Real GTM Advice: From Sales-Led to Product-Led Sales

Catch up on 'Real GTM Advice' featuring GTM experts from Guru, Vidyard, and DevRev

Sandy Mangat
May 10, 2022
Real GTM Advice: From Sales-Led to Product-Led Sales

In the Real GTM Advice series, hosted by Pocus CEO and Founder Alexa Grabell, we gather a panel of diverse leaders in the go-to-market (GMT) space to discuss the latest topics. 

Want to get your 🔥 burning questions answered by our next Real GTM Advice panel, or participate in our weekly AMAs with Product-Led Sales experts? Both of these series and more are available to members of Pocus’ Product-Led Sales community. Pocus’ Product-Led Sales community is full of experts from top PLG companies like Slack, Calendly, Airtable, Asana, and more, sharing advice on their best practices and frameworks for PLS.

Request an invite here to join the growing community. 

Meet the Panelists 👋

In this edition of our Real GTM Advice series, we explored the process of moving from a sales-led to a product-led GTM motion with business leaders who have already or are in the process of making this shift. 

Our panel for this session includes:

Rob Falcone, an early Product-Led Sales (PLS) adopter, Senior Director of Product-Led Sales at Guru, and bestselling  author of Just F*ing Demo! Guru was originally a “very” sales-led company where everything was outbound and driven human-to-human, according to Rob. Today, they've built a hybrid product-led/sales-led motion based on segments and personas.

Karishma Rajaratnam, who has more than 8 years of B2B SaaS marketing experience and is currently the Senior Manager of Growth Marketing at Vidyard as well as a product-led growth (PLG) coach and GTM mentor. At Vidyard, Karishma says their GTM model is also hybrid and that it started out being completely sales-led. Today, they have a self-serve PLG side that’s typically for smaller customers and a high-touch sales-led side that caters to enterprise customers.  

Madhukar Kumar, who previously helped Nutanix transform their sales-led business to a PLG motion in his role as VP Product and Solutions Marketing. Today, he is Head of Growth at DevRev. Based on his experience, ​Madhukar believes that a hybrid GTM approach is a must — most modern companies would benefit from adopting both a sales-led and a PLG motion at the same time. Like our other panel experts, this hybrid model is what he helped develop at Nutanix, and what he’s now striving to build from the ground up at DevRev. 

Keep reading for a summary of all the hot topics we discussed with today’s panel, including: 

  • How to tell if going product-led is the right move for your org
  • Tips on dealing with pushback around PLG adoption
  • Enabling sales through product usage data
  • How to build an effective GTM team

Or watch the entire webinar ⬇️

How to Tell Whether Product-Led is the Right Choice 

For our panelists, there were several indicators that a product-led motion would accelerate their existing sales-led approaches: 

  • The network effect is further multiplied by PLG elements such as free trials, etc.
  • PLG mimics the “try before you buy” trend that’s popular in the B2C space
  • Product demos grew from 0 to ~200/day within a year, proving demand
  • PLG creates awareness around new product categories

Let’s dive into the details behind each of these indicators. 

Guru: Building on The Network Effect and B2C Trends

Rob, who has been at Guru throughout its transition from a sales-led to a hybrid approach, told us there were really two factors that indicated adding product-led was the right approach. 

  • Their product being the type that benefits greatly from the network effect, it just made sense for them to layer a product-led motion on top of their existing sales-led motion to capture additional market segments. 
  • A product-led approach mimics the way people buy in their personal lives today — they want to try before they buy. This realization pushed Guru to find ways to add experiences to their sales process through demos and trials. 
Rob: “As the macro trend started to take shape where companies like ours that rely on the network effect saw the obvious benefits of being product-led, we started to shift in that direction.” 

Nutanix: Massive Adoption of New Demo Capability 

Madhukar joined Nutanix at a time when they had virtualized the product to a point where it could be run inside the cloud. It was experimentation with this cloud capability that spurred Nutanix to start offering demos, or “test drives.”

Madhukar: “A person on my team managed to run all of Nutanix on Google Cloud one day. We saw this and said ‘This is so cool. This is so useful. What if we actually open it up for our own customers so that they can go and just try it out?’”

