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How to Integrate PLG Sales Motion In a Sales-led Business

Publish Date

June 21, 2024

Product-led growth (PLG) largely depends on understanding how users engage with the product and when they need to talk to someone. 

Unlike cold calls and outreaches, you look for signals related to user activity on your product. It helps you identify and prioritize product-qualified leads (PQL) and convert them into customers. 

PLG sales motion is more data-driven than reaching out to every other professional who fits your ideal customer profile (ICP). To initiate this, you first need to enable a self-serve product experience. It means helping a prospect experience the product straightaway rather than trying to book them for a sales-led demo. 

There are various ways to make a product self-serve. Below are a few common ones. 

  • Always free plans up to a specific usage limit.
  • Free trial for a limited time. 

It’s advisable to choose the first option, the freemium model. This model allows users to experience the product's true value without being restricted to a time frame. 

Let’s look into understanding the difference between PLG and sales-led growth (SLG) to combine both. 

PLG sales motion vs. sales-led growth

Your digital product drives customer acquisition and retention in PLG. It enables a self-serve approach, where potential customers can experience the product at their own pace. 

User experience (UX) matters greatly since it guides users to reach the “Aha!” moment. If you can give them a remarkable experience, users feel motivated to advocate for your brand, creating valuable user-generated content (UGC). You can use this in your marketing later. 

PLG reduces the acquisition costs since you don’t rely on expense marketing campaigns or sales development representatives (SDRs). The product’s value attracts and converts users. 

When people actually use the product, they feel more confident about purchasing it. Moreover, there’s less friction when using PLG. Customers don’t need to create demo requests to experience what you offer. 

However, when you’re implementing PLG, you need to look out for these: 

  • Team collaboration. PLG requires robust cooperation between all departments within a company. You must align on one North Star metric to avoid conflicting goals leading to inefficiencies. For example, suppose marketing has a different North Star metric than the product team. In that case, there will be a constant conflict with product blaming marketing, saying that the lead quality isn’t good, and marketing pointing fingers at the product team, saying their retention strategies aren’t effective. 
  • Complex requirements and needs. Not all customers will fit in your ICP the way you imagine. Some have complex requirements in terms of customization, security, and compliance, especially when you’re selling B2B software. They need assistance from a salesperson to understand how effectively the brand and its product can cater to their needs. You need to engage salespeople at the right moments to address such needs.

On the other hand, sales teams drive acquisition, retention, and revenue growth in a sales-led model. SLG offers salespeople expertise in the buyer’s journey, making it easier to convey true product value and negotiate reasonable deals. SLG makes a lot of sense in industries where you must educate customers while offering personalized guidance. 

SLG makes it easier to drive conversion when potential customers’ needs become more complicated. For example, when you’re trying to sell to enterprises, negotiation, customizations, and contract discussions are common. PLG might not help you deliver the care as effectively as a human to navigate such deals. SLG does better here.

Simply put, you need a combination of PLG and SLG to sell effectively while keeping acquisition costs low and flexibility high.

Enter product-led sales (PLS)

What’s product-led sales? 

Product-led sales combine the best of PLG and SLG to attract and retain more customers and the revenue they bring in. It makes you flexible when dealing with all buyer personas and helps you move beyond the rigidity and challenges of individual growth models. 

Let’s look at product-led sales in detail and understand how to enable it in an organization with existent sales-led growth motion. 

Why is product-led sales necessary in 2024? 

In the recent past, product discovery and purchasing authority rested with people at the top of an organization’s hierarchy. For example, a chief information officer (CIO) was usually in charge of purchasing a software. However, the power gradually shifted to the end users, who wanted to see if they could drive real value through software products. 

This encouraged companies to offer a free plan or trial, fueling the PLG growth model. Sales-led companies have started looking for ways to integrate PLG into their growth, especially when selling products catering to a broad market. 

In the existing sales model, the VP of sales typically dictates sales roadmaps for quarters, half-years, or years. Here’s what the roadmap looks like: 

  • Marketing gets marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). 
  • Sales try to convert MQLs to sales-qualified leads (SQLs)
  • Sales reps spend their whole time trying to close SQLs
  • Whenever there is an unmet need, the sales team meets the product team to plug a new feature request that is supposedly critical. 
  • Sales set unrealistic expectations for the product team, where product folks simply check things off their list, trying to please stakeholders rather than customers.
  • The new feature gets utilized by a few people who stumble across it, as it’s rarely marketed publicly.
  • The product teams develop features for a few customers rather than the larger market. 
  • The whole company ends up serving single client problems rather than addressing market issues. At the same time, internal teams are unnecessarily burdened with the pressure of unrealistic and, at times, wild expectations. 

