The Product-Led Sales Blog

Learn about trends in PLG, CRM and modern GTM motions

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Product-Led Fundamentals
rEAD-time

What is a Product-Led Sales platform

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

In today’s B2B buying process, 60% of buyers want to self-educate instead of talking to a sales rep (source: Forrester). This doesn’t mean the “death of the sales rep,” but it does signal a change in the way we sell software – as well as the tools needed by our sales teams.

This blog post covers:

  • Why is sales changing?
  • Why can’t existing tools adapt to this new way of selling?
  • What is a Product-Led Sales platform?
  • How does a PLS platform power your sales motion?
  • Does a PLS platform support CRMs and marketing automation?

By the end, you’ll understand how a PLS platform fits into the modern sales organization.

Sales is changing. Here’s why.

Technology has gotten much easier to use – especially when you compare it to the old days. Clunky and expensive software was almost impossible to “try before you buy,” because it was attached to on-prem hardware or license downloads.

Now that we’ve transitioned onto the cloud and SaaS, people are able to try freemium products without any hassle. Salespeople no longer act as gatekeepers to the product. With Product-Led Growth, users can onboard themselves to discover product features. Welcome to the era of the end user.

Source

As a result, the typical sales motion flips on its head. Traditional sales teams had to pitch to the buyer to get the contract signed. Customers were only able to jump into the product after the deal was closed. Now, reps lead with value and steer users toward success before customers convert or upsell.

👉 Learn more about the differences between sales-led vs product-led.

Product-Led Sales = Buyer-Centric Sales

This new sales motion is known as Product-Led Sales. Product-Led Sales is a GTM strategy where sales teams leverage product usage insights to engage and retain top users. Reps talk to Product Qualified Leads (PQLs), who are the power users that match your Ideal Customer Profile. PQLs convert 5x better than Marketing Qualified Leads that haven’t tried the product (source: Accenture).

There are many benefits to Product-Led Sales:

  • Increased sales efficiency because users self-educate instead of going through disco calls
  • Faster deal velocity because PQLs are already sold on the product
  • Higher customer lifetime value because reps land and expand usage over time

These three benefits align with how top sales teams Prospect, Close, and Grow deals. This motto is key to Calixa’s core mission as a Product-Led Sales platform, which we’ll cover in the later section of this blog.

👉 Learn more about Product-Led Sales (PLS).

The Product-Led Sales challenge: existing tools haven’t kept up

Buying preferences have changed, and it’s dangerous for sales organizations to maintain the status quo. However, there are some roadblocks on the path to establishing a Product-Led Sales motion. These challenges are best visualized as an ascending staircase. 

Challenge #1: no visibility into product usage

Many sales teams struggle to get access to product data. The idea of self-serve, actionable product insights for GTM teams is still quite new. That’s why many companies still rely on ops and data teams to manually pull together weekly reports for sales teams. This report can be in the form of existing tools like spreadsheets, BI dashboards, or custom CRM fields.

Why is this a problem? Data teams are left with a huge backlog of data requests, while sales teams work off of stale data. Reps even get penalized for being curious about their accounts, because it could mean yet another data request. Organizations need to democratize access to product data and prevent data silos in order to run Product-Led Sales.

Challenge #2: too many signups

Let’s say you’ve overcome the first hurdle already. Some companies set up dashboards or integrations that get product data in front of sales reps. When our customer OpenComp started their Product-Led Sales journey, they placed a link to Mixpanel in each Salesforce record. These are all baby steps to establish the bridge between product and sales data. 

Why is this a problem? Giving reps access to product usage is a great start, but the burden of prioritizing accounts still falls on the rep. Without properly defined PQL criteria, reps will often have trouble surfacing the right accounts. They spend countless hours on data analysis instead of selling (Airtable's Director of Sales cautions against this pitfall). That’s why raw product data is not enough. Accounts and users need to be product qualified.

“Prior to Calixa, we had no PQL score,” said Rachael Watton, Director of RevOps at OpenComp. “There was no way to surface users who have done actions that we really care about.”

Challenge #3: difficult to take action between different tools

Some readers who read Challenge #2 are thinking, “That’s easy! I can solve this with a lead scoring tool.” Then you’re left with the final challenge of acting on PQLs. Many reps are left jumping between tabs, because existing tools rarely offer integrated actions.

Why is this a problem? Going back to our customer Opencomp, their original approach made the assumption that sales reps would (1) look for that link in Salesforce, (2) click the link and navigate to Mixpanel, and then (3) have a worthwhile insight and then jump back into Salesforce to take an action. “It was a manual process with disparate systems,” Rachael said. Sales teams need streamlined workflows to increase rep efficiency and deal velocity.

The Product-Led Sales challenge isn’t trivial. You can level up step-by-step, but most companies have not reached the top of these stairs. Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel (or staircase)!

Calixa has tackled each of these steps as our product has matured. The next section goes over what our team has built out – and how a purpose-built Product-Led Sales platform can help you.

What is a Product-Led Sales platform?

A Product-Led Sales platform helps reps find and act on PQLs to turn your self-serve funnel into a predictable revenue engine. It enables data-driven targeting and conversations, sales efficiency, and higher deal conversion.

But with an already bloated stack of tools, why do sales teams need a purpose-built PLS solution? Here are three key differentiators of a dedicated Product-Led Sales platform.

1. Unlock customer insights

As mentioned, organizations need to democratize data access. Product data is no longer just for product managers. Support messages are no longer just for customer success reps. So on and so forth. 

A customer 360 view has never been more important than in a product-led motion. Without one, the customer is actually more well-informed of their product usage than the rep they speak with. They’ve already taken the time to get to know your product. Now, it’s your turn to get to know them!

Product-Led Sales platforms integrate all of your data into a single comprehensive view. This is usually shown in a dashboard – but some teams prefer to directly sync into CRMs

This single view of customer activity lets reps see usage spikes, support tickets, payments, etc. and act accordingly. Sales teams are no longer blocked by a backlog of data requests or stuck with static and outdated product activity. Whether reps care about the user journey or account workspaces, a PLS platform enables your team to easily get timely data and customer context.

2. Surface PQLs

Once you have basic usage metrics and customer data, it’s time to prioritize leads. This is where PLS platforms truly shine. They analyze the product signals of users in your Ideal Customer Profile, and specialize in finding PQLs with the best potential for conversion/upsell (or highest risk of churn).

Product-Led Sales platforms help you create and iterate on PQL criteria. This can be done using simple scoring or AI-powered prospecting. Sales teams can try scoring PQLs based on human intuition and assumptions to start, but AI can spot predictive signals that the human eye misses. It’s important for mature PLS functions to adopt AI.

Calixa has heavily invested in building AI. Our team has early foundational experience in Product-Led Sales tooling at Twilio and built Sift’s AI fraud detection. Sales teams can run multiple ML models per sales motion (free-to-paid, paid-to-enterprise, etc) to increase PQL conversion.

3. Automate sales workflows

Our work isn’t done after surfacing PQLs. Product-Led Sales isn’t only about finding PQLs – the next step is to efficiently act on them.

Product-Led Sales platforms consolidate rep actions for greater efficiency. Reps can take action or trigger automated workflows into downstream tools, such as an Outreach sequence, Salesforce opportunity, or Slack alert. Orchestrating these workflows helps save valuable rep time.

Calixa offers playbooks that let reps can see what actions to take based on product activity. Whether you’re using a free-to-paid playbook or upsell playbook, it’s important to know exactly how to act on a PQL to drive revenue.

👉 Learn more about how to choose a Product-Led Sales platform.

Powering your sales motion

Now that we’ve gone over the core capabilities, let’s see what a Product-Led Sales platform looks like in practice. Calixa enables reps to be more efficient in three key areas of your sales motion. This covers the entire customer lifecycle, from the first sales touch to CS-managed account growth.

