A successful product-led sales (PLS) motion combines firmographic data with product usage data so that sales teams can prioritize companies that are most likely to convert from free to paid, then paid to enterprise. This new sales strategy demands a team that looks different from traditional enterprise sales teams. This new era of sales requires collaboration among different teams, as well as different skill sets and team members to shepherd users along the appropriate customer journey.
Given that PLS is a new category, many companies are still figuring it out, so the structure of PLS teams vary by company. But, regardless of the individual flavor that these companies put into their new sales approach, there are core ingredients to successfully reproduce the PLS recipe. We sat down with dozens of PLS experts to learn how they structure their PLS teams and identified consistent best practices.
Good Things Come in 3s: The Three Teams Within a Product- Led Sales Organization
While each company might have different names for their PLS teams, it’s usually made up of three types of teams: self-serve, assist, and sales.
The first is the self-serve team. All PLG companies have a team (or oftentimes multiple teams) focused on optimizing the self-serve funnel. Most commonly, the self-serve team is made up of some combination of product, growth, and marketing folks, and is responsible for driving a user to sign up for the product, ensuring the user quickly understands the value of the product so they are motivated to invite their teammates to join. If the company has a freemium offering, the self-serve team is likely responsible well beyond the initial sign up and invite flow, including the lifecycle of adoption through to conversion to a paid offering.
After the user self-serves, their journey can take one of two paths. The first is to remain self-serve through their lifecycle as a customer: if they prefer to figure things out on their own without talking to a human, then the self-serve team remains the owner of this user, as well as the related customer and revenue. The second is to talk to a human: if a user “raises their hand” by sending an email or in-product chat, they will be routed to the assist team.
The assist team bridges the gap between the self-serve team and the sales team. We’ve heard many names for this team - product specialist, customer experience, human intervention, product advocate, sales-assist, self-serve assist, growth sales, onboarding specialist - just to name a few. Although there are many names, the roles are very similar across companies.
The assist team is responsible for helping users and customers adopt the product to accelerate self-serve signup flows and surface big opportunities in the self-serve pipeline. This team guides the user on the next step of their journey and plays a consultative role to ensure that the user realizes value out of the product. We’ve heard several assist teams explain their role as helping rather than selling.
You can think of the assist team as the traffic controllers; the assist team understands the users needs and guides them on the right path. For example:
- If the user is not a perfect fit, the assist team sends funnels back into self-serve
- If a user needs help resetting their password, the assist team sends to customer support
- If the user requests a team/enterprise wide plan, the assist team sends to sales
According to Melissa Ross, Sales Leader at Clockwise,
“You have to be user-centric so that you can put the customer on the best path for them. Help them figure out what that path is through discovery, analyzing end-user data, and understanding how they're using your product. You don’t want to send users to sales who won't benefit from it!”
Through exposure to the users, the assist team can provide valuable customer feedback to the product team, and insights to the sales team to support enterprise deals. This team is responsible for routing the feedback from the users to the relevant team across the organization.
GC Lionetti, Former Confluent, Dropbox, and Atlassian, states it perfectly,
"The assist team is a group of people who are focused on feedback and improvement. Their goal is less ‘can I close this customer today’ but instead ‘can I learn from this human and feed it back into the product?’”
The assist team is focused on helping the end-user accelerate the time to value, and educating the product team with deep insights and data - but their primary tie back to revenue is in strengthening the company's net dollar retention. They may also have a more direct line to revenue in measuring the opportunities that are surfaced and passed to the sales team.
By adopting a product-led sales strategy, you set up the sales team to become the secret sauce to accelerating revenue at product-led companies. How? By equipping the sales team with end-user data, they’re able to quickly identify high-value leads, and shorten the conversion time from self-serve to large enterprise contracts.
This team is the most similar to a traditional enterprise sales team given that they are responsible for closing enterprise-wide deals and post-sale implementations. But, unlike traditional enterprise sales, the sales team in the product-led sales motion is much more data-driven, user-centric, and personalized in their outreach.
In the words of Clark Valberg, the CEO of InVision,
“You need a sales team to tell the relevant stories to the right contact at the right time.”
Product-led sales teams tap into end-user data to know the right stories, the right contact, and the right time.
How can product data make sales teams more data-driven, user-centric, and personalized? Keep reading.
- Identify, prioritize, and qualify leads more accurately and quickly. Sales teams can analyze how a user engages with the product to identify high-value opportunities, prioritize those opportunities, and qualify the opportunity. Instead of relying solely on what a user says, the sales team can analyze what the user did to determine the best leads.
- Analyze leads on user level, not just account level. The traditional sales process qualifies leads at the account level based on firmographic data (industry, geography, size) and marketing data (webinars, events, website interactions). However, with product usage data, product-led sales teams can identify the specific users within the account that have a high-likelihood of wanting enterprise-level features. For the first time ever, power users and product champions can be identified by analyzing data rather than conducting lengthy discovery calls.
- Customize the sales strategy. Based on how the users engage with the product, the sales team can strategically craft their outreach to win the customer. For example, the sales team knows when to engage based on an uptick in product usage (10 new users signed up, 5 new teams joined, DAU increased 50%, etc.). The sales team knows how to pitch the product based on the features and functionalities that are most commonly used. The sales team knows who to reach out to based on which users are the product champions that use and share the product the most often.
- Uncover new opportunities. Sales teams can analyze how each user and team engages with the product to recommend new features, modules, or products that could add additional value to the customer.
Product-Led Sales + Pocus
Whether you are just starting to think about hiring your first sales rep at a PLG company or you manage a team of 50 product-led sales reps, we’re here to help. Pocus is working with industry leaders to build the operating system for product-led sales.
Pocus equips sales teams at product-led companies with the data, insights, and automations they need to convert self-serve users to paid customers. Pocus combines customer firmographic data with product usage data to provide sales teams with a complete picture of their self-serve funnel. With this data, Pocus identifies top opportunities and power users, alerts sales teams of product usage changes, and recommends the next best action to help sales teams close bigger deals faster.
Questions? Comments? Feedback? Whether you have first-hand experience building out a PLS team, or are just beginning to consider it, we’d love to hear from you.