When you integrate PLG into SLG models, you create a product-led sales motion. This ensures customers have the time they require to explore the product, and when they’re ready, your sales team can engage them and convert. 

It doesn’t require your sales team to keep pushing for conversions. Instead, it allows them to be more consultative than salesy, engaging potential buyers at the right moments to establish fruitful relationships. 

In PLS, since there is only one North Star metric to focus on, product, sales, support, marketing, and every team in the company naturally works toward it. The self-serve options cater to low-ticket value deals while sales teams engage bigger clients needing more personalized assistance. 

How to combine both into product-led sales

Amplitude’s VP, APJ Mark Velthuis, observed that PLS increase leads to pipeline conversion by three times. 

If you want to see similar things in your organization, you can combine PLG and SLG into product-led sales. 

1. Make your product easier to understand

This is easier said than done, not only for your prospects but also for your salespeople. You need your salespeople to understand features deeply, know how to reach “Aha” moments for every use case and understand when the timing is right to talk to the user.

On the flip side, users should be able to seamlessly navigate your product with the help of onboarding flows and in-product messaging. Make it easy for users to interact with your product features. This involves you showing how particular features help. However, providing this understanding starts before the user signs up for a free trial or uses a free plan. 

Your website should help them understand why users should give your product a chance. This involves answering their complex questions related to the various nitty-gritty of your product. But at this point, your potential customers aren’t connected with sales and are outside the product, simply exploring. 

AI sales agents (or intelligent chatbots) let users find the answers they seek. You can train them on your product and website content, helping these agents answer questions that might as well be too complicated for a newly onboarded salesperson. 

Did you know? You can use Chatsimple’s AI sales agent to help potential customers and newly onboarded salespeople understand the product comprehensively. They’re trained on your digital assets in addition to the instructions you give them. 

These AI sales agents are programmed to converse with users like humans and guide them toward the business goal you want to accomplish, like capturing them as leads. 

2. Talk about a single North Star metric

Keep sales, marketing, support, and all teams aligned toward driving one metric that matters the most for your business. This metric can be different from the usual sales or business metrics like conversions or revenue. You need to dig deeper to understand the one thing that leads you toward success in your OKRs. 

For example, usage is the North Star metric for Divvy. Make sure you talk about your North Star in all broad department-level meetings so that everyone strives for the same success. 

PLG is a collaborative effort. Sales, marketing, product, support, and customer success play equivalent roles in it. When you integrate with the SLG model, make sure sales collaborate effectively with all teams to drive that North Star. Sales would be leading the way in going after key accounts on the user list, providing them with more assistance needed to implement your product across their enterprise. 

It makes sales teams more efficient in prioritizing and pursuing high-value deals.  

3.  Manage customer journeys intelligently

In PLS, different teams handle different parts of the sales process. For example, marketing attracts potential customers, product teams run trials to show the product’s value, and the sales team converts trial users (larger accounts) into paying customers. Teams must work closely together, sharing responsibilities and feedback.

You can appoint people into new roles, like growth engineers, to improve product usage, conversions, and retention. Product teams focus on setting a self-serve motion that helps customers convert into paying users. Based on customer journeys, product teams set events to qualify users as product-qualified leads (PQLs) and hand them over to sales to provide more assistance while converting them into paying users. 

It's important to customize the approach based on customer preferences. For example, some customers prefer free trials, while others need a demonstration or pilot program.

To effectively manage the customer journey, you would need tools like: 

  • AI sales agent. Helps potential customers address complex queries related to the product before signing up. 
  • Customer data platform. Keeps all customer data in the same place. 
  • Lead scoring models. Identifies and prioritizes potential paying customers.
  • Product analytics software.  Showcases how users interact with a product. 
  • In-product guidance tools. Delivers tutorials to increase product adoption and usage. 

These tools will help you build and get your PLS motion running. 

Toward implementing PLS

You should start small by creating freemium or free trial options to experience your product. When you’re ideating this, you’ll face some friction from sales teams. Sales teams fear that PLG will cannibalize their business in terms of commissions, especially at the lower end of the deal size. 

But the exact opposite is true. PLS doesn’t cannibalize sales. Instead, it frees up sales teams’ time to pursue more high-value deals. Make sure salespeople understand that PLS accelerates deals instead of cannibalizing them.  

Learn more about how to improve a website’s UX to generate more leads when adopting PLS. 

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