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Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: MayC and Robert (Asana)

MayC Huang (Growth Manager) and Robert Jones (Hybrid GTM Lead) tell us all about Asana's hybrid PLG and sales-led motions.

Sandy Mangat
May 17, 2022
Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: MayC and Robert (Asana)

The Product-Led Sales community hosts AMAs with PLS experts to share best practices, frameworks, and insights on this emerging category every month. These AMAs are an opportunity to ask PLS leaders any question — ranging from hiring to sales compensation to tech stack — in a low-key, casual environment.

The PLS AMAs are exclusive events for members of the Product-Led Sales community, the go-to-place to learn, discuss, and connect with go-to-market (GTM) leaders at product-led companies. The goal of the community is to bring together the most thoughtful and innovative GTM leaders to build the next generation of sales together.

Interested in joining? Request an invite here.

Meet MayC and Robert from Asana 👋

For this AMA, we welcomed two experts from one of the original product-led growth (PLG) companies: Asana

For those who aren’t familiar, Asana is a work organization and management platform. Since its founding in 2008, Asana has established many of the best practices we use today in the PLG and PLS world. 

MayC Huang is a Growth Manager at Asana, where she focuses on the self-serve customer journey to fuel product-led growth and adoption of the Asana platform. Part of her role also includes product management, and she’s currently incubating a new team that will build out workflow automation products.

Our other guest today, Robert Jones, is the Hybrid GTM Lead at Asana. In his role, he combines product-led and sales-led growth strategies to build inbound pipeline across Asana’s segments, from VSB (very small business) all the way up to enterprise. 

In this recap, we’ll cover some of our favorite parts of the discussion with MayC and Robert, including: 

  • The self-serve vs. sales split at Asana, and how they use segmentation to create clear lines of demarcation
  • How Asana works with MarketStar to supplement their revenue team 
  • Methods the Asana team uses to manage and implement feedback across the business 
  • How Asana uses experimentation to make sure all their features are revenue winners 

Breaking Down the Self-Serve vs. Sales Split at Asana

As MayC tells it, in the beginning Asana was mostly a product-led, self-serve business. 

Their bread and butter was in users who would sign up, try the product for free, move into the trial phase, and upon realizing value end up paying for a subscription for their team. 

And really, that funnel still makes up about half of their revenue to this day. 

The other half of their revenue comes from a land-and-expand motion, where hands-on sales intervention is key to increasing paid seats across organizations.  

MayC: “We think of the self-serve motion like a tide that raises all boats. A lot of the product-led motions that we work on benefit the early adoption side for conversion, and they also benefit our invite and user growth initiatives on the expansion side.” 

“We think of the self-serve motion like a tide that raises all boats.” — MayC

How to Decide When It’s Time for Sales Acceleration: Segmentation

Since Asana started off with a pure PLG motion, Robert says there’s a good bit of work now involved in drawing the line between where the self-serve funnel ends and where the sales motion begins. 

In order to identify which customers should stay in the self-serve motion and which need sales outreach, the Asana team segments based on customer enrichment data. 

Here are some of the most prominent customer segments at Asana:

  • Companies with 100 employees or fewer — directed into the self-serve funnel, VSB reps and AEs available to address operational requests and hand-raisers
  • Enterprise companies — white-glove sales motion, AEs on-call for pricing questions, technical checklists, billing tasks, etc. 

Their highest-volume segment in number of customers is companies with fewer than 100 employees. They enable this group to access Asana via the self-serve funnel but, since it’s such a large segment, their VSB sales team (with support from MarketStar) is also on-call to address hand-raisers (people who ask for a demo, etc.) and operational requests. 

In the other direction is a segment that gets the white-glove sales approach: enterprise. Most organizations at this level expect a sales approach. They want their own AE with whom they can engage about pricing, security checklists, etc. 

Of course, there are a multitude of segments between these two extremes. The teams Robert oversees at Asana are constantly working on drawing the lines around what reps can get credited for and what they can’t, based on employee segment and then deal size. 

Robert: “I think where it gets interesting and where we kind of have flexibility is in the smaller segments, the more classic SMB motion. How do you know what's incremental and what's not? Can you do holdouts? Can you prove the value of having sales there? That's where the discussion is a little bit more interesting rather than on the farther ends of the spectrum.” 

Where MarketStar Fits Into the Equation

For anyone who caught that MarketStar reference, it’s a service that enables companies to outsource sales and marketing duties. MarketStar is not your average outsourced agency. They really do feel like an extension of the Asana team, who haveused the service to successfully outsource part of the revenue team.

There are just under 100 MarketStar teammates who work on Asana full time. They include the inbound reps who power the chatbots and sales forms as well as the VSB AEs who give demos. Mostly, the MarketStar reps are deployed across smaller customer segments, as that’s where Asana has the most customer volume and and the most support is needed. 

Robert broke down some of the key benefits of working with MarketStar instead of going fully internal: 

  • No admin overhead: MarketStar handles all the onboarding and admin stuff (payroll, HR, etc.) for their employees, saving tons of management time 
  • Ramp up and down easily: Ramping up new programs isn’t hindered by sourcing employees — using MarketStar, Robert was able to build an entirely new regional inbound team in two months to power APAC.

Asana’s PQLs and the Outbound Play 🏀

At Asana, the sales team only goes into outbound mode when two things happen: 

  • They see a few employees from a mid-market or enterprise company self-serve within the product, signaling an expansion opportunity 
  • And those users align with the product-qualified lead (PQL) definition for their segment  

Robert says that, for now, Asana’s PQLs are pretty simple. Mostly, their PQLs for different segments focus less on characteristics and more on how an account  is using the product and how active they are. 

