The predictions forecast is a time-honored SaaS tradition, so we’re excited to bring you our 9 predictions for Product-Led Sales in 2022.
It became clear in 2021 that SaaS go-to-market entered a period of BIG change. We saw companies place more emphasis on empathizing with users - a rethinking of how users buy and onboard new products, and the new processes, roles, and metrics to make all of this happen. So, what will 2022 bring?
We asked members of the Pocus Product-Led Sales community to help us look into the crystal ball 🔮🔮🔮and make some predictions about the future.
So without further adieu, here are our top 9 predictions for Product-Led Sales in 2022:
#1 Product-Led Sales becomes more common across PLG companies
2022 is going to be the year of Product-Led Sales. As the PLG darlings mature and as more companies adopt PLG, we’re going to see a bigger emphasis on sales. Sales at a PLG company is a natural progression as the growth from the bottom-up begins to plateau and the need to move up-market and close more strategic opportunities increases. Layering sales on top of PLG is emerging as the winning formula for translating early bottom-up adoption success into a revenue-generating machine.
However, PLS is not just about adding a sales team. Product-Led Sales is about helping your sales team fish from an existing pool of product users, rather than just adding an enterprise sales team that follows the same old playbooks. With PLS, sales teams are not left blindly targeting every fortune 500 account they can find; instead, they focus on the best opportunities in their user base.
We recently partnered with First Round Capital to survey over 200 SaaS companies on the state of Product-Led Sales. We found that 55% already have a sales team, 30% are in the process of making the switch from sales-led to PLG, 13% have plans to add a sales team soon, and only 2% have no plans to add sales to their PLG motion.
“We’re going to see a lot of hybrid GTM models emerge. An interesting indicator of this is the amount of CTAs you see on a typical SaaS website. The old marketing wisdom was to have a single funnel, drive every lead to the same CTA, but now there are multiple paths because the way I want to buy might be different from how someone else wants to buy” - Natalie Marcotullio, Head of Growth & Operations @ Navattic
Prediction: Based on this data and the number of companies in the PLS community who are actively pursuing a PLS strategy, we’re confident we’ll see widespread adoption of a PLG + sales approach in 2022.
#2 PQLs will deliver on their promise
The Pocus PLS community is ready for a world where they never have to touch an unqualified lead ever again. The reality is, we’ve been talking about Product-Qualified Leads (PQLs) for some time now, but the best practices around frameworks, processes, and tools have not yet been fully proven.
Our prediction for 2022 is that PQLs will finally be more widely adopted and lead to a more quality experience for:
- Sales - who no longer have to chase unqualified leads and instead can focus their efforts on personalization and timely outreach that adds value not friction.
- Users - who no longer have to deal with spammy, poorly timed outreach from sales.
Prediction: Widespread adoption of PQLs. As more companies operationalize PQLs in their tools and processes, we’ll start to see more benchmarks (*stay tuned we’ve got some data on this launching in January*) and best practices emerge to prove the ROI of PQLs.
Note: The next two predictions are indicative of a split we see in SaaS. The ones who never want to see a CRM ever again, and the ones who are willing to give CRMs just one more chance.
We’re not here to decide this today, let’s see which camp comes out on top at the end of 2022.
#3 Data warehouse as the source of truth
Most PLG companies leverage a data warehouse as the source of truth for all things related to the product, from acquisition all the way to billing and subscriptions. When these companies add a sales team, a new source of truth emerges, the CRM, and this becomes the source of truth for customer fit data and the central repository for managing deal flow.
Truth is, you can’t have two sources of truth - that means you really have no source of truth.
The anti-CRM camp predicts that the data warehouse will become the central repository for all of this information over time and applications will be built on top of the data warehouse, instead of the CRM.
Prediction: The data warehouse (not the CRM) will be the definitive source of truth for product-led businesses in 2022.
#4 CRM becomes a better source of truth
On the flip side, we’ve got the CRM loyalists who believe that the CRM can be the source of truth, we just need to do a better job setting them up for PLG.
