We’re back again with annual predictions! We asked our team, Pocus customers, and the Product-Led Sales community to look into their crystal balls to help us make some predictions for 2023.
You can say that 2022 was the year Product-Led Sales had its grand debut. From just another acronym to climbing the keyword charts, Product-Led Sales has become a hot topic for go-to-market teams. But with turbulent economic times in the latter half of 2022 and going into 2023, we’ve had to revise some of our trend predictions.
Want to see 2022’s predictions before diving into 2023? Scroll down to see the hits and misses.
6 Predictions for GTM teams in 2023
#1 Retention will overtake ARR as the primary goal for the go-to-market team
The economic downturn is putting pressure on go-to-market teams to be as efficient as possible. The climate is no longer encouraging a “grow at all costs” mentality, but a more measured approach that balances growth of net new business with retention and expansion of existing business.
This doesn’t mean ARR won’t matter - a good business strategy can’t exist without new business. Instead, this is about growing efficiently and profitably rather than just rapidly.
Prediction: The first half of 2023 will see companies double down with their existing user base. They’ll tap into their existing base of users to find opportunities for conversion, expansion, upsell, and cross-sell.
#2 Mature PLG companies will begin to invest less in self-serve and more into PLS or Sales-Assist type motion
This one might count as a hot take and a prediction. As PLG companies reach maturity, they often find that the PLG motion that made them viral superstars starts to get saturated. In the past, many have swept this under the rug and avoid calling attention to the new army of sales reps they hired to “go upmarket”... but things are changing.
We’re hearing from both public and private PLG organizations that investing in their self-serve business is not the priority for 2023, but scaling their Product-Led Sales or Sales-Assist function is the #1 goal for the GTM team.
Prediction: You’ll see some previously Pure-Play PLG companies publicly pivot their messaging to appeal to enterprise buyers.
#3 Outbound becomes critical for PLS teams
Setting yourself up for success in 2023 will mean investing in all the different ways your customers want to buy. This means we can’t ignore the outbound elephant in the room anymore. So many PLG companies have spent years avoiding outbound and made inbound the holy grail. With belts tightening in 2023, fewer end users will have the ability to swipe a credit card and do the deal.
Prediction: With more deals requiring CFO or other C-Suite sign-off, sales teams will need to have smart outbound campaigns that run parallel to their warm PLS motion.
#4 The Product-Led Sales approach will permeate other functions, like Product-Led Customer Success and Product-Led Marketing
This might already be true for many organizations, but there are a ton of marketing teams that are obsessing over MQLs and have no access to product usage insights. The Product-Led Sales approach forces sales teams to be more in tune with how customers are using the product, which makes it easier to personalize, which in turn leads to better engagement rates and ACV. The same is beginning to permeate Customer Success and Marketing organizations.
Prediction: By the end of 2023, Customer Success and Marketing teams will also have tools built directly on top of the data warehouse to equip them with product usage insights that drive everything from renewals to ad campaigns.
#5 Rep productivity will be the #1 priority for sales leadership
If there’s a theme for this list of predictions, it’s efficiency. Similar to the first prediction, rep productivity is another variable in the search for go-to-market efficiency. This means companies can’t afford to have reps wasting time chasing leads that will never convert or wasting hours working across multiple tools just to find opportunities.
Prediction: Product-Led Sales tools become critical to reinforcing rep efficiency and productivity to solve this problem in 2023.
#6 Repeat! Data warehouse becomes the source of truth for modern GTM teams
Most PLG companies leverage a data warehouse as the source of truth for all things related to the product, from acquisition all the way to billing and subscriptions. It’s a much better source of truth compared to a CRM for a few reasons:
- CRMs can’t handle time series data
- It’s prohibitively expensive to push all product usage data to a CRM
- Visualization of data is rigid and difficult to manipulate for non-technical users
- And more (read more thoughts on this from our CTO Isaac here)
Prediction: The data warehouse (not the CRM) will be the definitive source of truth for product-led businesses in 2023, which means more GTM tooling will sit on top of the data warehouse.
Looking back at 2022
#1 Product-Led Sales becomes more common across PLG companies
Last year’s prediction: Based on this data and the number of companies in the PLS community who are actively pursuing a PLS strategy, we’re confident we’ll see widespread adoption of a PLG + sales approach in 2022.
There are a few ways we tracked this in 2022, some by the numbers and others anecdotally. From the data perspective, one of the metrics is from our second annual PLS benchmarks survey. Compared to only 2% last year, this year 12% of respondents have purchased a Product-Led Sales platform.
