3 Product-Led Sales trends to watch out for in 2023 and beyond

How has Product-Led Sales evolved in 2023? We're launching our third annual PLS Benchmarks Survey to find out just how much PLS has changed. Plus, a few of our own predictions.

Alexa Grabell
September 18, 2023
3 Product-Led Sales trends to watch out for in 2023 and beyond

The past two years have been pivotal for the Product-Led Sales category.

In 2021 and 2022 we released comprehensive reports on the state of PLS — with insights from over 400 participants from companies like Airtable, Snyk, Slack, Asana, and more. We’re gearing up to do the same this year with the release of the 2023 PLS Benchmarks Survey.

In 2021, we set the foundation for understanding how revenue engines are built in a product-led world. In the process we uncovered a dirty little secret: all the best PLG companies have sales teams.

In 2022, the category saw massive evolution. PLS was recognized on the famed Gartner Hype Cycle for CRM technology and companies like Zapier and Canva hired for “Head of Product-Led Sales” roles.

This year, the pace of PLS maturity has accelerated as more SaaS companies implement hybrid GTM models. We’re seeing PLS as a common line item in go-to-market budgets as it becomes a strategic priority. 

But, with that accelerated pace, comes a whole new set of questions.

As organizations optimize the PLS engine, the surface area the motion touches gets wider. PLS orgs are now running enterprise outbound playbooks, managing multiple pipelines, and facing complex challenges around revenue cannibalization, team alignment, and sales enablement.

The 2023 edition of the PLS Benchmarks Survey aims to answer how the best companies are tackling those problems.

We want to hear from you! Take the survey to get early access to key insights on modern go-to-market. (Takes less than 5 mins) 

Continue reading for a look back at what we’ve learned in the last two years and predictions for where we’re going next.

The evolution of Product-Led Sales

High-performing teams at the best PLG companies have been practitioners of Product-Led Sales (PLS) years before we called it PLS. Companies like Zoom, Atlassian, Slack, and Dropbox successfully turned self-serve user growth into impressive revenue engines.

The question was how?

In 2021, as we started defining the category, we released the first PLS Benchmarks Survey to find out how these companies built their revenue engines zero to one.

2021: The early innings of Product-Led Sales

2021 was the year PLS had its grand debut. The category was in its infancy, but early signs were promising.

Our key takeaways from our first ever survey included:

#1 The myth of no sales at PLG companies was debunked

Most companies saw the need for sales and PLG, but many were still figuring out how to harmonize both motions.

#2 PLG companies were using conventional frameworks for enterprise sales

We learned that sales teams in PLG followed traditional models, from compensation to sales team structures. This approach was a key indicator of just how new the Product-Led Sales motion was for PLG orgs. GTM playbooks hadn’t been adapted yet (or so we thought).

#3 The future of PLS looked bright

PLS was gaining traction with early adopters. 24% of respondents in 2021 were looking to add a third-party PLS tool, while another 12% were pursuing internal tools to enable PLS. Were we right, was PLS more than just hype? In 2022, we found out!

Product-Led Sales early adopters 2021
Source: 2021 PLS Benchmarks Report

Despite being in the early innings of this new go-to-market motion we saw adoption grow in 2022 with more teams adding PLS tooling and hiring for PLS roles. 

2022: The rise of hybrid GTM

In our analysis in 2021, we took the high percentage of teams still conducting cold outbound to mean that these teams had not fully embraced PLS.

Since then, we’ve spoken to many teams that are very mature in their PLS motion and have robust outbound motions running in parallel. Why? A modern GTM strategy is not black or white, it’s all about experimenting with different channels to get to the end result: revenue. For many products, especially those where end-users are not the decision-makers, outbound is a crucial pillar of the overall strategy.

As more companies chose to go product-led, PLS became a popular hybrid option for go-to-market teams looking to leverage product usage data to run multiple sales motions.

Here’s what we learned in 2022:

#1 Hybrid GTM is the name of the game

Product-led is the way forward, but it’s not a zero sum game. PLS is not a replacement for PLG or outbound top-down sales models. It’s a complementary approach. As the survey responses showed, most organizations were experimenting with multiple sales motions and playbooks. 

