What is Product-Led Sales?

by Frederic Melanson

Were you introduced to Slack via a cold email?

I guess not.

Slack got to millions in revenue without a sales team.

Zendesk reached 5,000 customers without a sales team.

Loom just started growing their sales team to 12 reps after reaching north of $35M in ARR.

Yet, Slack, Datadog, Zoom, Docusign, Dropbox, SurveyMonkey and Cloudflare are all hiring 50% more sales reps every year.

And they're all Product-Led companies.

Why?

Traditional sales is dying.

The ability to use a SaaS product and get value from it before you commit your time or your money isn't a nice-to-have anymore, it's expected.

Product-led sales example Zoom

Enter product-led sales.

Product-led sales is when you use the product itself as the main source of new revenue acquisition. It includes lead generation, conversion to paying customers and expansion. 

Going for product-led sales will impact:

  • Your marketing
  • Your product's experience
  • Your sales workflows
  • How you qualify opportunities
  • Who in your team engages and how they engage prospects

But trust me, it's worth the shift.

Product-led companies executing this combined strategy are dominating. 

35 public companies are now product-led.

Product-led companies on the Nasdaq

Product-led companies grow faster than other sales or marketing-led companies, especially at scale.

The average PLG business has 25% of its employee headcount in sales. 

Redpoint Free Trial Survey found that salespeople increase free to paid conversion by 3.5x. 

For your business, product-led sales can be the difference between linear and exponential growth.

Benefits of product-led sales

  • Your average revenue per customer (ARPC) will be higher.
  • Your revenue per sales rep will increase.
  • Your cost of acquisition (CAC) will decrease.
  • Churn will be lower.
  • Your revenue growth will be easily scalable.
  • Faster sales cycles.

Sounds too good to be true?

Product-led revenue formula

Why product-led sales is inevitable 

We’re in the middle of 3 market shifts.

👩‍💻 The rise of the user: 

Users have the flexibility to choose software solutions and adopt them without requiring executive approval. 

The end-user has more control over their options, so it’s all about delivering value before you ask for financial commitments.

Product knowledge has switched sides. 

It used to be the salesperson who had all of the information to sell their product/services.

Today, it’s the other way around.

With online articles, peer reviews, comparison websites like G2 or Capterra, the end-user has all the knowledge available to make a purchase decision.

🏠 The work-from-home era: 

Over are the days of coming across a solution by meeting a sales rep at a bar or golf club. People encounter your business digitally and your product does the talking. Reps come later in the funnel.

Prospects want to try before they buy. 

Would you pay for Netflix before you saw their catalogue? Or pay for Spotify premium before listening to a few tunes on the free plan?

🔛 Hyper-competition:

Low barriers to entry and massive capital injections have been great for software in many ways. However, it has increased competition.

Competition means that the traditional ways to acquire customers are increasingly expensive.

Want proof? The cost of running ads on Facebook or Google has doubled every year since 2017.

What do those 3 market shifts have in common?

Product-led sales is the silver bullet.

Components of product-led sales strategy

The most important factor to consider when implementing product-led sales is whether your LTV is high enough to support a combination of self-serve and sales motion.

If you're charging 5$ per user per month, you may be better fully self serve.

If you can convert accounts into more than a $500 per year, product-led sales make sense.

You can invest in even more high-touch product-led strategies if your ACV is in the 6 or 7 digits.

When sales engage prospects depending on LTV

Important components:

  • Your offering has a self-service aspect, such as a free trial or freemium option. 
  • Salespeople engage with prospects once they’re already using the app.
  • Touchpoints with prospects are focused on getting them to the “aha moment” first, then to a paid conversion. 
  • The sales cycle is heavily focused on the user’s experience with the product and the brand. 
  • Use the product itself to engage prospects. 
  • Sales prospecting is about qualifying which users and accounts to focus on. 
  • Engagements with prospects are contextual and value-add.