Prediction: CRM is the source of truth for GTM teams (based on the gravitational pull of CRMs entrenched within GTM teams across SaaS companies).
Pocus' prediction is that the CRM won't be the best source of truth as PLS matures because of challenges with CRM's rigid data architecture, overall high maintenance costs, and more. For our full thoughts on this - check out “Is your CRM really your source of truth?” on the PLS blog.
#5 The lines between sales and customer success become more blurred
We already see the lines between sales and customer success blurring today, but this will only get fuzzier in 2022 as more companies adopt PLG and Product-Led Sales approaches.
“I also see most sales orgs combining with the customer success org. In a product-led world we need to be hyper-focused on promising the right value and then making certain our product is delivering on that same value throughout the lifetime of the user.” - Anthony Franklin, VP Sales @ Curate
When we asked the community what types of hiring profiles they were looking for in a PLS world, 100% of the time they included “customer success skills” as a top priority. Someone who can lead with empathy, focus on value, and not be overly sales-y.
So what does this mean for the two functions?
Prediction: We’ll continue to see a lot of overlap and collaboration between sales and customer success but our prediction is nothing too drastic in the next year.
#6 Hiring more sales-assist/product specialist roles
On the topic of “customer success skills,” these skill sets are being codified into an emerging role of sales-assist or product specialist.
According to our survey, a large majority of SaaS companies do not yet have this role (71% to be exact), but those that do focus this team on everything from product adoption to uncovering expansion opportunities.
Prediction: Sales-assist/product specialist will be a highly in-demand role in 2022 (and we may finally align on a name for this role).
Bonus prediction: It will be hard to hire for (check out our blog with GC Lionetti to learn more about his experimentation with the sales-assist role).
#7 Sales compensation and success metrics overhaul
As more and more SaaS companies adopt Product-Led Growth, Product-Led Sales, and new monetization strategies like usage-based pricing, we’re going to see a massive sales compensation and metrics overhaul.
As we’ve already seen, the sales team at a PLG company looks different from your typical enterprise sales team in terms of scope, skillset, and how they are measured.
The success of a sales team has more to do with product adoption than ever before and in turn, the success of the company as a whole depends on sales being incentivized correctly. We recently covered this in an AMA with Marie Gassée who said,
“It’s much more important to think about the sales compensation framework rather than the exact percentage split between base and variable compensation in a product-led world. Customer segmentation is key to sales compensation.” - Marie Gassée, Former VP of Growth @ Confluent
Prediction: We’ll see more sales teams measured on value-driven with customers.This means incentivizing sales teams to focus on closing great customers (based on fit and usage) instead of hitting a quota. Additionally, there will be a greater focus on how well sales can facilitate a feedback loop back into the product.
#8 Rethinking the go-to-market structure
When PLG is done well, there is seamless collaboration between many functions (sales, marketing, product, growth, etc.) because everyone is focused on the same metrics around adoption, engagement, and retention. In order to have this alignment, there will need to be one leader overseeing all of the go-to-market functions. We are already starting to see this with the Chief Revenue Offer (CRO) role, in our survey we found that 7.1% of companies are hiring CROs as their first sales hires.
Prediction: Fewer organization silos in 2022 due to a re-structure of the GTM team, including an expanded role of the CRO.
#9 Focus on experimentation
We’re still in the early days of Product-Led Sales, so we’re going to see a lot of experimentation in 2022. In every small group discussion in the Pocus community to our AMA’s with the PLS experts, one piece of advice is consistently given - you must experiment.
The foundation for an emerging approach like Product-Led Sales is a willingness to experiment with everything from PQLs to the types of personas you eventually hire on your sales team.
In an AMA earlier this year, GC Lionetti echoed this point well when he said,
“If someone has figured out a product-led sales motion, I kind of think that it is unique to that specific business -- I couldn’t plug and play everything from business X to business Y -- it won’t work”. - GC Lionetti, Former Confluent, Atlassian, and Dropbox
Prediction: Expect to see a lot of experimentation with PQLs, new organizational structures, hiring profiles for sales, sales workflows, and tools to both DO Product-Led Sales and RUN Product-Led Sales.