After some trial and error, including adding an information collection form and an in-trial walkthrough, they grew test drives for non-employees from zero to 180 per day in about 12 months. That was all they needed to know that layering in a product-led motion would make sense for their org.  

Vidyard: PLG Raises Category Awareness

For Vidyard, Karishma says PLG became an element of their hybrid GTM approach early on, as it offered the category creator a way to increase awareness around asynchronous video. 

Karishma: “We saw PLG as an opportunity to really build groundswell and help us create our category by getting the word out. So we very much used it as an acquisition engine. By opening up our product for free, we were able to acquire more users and have those users understand more about the category of async video.” 

But when COVID pushed async comms to the forefront, that’s when Vidyard really doubled down on PLG. This is when Karishma joined the team to help solidify new personas, acquisition strategies, and other marketing elements that are key to a bottom-up approach. 

Dealing with Pushback on Adopting a Product-Led Motion 🦾

It’s no surprise that all of our panelists have experienced pushback while layering in a new product-led GMT approach.  

Here’s where each faced their biggest challenge and how they worked through it: 

Vidyard: Crystal Clear Roles Eliminate Overstepping

Challenge: For Karishma, initially the AEs at Vidyard viewed the freemium plan as cannibalization.

Solution: Vidyard has been able to cultivate support from sales and marketing by building motions where the product does most of the heavy lifting for end users who are less likely to monetize. This enables sales to focus solely on revenue-generating tasks, like converting decision-makers like VPs and CROs. Building out an account-based strategy has also been critical to their success here. 

Here’s are how Vidyard has defined roles to ensure there’s no overstepping in their new hybrid approach: 

  • Marketing team: Acquiring new users, generating referrals and groundswell
  • Product team: User onboarding and retention for accounts under a certain number of free users and/or without a decision-maker present
  • Sales team: Focus on converting decision-makers and enacting outbound strategies on accounts with a certain number of free users (such as enterprise accounts)

Nutanix: Creative Approach Aids Demo Acceptance

Challenge: Madhukar saw resistance at Nutanix from marketing, which was worried about how attribution was going to work when test drives were introduced.

Solution: Nutanix made the decision not to count test drives toward attribution and instead treat it as a tool their reps could use while running their campaigns. However, they still counted how many people took the test drive and tied that back to pipeline revenue touched. By getting creative, Nutanix worked through pushback to build a system in which everyone was happy. 

Guru: Focusing on Core PLG Tenets, One Element at a Time 

Challenge: Rob shared a specific example where he faced pushback when honing in on a core element of product-led: reducing friction within reason. He recounts how sales at Guru was initially reserved about providing trial extension unless there was some kind of exchange — like an intro to a decision-maker in exchange for a longer trial.

Solution: Early on in moving toward a hybrid GTM approach, Guru decided that, if someone needed a couple extra days to really understand if the product was right for them, they would extend the trial. So they leaned into removing friction in the product and trusting that it would eventually lead to a commercial opportunity. 

“Folks are generally resistant to change until they start to see how it can benefit them and learn to trust it.” Rob addressing pushback around adopting product-led GTM

Implementing Product Usage to Enable Sales

Our panelists shared a few ways they’ve enabled AEs and SDRs to implement product usage data in customer interactions: 

  • Technology pipeline alerts AEs when their customer accesses demo 
  • Allow users to choose between pain point-specific demos, providing insight into challenges 
  • Create a map of challenges and signals so reps always know the best solution to reach out with

Nutanix: Usage Alerts and Customized Demos Prove Intent 

At Nutanix, Madhukar's team connected Intercom to Salesforce so that AEs would be alerted when a customer of theirs signed up to take a test drive, as well as given suggestions on what action to take next to move the relationship forward. 

They’ve also crafted a handful of different test drives that customers can choose based on their pain point, whether it’s storage, etc. This provides data around intent, which is information that is routed back to the AE on their account. 

Guru: Map Challenges, Signals, and Resources for Reps  

Rob says the first step at Guru is creating a list of challenges (six, in their case) customers are most likely trying to solve with your technology. Then, look for signals in their usage that line up with one or a few of these challenges. Knowing this information tells reps what to offer next: a one-to-many group consult call, a cross-functional demo, a proof of concept, etc.  

