Product-Led Sales (PLS) is the future of SaaS - it’s the natural evolution of Product-Led Growth (PLG).
Where the last decade’s top performing companies were PLG, the dominant go-to-market for high growth SaaS companies over the next decade will be PLS. As PLG companies mature they all have one thing in common - sales teams.
Product-Led Sales (PLS) is a bottom-up go-to-market model that leverages existing product users as the main funnel for the sales team.
So how do you do PLS?
We started the Product-Led Sales community in summer 2021 to answer that question. Many top PLG companies have successfully executed on a PLS strategy (before it had a name), but there was a lack of well documented frameworks, best practices, or advice on the subject.
So we gathered the experts to build out the foundational frameworks, best practices, and leadership advice from GTM operators who have “been there, done that.”
Get access to real practical examples of how to build your own PLS motion in Volume 1 of the Product-Led Sales Playbook.
Volume 1 covers:
➡️ Overview of the Product-Led Sales world
➡️ Building Blocks of PLS: Motion and Metrics
➡️ Adding your First Sales Team
➡️ Structuring the New PLS Team
➡️ Leadership Lessons: Building the Revenue Engine
Download your copy 👉 here.
Why do we need new playbooks?
With Product-Led Sales, the entire go-to-market motion transforms, making it impossible to apply existing top-down sales-led playbooks.
To illustrate this, let’s look at the user journey itself.
We all know and love this funnel. It nicely illustrates a perfectly linear user journey for a customer. The GTM team, processes, and workflow were created to follow this funnel.
Sales- or Marketing-Led Funnel ⬇️
Awareness ➡️Acquisition ➡️ Revenue ➡️ Activation ➡️ Expansion
#1 Awareness: Marketing (and sometimes sales) create top of funnel demand to convert to MQLs to pass to sales
#2 Acquisition: Sales development reps qualify the account, then account executives or sales engineers provide demo (first product interaction), then Account Executives (AEs) manage the negotiation
#3 Revenue: Customer signs up and pays
#4 Activation + Expansion: Customer success manages activation, adoption, and expansion
Product-Led Sales Funnel
In Product-Led Sales, we flip the paradigm. Instead of having the first interaction with the product happen in the middle of the user journey, it happens as the very first step of the user journey.
After the first product interaction, there are product-led and human-led (sales, sales-assist, or customer success) touch points. This model requires a new set of playbooks for the GTM process, new rules for collaboration between teams (👋hello cross-functional full stack pods) and new metrics.
Acquisition ➡️Activation ➡️ Revenue ➡️ Retention + Expansion + Referral
#1 Acquisition: Marketing creates visibility for the product and drives traffic toward sign-up, of which a percentage converts into a user on a freemium, free trial, or low cost plan.
- Marketing and product collaborate to create an onboarding experience that drives users to experience the core value of the product
- Sales-assist / onboarding specialists (& sometimes customer success) help high potential customers reduce friction and get to value faster
- Account executives gets involved if the account matches an ideal customer profile (ICP)
#3 Revenue: Customers either self-serve to an upgraded plan OR sales engages high-value customers to help them choose the right plan
#4 Retention + Referral + Expansion: Customer success ensures that the customer is deepening their engagement and sales (or customer success) identifies opportunities to acquire new users and expand within the account
Caveat: PLS playbooks are not copy and paste
While this playbook is a necessary primer on Product-Led Sales, PLS is not a copy and paste exercise. In PLS, you’ll find it very challenging to try and run the same playbook across various product-led companies. Throughout the articles you’ll notice an emphasis on something very important: experimentation.
Leverage the frameworks from PLS leaders but remember to contextualize it within your product and run experiments until you find the right motion.
Thank you to our experts
We are immensely grateful to the experts who spent time documenting their frameworks and sharing their best practices for this playbook. When we set out to create a community for Product-Led Sales, we knew there were a ton of brilliant minds out there executing on PLS. But, we had no idea just how much there was to learn.
A big thank you to all of the experts who contributed content:
- Aaron Geller: Sales Leader, Cypress
- Alfie March: Head of GTM, Spendesk
- Allison Pickens: Former COO, Gainsight
- Chris De Vylder: CRO, Sentry
- Daniel Levine: Product Leader, Airtable
- Eli Weiner: SVP Strategy & Operations Sales & Success, Slack
- GC Lionetti: Former PLS Leader, Confluent, Dropbox, &Atlassian
- Jenn Steele: VP Marketing, Reprise
- Kyle Poyar: Partner, OpenView
- Lenny Rachitsky: Author & Angel Investor
- Marie Gassée: Former VP Growth, Confluent
- Melissa Ross: Head of PLS, Clockwise
- Rob Falcone: Head of PLS, Guru
- Sam Werboff: Head of PLS, Airtable
- Steeve Vakeeswaran: Head of PLS, Zapier
- Wes Bush: Founder, ProductLed