Prospect

Many GTM teams start their morning in Calixa to identify PQLs. Calixa makes it easy to use product usage and customer fit data to prioritize top users and accounts. All reps need to do is check into their inbox to ensure opportunities don’t fall into the cracks. Once they see a promising lead, reps can add users to email cadences with one click of a button – or automate this process entirely.

Netlify has a 50% daily time saving when prospecting by using Calixa. They consolidated their prospecting tools from 7 down to just 2, which increases rep efficiency & conversion rate.

Close

Calixa not only helps you find who to talk to – it  also equips your team with key data points so they can enter every conversation with confidence. Your team gets a full picture of how accounts are using your product. This reveals the champions and key usage patterns that let reps run the right closing play.

Opencomp has seen a 15% quarter over quarter increase in PQL conversion. We’ve even seen customers that generate a $1M+ deal using Calixa (not even exaggerating 😉).

Grow

After closing a deal, many companies leverage Calixa to uncover expansion opportunities. Reps get alerted of usage spikes so that they can increase the lifetime value of customers. They’ll not only understand which accounts are growing fastest – they can even view the growing workspaces within a company.

“Calixa is the PLG dashboard for our sales and CS team. We use it daily to track usage and identify opportunities,” said Ido Cohen, Co-founder & CEO at Loadmill. Since using Calixa, our customers have seen up to a 1.6x increase in book of business managed per CSM.

How does a PLS platform work with your CRM and marketing automation?

If you’re interested in using a Product-Led Sales platform, you’re likely wondering how it fits into your tech stack. Calixa works well with your existing tools.

Our platform has a native integration with your CRM. It not only draws from the CRM as a data source, but it can easily push insights bi-directionally into your CRM. Whether you want to enrich the CRM with PQL scores, journey milestones, or just basic usage metrics, CRM Sync has you covered. Reps can also take advantage of our Chrome Extension to see Calixa’s insights and search box alongside the CRM.

Marketers can also take advantage of Calixa to run self-serve nurture campaigns within marketing automation tools. A user who isn’t ready for a sales touch today can still turn into a PQL tomorrow. Calixa can automatically add top users to campaigns in Marketo, HubSpot, and Salesforce.

Get started with a PLS platform

There’s lots more to learn about a Product-Led Sales platform. As a product-led company, we believe the best way is to try things out for yourself.

It’s easy to get up and running on our PLS platform. Many sales teams find deals within days. “In 3 days of using Calixa, a rep booked 4 calls from PQLs we would have otherwise missed,” said Brandon Ness, Director of Sales at Jasper.

Sign up today or book a demo.

Advice for Sales
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Why every PLG company needs a sales-led motion, and exactly how to do it

James Allgrove
Startup Advisor and Investor
|
ex-Stripe, Bain

James Allgrove joined Stripe in early 2014, having previously worked in consulting at Bain & Co. He set up and scaled its European and East Coast presences over the course of over six years before leaving and becoming Chief Revenue Officer for a Fidel API, a Series A Startup that he helped navigate and scale through Series B. Now an advisor to early-stage startups, James helps PLG companies define and execute GTM strategies to scale their businesses. Here, he explains why a sales-led motion is a key ingredient to achieving scale.

If a PLG company claims to have an entirely self-service product without any sales support, they’re either: 

a) in an early-stage motion and therefore only serving a narrow segment of customers or 

b) not being truthful about not having sales reps. 

No matter how intuitive the self-serve or product experience is, every PLG company will need both a product-led and sales-led motion once it reaches a certain size in order to keep on growing.

In other words, it’s not about whether you’ll need a sales team. It’s about when, where, and what sales resources you’ll need to layer on top of your PLG engine to drive efficiency and higher conversion rates. 

Here’s the three-step model we used to roll out our sales-led motion at Stripe.

First: Recognize when to add sales resources into the PLG motion 

Early on, sales reps are the last thing on a PLG leader’s mind—most companies don’t think about incorporating Sales until they start gaining market traction. As your product and growth matures, the types of sales resources you need, and where you need them, will also shift. At first, this typically starts with hiring a single sales rep. Later, it might be building out an enterprise team or customer success function.

I experienced this growth journey first hand at Stripe, joining the company in 2014 as its first commercial person on the ground in Europe. Initially, we focused on converting our self-serve SMB sign ups into live users, rectifying friction points within the product and signup flow and layering in automated touchpoints. As we gained more momentum, we began to use additional data to prioritize leads and to understand where to best apply sales resources. Once we understood that, we could then begin to build a sales team to fit those needs.

After a few years, we saw patterns that were very interesting but didn’t expect. We had lots of developers signing up for Stripe who were part of big enterprise companies. Although they didn’t have a high intent to purchase or the capacity to do so, they would still have a sales conversation because they ended up getting prioritized. 

What would often happen is 3, 6, or 9 months later the CFO would get in touch and be like: 

“Hey, my development team tells me I need to set up an account with Stripe so they can integrate it.  I've never heard of you guys. Can you tell me more?”

This became a strong indicator for our enterprise motion. We would nurture product adoption and provide support to enterprise end-users, while having reps who worked on getting in front of decision-makers. If your product-led motion lets companies envision what they can accomplish with your product and build a case for it, the enterprise sale becomes much easier to unlock. 

Visual representation of the timeline behind Stripe's entreprise expansion deals

Second: Figure out where Sales will drive the most value

Before hiring your first rep or building a sales team, you have to understand where Sales will drive the most value.

At Stripe, we did this by mapping out lead scores using an “intent vs. potential” matrix, which helped us see where to apply sales resources for maximum leverage. Leads in the top-right quadrant represented high intent, and we’d reach out via email or engage with other folks in the organization depending on the opportunity size.

We mapped out our matrix following a hierarchy of internal and external signals, and then assigned scores based on ICP and intent. 

  • Use data to identify the highest potential customers. Since there’s a lot less revenue data for smaller companies, we pulled in firmographic data such as their Crunchbase profile, amount of VC funding, number of employees, and other company details from LinkedIn. Think of what data points on your customers give a strong signal and use those. Don’t be afraid to get creative here! You can also create your own with landing pages or waitlists to gauge demand.
  • Try to determine who is interacting with your product. With a technical product, the leads most likely to close were employees in technical roles, such as developers. Dig into data at the individual-role level to find companies with a concentration of your best fit users.. They’ll  be much more likely to choose you and you’ll get a much higher engagement rate. Think about ways to identify your ideal target within a company and then find companies with a lot of those users.
  • Incorporate additional customer attributes to focus your efforts. You can also crawl company websites, pulling information such as industry, product or offering, geographic region, and if they use a competitor product. Doing this will help you exclude folks in industries or countries you can’t support, as well as de-prioritize those who don’t have a use for your product. This allows you to focus your efforts on the customers that are most likely to buy.
  • Factor in relevant product indicators. We scrutinized different indicators within the product as well. Look closely at their actual product usage to determine intent. For example, did they send API calls using their test keys? Make live API calls? Log into the dashboard? Look up how to activate their account? How long are they spending on the API documentation? You can apply scores to each of these product usage indicators in order to gauge the customer’s intent. You can also tag or roll these up into easily digestible signals for a sales team to use during conversations.

Third: Decide what sales roles best fit your GTM priorities

One of the top questions startups ask me is what sales roles they should start with. There isn’t a cut-and-dry answer—it depends on a multitude of factors such as company stage, target market, and GTM priorities. That said, there are some common questions early-stage companies ask: 

Where in my sales or sign up process should I add sales resources?

There are certain points in your sign up or sales process where adding more resources can add significant leverage. Start by looking at your pipeline to see where signups or deals are falling off and think about if there are ways you can apply sales resources in order to change your conversation rate.

For example, maybe a lot of customers drop off when they get to the pricing or payment page then you may want to consider allowing an option to ‘talk to sales’ at or before that point, or create a ‘request a custom quote’. You may be missing out on converting customers who need more bespoke pricing than your standard.