Key Roles for a Hybrid GTM Team 👤

Of course, even within a product-led sales approach, the human touch can be pivotal to engendering adoption. Here’s how our panelists think about building teams in their hybrid GTM models.

Guru: Cross-Functional Product Specialist Team

At Guru, they’ve built a product specialist team to focus on removing friction and help people adopt the product. This cross-functional team consists of folks from several areas, including: 

  • Tech support 
  • Account management 
  • SDR 

Rob has found that hiring people who are newer to tech and positioning the role as a way to springboard into other opportunities has been pivotal in finding moldeable minds with the right blend of attributes. 

What are the main characteristics Rob looks for when hiring for the product specialist team?

  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Drive to understand the customer 
  • Desire to learn how the product works 
  • Someone who may have fit into the traditional sales engineer role, vs. AE  

Rob: “Our product specialist team is a little bit of a Swiss Army knife whose ultimate charter is to help customers overcome friction and adopt the product in a way that drives downstream.” 

Vidyard: Video Coaches Lead Product Adoption

Video coaches fill a sales-assist-like role at Vidyard. The main goal for this team is to help users get started with Vidyard — and to do it without directly pitching Vidyard. They’re still experimenting with the best format for this team and the best way to measure its success.  

Karishma: “The idea with our video coaches is to help drive product value without necessarily doing it completely in the product alone, just giving users that additional push.”  

DevRev: 3-Part Team Approaches PLG as a Product Itself

As he helps build out the team at DevRev, Madhukar is approaching the PLG motion as a product in itself. The team he plans to create around this team is three-fold: 

  • Growth engineer: This role must deeply understand the product and its integrations, how to create conversions, how the data flows, how to conduct reporting
  • Product manager: This role will manage the features, the roadmap, and the overall customer journey; they should understand good UX principles in order to build flows that lead users to conversion events 
  • Marketer: This role is thinking about what the best content includes, how to increase acquisitions, how to build more engagement time, social strategies, etc.  

Madhukar: “We are trying to approach it as if the experience of PLG is a product by itself. So if I was building a product, I would essentially have three different roles, and that's what we are doing with our GTM motion.”  

Wrap Up: Biggest Wins Layering Product-Led Into Sales 🏆 

From new opportunities to record-breaking user acquisition, revenue benefits, massive usage growth, bigger ACV, and beyond — our panelists were happy to talk about the benefits they’ve enjoyed as a result of layering product-led into their GTM strategy. 

Nutanix: Hockey Stick Growth 

Madhukar reports massive usage increases, larger ACV, and faster closes with the addition of PLG to their sales-led strategy. 

Madhukar: “At Nutanix, we saw a hockey stick growth in terms of usage. Over time, we saw that if somebody had taken a test drive, they were 2.5x more likely to have a bigger ACV. And the velocity of closing that deal was, on average, two weeks shorter than the rest.” 

Vidyard: User Numbers Hit The Roof

According to Karishma, Vidyard’s hybrid PLG approach boosted user acquisition and their ability to monetize accounts that used to be left behind by their traditional sales approach. 

Karishma: “User acquisition really hit the roof with the launch of our Chrome extension and the freemium plan. We've also seen massive revenue benefits as a result of taking a bottoms-up motion to get to enterprise accounts. We've seen a ton of monetization and revenue as a result of the PLG strategy and being able to acquire more users at these enterprise accounts.” 

Guru: Solving New User Problems

Rob says that Guru’s product-led approach has helped them discover new ways people are using their product, opening the door to new market segments.  

Rob: “One of the more fun things that we've noticed is we've been able to increase the top of the funnel — we're seeing more new accounts, users from new companies, and new use cases that we never would've seen before. By nature of that, we're learning new ways that our product can be used to solve problems. Switching to PLG and leaning into the land-and-expand strategy opened all of this up for us.” 

Join the Community Now and be Ready to Participate in our Next Real GMT Advice Panel 💬

Want to get your own questions answered by a panel of GTM experts? Request to join Pocus’ PLS community and you’ll be among the first to know when our next Real GTM Advice session is coming up.

Sandy Mangat
Head of Marketing at Pocus
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