PLG SaaS vs traditional software companies
One of the biggest differences between PLG SaaS companies and traditional enterprise software companies is that individual users can start using the product prior to talking to a salesperson. This is a huge unlock for companies like Slack, Zoom and MongoDB because it can make the top of the funnel truly massive. To put this in perspective, we’ve heard that Calendly, the popular calendar app, sees more than 10,000 sign ups per day!
For many of these products, there’s a natural path from free to paid via a self-service conversion. I would guess that a huge percentage of Calendly’s customers pay with a credit card and have never spoken to sales. Still, Calendly recently released Calendly Enterprise, and it’s clear they are layering a sales motion on top of this fantastic self-service business.
So how do companies like Calendly combine a frictionless self-service product experience that’s aimed at a single user with an enterprise offering for teams? The answer is they have a sales team! In this post I'll outline how some of the sales teams we’re working with are driving conversions from self-service to enterprise.
Product Qualified Leads (PQL)
The first step for sales at a PLG company is deciding which users and accounts to spend time on. In the Calendly example above, this isn’t trivial! Even if you had a massive sales team, sifting through 10,000 sign ups per day is an impossible undertaking.
Most PLG companies come up with a sorting or prioritization method called a PQL (product qualified lead). This is usually a combination of product based signals with demographic and firmographic attributes that combine to show the best set of Accounts or Users to target.
Core components of a PQL
Did the account or user use certain features? Have they connected their data? Have they invited other users? Has the account attained a north star metric?
Marketing site engagement
Has the user or account engaged with marketing materials? Have they looked at the docs? Better yet have they explored specific high value sections of the docs? Attended webinars? Downloaded the whitepaper?
Is the Account >250 employees (or whatever the company size designation is for SMB/Mid-market/Enterprise engagement)? What region is the Account in? Whose sales territory? What industry? Is the Account an active sales-led deal or a net new self-service Account?
What’s the user’s title? Do you even have a corporate email domain vs. personal email address? When were they invited in or were they the original user in a company? Have they invited other users to the product?
Did the user actively raise their hand to say they want to talk to sales? Are they showing intent through 3rd-party data/platforms.
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, there are many other attributes that can comprise a PQL score. By mixing and matching weights on various elements across these dimensions many PLG sales teams can start to cut down that list of 10,000 sign ups per day and target the highest potential value Accounts and Users.
Email Templates for PLG Conversion and Expansion
How should sales teams respond to PQLs? Customers of Correlated are able to use our Signals and Workflows features to send highly personalized emails based on behavior within the product as well as some of the other factors listed above. Correlated allows you to create custom PQLs and then plug them automatically into cadences in tools like Outreach and SalesLoft whenever a customer hits a PQL trigger condition.
While we can’t share exact email sequences our customers deploy, here are a few example emails we’ve seen “in the wild” that leverage a PQL trigger condition.
Email example for conversion
In this example from an analytics product, we signed up for an account and started onboarding by integrating Stripe but we didn’t complete our account set-up. Based on our level of activation, the salesperson reached out to ask if we needed help integrating the rest of our tools with their product.
This is a great approach since it brings in product-based activation with the offer to assist. Many dev tools companies take a similar approach by offering Solutions Engineering help during onboarding.
Email example for upsell or expansion
In this email from Hubspot, the trigger occurred when I checked out a specific feature that was not activated for our account. Immediately I received an automated email to upsell us into this new feature. This is a fairly simple approach that makes sense for complex products with multiple upsell/cross-sell options.
Although Correlated is already a customer of Hubspot, we can be considered a PQL for new products/higher tiers. Upsell/Expansion is critical for PLG SaaS companies and treating existing customers as “leads” can be a very successful approach to drive expansion revenue.
Next steps for your team
Leveraging product qualified leads as well as personalized, targeted emails and outreach to those customers is a critical tactic for PLG SaaS sales teams. If you’re interested in starting or scaling your PQL efforts, we can help. We’re happy to show you a demo of Correlated or get started here.