To Build Great Products….Build Trust with Your Stakeholders

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trustIn the world of product management and product marketing, much of the influence we have relies on trust.  Whether its trust with the development team that we are representing customer needs and future trends correctly, trust with sales that what we say the product can do it actually does, trust with customers that we truly understand their business challenges, trust with the marketing teams on the right positioning and programs, and trust with leadership as we build our strategic product plans.  Being able to build trust is a key skill for any product manager and product marketing manager.  How do you gain the trust of your stakeholders?  Here is a quick list of things to consider to help build trust.

  • Listen Listen Listen.  Don’t assume you know the answers.  Actively listen to your stakeholders.  Listen to their responses. Paraphrase back to them what you are hearing. Engage in a conversation with them.  Don’t monopolize the conversation.
  • Empathize. You don’t have to agree with the others are saying, you just need to be able to understand it.  Whenever you find yourself thinking “this person does not know what he is talking about”, try to consider where they are coming from and acknowledge to them that you understand where they are coming from.  If you understand their point of view, you can more effectively engage in a productive conversation.  Don’t brush off what you do not agree with.
  • Ask great questions.  Open ended questions force you to engage in conversation. The objective is to hear what your audience is saying.   Many times when we interview our stakeholders, it is questions with a yes/no answer or we ask our customers to rank our requirements.   How about instead we ask open ended questions about their business challenges, workflows, or about the proposed design?  This will allow us truly listen and understand their opinions.  What’s more, we’ll end up with better requirements and a better product.
  • Check your ego at the door.  Have some humility.  Know that you don’t know everything.  Positively acknowledge the knowledge of the person with whom you are working.  If you come into the meeting as a ‘know it all’, your key stakeholders will not trust you and will not be open to collaborating with you.

As product managers/product marketing managers, much of our authority and influence comes from trust.  Regardless of how well we can write requirements, position our solutions, and build strategy, if we don’t have the trust of our stakeholders, then we might as well go find another profession.