A Product Management Journey: Listening on the Frontline to Steering at the Helm – OneTeg

Home | Blog | A Product Management Journey: Listening on the Frontline to Steering at the Helm

A Product Management Journey: Listening on the Frontline to Steering at the Helm

David Sultan

My product management journey has taken me from listening on the frontline to steering at the helm. In my 15 years of working in sales engineering, I've learned the undeniable value of active listening—truly listening—to the customer. It's a skill that has been invaluable. Now that I find myself at the helm of a product management team, being an active listener helps me navigate the product management world with a new perspective, the customer’s perspective.

Being responsible for a product isn't just about adhering to a development roadmap or ticking off features. It's a complex dance of validation, collaboration, communication, and most importantly, flexibility. Transitioning from sales engineering to product management wasn’t without challenges. However, the principle that has been the cornerstone of this journey is simple, yet profound: Listen to your customers.

Pre-sales Objectives:

In the trenches of pre-sales, the product is what you must sell, and the goal is to showcase its strengths with minimal customization. It's a reactive role, one that requires a deep dive into understanding how an existing product can meet the intricate needs of the customer. Often, it's not a perfect fit, and that's where the art of 'solutioning' comes in.

Pre-sales objective is putting puzzle pieces together

This means tailoring solutions and bending the capabilities of the product without breaking the core functionalities. Although a “solutioned“ product is still pre-built, the final result may look and perform a little differently than it did out of the box. And that’s ok because it uniquely meets the needs of the buyer. It’s an evolution of the product.

Product Management Objectives:

After working in pre-sales, the leap to product management is often a natural evolution in roles. Listening to the customer is the most important aspect of the job. Instead of having directions to follow to sell a product, you design what the end product needs to look like. Product managers craft something new, something untested. It’s a dynamic role and active listening is a big part of it.

For example, a customer’s offhand comment can spark a feature that becomes the cornerstone of your product. Or a partner's insight can pivot your entire roadmap or integration strategy. And through it all, it's about having fun in the process and embracing the flow of creativity and innovation to build something.

As a product manager, I always make sure to answer these three questions:


If you answer those three questions, you will stay focused and deliver a solid solution. The core insight that I carry with me from those pre-sales days is that selling isn't just about talking or demo-ing; it's about listening. It's about taking those years of hearing customers’ stories, understanding their needs, and pouring all that knowledge into the very DNA of the product.

The product management puzzle is complex. You’re inundated with feature requests, bug reports, and innovative ideas. In this role, it's not just about building the product; it's about building a solution that is flexible and adaptable to support many cases.

You build something that a sales engineer can adopt and will not require complex customizations to work. It's about discerning which features align with the vision of the product and the needs of the market. Product management is a balancing act of prioritizing what will make your product not just excellent, but sellable and sustainable, in the long run.

Product Management Leadership Journey:

The transition between roles has been an enlightening journey. If there's one piece of advice to share, it's this: Build not for the sake of building, but to answer a need, fill a gap, and make the user's world a little bit easier, better, and more enjoyable.

Always build with intention, flexibility, and most importantly, with a keen ear to the ground. Pay attention to the rhythm of the market, the tempo of technology, and the harmony of our customers' needs.



Social Links

Manage Cookie Consent

To provide the best experiences, we use technologies like cookies to store and/or access device information. Consenting to these technologies will allow us to process data such as browsing behavior or unique IDs on this site. Not consenting or withdrawing consent, may affect certain features and functions.