How to Become a SaaS Product Manager Without Experience
Looking to become a SaaS product manager?
Then you've made the right choice.
The need for SaaS product managers is skyrocketing with each passing year. More and more businesses develop Software as a Service (SaaS) products to remain relevant in their respective markets and grow their income streams. Gartner projects end-user spending on public cloud products to ascend to $396B in 2022. The same report estimates that SaaS continues to hold the largest market segment with projected global forecast spendings of $145B in 2022.
Businesses need SaaS product managers to oversee their product development efforts and ensure that they are a success. Now, prospective product managers are looking for ways to enter into this niche and meet the demand from potential recruiters.
This guide shares key advice, tips, and strategies to help you become a SaaS product manager.
Let's dive right in.
Step 1: Become a Certified Product Manager
In order to be successful at managing anything, you must have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of the discipline. That's why the first step to becoming a SaaS product manager is to certify yourself in product management.
Developing products is a complex, multidisciplinary field that takes into account several stages. While there are several approaches to product development, there are five main phases that a product team has to go through to guarantee the project's success:
Research: In this stage, product managers investigate both their product market as well as the needs of possible users. This stage requires a high level of empathy from product leaders to identify the challenges that their users face as well as possible, lucrative solutions that work despite the complexities of their market.
Define: Once a product manager has carried out research, they must then analyze their findings to come to clear and concise conclusions that provide context on their users and respective market.
Ideate: At this point, product managers use the conclusions they had drawn to come up with a strategy and plan that helps them position their products in a successful way within their markets.
Prototype: Once the product leader determines the strategy and plan, the design and development teams begin creating mockups that reflect what the product looks like. With those prototypes, they then proceed to build the product using the strategy and plan as a guide.
Test: Once the product team creates the product, they then carry out tests that ensure that the product meets the requirements that the product manager established during the ideation stage.
The multifaceted nature of product development forces product managers to familiarize themselves with each phase as well as the best management practices for each one. This entails studying the frameworks and approaches that product managers favor over others in order to ensure the smooth running of all processes.
Certifying yourself in the field helps you to gain an understanding of these managerial practices. Our Product Manager HQ Product Management Course is a solid choice when looking for a certificate program that provides you with the latest frameworks and knowledge to be at the top of your game in this field.
Step 2: Become a Certified Technical Product Manager
Obtaining a certificate in product management is not enough to become a SaaS product manager. Complementing your certificate with one in technical product management goes a long way in helping you to land a job in this growing niche.
SaaS product managers need to have a deep understanding of the technical aspects of product management. This is because the products you manage incorporate different types of technologies, each one with its own degrees of complexities. Depending on the type of product you're managing, its technology has an impact on how you craft both the product vision, its strategy, and its corresponding market research.
What's more, being a SaaS product manager also means that you play a pivotal role between the developers and the rest of the product team. Familiarizing yourself with the technical aspects of product management implies that you'll have an easier time liaising with software developers, designers, and other members of the technical team.
This is because you'll have an understanding of their jargon as well as the kinds of challenges they face with specific types of technologies. This goes a long way in helping you set more realistic timelines on key milestones within the product development process.
Our PMHQ Technical Product Management Course helps you broaden your understanding of the technical aspects of product development.
Step 3: Get Familiar With Common Industries for SaaS Products
Another major step towards becoming a SaaS product manager is to study those industries which leverage SaaS products the most.
Understanding the industries that leverage SaaS products the most puts you at an advantage when entering the field of product management. On one hand, it gives you key insight into the kinds of problems that most companies in these industries experience. Once you figure out their typical pain points, you then have an even greater appreciation for the solutions that these companies seek.
This gives you the mindset and disposition needed to meet the demands of the companies you work with. In turn, you have an easier time doing the following:
- Gauging the types of products that possible competitors leverage
- Identifying potential opportunities for your own company’s SaaS product
- Understanding the needs of your stakeholders as well as the kinds of process flows used to manage product development
- Meeting overarching business goals and objectives
There are several ways to get familiar with the industries for SaaS products.
Read industry publications and blogs. This helps you get a feel for the characteristics of these industries. It also provides you with a context on the environment in which companies that hire you operate as well as the challenges they face.