Or perhaps you are converting your signups well, then there may be a high leverage opportunity in using sales resources to drive upsells with existing customers. Don’t be afraid of experimenting to see where your highest ROI will be before committing to building out a team.

What should I look for in my first sales hire?

In the earlier stages, customer traction—not sales traction—is your key priority. You also have a lot of unknowns at this point, such as the industries you’ll eventually move into. I recommend looking for a generalist who can float across all the deal stages, as well as connect with different types of customers. You don’t necessarily want someone without any sales experience, but it shouldn’t be their only interest or experience either. 

This might look like someone who did consulting before joining a startup in some sort of a commercial role. In other words: they understand businesses and have some background in selling. Hiring someone generalist like this allows you to explore different points of leverage in your sales process before committing to more specialized resources later on.

One mistake I see startups make is hiring their first sales rep based on their experience selling to companies similar to their early customers. The problem here is that it locks you into a customer segment that might not get you the most traction long term. Someone who can only sell into one segment or industry will often carry expectations and rigidity that introduce limitations in capacity and flexibility which is not ideal at an early stage.

What comes first: the AE or the SDR?

Starting out, having your first few AEs run outbound is the best way for them to learn the full sales process. It also gives you a better feedback loop on what resonates best with customers. When the time comes to hire an SDR team, they can also build the playbook with the SDRs to explain what works well. This helps SDRs get up to speed fast while giving AEs more time to focus on closing deals. 

Exceptions do exist, such as if you’re targeting really small companies or in a space where there’s a lot of potential customers. Here, it might make sense to hire SDRs or an agency to drive as many leads as possible. In a situation with large market potential, you’re probably better off using an agency since your value proposition is likely easy to understand. But if your proposition is highly complex or technical, and geared toward a very specific target market, an agency won’t be as effective as hiring in-house. 

Do I need customer success, account management, or both?

When it comes to hiring for customer success and account management, you’ll need to consider a few things.

How much upside exists within your customer base? Where can you drive more share-of-wallet? Are there additional products to upsell? Or is it about retention? 

  • For share-of-wallet and upsell opportunities, focus on customer success. Again, since there are a lot of unknowns in the beginning, start with a generalist who can keep customers happy, be a good listener, and help you prioritize your opportunities.
  • For retention, consider the contract length and frequency of purchase decisions and build your team around those needs. In a price-competitive industry, you’ll need an account manager to help retain customers and defend against heavy market competition. 

In a lot of business, including Stripe, there’s tremendous upside on existing customers. With so much of our customer base being VC-backed technical companies that grew quickly, customer retention was a key value-add for us. We only had one product early on, so we started out with an account management motion. As we added more products, we brought on customer success roles to upsell products and help our customer accounts increase and optimize their product usage. 

Closing thoughts

Hopefully this provides some angles for you to consider as you figure out how to add sales to your PLG motion. Product-led companies can drive revenue in whole new customer segments when sales resources are applied in a thoughtful and strategic way. 

You need to do both, and sales is not a bad thing or something to be scared of!

You just need to be smart about WHERE you're applying sales, WHO should drive those efforts, and HOW to support customers in a way that benefits both your pipeline and the customer. 

If you need more tactical or tailored advice for your business, please reach out – I’d be happy to help! 

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Product Updates
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Product Updates: February 2023

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

🥳 Today is Calixa's launch birthday. Two years ago we launched Calixa live to the world. We’re now used by sales teams around the globe! Here is a map of 1000 of our most recent active users and where they are located.

We’ve come a long way, and we are continuing to build. Check out what the team was up to this month.

🔁 Push top signups into Salesforce

Syncing PQLs into a CRM is often a challenging task 😵‍💫 Many integrations make you choose whether to sync all-or-nothing.

Calixa gives you fine-grained control over which signups to push into Salesforce. It only takes 3 simple steps 👇

🔐 Roles & permissions

Security and governance is top of mind here at Calixa. As you onboard new team members onto Calixa, you can easily assign them to roles based on the access each person requires. Everyone benefits from the strengthening trust for smooth collaboration:

  • Admins can manage integrations to protect sensitive data syncs to the CRM, data warehouse, and other tools
  • Managers can set and prevent unauthorized changes to best-practice playbooks and standard workflows
  • Users can confidently focus on their core selling responsibilities and act on top accounts

Check out the docs.

❄️ Sync custom objects from the data warehouse

Under the Integrations page, you can sync custom objects to Calixa directly from your warehouse. This feature empowers GTM teams with self-serve reporting – instead of having to wait on data teams. 

🤖 Uplevel PQLs & PQA scoring using AI

Lead scoring shouldn’t be based on guesswork ❌ Top product-led companies leverage AI to be scientific about which product usage metrics truly matter to their business.

Learn more in this upcoming webinar:

  • The advantages of AI vs manual scoring
  • How AI models are trained in real-time to spot PQLs & PQAs
  • How to ensure a smooth rollout of AI scoring for your sales team

Register to join live or get the recording.

🙌 Product-Led Sales tactics 

Check out the latest Product-Led Sales tactics and advice.

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Sign up here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Advice for Sales
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Lessons I learned from a six-year PLS journey

Dan Wardle
VP, Revenue
|
Vidyard

Vidyard’s VP of Revenue, Dan Wardle, joined the company in 2013 as its first salesperson. Since then, he’s helped the company transition from top-down enterprise sales to a successful hybrid GTM motion. Here he shares his top lessons learned along the way.

While most folks know Vidyard as a tool for creating sales videos, the platform started as a video hosting platform that integrates with popular marketing automation tools like Marketo, Eloqua, and Pardot. But when these tools were later acquired, our business virality from the partnerships and conferences began to show slower growth for us.

To pivot strategies, one of our sales reps started sending videos to prospects, recording in QuickTime before uploading them to our platform. It didn’t take long before our product leaders noticed, which ultimately led to building our video creation tool and, thus, began our Product-Led Sales (PLS) journey. These are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the six years since.

Your PLS and enterprise sales motions will naturally ebb and flow

It takes time to figure out the right balance between your PLS and enterprise sales motions. At Vidyard, we’ve ran a traditional enterprise sales motion for our video hosting product since the very beginning. But when we launched our video creation tool in 2017, the market readiness wasn’t there for a top-down motion. Instead, we implemented a PLG motion, making incremental improvements over the first few years. 

Early on, it was hard justifying a large push for free sign-ups without knowing how it correlated to revenue. But all this changed in 2020 when market readiness hit. As the pandemic kept sales folks at home, we saw a significant uptick in videos created on our platform, as well as fast-growing demand in the market. Recognizing the opportunity in front of us, we decided to over-rotate on our PLG motion to drive full momentum. We positioned Vidyard as a product for sales reps, and we focused on acquiring free users and business users with business email addresses. 

Since then, we’ve been able to correlate free business user signups to sales pipeline within a 60-day window. This has accelerated growth 200% for our business, and if you look at our sales product revenue growth specifically the growth is even more exponential.  But with our video hosting product still representing 50% of our revenue, we’re intentional about not over-rotating for too long. Now that we have our teams where they need to be, we can ease back and begin re-marketing our hosting product. 

When people don’t care about features, they won’t pay for them

Compared to a top-down sales model, the PLG motion gives Sales more influence over the product, and whether to feature gate or limit product usage. When we first launched the video creation tool, we decided to feature cap instead of usage cap. People could create an unlimited amount of videos in the product but with Vidyard branding. We could also advertise to their viewers. If folks wanted videos with their own branding, or to use premium features, they could upgrade to the paid tier.

But therein lies the problem with feature gating: people who don’t care about the features won’t pay for them. We learned this the hard way after one customer enabled their entire sales team on creating videos. While this led to huge successes for the company, it didn’t for us. Over this leader’s tenure, their team created 130,000 videos on our platform, for free, because we couldn’t get him to pay for the premium tier. We’ve evolved our business model since then, transitioning to usage limits. Free users get the full functionality of the product but have to upgrade after 25 videos once they’ve seen value from using our product. 

