the process for product leaders is that they're also gaining clarity on their own strengths, competencies, capabilities and in defining what their interests are, moving forwards in their career, how they want to position themselves, and so this, this curation process, is adding value both to to clients and product leaders, and then in the delivery of our advisory services. We're very focused on making sure that we're delivering outcomes, and I think outcomes has become more of a trendy topic in the product world in recent years. I'm not sure why it's trendy, to be honest, because I think products should always be driving towards outcomes, but I think it's especially important now In the economy that we're in. Companies need to really see the value, see the results from product, and that's not always an easy thing, which I'm sure we'll talk more about. So there are so many reasons that I started the product advisory collective. I can share a short story about how it started, but before that what I was seeing is that there's a lack of clarity on product competencies and capabilities. So there's no recognition across companies in the technology industry on what the key categories are for product expertise, in the same way that there is recognition for software engineering. And it's important because product is so broad and so deep that really being able to understand the competencies, capabilities that a product leader brings to the table is key for driving towards those results and having success. So also this breadth and depth of expertise is expanding with new emerging technologies, with continuous changes in the legal and regulatory landscape, with markets changing and, I would say, being rather volatile in recent years, and consumer and other enterprise customer expectations are continuously evolving at a much more rapid pace than we've ever seen before. Covid's played a role in that. And then also we are a collective that is primarily for women, not exclusively. We would welcome men to join us, but we are predominantly women because women face unique challenges. More broadly, in the workplace they face unique challenges, but I would say particularly in male dominated industries like technology. So I've been part of different groups of executive women in product, for example, which has over 1500 executive women in the network, and seeing and hearing women talk about their challenges, I think also really inspired me to start this, because I was facing the same ones. But for a while some of these challenges I thought were my own. I thought they were unique to me. I didn't realize how I think common they were, because we don't often share our stories. So actually, the product advisory collective comes out of a peer group that I started last fall. That's basically composed of women from executive women in product who I reached out to on social media and asked if people wanted to start a peer group where we could basically share key challenges we had, provide feedback to each other and just make progress, even though we're coming from very different domains and industries and backgrounds. And so we grew just organically and we're at about 100 women in product now and it's called product therapy and it's been great. We meet three times a month and I bring it outside speakers and I'm hoping, jj, you will be one of those outside speakers. Actually you might be part of our group. I'm not really sure, maybe both. Yeah, I'm great, and so it's just been a passion project. But through that I met other women who were just starting to consult or interested in consulting or their fractional product leaders. And you know, because of my background having been in consulting and then also as an independent consultant to start ups previously and other innovators I know that traditional consulting is not the right approach for product. I also know, of course, how important these outcomes are for for product teams to achieve, and I also know the power of collective intelligence and peer support in driving the product. So I brought a small group of women together earlier this year and I told them about this idea I had and everyone was on board and we we decided to pilot a collaborative advisory service that we call a product advisory board and through the course of the pilots which we determined would be three months and we would work with female founders, you know wanted to test out the process of driving towards outcomes as a group, as a product advisory board, and so that's what we did and we actually just recently finished our pilots and we're about to announce the outcomes that we we help the startups achieve. And what I would also say is that while at the beginning of starting these pilots I knew I was a we knew that real world learning is important in products. There's a lot of certifications out there and there's a lot of educational programs, but it's a very different type of learning in product when it's on a company's actual product, when it's, you know, in a real world situation. And I think that's so key, particularly for product leaders, because the situations that arise and the types of issues that have to be resolved you know. You really, you really only experience in in the real world and advisory opportunities are great learning opportunity for product leaders.

JJ 15:09 I love that. I am completely in complete agreement there and I think it's, I think you've you've really hit a sweet spot and so I'm excited to continue to see the pack grow and the impact that it can make. So I wanted, I want to change and pivot just for a for a minute to talk about clients perspective or an organization's perspective. Right, I'm bringing in a consultant. So, again, you know, it's kind of an interesting economy. You mentioned the organizations are a little bit more apt to bring in freelancers just because that's become a little bit more of the norm, which I agree with. So Tell me a little bit about your experience and what you're seeing in organizations embracing product consultants. Are they seeing the value in this? Do you still see some hurdles in getting some organizations to see the value in product consultants? Mary BethGuest16:08 Well, I would say the pack is early in being able to have deep insights on whether established enterprises see fractional internal product leaders as viable for their businesses.

