This talk was given by Sachin Agarwal, Principal Product Manager of LaunchDarkly at SaaS Connect 2019 in San Francisco, March 26-27, 2019. Get the slides

Project managers aren’t always considered by salespeople in the channel. But they have needs and priorities that are just as important as those of clients.

This was the topic of a talk at SaaS Connect 2019 by Sachin Agarwal, Principal Project Manager at LaunchDarkly. He shared his views on project management, and how channel businesses should look at project managers.

While the needs of project managers don’t always align with the needs of salespeople, they can indeed work together well.

What to know about good project managers

Good project managers stand out from the crowd. They make sure things get done well and on time. There are three traits that separate good project managers from bad ones.

  • Problems, not solutions. Good project managers aren’t sold on a particular solution. Instead, they focus on the problem first and foremost, and then find a solution to match it.
  • The right solution often isn’t technical. Project managers want to deliver high value with low effort. Efforts with zero engineering required often take priority.
  • Product managers are force multipliers, not dictators. Good project managers recognize that they can’t get their teams to drop everything and help them. Instead, their focus is on empowering teams to do their best work.

How project managers see partnership people

The above traits make for good project managers, but often cause a clash with partners and salespeople in the channel. This is because partners are often operating in a way that directly defies these traits.

  • Partners want to sell a certain solution. This can be at odds with the project manager’s problem-focused approach.
  • Partners have a certain API. Partners want to sell a technical solution, which isn’t always the project manager’s first choice.
  • Partners can often have strict deadlines. This can be a problem because project managers don’t want to make their teams drop everything to work on something.

How to get product to support your partnership efforts

There are some things that partners can and should do to make the lives of project managers a little easier.

  • Don’t surprise product. Project managers don’t want to be shocked. Instead, guide the product, and make sure the product is calm. A webpage where partners list the products and vendors they support can help project managers know in advance what partners will be offering.
  • Make it easy for product. It can be helpful to think like a project manager. This will allow you to better anticipate their needs and be easier to work with.
  • Understand product’s motivations. Every project manager believes they’re the best. Understand this, and know that they’re trying to find the best product for their problem. Then, pitch accordingly.

How partners and project managers can meet in the middle

Partners can work together with project managers because partners have a skillset that makes them powerful salespeople. It just takes a bit of meeting in the middle.

When working with project managers, partners need to consider their objectives and align their pitches with what the project managers actually need.

They also need to market effectively. Make sure people will actually use the product in a way that benefits them. If the project manager sees results from the product, they will be more open to working with the partner in the future.

Finally, partners know their product intimately. This helps partnerships fit the ideal of being high value for the product manager while still being low effort.