Always make your selling motion simple for sales reps

Every successful PLG strategy shares this common principle: Don’t over complicate your selling motion. For us, this means not giving Sales access to every data point or having reps sort through it themselves. Rather than send our reps product qualified leads, we focus on giving them product qualified accounts. 

To do this, we built out scoring based on product usage, and we look for accounts with monthly active users and/or users paying for our Pro plan. If an account has more than three monthly active users, we pass them over to Sales. Interestingly, we’ve found that these accounts convert higher if they also have two Pro users, such as two individual salespeople who pay for the product themselves. In these cases, the account will convert to an opportunity at twice the rate of other free users. 

What goes into Vidyard's revenue scoring

When we pass these accounts over to reps, we explain why the accounts are qualified: they have these users, created this much volume, and these are their names. Additionally, we have all their outreach cadences set up so it’s easy to reach out and engage with the account’s stakeholders. 

Don’t disrupt your customer’s willingness to buy

Finally, don’t let your internal processes deter customers from buying or gaining more momentum in your product—just make it work and then make it better. We recently ran into a delay launching our Team pricing option on our website. In the interim, we added a “Buy Now” button with a form to sign up, much like a typical self-serve purchase. Except it wasn’t self-serve—on the back end, my team had to send DocuSigns to everyone who filled out the form. On average, this took around 30 to 45 minutes but the small break in the buyer experience led to only 35% of these deals being signed.

Here’s another example: One of our customers needed to add licenses for new hires they were onboarding. However, they just renewed their contract and their next renewal was months out. So, we decided to add in the licenses via a contract replacement, which sounded all sorts of internal alarm bells over invoicing friction and impacts to CSM quotas. 

But none of these internal things should matter here. All that matters is making it work for the customer and then using their experience to make the self-serve journey better. In this case, we built self-serve into the product to let customers add more licenses at any time. Internal logistics such as invoicing, territories, quotas, and compensation? Those are all details you can sort out after you’ve taken care of your customer.

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Advice for Sales
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How to get sales buy-in for PLS - Hubspot’s framework

David Barron
Global Director of Sales
|
HubSpot

David Barron is Director of Global Sales at Hubspot. In 2014, David was responsible for implementing Hubspot’s transition from top-down sales to Product-Led Sales and has been involved in its evolution ever since. 

Here’s HubSpot’s revenue curve after they transitioned to product-led sales 👇

Hubspot's revenue curve and when it transitioned to Product-Led Sales
Source: Saastr

Yet many sales-led companies wanting to adopt Product-Led Sales become cursed with the same disease: Sales resisting change. 

Ramifications? Plain and simple: A mountain of untapped revenue. Sales buy-in can mean the difference between stellar revenue growth and unshakeable idleness. 

Below David shares his framework for getting traditional sales reps bought into Product-Led Sales.👇

It starts from the top 

Even though there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all strategy, executive commitment makes everything easier to implement. 

One of the reasons that Product-Led Sales (PLS) ended up working for Hubspot is because we had our executive team basically sounding the horn, saying: this is how we operate.

Our former CEO, Brian Halligan, would say: ‘PLG is the future of how we sell and go to market.’
Visual showing the steps that Hubspot took to get everyone aligned for Product-Led Sales

Do you feel like execs aren’t fully committed to PLG? I’d argue that you probably have demand you’re not capturing. Make a case for it with executives.

Table showing what to do based on executive buy-in to PLS

Use available data to show how this GTM transition will improve core business OKRs that execs care about. Here’s what I mean 👇

Graph showing the effects of SLG and PLG on revenue KPIs

Now that exec buy-in is out of the way, let’s jump into my 5-step framework. 

TLDR

1 - Show reps success stories of PLS

What do sales folks care about?

Money. Success. Career advancement. 

What we’d do at HubSpot is show reps successful product-led deals to our whole team. Pitching how product-qualified accounts can help them be more successful than top-down deals. 

For example, we'd have a rep sell five licenses of our CRM product. A month later, the account gets a 50-seat upgrade and the rep didn't have to do much.

When that would happen, my team would interview the rep and blast it in a sales email that goes out each week to everyone on the team. 

You can share proof points like 👇

  • Reduced sales cycle time
  • Bigger LTV from product-qualified accounts 
  • More new pipeline per rep

Leverage social proof within your team

You know what to show them, great. Next, they need to believe you. 

What’s that #1 method to gain a prospect’s trust in the awareness phase? 

💬Testimonials from other customers. 

The same concept applies to internal selling. Sales reps look at what the top dogs on the team are doing, how they run their cadences, craft emails, run demos, etc. 

It’s the very reason why you’re reading this framework. What are the best reps doing? How did HubSpot do this?

As a leader, it’s your job to utilize this concept and pitch your very best reps on the idea of Product-Led Sales. People see new initiatives as daunting. Success stories help them pass through initial hurdles. Success stories from their overperforming colleagues turn belief into action. 

Illustration showing how effective it is to have colleagues advocates product-led deals

2 - Adjust compensation to favour product-led deals

What’s your goal with Product-Led Sales? 

Are you capturing most of the value on the first purchase? Are you selling seats and want people to expand over time? Or is it consumption-based where you want prospects to slowly build up their usage? 

Whichever it is, sales compensation needs to be tied to it. Think about: Where in the customer journey is value captured? Motivate reps (with comp) to work their opportunities in a way that optimizes customer value. Revenue will follow. 

At Hubspot, we implemented a weighted compensation structure when we transitioned to PLS. We increased compensation by 1.1x when deals included multiple products (upsell) or when accounts would organically grow (expansion). 

Consider team-based compensation 

As you’ll read below, product-led strategies require CONSTANT experimentation and innovation. 

Individual comp plans kill sales innovation. 

To me, team-based compensation is about finding efficiency and scaling sales operations without taking your foot off the gas. Forecasting becomes easier, reps ramp up faster, and the customer’s experience is elevated, often leading to more expansion revenue. 

Depending on the maturity of your Product-Led Sales processes, you can experiment with draw compensation, team compensation and individual compensation. 

Draw compensation: Every rep gets 100% of their variable comp, regardless of quota met. Focus on sales culture, experimentation and learning. 

Team compensation: Quota is shared between reps and compensation is equalized. Focuses on acceleration and iterations. 

🔑 I’d argue that you may never need to move past team-based compensation. My team is still on a team-based comp. Reached a certain scale? Instead of moving to individual compensation as you scale up your sales org, it’s worth considering having team quotas by territory (Americas, EMEA, etc). 

Individual compensation: Each rep is responsible for their quota attainment and compensated accordingly. Strategic emphasis on optimization and movement up-market (enterprise deals require more individual effort with non-product users). 

Here’s how I think about which comp is best for my sales team 👇

Graph showing the types of sales compensation structures in Product-Led Sales

3 - Coach reps to transition from pain to adjacent use cases. 

PLS reps are solution engineers with sales skills. 

My take on the PLG model is that you're going to start to see a huge blurring of lines between traditional sales engineers and account executives.

Why? Because prospects are already in your product. They acknowledged their pain, searched for a solution, and currently use your product to alleviate it. 

For sales, this translates into a lesser need for evangelizing the solution, and more emphasis on identifying under-utilized product use cases.

Reps need to understand the company as a whole, get on the phone with a prospect and approach the conversation like: “tell me about your business. what are your priorities?”

It's really hard to teach business acumen, but I believe it's a really important skill in this model. Being able to talk to any company, look at their website and understand what they do, how they sell, how they market, who the ICP is, etc.

You combine that with expert knowledge of the product and you have a win-win scenario for you and your customer. 