Note that other factors such as IT barriers can require your sales reps to engage early. Here's a list of what you should consider.

Salespeople need to stay, and here’s why

Sales representative

No one knows the value of your product better than sales reps. 

By combining the strengths of product-led acquisitions with the ability to sell, product companies can generate high-growth workflows.

Sales teams are the catalyst in the customer journey and buying process.  

“If you let the product lead and sales follow, this natural flywheel starts spinning and it starts to click for customers.”

Kate Taylor

Head of Customer Experience at Notion and ex-Dropbox, ex-Salesforce

Notion logo

Now that you've decided to implement product-led sales into your growth engine, let's dive into the big 3.

The big 3 of product-led sales: Who, when & what.

Product-led sales is about WHO your reps engage, WHEN in the user's journey do they engage, and with WHAT content do they engage with.

Let's get into details on how each of the 3 impact your current workflows.

Who

The average product-led business attributes sales resources to less than 50 % of its user base.

This means that product-led sales is all about focus.

Focus on the best accounts or the best leads. That's your WHO.

Defining what that means for your business will vary based on your ideal customer profile. More on using PQL to close more accounts here.

But for PLG companies, it's usually a mix of:

  • Demographic info (company size, industry, location).
  • Product usage (key actions taken by users, # of users).
  • Marketing engagement (users engaging with LinkedIn posts, attending webinars).
  • Sales engagement (email opens, document clicks, recent touchpoints).

The problem here is that those data points are often stuck in siloes and don't get to sales reps easily.

Bliinx is fixing that problem by nudging sales reps when accounts are showing revenue signals in how they engage with your product, marketing and sales touchpoints.

Bliinx signals to sales reps

When

Sales need to be careful and step in at the right moment.

Let your product do the heavy lifting.

Let users get to value by themselves, then convert (or expand) them.

What the best PLG companies usually do is set up automated campaigns to onboard users both in-product and via emails or texts. Then once the data tells them that users have reached the "aha moment", they involve sales.

That's your WHEN.

Sales engagement funnel for product-led company

Key signals to engage on

  • When users reach key milestones in the product.
  • When users raise their hand (engage with your bot, request an upgrade).
  • When users are near feature ceilings or paywalls in the product.
  • When users are engaging with social media or going on certain pages of your website.

I won't surprise you when I say that Bliinx helps sales teams engage precisely on those signals ;) Check for yourself.

What

We surveyed hundreds of AEs to understand the biggest pain points that sales reps have in SaaS.

The #2 response was getting prospects' attention.

WHAT content you reach out with can make or break your PLG sale.

Luckily for you, as a product-led business, you have 2 majors advantages when it comes to using personalization to grab people's attention.

1. You have more information about prospects

Since people experience your product before they talk to sales reps, you have context.

If your onboarding is great, you will have data like:

• Their position/role.

• What they’re interested in doing with your product.

• The size of their business.

• The technology that they use.

2. You know what users have done to get here

By combining a tool like Bliinx with the rest of your revenue stack, you'll have context on what product actions, marketing engagement and sales touchpoints your leads have done before you reach out.

This will give you key data to personalize your engagement.

For example, if your product helps SaaS run podcasts and you know that a user just created a bunch of podcast drafts in the app, that's a great subject to engage them on.

Same thing if you see that they went on your pricing page, for example.

Product-driven sales reach out

It's all about consultative selling.

Also known as needs-based or solution-based selling, this approach shares a lot of similarities with a product-led mindset.

Both practices:

  • Keep the user in the driver’s seat by putting their needs front and center throughout the customer journey
  • Maintain a clear focus on the product experience and how it serves the user needs and goals
  • Provide thoughtful, in-depth insights into how different customer segments (including specific verticals and use cases) engage with the product

If you want to dive deeper on this, check out the PLG Sales ebook!


Ready to grow revenue with product-led sales?

Request an invite to Bliinx and help your sales teams turn who, when and what into revenue for your business.

Have a wonderful day ✌️

Fred

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