All of the information you take in goes a long way in helping you transition into this field and be an aid to the companies you work with.
Step 4: Gain Formal & Informal Experience in SaaS Projects
Another step you must take to increase your chances of becoming a SaaS product manager is to build experience working on SaaS products.
One of the easiest ways to prove to a recruiter that you are worthy of a job as a SaaS product manager is to show them that you have worked on similar projects in the past. If you have already worked as a product manager or technical product manager, then your accomplishments as a project leader are your selling tool.
However, if you don't already have that prior work experience, then you should look at ways to acquire it. There are both formal and informal ways to build work experience in product management.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Join or create a club or society at university that focuses on SaaS projects. Take in as much information as you possible about the kinds of difficulties leaders face in these types of projects and how they overcome them.
- Create a fictitious startup within the SaaS industry. For example, create a travel booking or online shopping website. Conduct your market research and determine the product strategy. Be sure to document the activities you carry out to help you prove the work you do to a potential recruiter.
- Work with real SaaS startups as an intern. Working under a product manager there gives you hands-on experience where you gain exposure to SaaS companies.
- Participate in online forums where people discuss and share their experiences with SaaS products and services. Take note of those contributions that you believe are an asset to you moving forward in your career.
- Get a qualified mentor to help you sharpen your knowledge of product management.
- Attend meetups or conferences that discuss topics about the SaaS industry. If there are none in your local city or near where you live, then attend one online.
How to Become a SaaS Product Manager With no Experience
Many people want to become SaaS product managers. However, this task is even more challenging when you don’t have any experience.
Don't lose hope.
Below, we’ve included some additional tips that you must combine with the advice provided to help you land a job in product management.
Learn the Objectives of Your Future Company
Another step to becoming a successful SaaS product manager is getting to know your future boss' goals. While you won't know the company you will work with, start to imagine what they hope to achieve with their products.
This involves studying possible industries you work in. However, it also involves you thinking about how you help those companies reach their goals.
Understanding what the company wants and needs makes it easier for you to create an effective strategy and product roadmap.
Engage With Customers
Talk to product users or customers. Ask them if they have suggestions on how to improve anything missing from their current product which would make their lives easier. Find out what they like and don't like about it. This way, you get valuable insight into how customers think that shapes how you understand the mind of your customers when you land a PM job.
When doing this, it is best to target users who leverage SaaS products built by leading businesses in the industries you hope to work. This is important as it lets you know how users perceive the kinds of products that are on the market in your industry. It also provides you with an early idea of the types of solutions that you must bring to the table when you land a product management job.
Know Your Competitors
Before going to an interview, do some research on that company’s competitors.
Try to figure out the following:
- The challenges that users experience with the products that are on the market
- The unique value proposition that each company tends to provide with their products
- The kinds of software that these companies create
- Possible product ideas and features that your prospective hirer may think is worth pursuing
Knowing this information helps you demonstrate to a recruiter what you are capable of as a SaaS product manager.
Familiarize Yourself With PM Tools
Being a SaaS product manager means that must leverage tools that help you manage tasks, activities, and the project you’re undertaking.
Learning more about these tools gives you an idea of how to incorporate some of them into your daily routine when you land your product manager job.
Examples of these tools include Trello and Asana. Product managers have embraced these project management tools to help them streamline work processes and ensure optimum management of their projects. They also help the development team organize their work while working towards achieving specific goals within an assigned timeframe.
How to Prepare Yourself for Your Next SaaS Product Manager Role
To start off on this journey, these are some key things you should do to prepare yourself.
Study SaaS Products
Familiarize yourself with the different types of software and how they work. This helps understand the various stages of development, from ideation to launch and post-launch operations.
Learn About Design Thinking
This is a popular method that product managers use to develop their products. Design thinking is an approach that helps teams create product strategies and designs that better align with the real needs of potential product users. Familiarizing yourself with this methodology is crucial in helping you establish your own method for product design, development, and management.
Build better relationships with other people within the company, including colleagues and stakeholders. This assists you in having an easier time working together as a team towards common goals.