Venn Diagram showing that a mix of account executive and sales engineering experience makes the perfect Product-Led Sales rep

How to turn traditional sales folks into PLS reps?

One of the things I do with my new reps before they get on calls is going to the prospect’s website and ask them: 

  • What do they do? 
  • How do you think they market? 
  • Who do they market to? 
  • What is their core value prop? 
  • How do they sell this? 
  • How are people getting onboarded? 
  • What do you think their average sales price is? 
  • Do you think they have channels? 

No need to overcomplicate.

It's just: “let's look at the website. Walk me through how you think they do business and how our product can help them accelerate.” 

An illustration showing how to craft a strong sales narrative in Product-Led Sales

Repeating this enough times creates a mindset shift in how your team will look at opportunities and sales conversations. 

4 - Teeing up reps with playbooks to execute PLS

Change management is hard. Anyone who’s been selling the same way for years will be resistant to change or at least will require some ramp time. 

Here’s what I did to mitigate this:

Give reps task lists that vary based on lead type

Let’s say you have this crazy freemium funnel with volume coming through (which is our case at Hubspot). You need to give your team all the information they need to take action and get quick wins. 

When they get a lead: “here's EXACTLY what you do.” 

Calixa has a great feature called “Playbooks” to handle that process. When reps get a new product-qualified opportunity, they know right away what needs to be done and can take action either from their Calixa dashboard or other GTM tools. 

Example of an expansion playbook in Calixa

Digestible product usage 

Back to my earlier point: it’s about understanding the prospect’s business and which product use cases can be leveraged to elevate their success.  

Sales need to quickly create a narrative around product usage to pitch leads. What we do is send reps short clips of prospects using the product. 

It’s effective for 2 reasons: 

  • They get context on how leads have been using Hubspot, which helps them understand how to approach the deal. 
  • They’re learning the product!

Win-win. 

Videos worked for us. Other formats might work for you. In Calixa, reps get a 360-degree view of the lead or the account’s product usage. Here’s an example: 

Screenshot of an account view in Calixa

Don’t forget: many reps have never used product data to sell.

Make it as easy as possible for them to understand the context and how best to take action! 

5 - Think of PLS as an NPS survey

Is this shit?

This is literally the question we’d ask when sending reps new product-qualified leads

At the end of every lead email sent to reps, we basically gave a form to fill out to send us feedback. When folks weren’t sure what to do with certain lead batches, we would go through iterations on some of the content that wouldn't connect or revisit our qualification criteria. 

Repeating this process over time guaranteed that we would only take action on the most valuable leads that reps could nurture. 

Hubspot's PLS improvement flywheel

Sales & product need to communicate

When you launch new features in the PLG motion, PMs and engineers want to see people using and buying. Why? Because it validates their work.

At Hubspot, PMs come in almost once a month to our sales meetings to talk about what they're building next. We then give direct feedback. 

Obviously, product folks talk to customers, do product research and see NPS surveys. But this is an opportunity for them to get a new signal: in the moment, when sales are on a call, here's what's falling flat! 

The key for me is NEVER SUGGESTING SOLUTIONS. Your job as a go-to-market team is to provide the most concise version of the problem. It is the product team's job to take that problem and create a solution.

I hope I’ve laid out a good framework for you to get started on getting your sales team bought in and successful with Product-Led Sales. 

Spoiler alert: There's no finish line. What matters is you get better over time and iterate. 

If you want more, read about the 5 Product-Led Sales strategies that we use at Hubspot here or how we drive community-led growth

Signing off for now. 

David ✌️

More frameworks like this one? 

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Advice for Growth
rEAD-time

5 defining characteristics of a successful PLG motion

Steve Boone
Former RVP of Sales at Twilio
|
Twilio

The first question that early-stage startups and business leaders often ask is, “How do we fuel product led growth?” But I think a better question to start with is: “Why do we want to become product led?” Will it help you deliver a better experience for customers? Cut down on your go-to-market costs? Or do you just want to bring in more leads?

Becoming product led starts with understanding exactly what it means and doesn’t mean. It’s not a shiny, new lead generation tactic. It’s not offering a faux free trial with a pared-down set of features. Being product led means building something that someone can get value from without engaging with your sales team. If this isn’t your goal, you’re not product led. 

Below are five defining characteristics of running a successful Product-Led Growth (PLG) motion 👇

Your free trial is built for the right purpose.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but free trials are anything but new—tech folks have been using them to inform buying decisions long before the hype began about PLG. But lately, I see companies lauded as prime PLG examples for free trials that mimic the traditional SaaS sales motion. As in, the customer signs up like a SaaS company, gets assigned a customer success manager, and any semblance of PLG goes straight out the window. 

A PLG company doesn’t want to just get someone through the door via a free trial, freemium product, or otherwise. Even if a customer signs a $500,000 contract, their goal is that the customer can continue to grow naturally within the product without requiring extensive human support.

Yet the lines between PLG, free trials, and lead generation have all started to blur. It’s as though the conversation about free trials started with bunch of business leaders who got together and said:

“Wouldn’t it be super magical if we could get really warm leads who had already done X, Y, or Z to stand up part of our product, and then they’d understand it, and then our deals closed at 80%?”.

Well, yes, of course that would be super magical. But there’s misaligned interest if you’re not thinking about the value that a free trial should add for the customer, such as removing friction or making it easier to stand up the product. If your free trial is meant to open the funnel and let folks try out a couple features, without incorporating robust self-serve features into the product, you’re not PLG—you have a free trial. 

On the other hand, if your free trial lets someone stand up and build out a use case, and only requires them to reach out when things start to get too complex, then you have a great opportunity to enhance the PLG motion layered on top of it.

You weigh GTM efficiency alongside the customer experience (and vice versa!) 

One of the biggest benefits of PLG is not having humans do things they aren’t necessary for. Because of this, every feature you roll out should enhance the customer experience, improve GTM efficiency, or help you do a little bit of both. Making decisions about when and where to involve humans requires balancing both elements in tandem with each other.

Here’s why: Something that might be helpful for customers, such as having a 24/7 customer support line, might not make economic sense for the business. Gating a specific feature set would help reps run a sales play more efficiently, but also create unnecessary friction in the product experience. 

At Twilio, we evaluated scenarios with a self-serve-first mindset: Can a human touchpoint be replaced by a product pop-up? How much more likely will a deal close if a sales rep gets involved vs. not? Or in the case of the customer support example above: Can we add an in-app chat box instead of providing a sales rep’s phone number?

You only reach out to customers if you can provide value. 

The entire point of PLG is to let customers build themselves. At Twilio, every conversation we had around a new touchpoint or upsell opportunity tied back to: “Would customers appreciate someone reaching out at this time?” If the answer was no, we’d try to make it self service. If it was yes, we had an opportunity to deliver real value to customers. 

Here’s one example: In telecom, texting a bunch of invalid phone numbers, such as  landlines, can lead to high undeliverable message rates. If someone has an undeliverable message rate upwards of 10-20%, it could signal to carriers that they might be spamming without consent. Reaching out to customers with undeliverable message rates became a valuable opportunity for us to share guidelines and best practices for consent. It also opened the door for conversations about other Twilio products that could help them cut costs and ensure they remained compliant.

​​When you reach out to customers is just as important as why. Seeing an e-commerce customer’s volume increasing by 10x over Black Friday and Cyber Monday isn’t the right time for a generic “Hi! I noticed you’re using the product more. If this is consistent, you might need to buy more stuff” sales play. In this scenario, the opportunity to deliver value isn’t after the spike in volume—it was before it. The rep should be building trust by proactively sharing unique insights and best practices to prepare their customer ahead of time. (This also gives sales enablement a great opportunity to run a “Three things to do to prepare customers for Black Friday” play.)