Anecdotally, we saw many PLG companies add new roles to their team for a “Head of Product-Led Sales”, Gartner started to cover the space and added it to the famed Hype Cycle, we saw a spike in traffic to the Pocus website from the keyword Product-Led Sales, and an uptick in inbound inquiries from top PLG companies about PLS.
#2 PQLs will deliver on their promise
Last year’s prediction: Widespread adoption of PQLs. As more companies operationalize PQLs in their tools and processes, we’ll start to see more benchmarks (*stay tuned we’ve got some data on this launching in January*) and best practices emerge to prove the ROI of PQLs.
Maybe this one was going to be a lay up and we knew that when we published this prediction...but it’s easy to forget that even last year there was still some skepticism that PQLs were truly superior to MQLs.
We can’t take the credit for proving this right. Pocus customers put the experiment to the test by operationalizing PQLs with their team. One of our customers deployed a Sales-Assist motion to target their free trial PQLs and they saw those leads convert 10% higher with a 32% higher ACV because their team was reaching out to those PQLs at the right time.
Combining the next two predictions
#3 Data warehouse as the source of truth and #4 CRM becomes a better source of truth
These two predictions from last year are representative of two camps:
- The modern data stack evangelists who believe that the Data Warehouse should be the source of truth
- The CRM realists who think it’s still possible to improve existing systems
Last year's predictions: The data warehouse (not the CRM) will be the definitive source of truth for product-led businesses in 2022. CRM is the source of truth for GTM teams (based on the gravitational pull of CRMs entrenched within GTM teams across SaaS companies).
The jury is still out on this one. At Pocus, we have customers on both ends of the spectrum, those that still push reps to their CRM as the source of truth and others who use the CRM primarily as a data source.
An argument can be made for both of these predictions, which means we don’t have a definitive answer here. Anecdotally, we have heard from both community members and customers that the CRM is used less and less by reps as their system of engagement. The insights and actions that power a rep's workflow live in other tools, whether it’s a PLS platform like Pocus or a suite of tooling like Looker + ZoomInfo + Outreach.
Combining these two predictions as well
#5 The lines between sales and customer success become more blurred and #6 Hiring more sales-assist/product specialist roles
Last year’s predictions: We’ll continue to see a lot of overlap and collaboration between sales and customer success but our prediction is nothing too drastic in the next year. Sales-assist/product specialist will be a highly in-demand role in 2022 (and we may finally align on a name for this role).
We’ve definitely continued to see a rise in the Sales-Assist role. The number is only slightly up from last year’s Benchmark report (21% in 2021 to 22% in 2022). Still, anecdotally Zapier has since built out this function within their organization as well as many other top PLG companies.
We’ve noticed not so much a blurring of the lines between sales and success teams but adoption of similar data-driven tactics across both teams. The teams remain distinct but their playbooks and tactics in many ways begin to look similar. SDRs or Sales-Assist teams are prospecting into warm accounts and helping them get more value before converting to an enterprise license. This motion is very similar to what an enterprise CSM might do to prevent churn or get that upcoming renewal.
#7 Sales compensation and success metrics overhaul
Last year’s prediction: We’ll see more sales teams measured on value-driven with customers.This means incentivizing sales teams to focus on closing great customers (based on fit and usage) instead of hitting a quota.
Sales compensation has largely remained the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a constant area of iteration. We get a ton of questions in the PLS community from sales leadership, especially where there is a usage-based pricing model, on how to best compensate reps without overestimating the impact of a sales touch. One of the biggest challenges for a PLS organization is figuring out the incremental impact of layering in a sales touch instead of self-serve.
This is going to continue to be an area of iteration alongside pricing in 2023, as more companies sharpen their packaging to brace for a challenging economic climate.
#8 Rethinking the go-to-market structure
Last year’s prediction: Fewer organization silos in 2022 due to a re-structure of the GTM team, including an expanded role of the CRO.
Result: Limited data, but true!
We’re seeing this mostly manifest within the Pocus customer base. Data has the power to break down organizational silos, when Sales, Customer Success, and Marketing can all look at the same data and run their playbooks with the same insights it’s easier to collaborate. With a unified 360-degree view of customer data and product usage, all teams can have a shared language and understanding of the customer. There is no doubt that a forward-thinking CRO helps this equation a great deal by laying the foundation for this strategy.
#9 Focus on experimentation
Last year’s prediction: Expect a lot of experimentation with PQLs, new organizational structures, hiring profiles for sales, sales workflows, and tools to both DO Product-Led Sales and RUN Product-Led Sales.
Results: Limited data, but true!
Again, limited data on the volume of experimentation, but anecdotally based on Pocus customers true! With access to a ton of robust data, go-to-market teams are in control for the first time ever, making it easy for Sales leaders and RevOps to spin up new playbooks, and experiment with new scoring models, all without technical support.