I do see a lot more interest in fractional or internal product leaders or internal product leaders roles at startups because obviously runway is a factor there and thinking outside the box and being nimble is particularly important at early stage startups. I think that when I consider whether an enterprise is willing to bring in outside consultants, it very much depends on the particular challenges that they have, the timing, I would say, and what current resources they have or do not have. So I'll give you an example from a conversation I had with a leader of a portfolio of a large Fortune 500 company. She's very interested in outside innovation because the people who currently work on product in their organization are obviously looking at product from years of experience or, as I say, having gone down the rabbit holes to address the specific customer or end user needs. So outside innovation can be very valuable to enterprises and the best way to get that is through consultants.

JJ 18:05 Yeah, all of that makes sense. I agree. I think I'm seeing some organizations more open to it and some that still tend to think that full-time or bust. But I love your example of the innovation approach. It's so important that organizations see the value in fresh perspectives, whether that's a new employee or, in this case, of course, an outside advisor. There's just so much value in just a new perspective that can either bring new ideas or stimulate new ideas from existing employees. So I love that example too. Specifically, I want to ask you just a follow-on question to that. What do you see in terms of people thinking about consulting specifically on product Like? What do you say to people who say it's not possible to consult on a product? You have to be embedded in the organization to be working on product. What do you say to people who say that?

Mary Beth 19:11 There are many things that come to mind. So the first thing that comes to mind actually is that product leaders have been referred to as the mini CEOs. They're highly press functional, they're the glue between design, engineering, product teams, and my impression is that this argument is made that you cannot consult on product because product leaders are seen as so embedded in an organization and that that embedding is critical to product success. However, if CEOs have consultants, they have advisors, they have advisory boards and they are also, you could say, cross functional. They're responsible for all of the functions. I think it's very reasonable to provide product leaders with the same type of advising or advisory board support and also the same type of consulting that CEOs are accustomed to. And what I've also heard is that when someone in the product world seems resistant to the idea of consulting on product is there's this concern about scoping. There's an art and a science to scoping and it's very understandable to me that if you haven't been in a consulting firm and you haven't scoped and delivered maybe 20, 30, 50 engagements before, scoping would be more risky, because there's a lot to consider. You know, scoping sets expectations, it mitigates risk, it defines essentially the playground for you and your clients. So I understand how people in the product world might consider consulting that viable if they're not comfortable with scoping. But also I think at the end of the day, it's really important that product leaders are solving problems. I mean, that's a core competency for product leaders. It's also one of the reasons that the product function exists. So there's a lot of different ways to solve clients problems, whether we're calling it an advisory engagement or consulting engagement, interim, fractional. It's good to have structures and ways to talk about these things, but at the end of the day, I think the best consultants are going to really try to solve customers problems and address their pain points. So I don't see any reason that consulting isn't viable for any sized organization and I think it's important to consider that traditional advisory boards exist and that product is unique enough that having a product advisory board also makes a lot of sense.

JJ 22:38 Yeah, I completely agree with that, and one of the things that I've found is that organizations need the security or clarity that comes from that proper scoping Product management. Just by its very nature it's ambiguous, right. So there are lots of. It depends answers, and if you're hiring a consultant, for the most part organizations want answers or help in making decisions, and so sometimes it's more about helping them think about things differently than it is giving them the answer, and so consultants just have to be good at clarifying that and scoping that. So I couldn't agree more on that. So somewhat similar theme here, or stream to this conversation or part of the conversation. So we've talked about the types a little bit. We've talked about the types of services that consultants can offer. But you know, I want to dig a little bit there and learn if you found anything that's sticking out today in this kind of this kind of market and this maturity level and having product consultants. So you know, there's the different flavors. There's fractional product manager, fractional product leader, their strategy help or or development, talent management. You know all kinds of different things that an advisor, consultant can do. Have you seen some areas that tend to stand out as most valuable to organizations, especially kind of again right now in this maturity level and market environment.

Mary Beth 24:19 I think, again, it's about solving problems and really understanding where the company is coming from, what those pain points are. So a lot of times companies do not know what their main product challenges or priorities are. That's because product is a very broad, deep space, touching all these different functions and solving a complex problem can require navigating ambiguity, it can be opaque at times. That process so making sure that as a consultant, as an advisor, you're able to go through a process to really understand what those problems and priorities are up front is, I think, really key. And having this mindset of curiosity, having the growth mindset throughout the engagement to be able to discover additional problems and priorities, I think is also key to add value to a company, whether it's an enterprise, whether it's a startup. I think that you know, for us at the pack, the biggest challenge we see is that clients are either not able to articulate what the key problems are or they're not able to articulate the competencies or capabilities that they really need in order to make meaningful progress on their product. And all of that's completely understandable, I think that's you know, if it was easy to define, there wouldn't be a need for consultants or advisors, or maybe you would just need an analyst or someone more, more junior to help address the issues.