Taking an “always be helping” approach will win you way more respect than reaching out because you saw that their company hired a new CTO on LinkedIn. This is also where PLG turns into what we’ve wanted Sales to be all along: understanding the customer based on their product usage and business goals, and then coming in to share a unique insight they can’t get anywhere else. 

You keep sales reps focused. 

If you want to drive an efficient PLG motion, you need to simplify information down for the field. We did this at Twilio by incorporating a “If this, then do that” sales strategy into our Product-Led Sales playbooks. I find that the best time to start incorporating these insights is during onboarding. It’s far too common for reps to spend six months completely overwhelmed by product onboarding information, and emerge without the ability to actually solve specific customer and prospect challenges. 

Your more-tenured reps are often your most valuable source of information here, especially when it comes to specific use cases in the product or the best times to engage with customers. Tap into your best sales reps, the ones who know all the nuances about how to use the product, to start outlining the guidelines. Keep it simple: “When this thing happens, here’s how you solve it, here’s who can help you, and here’s the link to the conversation you need to have with the customer.” 

You’re not afraid to question anything and everything.

Finally, it’s not all or nothing when it comes to having a product-led mindset—especially if you’re running a traditional enterprise motion with sales reps. If your goal is to improve your customer experience, start by removing small areas of friction. Look across the product journey and ask yourself, “Why?”

For example, maybe someone can reload $100 in credits to their account but anything more requires a sales contract. Why? Is it fraud related? Are people dropping off after they hit $100? Is it because they don’t want to sign a contract? Run an analysis with your finance team. What happens if you increase the limit to $500? Would the increase in customers outweigh any fraud-related risks? 

If you can ask 100 of these micro questions, and 10 of them make the product easier for customers to use, you’ll be doing a great job of becoming product led. 

Final thoughts

I hope I’ve illustrated how important it is to question the very nature of your product-led motion. Remember, with the customers best interest in mind, you're always one step closer to making the right decision. Make the human interaction always of value and you'll be on the right track.

Want more frameworks and guides from world-class experts? Follow Calixa and subscribe to the High Intent newsletter to be notified when new ones are published! 

How To
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How to choose a Product-Led Sales platform

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

TLDR: go here for direct access to our handy evaluation template.

As self-serve SaaS becomes the norm, people expect a buying experience that aligns with how they use the product. Most sales teams look to their CRM for this context – only to realize it lacks the product insights needed to have valuable, contextual conversations. 

Everyone agrees: product insights make or break self-serve revenue teams.

In this emerging Product-Led Sales (PLS) category, there are lots of vendors competing for your attention. But how do you know which platform can actually deliver on their promise? 

Step-by-step evaluation guide for Product-Led Sales platforms

Get ready to kick off an evaluation

Before you begin the evaluation, it’s important to look internally and understand what requirements are important to your unique business.

Decide who needs to be on the platform evaluation team

The first step is to determine the cross-functional team that owns the PQL engine – such as sales, operations, and data teams. Including all the key stakeholders early ensures you’re not held up later in the buying process.

  • Who are your decision makers?
  • Who are influencers that may help inform the decision?
  • Who are your end users that are going to test the product?

Prioritize what problems your company is looking to solve

Next, discuss with the leadership team how they want the PLS platform to help them generate revenue. For example, some organizations want to find enterprise opps, while others want to monitor active trials. Create a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves that this platform will solve for.

  • Get access to product data
  • Find more deals from your self-serve funnel
  • Better retain customers

Once you’ve gathered the evaluation team and company objectives, you’re ready to compare vendor capabilities against your requirements.

Features & functionality evaluation template

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in listing all the features and functionality for a PLS platform. To solve this, we sat down with countless GTM leaders to develop this comprehensive list of 46 questions to consider when looking for a Product-Led Sales solution. 👉 Access it here

This template makes it easier to find the right PLS platform – so you can consolidate your tech stack, uncover deal opportunities, and increase rep efficiency. Here are the top categories to consider:

  • Supporting your PLG data infrastructure
  • CRM Syncing
  • Surfacing your best PQLs/PQAs
  • AI Capabilities
  • Product data visualization
  • Enabling reps to action PQLs efficiently
  • Orchestrating workflows for product-led GTM at scale
  • Current customers, team, and long-term vision
  • Security and Compliance

🙌 Supporting your PLG data infrastructure

All the functionality in a PLS platform is only as powerful as the data that’s used to back it up. That’s why you’ll want to see if the vendor is compatible with your existing tech stack. This information is easy to discover in the company’s Integrations page, or by contacting the team to see if they have plans to add your existing tool. 

Many companies also want to support additional product-specific layers like a team, workspace, or business unit. This way, sales teams no longer have to struggle with rigid CRM fields. Check if the vendor has Flexible Account Models that reflect the correct hierarchy in both the PLS platform and your CRM for faster prospecting.

What to ask

  • Are integrations simple to set up using no-code/low-code?
  • Does the platform support your ideal account model—including custom tiers of data (company, workspace, user)?
  • Can they integrate with your CDP (Segment)?
  • Do they have direct integrations with your Data Warehouse (BigQuery, Snowflake, Redshift)?
  • Can they integrate with your Reverse ETL tool (Census, Hightouch)?
  • Can they integrate with your CRM (Salesforce, HubSpot)?
  • Can they integrate with your Sales Engagement tool (Outreach, Salesloft)?
  • Do they have an open API that allows you to send additional customer data?

🔁 CRM Syncing

PLS platforms play a key role in upleveling your CRM with product insights. Instead of having siloed product signals, reps greatly benefit from having real-time data and top signups from the convenience of their CRM. 

Syncing PQLs into a CRM is often a challenging task, because many integrations make you choose whether to sync all-or-nothing. Choose a vendor that’s invested in a CRM Sync so you get fine-grained control over which signups to push into your CRM.

What to ask

  • Does the platform sync lead, contact, and account data with the CRM?
  • Is ownership automatically inherited from the CRM?
  • Can you update ownership of records directly from the CRM?
  • Can users manually push leads into the CRM? Can you add custom data to the lead objects?
  • Can automations be configured to create leads?
  • Can you sync with custom CRM objects?
  • Can scores, milestones and other metadata be synced bi-directionally with the CRM?

👀 Surfacing your best PQLs/PQAs

This is where PLS platforms truly shine. PLS platforms help you create and iterate on PQL criteria. This can be done using simple scoring or AI-powered prospecting. Sales teams can try scoring PQLs based on human intuition and assumptions to start off, but mature PLS functions to adopt AI to find predictive signals that the human eye misses.

When evaluating PLS platforms, you’ll want to know how that platform scores your leads – and what insights led to that score.

What to ask

  • Can you easily create & iterate on the usage thresholds in PQL score criteria?
  • Does the platform let you filter and sort data based on multiple objects (e.g. account plan and user activity in one query)?
  • Can you surface PQLs/PQAs based on % usage changes over time?
  • Does the platform support Slack, email, or playbook alerts?
  • Can alerts be dynamically routed to lead owner or account owner?
  • Is there a dedicated PQL inbox that contains a consolidated list of playbooks for a rep to work?

🤖 AI Capabilities

AI is required to know which usage metrics belong in your PQL and how much to weigh each product signal. It can also adapt to your changing product by evolving PQL criteria overtime. By surfacing insights within seconds, AI simulates the process of a top rep who has spent years learning about why people buy.

A PLS platform should have AI scoring that is accurate and easy to understand. Look into the vendor’s track record building AI before diving into a POC. For example, our founding team (Thomas and Fred) has early foundational experience in PLS tooling at Twilio and a decade of ML experience including building Sift’s AI fraud detection.

What to ask

  • Does the platform have AI-powered scoring that explains the key signals (ranked by impact) behind each score?
  • Is this ML model customizable and learns from itself based on conversion rates?
  • Can you run multiple ML models per sales motion (free-to-paid, paid-to-enterprise, etc.)?
  • Can you export this scoring information into data lakes, custom webhooks, and spreadsheets?

