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Craig Kerstiens

Gonna use a personal trick/hack? Use it often

What do I mean by trick/hack? This can be super flexible, but I’ll toss out a few of my own personal ones.

One of the rules of my product management philosophy, is if you’re going to use a tool or trick then use it often. This is in fact one of my favorite interview questions for PMs. If you ever interview with me, be prepared it’s coming. It applies for engineering managers and others in leadership roles as well, but I’ve found especially get for PMs.

Getting a response from team emails

It’s very common to have a team@ alias within your company, whether for the whole team or for smaller teams. As a PM you may need to email sales@ and get feedback of requested features, or feedback on the roadmap. Chances are you’ll send some good time and effort crafting this email, being concise but also giving enough context for them to give you an informed response. If you’re good you’ve fed the email through hemingway app before you sent it and gotten it down to grade level 7 or lower. You send it middle on a Tuesday around 10am so it’s not lost in Monday triage, and not missed on Thursday that aligns to a long holiday weekend. And then… silence. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I’m not really sure the reason for crickets, perhaps at best they assumed a bunch of their peers got back to you privately. At worst they’re apathetic and care strictly on closing their next deal and not giving feedback that helps long term growth. But I’m not here to dissect why. How do you get a response?

Slightly restructure the email to instead of going to the sales@ alias, be targeted to individuals. Pull the emails of everyone on the list, make the opening a generic “Hi,”, and have it go directly to the individuals via a mail merge.

From experience have had CEOs (who I forgot to omit) email me back when they were out on vacation apologizing for slow response (of hours) and that they’d get me feedback before weeks end.

Turn a group email into a love fest

As much as 1:1 emails are great and will solicit a response. Often you need to send out an announcement to a team. “We’ve got a big announcement tomorrow”. You’ll put the same work and effort into that team email as you did in the above, and again the usual response is crickets.

My teams know I do this, and yet it still works. Get 1-2 other leaders (not necessarily management) but morale leaders to know it’s coming and chime in on a reply-all to the team@ list with positive comments and praise. The same applies also to new hire announcements that goes to team@. You’re going to end up with folks not wanting to be left out from piling on. It’ll start to get flow of feedback public and private coming in about what is good on the communication and give you a sense of where it can improve.

What are your hacks?

These are just a few, as I keep writing up some longer form of my personal product philosophies will layer in more of these nuggets. But every good PM I’ve ever worked with has had their own bag of tricks. Again it’s one of my favorite interview questions, I’ve stolen many great tricks from others over the years. But curious, even without needing for us to be in an interview what are yours? @craigkerstiens