Product-qualified leads can be the unifying metric for teams executing on a Product-Led Sales motion. Not only do PQLs convert better than MQLs, but they are calculated using real product usage data, so you can understand why an opportunity is qualified (not just taking a stab in the dark).
We broke down the basics of building a PQL metric in our Definitive Guide to PQLs series (go read that first if you haven’t yet ✌️). Now, we will focus on HOW teams can leverage PQLs to drive actions within their sales, marketing, or customer success workflows.
In this blog we’ll break down:
PQLs are users that experienced your product’s core value, match your ICP, and/or have shown purchase intent. PQLs can be broken down into 3 categories:
A user or account (or even a team or workspace) becomes a PQL when they hit a combination of the above signals to indicate that the go-to-market team should take action. Exactly what those PQLs are depends on the type of company, the company’s goals and the customer segment that the company is targeting.
This leads me to a very important topic for PQLs: Segmentation. Segmentation and PQLs go hand in hand - you’ll need to segment PQLs in order to establish who owns what leads and how the PQLs should be operationalized within your workflows.
Time to pay close attention, because segmentation is the one of the most important parts of defining and operationalizing PQLs.
So, what do we mean by segmenting PQLs?
Segmentation helps you define the who, what, and how: who should you target, what message should you use with the specific audience, and how the message will be communicated. Without a segmentation strategy, PQLs will become a free-for-all or, even worse, a vanity metric that sits on the proverbial shelf.
You may choose to segment PQLs based on the target market (eg. SMB, mid-market, enterprise). Or, you might choose to segment based on who owns the PQL (eg. sales-ready, sales-assist ready). Or, maybe you’ll segment based on a company goal (eg. free-to-paid conversion).
Below we’ll walk through 3 ways to segment PQLs:
We recommend that PLG companies segment customers by sales-readiness as it helps go-to-market teams know which specific team-member should be responsible for which account/user and how to interact with that opportunity. You can better align your sales resources to each of these cohorts.
To segment by sales readiness, use the above matrix: map your accounts/users by product usage signals on the x-axis and customer fit signals on the y-axis.
Another way to segment PQLs is by aligning them to your Product-Led Sales goals. We personally love using this strategy to identify your first set of PQLs at Pocus - oftentimes these goals naturally align to different teams and workflows that already exist in your GTM motion.
Here are some examples of PLS goals we’ve seen recently from Pocus customers:
Let’s take one of the above examples and define the PQL.
Example PLS goal: Free trial conversion PQL
Example Definition: Signed up for a free trial, fits ideal customer profile, and significant usage in the product.
Example owner: Account Executive
So, every time an opportunity hits a combination of the above signals, the free trial conversion PQL should be surfaced to the Account Executive. The AE will understand why they are getting this lead (to convert from free to paid), who the user is, and how the user has already engaged with the product to better inform their sales strategy.
Most SaaS companies have already thought about their customer segments and target markets like SMB, Mid-Market, Enterprise, or specific industries or geographies.
If your existing GTM motion is segmented based on the target market, an easy way to keep things simple with PQLs would be to also align them to these targets.
For example, an enterprise PQL may have a different set of customer fit and product usage signals than your SMB PQL. The enterprise PQL should be routed to the enterprise AE and the SMB PQL routed to the SMB AE. The routing of these PQLs will also depend on what resources you have already aligned to these market segments.
Now that we know how to segment our PQLs, what playbooks do we run to convert these hot leads into revenue? Without a plan of action, PQLs become just another vanity metric. So, we break down how to action your PQLs by function.
As we know, Product-Led Sales is a team sport, so sometimes just an outreach sequence from your sales team may not be enough. You might want to layer in product engagement, email marketing, ad retargeting, and more. Below you’ll find potential workflows for sales, marketing, and operations teams.
The most effective way for sales to convert PQLs into revenue is not necessarily to sell but to help. In a Product-Led Sales world, we’ve taken the core principles of consultative selling and supercharged them. The sales team should reach out to their PQLs when:
Actions a salesperson can take or automate:
Some SaaS businesses really understand how to be timely and personalized. Throughout this post, I’ll include an example email (anonymized of course) that I’ve received recently that really hit their mark.
Example of personalized email to an expansion PQL who might want to add more users…
What this email does well:
The salesperson on the other side of this email had some great insight about how I’ve been using their product and used that to create a well-timed and engaging email.
Are you thinking “ok this sounds great in theory, but how do I actually operationalize this?”
With Pocus, sales teams can easily identify PQLs and get deeper insights about those leads (eg. how are they engaging with the product). Once a salesperson is ready to engage with the PQL, they can automate the above actions directly in the Pocus platform. With Pocus’ no-code automation builder, you can give your sales team the ability to create the ideal workflow to convert new PQLs.
Here are just a few examples of the sales automation you can build in Pocus:
When an opportunity becomes a PQL, you can automatically…
➡️ Receive Slack notifications when there is a change in the PQL’s product usage
➡️ Create tasks or opportunities in Salesforce
➡️ Launch outreach sequences in your preferred tools
PQLs have been a game-changer for marketing teams at PLG companies. Marketers no longer have to rely solely on marketing behavior to gauge what to communicate, when, and how with customers (👋 say goodbye to only relying on MQLs).
Marketers get a lot more insight into a user from their product usage, which can assist in creating well-crafted email sequences during critical moments like free trials and upgrades.
Email sequences are by far the most popular use case and marketing tends to own all automated email to customers.
For example, most marketing teams will own comms during the free trial or onboarding experience for a new user. Here’s a great example of an email to send when you’re trying to entice a new user during the free trial.
What this email does well:
What this email does well:
With Pocus, marketing teams can use the same PQL cohorts as their sales counterparts to automate email sequences in their preferred platforms.
➡️ Trigger a specific onboarding email in marketing automation platforms (MAP) like Hubspot and Marketo
➡️ Add a PQL to a specific list in your MAP
➡️ Retarget ads to a free trial PQL whose usage recently dropped off
If you got through all of this and are feeling overwhelmed about how you’re going to define and action PQLs… don’t worry, Pocus has you covered!
Pocus helps you manage and operationalize your PQLs… without relying on engineers or data scientists.
Let’s break it down…
Pocus will combine your customer fit, product usage, and buying intent data into one holistic view of your customer. Based on your data and PLS goals, Pocus will recommend PQL scores.
PQLs are both art and science. Pocus will suggest PQLs based on data, but the experts (YOU!) will need to iterate on the PQLs based on qualitative data and constantly evolving business strategy. Pocus provides you transparency into how the PQL is calculated with the ability to update the model without relying on data scientists. Say goodbye to black-box lead scores.
As discussed above, different PQLs should be surfaced to different team members. Pocus will bubble up the relevant PQL to the right team based on market, PLS goal, or owner at the right time. Pocus will not just tell you who the PQL is, but why they are a PQL so that you can take the next best action.
After you receive the PQL and understand why they are a PQL, you can take the right action from within Pocus, whether that is sending an email, funneling the lead into a marketing sequence, or updating a field in Salesforce.
PQL experimentation is never complete! There is always more to learn with more PLS goals, target markets, and new sales hires. Pocus allows you to experiment with new PQLs and how that would impact your lead funnel and workflow.