📊 Product data visualization

A customer 360 view has never been more important than in a product-led motion. Without one, the customer is actually more well-informed of their product usage than the rep they speak with.

PLS platforms offer product analytics that are actionable for GTM teams. Whether reps care about the user journey or account workspaces, a PLS platform enables your team to easily find timely data and customer context.

What to ask

  • Does the platform visualize your most important user and account milestones?
  • Can you see aggregate usage metrics and percent changes for any time range?
  • Can you create default team dashboards, in addition to individual rep dashboards?
  • Can you sort by multiple columns, and filter across multiple tiers (e.g. find DMs within paid workspaces)?
  • Can you categorize views based on territories, segments, and team functions (e.g. SDR, enterprise, success)?

🏃🏻‍♀️ Enabling reps to action PQLs efficiently

Product-Led Sales isn’t only about finding PQLs – the next step is to efficiently act on them. PLS platforms consolidate rep actions for greater efficiency. Reps can take action into downstream tools, such as an Outreach sequence, Salesforce opportunity, or Slack alert.

Vendors like Calixa offer playbooks, so reps can see what actions to take based on product activity. Whether you’re using a free-to-paid playbook or upsell playbook, reps will know exactly how to act on a PQL to drive revenue.

What to ask

  • Can you quickly set up playbooks that show product insights and follow-up actions based on various goals (upsell, account consolidation play, etc.)?
  • Can you add users into Outreach sequences and Salesloft cadences?
  • Can you add leads, opportunities, and tasks into CRMs?
  • Does the platform work well with existing rep workflows and minimize tab jumping with a Chrome Extension?
  • Do they support custom actions, such as Extend Trial?

⚡ Orchestrating workflows for product-led GTM at scale

Instead of repeating common actions, your PLS platform should allow you to operationalize common GTM workflows. These include sequencing PQLs, syncing to the CRM, alerting reps, and more.

See if the PLS platform you’re considering lets you set up triggers and actions based on product signals. Orchestrating these workflows increases revenue efficiency and saves valuable rep time.

What to ask

  • Can you automate PQL outreach via workflows that instantly add PQLs into the right sequences/cadences?
  • Can you automate CRM workflows such as pushing top signups into your CRM and lead/opp/task creation?
  • Can you automate adding high potential users into nurture campaigns within Marketo, HubSpot, and Salesforce?

🏔 Current customers, team, and long-term vision

Outside of product capabilities, companies pick vendors that act like true partners. The vendor should offer consultative guidance from actual PLS people. Our sales team (Stephen, Kevin, and Jacob) has been in the trenches and spent years selling in a product-led environment.

You can also look into proof points from past customers. Sometimes it’s as obvious as generating a $1M+ deal on the platform (not even an exaggeration 😉).

What to ask

  • Do they have customers that have generated deals with this platform?
  • Do the existing case studies reflect your goals and expected ROI?
  • Does the founding team have prior experience building successful ML products?
  • Has their sales team sold in a product-led environment at previous companies?
  • Are they open about their product and live the product-led vision themselves?

🔓 Security and Compliance

Last but not least, you want to make sure you can trust the PLS platform with your customer data. When you’re ready to go with a vendor, you can ask to see their certification documents to ensure your data is safe.

What to ask

  • Is the platform SOC2 Type II certified?
  • Is the platform GDPR and CCPA compliant?
  • Do they have a DPA and privacy policy?
  • Do they offer SAML-based SSO and RBAC?

See the product in action

At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. That’s why we deliberately chose to become one of the only vendors for PLG companies…that’s actually PLG ourselves. Sign up today or book a demo.

Advice for Growth
rEAD-time

3 slip-ups that hinder sales’ performance with Product-Led Sales

Gijs Bos
Senior Sales Director
|
Freshbooks

Lead flow is core to any successful PLS motion. But navigating the complexities of maintaining steady volumes, separating signals from noise, and delegating leads across the proper funnels is anything but easy—especially when feeding the right leads to Sales. When leads don’t add value, or a sales rep doesn’t add value back, it wastes time, money, and resources. Here are three overlooked slip-ups that can hinder sales performance–and how to avoid making them.

Slip-up #1: Sending all your best leads to Sales

Back in my enterprise sales days at a previous company, we used website behavior data to understand where and how to engage with visitors. I find that its overarching principle is aking to how PLS leaders leverage product behavior: using data to figure out who Sales should talk to and why. While it might go without saying that the “who” is a critical PLS insight, the significance of understanding the “why” also can’t be understated. 

I’ll give you an example: Freshbooks is a popular accounting platform that pulls in a substantial amount of sign-ups each month. It’s a robust offering, so folks have no shortage of actions to take in the platform, such as tracking mileage, capturing expenses, and creating, sending, and paying invoices. What this means for the PLS motion is tons of data to uncover high intent signals and leads.

When I first started building out our motion, I wanted to understand our best leads so we could pass them along to Sales. We used an AI/ML algorithm to calculate the probability of someone upgrading and what their expected lifetime value would be. The more we learned about our best leads, the clearer it became that our best leads weren’t necessarily the right leads for Sales. 

This is where the “why” comes into play. We found that our best leads were going to convert with or without support from Sales. Sending them to the sales team would be throwing commission money at reps when our self-serve motion would suffice. Instead, we shifted our mindset to focus on the value that sales reps can provide and what users would benefit most from their outreach. We couple this with various A/B tests and sales tactics to help us understand what moves the needles most.

Decision tree that can be used to decide whether sales should engage a user or not

Slip-up #2: Measuring customers by the same success metrics

Another sneaky slip-up are the nuances between success and failure, as is often the case with metrics that appear identical yet represent opposite stories. For example, my favorite example Freshbooks user is the part-time piano teacher who uses the platform to send a single monthly invoice—a success! On the other end: a medium-sized accounting firm sending one monthly invoice—a fail. 

Graph showing how 2 accounts with the same data can have different revenue outcomes

From a cloud accounting perspective, there’s also a difference between a consultant who sends a monthly invoice for $15k and one sending 100 invoices for $150. While they both net $15k in sales, they represent two different user profiles from invoicing and cost perspectives. Point being, how you define success depends on who you’re talking to. It also changes as your product matures and evolves. Delineating between success and failure requires clear differentiation between different combinations of users, firmographics, usage, and intent signals—not to mention, regular validation. 

Graph showing how 2 users with different product usage can represent good and bad revenue outcomes

At the end of a free trial, we model product signals to compare behaviors of people who upgraded vs. those who didn’t. We link these insights up with firmographic data, combining variables like business size, industry, and industry type, and then validate it with the information submitted during sign up. For example, were invoices charged by project or were they actually sent for individual orders? This helps us better understand our different users, how they use Freshbooks, and the best way to measure their success.

Slip-up #3: Not aligning lead quantity to lead quality

Any seasoned PLS leader will tell you navigating fluctuations in lead flow is crucial to sales success. They will also tell you that this is much easier said than done, especially when it comes to sourcing quality leads during seasonal demand swings. Case in point: Business in the UK is virtually dead in August, and Marketing cuts its spend. Yet my sales reps still carry the same quotas, which means they need the same number of leads to reach out to as in other months.

So, we need to make sure our reps have a fair chance regardless of seasonal dips. Here, we might dip deeper into our sign-up pool, for example giving sales reps the top 15% of sign-ups in August instead of 10%.  Sales reps have the same quantity of leads as they usually do but at a lower quality, because we pulled them from deeper into the trialer pool. In this scenario, I need to make up for quality with quantity, sending them 110 leads in August instead of the regular 100. In this way, the Sales reps can carry their assigned quotas as we stabilize lead flows during periods of high seasonality.

Graph showing how sales leaders adjust quotas based on seasonality

Closing thoughts

Like any sales leader, I always hope that more leads means more revenue but as most know that isn’t the case. With a product-led motion, it’s about making the most of the high intent leads you’re provided — remember they’re not new to the product, just to you as a point of contact. 

