From PLG to PLS

How to put a Sales motion on top of PLG

Product-Led Growth (PLG) is often considered the "holy grail" of SaaS go-to-market strategies. However, making it big with PLG is anything but easy.

The few companies that achieve outsize performance are able to successfully switch to a hybrid motion, combining PLG elements with a more traditional enterprise sales model → Product-Led Sales (PLS).

GTM Playbooks | Source: Pocus

I was curious about how to implement such a hybrid strategy and did some research.

The 4 things you need for a successful transition:

1️⃣ PLG Flywheel

Before considering a switch, you need a working self-serve model, meaning users need to grasp your product's value without any human interaction.

Moreover, to justify a sales team on top, your funnel should generate enough high quality leads that may appreciate talking to a human.

Early signs that this is the case:

  • Increasing number of “hand raisers” with questions about product usage / integration.

  • Non-sales employees are already expanding their responsibilities to assist individual clients with product adoption.

2️⃣ Product Usage Data

Understanding how users interact with your product is key to identifying those your team should engage with. Below are some tools that can help you track relevant metrics and gain actionable insights:

Source: OpenView

Source: OpenView

3️⃣ PQL/PQA Qualification

Analyze your existing self-serve customer base to identify the signals that turn a user into a product-qualified lead (PQL) or account (PQA).

PQL Process | Source: ProductLed

This can be done using 3 categories:

  1. Customer Fit: How close does account match ICP?

  2. Product Usage: How does the user interact with the product?

  3. Buying Intent: Any signs that the user wants to buy?

There can be different PQL types triggering different actions, but the qualification process should always be binary (PQL yes/no - more on that here). Some examples from well-known brands:

Source: ProductLed

4️⃣ Cross-Functional Team

In traditional enterprise sales, the sales team owns a significant part of the customer journey. By contrast, PLS requires different functions to take ownership of different parts. Potential setup:

  • Marketing for demand generation,

  • Product / Engineering to demonstrate value,

  • Sales to convert users into paying customers,

  • Customer Success to retain / upsell existing customers,

The lines of ownership between functions become blurred. You will likely need new processes, integration of tech stacks/data streams, and teams to become more cross-functional/multidisciplinary.

First PLS hire?

A generalist who can do a little bit of everything.

Full PLS squad?

  • Sales-assist: Supporting users with product adoption,

  • BizDev / Sales Rep (BDR/SDR): Managing inbound, mining PQLs,

  • Account Executive (AE): Converting PQLs received by the first two.

Clearly, such a transition process takes time and effort, but it can be worth it – and there are plenty of small wins along the way.

As with much else, the motto is: Start small, experiment continuously, and iterate quickly to find out what works best for you.

Want to see how others are implementing it? ➡️ PLS Benchmark Report
Looking for more content on PLS? ➡️ 80+ Resources on Product-Led Sales