Typically, Asana’s outbound sales approach is more of a land-and-expand motion, which is one reason they haven’t had to focus too much on tightening up their PQLs just yet. 

Typically, when an enterprise rep is assigned to an account, they're working with what Robert calls a “footprint.” That means there are usually already at least 15 employees using the product with a small premium plan. So the goal for sales is to expand the usage of Asana into other teams within that department and eventually touch base with IT, provisioning, or someone else who can help with  company-wide adoption. 

Managing the Feedback Loop on a Large Scale 🔁

As you can imagine, a product like Asana with a lot of customers gets a lot of feedback on a daily basis.

To deal with this, MayC, Robert, and their teams on both the product and revenue side have a few evolving approaches to making sure all feedback is considered: 

  • A Voice of the Customer (VoC) strategy that prioritizes opportunities based on business cases for prioritization on the product roadmap
  • A living project (hosted in Asana, of course) of insights and ideas from customer-facing teams
  • Some go-to-market teams are currently building a “council” that will help prioritize feedback based on a shared perspective of what's important
  • MayC and Robert personally take a hands-on approach to connecting the dots and ensuring that feedback is shared and the loop is closed across the business

Robert: “We're continually figuring it out. I'm trying to be the glue, right now.” 

As an example of how their feedback loop management methods work in action, MayC shares a time when they were able to take a piece of sales-sourced feedback, optimize it in the product, and create a revenue win. 

Typically, the way you pay for or upgrade your Asana package is by team. Some organizations have a mix of paid teams and unpaid teams. The in-product default messaging didn’t reflect the fact that one organization could have different tiers of teams, which caused confusion among customers. In fact, it was an issue that sales was hearing about practically daily. 

When sales surfaced this piece of feedback, the product team took the opportunity to spruce up the checkout flow to solve the issue. This fix ended up being such a great revenue win that Asana has now implemented a process of continuous improvement in the checkout flow.

MayC: “We have so many customers, so connecting the right dots and accelerating the feedback loop around areas like UXR, customer feedback, data science, and experimentation is an important part of our role as owners of key business categories.” 

Which Feature Requests Win? It’s All About Experimentation  

It’s an age-old balancing act: do you give the few, big customers the features they want first or do you prioritize giving the group of smaller but more numerous customers what they’re asking for?

While prioritization is still something Asana continues to “build their muscle around” according to MayC, something they do every time they roll out a new feature is conduct experimentation. And that tells them more than any customer ever could about what features make the impact they’re looking for. 

MayC explains how usage on most new features is broken down by company size, account size, region, and other factors to figure out how they affect bigger customers versus smaller customers.

For example, one such experiment found that requiring a password when sharing an Asana page actually inspired more sharing among larger companies. However, it didn’t do the same for smaller companies, so they elected to kill this default for smaller accounts in order to enable the flywheel of sharing to occur more organically. This is something that would have been really hard to uncover had it not been for their process of experimentation and iteration

Asana has a highly democratized culture around experimentation, so they have a few different programs that help outline these feature experiments: 

  • Experiment Results and Learnings: an internal project that stores data from Asana’s experiments over the years, various teams can view these experiments to inform their hypotheses around new features 
  • Experiment Reporter: an internal A/B testing tool that shows new features to 50% of users and measures interactions to provide statistically significant insight about proposed features 

Robert is even working on an experimentation framework for his go-to-market teams right now. This will eventually introduce more data science around what have traditionally been looser, anecdotal experiments.

“We have a democratized experimentation and data driven culture at Asana.” — MayC

Inbound Lead Sources for The PLG Funnel 🌪️

At Asana, the inbound pipeline is filled with people who do one of three tasks: 

  • Complete a website chat
  • Fill out a sales lead form
  • Start a trial

Where do these leads come from in the first place? Robert tells us that they’re using most of the common marketing channels you can imagine. For bigger accounts the team uses LinkedIn and even in-person conferences to generate demand.

As for channels that feed both the PLG business and sales business, Asana relies on: 

  • An organic search team (a recent addition)
  • Paid ads on Google, Bing, and Facebook
  • A decent number of word-of-mouth leads, which translate to direct website visits 

Round Up: Our Fave Takeaways 

  • If your org has both self-serve and sales-assisted motions, for the sanity of your reps and your customers it’s critical for you to figure out where one ends and the other begins. At Asana, they draw these lines by implementing segmentation based on customer attributes, especially company size. When they aren’t sure what level of service a specific segment wants, they experiment to determine the value of adding sales to that segment. 
  • Speaking of experimentation, this is part of the very culture at Asana, which we think is amazing when you consider what a large organization it is. Take a page from Asana’s book and set up programs that A/B test new features and record the results. You might just uncover a few ways to tweak features for different segments that result in revenue wins. 
  • Some of Asana’s biggest revenue wins have come from implementing feedback. Organizations that generate a lot of feedback should create processes to organize and prioritize all this information so that it aligns with key customer business cases and the product roadmap. At Asana, they also have specific leaders — including MayC and Robert — who take a hands-on approach to overseeing these feedback processes and making sure the dots connect across the business. 

Will We See You at Our Next PLS AMA? 🔮

To attend our next AMA discussion and be part of the conversation, just request to join Pocus’ PLS community!

While you’re there, you’ll also be able to enjoy PLS discussions, job postings, and Q&A sessions in addition to our regular AMAs.

Sandy Mangat
Head of Marketing at Pocus
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