Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: Nicholas Mills (Pitch)

Nick is President and go-to-market lead at Pitch, a collaborative platform that helps teams build beautiful presentations.

Nick Mills
November 6, 2022
Product-Led Sales (PLS) AMA: Nicholas Mills (Pitch)

Alexa, CEO of Pocus, hosts Product-Led Sales (PLS) “Ask Me Anything” sessions with PLS experts to share best practices, frameworks, and insights on this emerging category. 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 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.

Now, keep reading for a recap of what we discussed in our latest AMA chat.

Meet Nicholas Mills, President @ Pitch 👋

Nick is President and go-to-market lead at Pitch, a collaborative platform that helps teams build beautiful presentations — which we here at Pocus use quite frequently! 

Nick is the perfect person to guide Pitch’s effort to build their new PLG (that’s Product-Led Growth) motion, considering his history in the space. 

Before Pitch, Nick was in charge of the EMEA region for PLG company CircleCI. While there, he helped EMEA business grow from about 7% to 25% of total revenue, landing and expanding their way into nearly 70 countries by the end of his tenure! 

Prior to that, Nick was part of the European leadership team at Stripe, Head of Sales for EMEA at Facebook, and held a number of other pivotal roles at big brands and startups alike. 

Originally a student of law and with history in the newspaper biz, Nick developed a deep understanding of content creation and customer acquisition early on, which has helped him build effective go-to-market motions throughout his career. 

In this AMA recap, we’ll let you in on the highlights from our discussion with Nick, such as: 

  • How to know if a PLG motion is the best approach for your brand 
  • When and where to layer sales roles into your PLG motion
  • How Pitch makes sense of sales attribution 
  • Data vs. instinct: which is the best driver of early-stage lead scoring
  • How Nick approaches building a data-focused team culture

Is a PLG Motion The Right Approach? (Probably!)

Nick dives right in with a recent stat from Gartner, which uncovered that most business tool buyers make it more than halfway through the purchase process (57%) before they reach out to anyone on the vendor side. 

It’s not such a shocking stat when you think of business buyers as regular old consumers. After all, in your everyday life, don’t you do a bit of research and see if you can try out an expensive service or item before you purchase it? 

Because of this modern reality, Nick believes that Product-Led Growth strategies can apply to a very broad set of tools — yours (probably) included. 

Thanks to early PLG adopters like Atlassian that have built efficient, scalable go-to-market motions, more and more brands have realized it’s a legit business model as well as an effective and low-cost acquisition and distribution model.

So, is it right for your business? 

If your product has the ability to be easily adopted by self-serve users and one of your priorities  is acquiring more of those users at a low cost, it could be.

As Nick mentions, more and more companies have decided to try it and experiment with it. Why not yours? 

How to Compete as The New Product on The Block 🥊

The market for presentation tools is already full of established products from major players.

So what does Pitch do to differentiate themselves and their product when the competition is fierce?

They get to know what sets them apart as a product and what hurts them in their users’ eyes — then act on this information to be a product that garners continued loyalty and referrals. 

To gather the necessary data, Pitch learns everything they possibly can about prospects and renewing customers. 

They do this by applying things like the MEDDPICC methodology:

  • Metrics 
  • Economic buyer
  • Decision criteria
  • Decision process
  • Paper process
  • Identify pain
  • Champions
  • Competition

Then, they feed this information back into their sales strategy, product development strategy, and overall company strategy. 

Instead of niching down on a specific vertical or industry like some companies would do in this case, Nick finds it more effective to go broad and get in front of as many eyeballs as possible — applying messaging developed with help from user research, product telemetry, and firmographic data. 

Knowing Where to Layer People Into Your PLG Motion 

Throughout his career, Nick has seen how layering people-powered roles on top of self-serve products encourages business growth.

He looks at a few key factors to determine where to add sales functions: 

1. Where You Can Gain New Traction Today 

Sure you want to understand your total addressable market, but when you’re just starting to consider adding human-powered support and sales roles, it’s more important to apply them to your most serviceable addressable market — where they can help you gain traction immediately. 

2. Where You’re Already in Demand 

CircleCI put their first real-life support folks on the ground in Japan, an unusual move for a U.S.-based company. But they did it because they knew their product was already pulling in impressive adoption in that territory. When adding roles to your go-to-market strategy, it's all about following demand.  

