It’s really easy to get excited by the promise of product-led growth - say goodbye to old, tired enterprise sales motions and hello to a product that sells itself! In reality, that promise could not be further from the truth, and in fact, the term “product-led growth” or PLG is misleading. When building a PLG product, it’s important to instead think about how to make every step in your customer journey and every department in your company think in a product-led way. In particular, being successful at PLG also means thinking about how to enable product-led sales. In this blog post, we’ll cover why you need to collaborate with sales and provide some suggestions on how you can effectively embed sales touch points throughout your customer journey.
So you think you’re PLG? You still need a sales motion
When you think about PLG companies, you typically imagine a self-serve motion across the entire customer lifecycle.
The problem is, building a self-serve motion across all of these stages that actually works and is optimized takes years. In fact, even the best self-serve companies ultimately bring on sales teams to help with “Expansion”. Case in point, even Slack has a “Talk to Sales” button on their website.
Further, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to make everything self-serve when it’s actually a better experience for the user to talk to Sales or Customer Success. Case in point - Hubspot has a great product-led motion, but they also have a very structured onboarding process to make sure their customers are successful.
As product leaders, we can empower sales and drive topline business success by looping in sales at every stage of the customer journey. But how can Product successfully collaborate with Sales in a PLG world?
Make it easy for users to hand raise when they want to talk to Sales
One of the really powerful things about PLG is that while users are evaluating the product, you don’t need a sales person there the entire way. Users can play around with the product and understand the value - this ultimately pays dividends when it comes to building a sustainable and profitable business. However, not all users have the time to evaluate the product - imagine an executive spending 1 hour “playing around” with your product! However, that same executive holds the purse strings and could be the gatekeeper to a large enterprise deal. Further, not all users know when talking to sales could actually benefit them. Perhaps they’ve been using the product for a while, want a feature, and don’t know that that feature is only available to enterprise-level customers who talk to Sales. That’s why building in mechanisms to not only allow users to hand raise when they want to talk to Sales, but also learn “why” they should talk to Sales throughout the evaluation process is key.
Help users discover ways to engage with your company
It’s easy to think that your product can sell itself if it’s amazing and easy to use, but the best PLG products explicitly sell as you’re using the product. Intercom allows you to “self-upsell” with gated features. Hubspot has marketing copy for gated features. ProductBoard has a community for product managers. By providing users with multiple channels to engage, you not only continue to offer them value, but you can also identify buying intent based on how they engage. Users spend the vast majority of their time engaging with your company via your product, so building ways to discover intent that you can then immediately send to Sales is a great best practice.
Allow users to expand naturally in a way that aligns to pricing
Companies have a lot of different ways to price, but two common vectors are seats / licenses and overall usage. You can really make the sales motion faster by building in easy ways for users to expand within the product. For example, as users send more invites, you can make it really easy for them to add seats right then and there. As users are about to reach their usage cap, you can nudge them to increase their cap in product. So if you are doing all of this in the product, where does the sales team come in?
Well, sales teams are great at the art of making an existing deal even bigger, and the way to collaborate with them is to leverage these in-product expansion events as sales signals that when triggered, are sent over to the sales team. Let’s say Enterprise A has added seats every week for the last month. Notify your sales team about this, and have them reach out to get Enterprise A on a bulk package that covers their entire company. Here’s another example - Enterprise B has used 80% of their allocated usage. Notify your sales team to reach out to get Enterprise B on volume pricing - which not only results in a larger deal, but also results in better revenue predictability for both parties.
Build in the right data tech stack to empower the sales team
Now that we’ve covered what you could do to collaborate with your sales team, you’re probably wondering how you could actually do this in practice. Companies today spend a lot of time trying to get this right. They spend multiple sprints / development cycles improving onboarding, embedding expansion points in the product, etc etc. Beyond that, they also have data science teams that spend everyday fielding questions from sales teams who are looking for ways to prioritize which customers to talk to. They might even have a data team completely focused on internal tools and BI dashboards. This is incredibly expensive, and also ultimately broken since internal teams are resource strapped and serve multiple personas.
If you wanted to go about doing this yourself, we wrote a blog post running down the ideal tech stack. Some great tools to consider are Segment (for product event tracking), Snowflake (for your BI and data warehouse needs), Looker (for dashboards), Zapier (for really simple Workflows), Salesforce (of course, you need a CRM), and reverse ETL tools like Hightouch or Census. However, even with this stack, none of this data is particularly actionable for sales teams looking to automate their workflows.
That’s where Correlated comes in - we sit on top of all of your data sources and downstream applications to provide a 360 view of what customers are doing in your product and notify your sales team when customers are ready to buy. We’re built to become that bridge that connects sales teams to product insights at PLG orgs. If you’re looking to collaborate better with sales teams, please check us out!
It’s incredibly exciting to see all the great businesses being built in a product-led way. However, it’s important to recognize that being product-led doesn’t start and end with Product - it’s also a way of thinking that needs to be embraced by the entire organization. In my opinion, this only makes the role of product teams that much more exciting! Where previously product management might have been more focused on roadmapping and features, now we get to explore how Product can enable the entire GTM motion - and that sounds like a good change to me.