JJ 26:16 Yeah, you know what I love that? I think you're, I think you're so right. It's interesting because one of the things that I tell product consultants or people considering starting to consult is that one of the things that we have to tap into is those product management skills that we learn along the way and that we're bringing to the table. In other words, like you said, clients don't always, you know, have the ability to articulate exactly what they need and to tell us exactly what their problems are. Well, guess what? That's what we do as product managers. Clients very often can't articulate right, and so we have to interpret. We have to bring you know multiple data points and multiple contexts together and then make some assertions and assumptions about what our clients need. And that's the beauty of being a product consultant is that we have that background. Now it's funny, though, that we kind of forget that sometimes. We forget that we've got to put our true product manager hat on as we're meeting with these prospects and customers. But that's that's where we can add some value is to help them even before you get an engagement, just to help them set some parameters around their problem. And, you know, show your value in being able to do that and I have had success in that myself and then I know others have have kind of tapped into that and that that alone can help the engagement or help the client understand and then ultimately help the engagement. So I completely agree with that. And again, there's just lots of different flavors and everyone has to look at it their own way and kind of figure out what what they want to do. Do they want to train? Do they want to consult? Do they want to consult on strategy? Do they want to be a fractional PM? You know what? What exactly you know is somebody's passion and somebody's looking to do. But from an you know, organization standpoint, I think there's, there's just a lot of value that is out there in the market. So so my final question really it goes back to kind of the individual right thinking about this, as we started the conversation saying that lots of people are thinking about it or have taken the leap already into consulting. So, starting with people who haven't yet Taken that leap and said I'm gonna leave my full-time job and I'm gonna start consulting somebody who's just still considering it, what, what advice would you give to someone who is thinking about it and considering making a move into consulting?

Mary Beth 28:50 Yeah. So I think the first thing that comes to mind is the moment. We're in the global economy and the tech industry and it's Going to be challenging in this, in this market. So, related to that, what also comes to mind is that there are ways to Baby step your way into consulting. If you're currently in a full-time role, or even if you're in a career transition, looking for a new role, you can take certain small steps towards establishing your own independent consulting practice that don't require a Deep dive into. You know, just going all in. So certain states you can advise or consult on the side of a full-time role, and if you can't do that, then there may be other ways that you can get involved in mentoring or pro bono work that you know is is essentially advising or consulting organizations and Allowing you to gain experience before Completely diving into it. I would say talking to other consultants who have established practices would be great, and to also realize that At least I have found, if you're in product there, there can be a difference between people who have just started out independent consulting and people who come from a background in consulting. It's consulting is not rocket science, but there are best practices and there are principles and they can help with various aspects, including client and Client acquisition, client retention, mitigation of risk. So I would say, you talk into a wide variety of consultants could be really helpful. Yeah, what comes to mind for you, jj? What, what do you think?

JJ 30:57 Yeah, I agree with everything you said. I think I think it when it. What it really comes down to me, frankly, just to be as tactical as as possible, is when someone's making this decision for themselves, it it really comes down to financial. I mean right and and risk and risk. I mean, you know, when I, when I made the leap, I was in a situation where my spouse had a full-time job and we had some Level of comfort there, right, and so the first time I really made the full leap was that was my situation, not everyone's in that situation, and it doesn't mean you can't, you know you can't do it. Otherwise, if you're, if you're, single, you don't have a spot, whatever, right, but for me it was. It came down to okay, this is the time we have some you know comfort level here, financially, and and I have the ability to do that. So I think for a lot of people, they just have to just come to terms with that. What is your risk aversion level? You know what? What is your financial situation? Are you, you know, do you have a few months to go at it without any you know income or not? Right, and so if not, then yeah, you start things on the side and you start to build your brand that way. If you do, then maybe you take the leap. Nobody can make that decision for anybody else, right? And so I think that's the first thing is you know, you and I both know that it's it's so personal and and so situational, but those are the things to consider the the financial situation first and foremost, because you want to give yourself, or have enough, you know, runway to get started. I love the, the idea of starting before leaving a full-time job, if possible, because you know again, that just gives you that comfort even, and it gives you the ability to do some of those pro bono types of things Without you know the pressure of not having an income. Now, the other thing that I have personally done and I think it may resonate with some folks out there listening I was laid off at one point. This has been years ago, probably the really beginning of my consulting. Even before I kind of took the full-time leap, I was laid off and Talked to my company that laid me off about continuing work for them as a consultant, and I even did it, at least part of it, in a pro bono way. What that allowed me to do, was it was, it was very much just on paper. You know, it was on my CV that I was now a consultant and I was working with the company that I had just left. Now A lot of people have a problem with that. They don't want it, they don't believe in working pro bono, and I completely understand that perspective. So, you know, feel free to not not follow this, but for me, I wasn't getting paid anyway Because I was laid off, right, I had a little bit of severance, but I wasn't getting getting paid, and so why not, right? And so then I could, I could tell the story a little bit better. So again, everybody's going to have their own situation. If you have the ability to start and Start your networking, start your brand building before you leave a full-time job, great, do that. If you don't, for whatever reason, just kind of look at your, your risk profile and and the economic situation with you, and I think that's going to drive a lot of people's decision. At least that was the case for me.