When and Why to Differentiate Buyer and User Journeys 🧭

For Pitch, the buyer is most often a typical C-Suite persona. However, that isn’t who’s actually using the product. And since active users are their prime champions within organizations, a big focus for Nick is understanding user activation and engagement. 

Within Pitch’s workspace, Nick looks at all the actions users can take to understand which levers have the most impact on conversion. With this information, he can better see where to invest more in the software — as well as where to insert people to influence the user journey. 

When is the right point to start focusing on this differentiation?

Nick says there’s no specific timeline. Experimenting with personas is a continuous process. 

What are they experimenting with currently? Right now, they’re following a trend they’re seeing within their product and orienting their pricing, messaging, and a go-to-market sales motion that targets early-stage sales leaders and similar roles with budgetary responsibility.

“I think it's always a good time to be thinking about what messaging you could build or where you could potentially gain traction with a certain profile that falls outside of your typical persona.”

Untangling Sales Attribution

Understanding where product-led growth ends and human sales contributions begin is something many companies who have adopted Product-Led Sales struggle with. 

At Pitch, the user journey is once again critical when it comes to sales attribution. 

To prioritize this, Pitch does two things: 

  • Carefully defines product-qualified leads (PQLs)
  • Identifies points in the user journey where it’s valuable for a sales person to try to accelerate growth or expand the account

If a lead meets these predefined criteria points — they’re a PQL and they’re at the right place in their journey — they are surfaced to the sales team.

This process is how Pitch ensures sales focuses on leads who could benefit from their help, and keeps others on their self-serve journey toward adoption and expansion.

As for timing, once PQLs surpass sales-accepted lead in the sales funnel but haven’t yet reached sales-qualified lead status, a “clock” starts running. Expansion during this time period is attributed to sales. When time is up, the lead transitions to customer success. 

At CircleCI, the highest watermark of usage was benchmarked when the sales conversation started. Any uplift from there was credited to the salesperson. 

And, for a final comparison, at Stripe, growth in the first 12 months from the start of the sales conversation was attributed to the salesperson. After that time period, the account moved into the hands of the customer success team.

Data vs. Instinct: Which Drives Early-Stage Lead Scoring? 

Compared to a place like CircleCI with a longer history, lots of revenue, and tons of user data that enabled them to nail lead scoring; Pitch is still very much in its learning phase.  

Nick tells us that, while they build up their historical data, the Pitch team actually leans more on instinct and qualitative evaluation of sales conversations as they try to build a scalable model that helps them predict which leads to go after. 

The goal is to eventually gain enough data from these conversations, and other sources, that Pitch can make lead predictions from its own pool of historical data, versus only benchmarks and intuition.

“I don't think you'll ever be in a place where you have it perfect. PLG is a commitment to continuous learning, that's for sure.”

The Importance of Prioritizing a Data-Driven Culture 🧪

So what happens when you do have the data you need and it’s time to pivot away from intuition-based decision making? 

Nick says a sales team that’s good at acting on data comes down to the profiles of the people on it. It’s important that, no matter what stage you’re in, you’re looking for profiles that support how you eventually want your company to be. 

He seeks out people who line up the profile of an “elite seller,” which includes characteristics like: 

  • Understanding that discovery isn't simply a sales stage, it's a mindset 
  • An obsession with learning
  • Ability to gain knowledge through both qualitative and quantitative methods
  • Willingness to embrace data
  • Ability to apply data to make strong forecasts 
  • Natural inclination toward analytical thinking 

Of course, Nick doesn’t think everyone has to have all of these personality traits right out of the box. He says much of this is coachable, and should also be instilled from the very beginning through company culture. 

He likes to apply what he calls “engineering culture principles” when building sales teams, focusing on using both qualitative and quantitative data, rigorous testing, and fast iteration. 

“Ultimately, I like to embed a test-and-learn culture within the team. If everyone can embrace that mindset, they're more likely to be set up for success.”

Will We See You at Our Next PLS AMA? 🔮

We’re thankful we got to spend so much time with Nick, getting the answers to so many of our  questions about PLG, data, attribution, and more. 

Want the opportunity to get your questions answered by a PLG veteran just like Nick?

Then request to join Pocus’ PLS community

We’d love to have you in the only Product-Led Sales community where you can connect with real-life PLG and PLS pros from Airtable, Zapier, Slack, and more.

Nick Mills
President, Pitch
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