The evolution of Product-Led Sales in 2022
Source: 2022 PLS Benchmarks Report

According to survey data, here’s the average revenue attribution from each sales motion in 2022:

  • 28% Product-Led Sales
  • 33% self-serve
  • 56% sales-led

#2 Selling SaaS requires a human touch

Identifying where to give customers the choice to interact with humans remains key. The 2022 Benchmarks Survey showed teams are thinking about this based on: lead qualification metrics (PQL/PQA signals) and engagement triggers (ie: immediately after sign up, or after a hand is raised).

sales-assist touchpoints benchmarks for product-led sales
Source: 2022 PLS Benchmarks Report

#3 Sophisticated scoring wins in PLS: From PQL to PQA

Source: 2022 PLS Benchmarks Report

In the early days, Product-Qualified Accounts (PQAs) and Product-Qualified Leads (PQLs) were used almost interchangeably. But, we learned individual PQLs aren’t where the bulk of revenue typically comes from.

In 2022 sales teams in PLG took a more account-based approach. The best PLS organizations created scoring models to reflect how overall accounts fit in the ICP and whether a company, as a whole, is a valuable target customer. That calculation is reflected in PQA scores.

So, what happens next? 

3 Themes emerging in 2023

In 2023, PLS is evolving at a much faster pace than previous years. Here are our predictions for 2023 and beyond.

#1 Hybrid go-to-market is here to stay

We’re betting that by the end of this decade, most SaaS businesses will have both product-led and sales-led motions. We’re already seeing this happening, over 70% of the Cloud 100 have a PLS motion in 2023. These are both important channels to market, and which one gets investment will depend on the growth you’re optimizing for as a company. 

#2 RevOps becomes a critical function for PLS 

Go-to-markets are increasingly complex to orchestrate in 2023. There are more sales motions (product-led, sales-assisted, and sales-led), more channels, and tactics reach diminishing returns faster than before because of platform shifts, AI, and automation. 

This complexity has put pressure on go-to-market teams to work more cross-functionally, orchestrate multiple playbooks across teams, and become even more data-driven. Who’s behind the scenes doing all that orchestration? RevOps, a critical supporting function to the CRO in charge of keeping GTM aligned. How? By surfacing the right data, setting up cross-functional feedback loops, and creating the systems required to run this wide breadth of motions efficiently.

#3 Data-driven coaching for reps becomes the standard

The biggest challenge we’re seeing for teams increasing PLS maturity comes down to rep training and enablement. 

Product-Led Sales requires reps do things a little differently than what they’re used to. PLS reps need to know how to analyze usage data to tie user value to business incentives. PLS teams also have to learn the ropes of the enterprise sales cycle: managing multiple stakeholders, conducting deal reviews, and account-based planning. Then, there’s the added challenge of accurately analyzing sales performance data, as your team is experimenting with new playbooks.

Winning teams have standardized metrics to measure individual rep performance across each area of the funnel. These metrics guide their training, far beyond coaching for specific deals.

That’s it for our predictions, we’ll see what the data has to say!

To get early access to our findings, help us build the report by answering the 2023 PLS Benchmarks Survey.

Share your insights!

Alexa Grabell
Co-Founder & CEO at Pocus
Keep Reading
Introducing AI Prospector

Streamline your prospecting workflows with the power of AI.

Sandy Mangat
June 5, 2024
Introducing Website Visitor Tracking

Add a new source of high-intent pipeline to your GTM motion. Track website visitors as a key signal in Pocus.

Sandy Mangat
May 8, 2024
How Linear is moving upmarket with signal-based playbooks

Learn how Linear is using signals to move upmarket, increasing their average deal size by 30%.

Meredith McManus
April 29, 2024
Product-led insights delivered.

Get best practices, frameworks, and advice from top GTM leaders in your inbox every week.

The Revenue Data Platform for go-to-market teams
Schedule a call with a GTM specialist to talk about your GTM motion, goals, and how Pocus can help turn product data into revenue.
Join the #1 place to learn about PLS and modern go-to-market strategy
Join our invite-only Slack community to learn firsthand from experts who have built and scaled hybrid revenue engines and connect with peers who are just figuring things out.
See how Pocus combines product usage and customer data to get a 360° view of your hottest opportunities.
Take the product tour