Mary Beth 34:20 Yeah, I think that's so true and Such a good example of Starting small. Start, start with one client, and I like how you creatively Created Like a combination of pro bono and paid consulting. I think Sometimes there are people who say it has to be this or it has to be that for pricing, or you know, they have these like very I guess. Uh, I don't boxed in opinions about how to do consulting, and I think being creative and Finding a way that works for you Is important. I don't think there's one way to do pricing, um, so I have a lot of opinions on that too.

JJ 35:09 Yeah, yeah, it is, and definitely something I will do a follow-up episode, because I think some of the logistics of, of actual Consulting and I'm sure you you talk a lot about that at pack and and work on that. But so, so, final part to this, final question is so, for folks who have taken the leap maybe they've just done it, you know, they're new to this. They said you know what? I looked at my risk profile, I I did all of the things and and I've decided I'm going to do it, I'm going to become a consultant. They're new to it, it's still new to them, but they've taken that first step, that first leap. What advice do you give to those folks?

Mary Beth 35:47 There are so many things that come to mind when I when I think about this. Um. So I have, I guess, thinking about this both from my experience as consultant at consulting firms and as an independent consultant. Um, my first piece of advice would be to not Try to do everything on your own. This book never was. The book Never Search Alone Is one that I've heard about a lot. I haven't read, but it applies to job searches and I think it? Um the same concept applies to independent consulting. Um, I think it's important to find collaborators, people who have complimentary experience, who are offering complimentary services, who you can Partner with, affiliate yourself with is key. Um. I think also, it's important to recognize that there are best practices and principles and, um, while you know, business development is very different from the delivery of consulting. Um you know, there there is a? Um overlap between both business development and consulting. So, um, I would say you want to, you want to keep an open mind about how you're going to approach consulting, but do try to learn about these best practices, these principles, and if you're someone who Is from product, um, it's very likely um that You're not as keen on the sales part. Um, I've spoken with so many women in product, who Are incredibly talented and great product leaders and do not like sales. I also, you know, I'm someone who has done sales, but not out of desire, just out of necessity, and so I think there's also a way to do business development sales that does not come across as shawarmy and that is not part of that zero sum game mentality, um, and it's important to you, you know, try out different things so that you find what works for you as far as business development. So it's not performative, um. And then you know, sort of back to what I was saying about Delivery of consulting being different from the business development. It may require developing new mental Maps or mental muscles, um. So selling yourself as a product is very different from actually being the product leader, um, and also being a consultant delivering the work is very different from doing the business development for consulting. So, as an example, a friend of mine, um, worked at mckinsey for years and recently started consulting independently and she's great at delivery, um. And when she was delivering consulting projects at mckinsey, she also had a team of people who would um deliver what she referred to as client productions, um, but going out on our own to do business development Is requiring her to learn and develop a new set of skills, a new way of building relationships um, and you know it can be taxing on your bandwidth. So I think it's important to consider that um Business development is different than the delivery um and as far as you being your own product, I think it's really key to Get clarity on your strengths, your capabilities, your expertise and how that differentiates you from other product leaders. Um product leaders know how critical differentiation is and having a value proposition is for the product, and it's important we have that for ourselves as consultants, and so that's, you know, one of the aspects that PAC focuses on through our assessments and through the peer-to-peer feedback um that our community provides um, and it's not a once and done um process. Your, as you're continually Expanding your, your knowledge, your areas of expertise, your technical skills, um, you have to reassess. So I think you know it could be once or twice a year. You're reevaluating what your core areas of expertise on, where you really want to be heading um and how you want to position yourself. And for me, I realized that um being able to get clarity also involved working with peers, like really understanding what my skills are, what my strengths are in relation to other peers, um, so I think, you know, that's another reason why the PAC exists. We, we got to sharpen our tools through engaging each other, um, and because product is so broad, so deep, um, you know, I I don't see it as competing with peers. You see it, as you know, we're all going to be stronger as we all get clearer on what, what value we can offer to clients, um, and then, lastly, I touched on this a little bit, but when you're delivering consulting engagements, of course you want to be retaining clients and so sometimes, in how you're setting up your pricing and your fees, you may want to incorporate some business development costs. It may be more reasonable for you to set pricing that reflects or that captures some of those business development costs you might have had if you didn't have this client opportunity. So that's probably a whole other conversation, but those are things that I would consider as a new independent consultant. What would you, what do you find important?

JJ 42:03 Yeah, I was just going to say I love all of that. I think I think, especially what resonated with me just for my own experiences just don't don't discount or underestimate that business development effort and costs. Now, I could not agree more that most product people and most people that want to go into consulting or considering it, and even those who jump into it, they most likely dislike the business development, the sales part of it, the most right. I think I'm that way, I'm sure you're that way, everybody is that way right. There are a few people that ended up in product that just absolutely love sales Doesn't mean we don't do it well. Doesn't mean we can't do it. In fact, I personally believe that we're oh gosh, this is going to sound. I don't want this to sound arrogant, but I actually believe we have some skills from product management that leads us to be better salespeople or better business development people, or, let me state it another way, that leads us to position services and ourselves in a less threatening way. Let me say it that way, and I do not in any way want to discount salespeople out there. They make our product lives so much easier because they can actually go out and sell what we have, with, that being said, what we have to do as consultants and for those, frankly, who those of us who, frankly, don't want to be salespeople and don't think that it's our strength, be authentic to yourself. That's one of the things that I had to learn in just generally, but in business development as well.

So, for example, I get messages constantly as the CEO of great product management. I get constant LinkedIn messages from salespeople saying hey, do you need new clients? Do you want me to send you leads? Do you want to send messages on LinkedIn to all of these people that we know? And I'm like no, absolutely not. I refuse to do that. I will never make you know or get business through cold emails or cold LinkedIn messages. It's just against everything I believe in. Right, I hate to get them. They don't work on me. I don't think they work on many other people, so that's not going to ever be part of my promotion plan. My plan is always going to be kind of. You know my branding. People who know me. They know I do good work. You know I don't work for everyone and there are times when I actually send a client to someone else who I know is more positioned to do a better job. That's, you know, quote unquote, competitor of mine. But that's what that's this world we live in, right, and so that's going to help us get that network, help us get that brand, help us get that credibility. And you know, leads and emails and cold calling and all that stuff is never going to work at least for me.

Yeah, yeah, be transparent and authentic about that.

Mary Beth 44:57 Yeah, it is personal preference in a sense, but I also believe that there's been a shift. I don't believe that some of these more traditional or stereotypical sales processes work in the environment that we're in. To your point, like paying for lists of companies who might be interested in a consultant someday is not really a viable path towards working with any of those companies. And this actually speaks to one of the issues in products. So it's really hard for companies to assess product competencies and capabilities. One of the reasons I know this is I'm also speaking with recruiters who recruit only for product roles and they don't have the type of in-depth competency assessment that we've created and so they're interested in, you know, working with us to validate that, to try that out.

But if companies themselves can't assess competencies, what the default is is to go out and bring in a consultant who they already know.

It's someone who one of their employees worked with before it's you know, a warm or I guess I don't know more than a warm you know connection, and I think it's great if you know how people work and they might be the right fit. But I think sometimes that approach too is problematic because, to your point, just because someone knows you and they've liked working with you before. You may not be the right product leader for their product, and so I love hearing when people say yeah, so I refer them onto somebody else, and I think the more we do that as product leaders, as product consultants, I think, the more value that generates for everyone for the client, for both of the product consultants. You know you establish trust when you're confident enough to say I'm not the right one, or I can bring in additional people to support me in delivering this. So, yeah, I agree with everything, and I feel like there's so many other topics now that we've talked about this that we could dig into in consulting.

JJ 47:40 Absolutely. It's a hot topic. It's an important topic. It's been a great conversation and we'll definitely I'm going to take you up on that and have you back for a part two conversation. Maybe we can have a round table or something, but I've loved this conversation. Marybeth's non-grass thank you so much for spending time with me sharing your wisdom. It's been an awesome conversation. Thank you so much.

Mary Beth 48:07 Thank you, JJ.

JJ 48:09 And thank you all for joining us. We will have information on how to connect with Marybeth and info on the pack in the show notes. Thanks for joining us on Product Voices. Hope to see you on the next episode.

Outro 48:22 Thank you for listening to Product Voices hosted by JJ Rory. To find more information on our guests, resources discussed during the episode, or to submit a question for our Q&A episodes, visit the show's website, productvoicescom, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform.


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