  • Sending all leads to sales isn’t the goal. Optimizing LTV:CAC is. 
  • Act on signals within their context. Be helpful, not salesy. 
  • Adjust lead flow throughout the year if you’d like to keep quota attainment stable.
How To
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Guide: How to make bottom-up sales work internally

Fred Melanson
Head of Content
|
Calixa

I hate running. Yet I do it almost every day. 

Why? 

The benefits of running far outweigh the dreadful, temporary feeling of not wanting to go out and do it. Because the feeling you get after a run is amazing. 

There’s a similar dynamic going on at sales-led companies that embark on the product-led growth train 🚆. 

80% of the fastest-ever companies to get to $1B of ARR have product-led motion. So it’s normal that many sales-led companies are looking at adding a PLG motion to boost revenue. 

Graph from Bessemer showing the fastest companies to 1B of ARR

But this is not something that’s done overnight. There are many hurdles to overcome that are easier to put off for another day. 

The secret: product-led growth coupled with a strong sales motion. 

Graph showing the estimated ARR of companies when they added top down sales

It sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? All you have to do is activate bottom-up and top-down sales, and voila! Billions in revenue! 

❌ There’s one problem: Sales folks often feel pressured to adopt bottom-up sales and don’t know how to shift from pure a top-down strategy to a hybrid revenue function. 

This results in a lack of buy-in, misalignment and ultimately poor performance instead of lightspeed growth.

This article explains how to make Product-Led Sales work by making a few crucial internal changes, and how to get sales 100% bought into this game-changing growth strategy. 

Let’s go 👇

Sales folks are feeling pressured to sell to free users

The idea of PLG often comes from non-sales functions like growth & product. They see self-serve as a way to get early adoption, great user feedback and in turn hopefully a catalyst for new revenue. 

Hint: It is!  

But what is often forgotten are the impacts that this motion has on other business functions like sales. 

How PLG is often seen by those not in sales 

Illustration of 2 water knobs used to describe how growth varies based on sales-led vs product-led approaches

On the other hand, sales see more work without clear results. 

“Why would I try to convert a handful of users into an account that generates 1/10th of my usual deal size?” 
Illustration of people pulling on a cart and someone trying to give them wheels. Wheels representing qualified users in a product

Impacts are compounded when you realize that sales may not make the decision to add product-led growth as a GTM motion, but they are the ones most affected. 

Transitioning from top-down selling to a bottom-up approach affects reps’ daily activities. 

Prospecting turns into → data analysis. 

Outreach shifts from problem-oriented to → results. 

Discovery changes from qualifying to → diagnosing. 

Goals switch from acquisition & deal size to → expansion & LTV, etc. 

Marketing, growth and product don’t have to mitigate this level of change management. 

You and your team's buy-in is key. Here’s what can happen if you don't have salespeople's buy-in ⬇️

Top-down vs bottom-up

Any decent-size company initiative needs either cross-functional or top-down buy-in -- or in some scenarios, both! 

PLG is the latter -- it needs both cross-functional and top-down buy-in to be wildly successful. 

Without that, you can encounter wasted cycles or efforts across sales, marketing, product, and more. 

Including, but not limited to 👇

Poor alignment: The sales team may continue to use traditional sales techniques, leading to misalignment with the overall company strategy and goals.

Bluntly said: You don’t put an outbound selling motion to an inbound lead. So why would you sell to users of your product the same way you sell to cold prospects? 

Hint: it won’t work. 

Graphic showing a sales cycle in traditional sales versus a sales cycle in modern PLG sales

Missed opportunities: Without buy-in from sales, potential customers may not be reached, leading to missed opportunities for growth.

Top-down prospecting follows rigid criteria. You know exactly what your ideal customers look like regarding company size, industry, etc. Regarding product data, it's irrelevant because your prospect isn't in the product until after the sale. 

If sales don’t change the lens they use to decide who to hunt, they’ll miss good opportunities.

Unbalanced funnel: Sales may resist the change to a product-led growth strategy, creating a wider top of the funnel without adequate demand capture.

A water know pouring water into a bucket with holes, represeneting how opportunities are wasted when sales are not bought into PLG

Decreased motivation: Lack of buy-in from the sales team can lead to decreased motivation as new expectations or quotas are missed.

Now that you know why it’s crucial to set yourself up for success when adding bottom-up sales to your strategy, let’s explore: 

  • Internal changes needed to make it work
  • How you should think about implementing product-led sales 

👀👇

Organizational changes needed to make Product-Led Sales work

Now that there’s buy-in for supporting the PLG motion, sales needs to adjust to a bottom-up selling motion or what’s called Product-Led Sales (learn more on PLS). 

Let’s jump into the shifts needed to succeed. 

1. Cross-functional ownership

Traditionally, responsibilities for revenue were in siloes. With one business function owning a specific part of the customer journey. 

Graph showing the stages in a customer journey

With PLS, there are no black-and-white lines. Users may be introduced to your offering through using the product itself, marketing content or sales outreach. 

Similarly, their decision to convert into paid customers can be influenced by in-product prompts as much as (or probably more than) by retargeting ads. The same logic applies to retention and expansion.

Having every department affect the customer journey requires exceptional collaboration and cross-functional ownership between teams. Below is just one example of what PLS ownership may look like but it will of course vary from company to company. 

Graph showing the stages in a customer journey and how business functions in PLG affect them

To make cross-functional ownership work, a shift in mentality is needed. Putting self-centred considerations behind and accepting that all teams are responsible for collaborating so that the customer has the best experience possible. 

It starts from the top of the food chain.

You need execs to be committed to PLS

According to David Barron, Global Director of Sales at Hubspot, this starts from the executive team: 

“One of the reasons that PLS ended up working for Hubspot is because we had our executive team basically sounding the horn, saying, this is how we operate. Our former CEO, Brian Howard, would say: ‘PLG is the future of how we sell and go to market.’” 

Do you have commitments from decision-makers and your c-suite? 

No → Show them the data. Perhaps a mix of Bessemer’s data (above), Openview’s PLG benchmark reports, and your own in-product discoveries that show revenue is left on the table (How to build a case for PLS). Company-wide adoption is crucial. 

Yes → Nice! Now each team needs to reassess their output, priorities, and KPIs. 

Which is what we cover next 👇

2. Output & outcome adjustments

🧑🍳 Imagine you're trying to cook a meal. You have all the ingredients, but instead of following a recipe, you just wing it and add spices and flavours randomly. 

Chances are, the dish will come out differently than you envisioned it, and suck…🤢

The same goes for businesses. Following established processes helps ensure consistent and predictable outcomes. When you have a well-defined process in place, you can focus on achieving your goals instead of worrying about the "how" of getting there. 

Improvising may seem exciting and spontaneous, but in the long run, it can lead to chaos and confusion.

Below is a simple framework to follow: Hypothesis, function-based output and desired outcome.

A hypothesis is what you think will happen. Outputs represent concrete actions by each team that contribute to testing the hypothesis, and the outcome is the expected impact on your business (view graph below).

Here’s a real example👇

Table with example of a hypothesis, outputs and desired outcomes in PLG

One final thing to consider when utilizing the Hypothesis/Output/Outcome (HOO) framework. 

Collaboration. 

Cross-functional ownership + HOO process + collaboration = smooth PLS operations

To be successful, silos must be a thing of the past. GTM functions all exist to support each other towards a common goal of increasing revenue 🚀. 

3. Cross-functional processes & workflows

In Product-Led Sales, ownership overlaps through various parts of the customer journey (as seen above). The same goes for workflows. Make sure you get your data right, otherwise, revenue teams will become the equivalent of soldiers with water guns. 

Implications to consider 👇

Data consolidation & visibility 

PLS requires data to be accessible to all parties involved in the GTM process and each team needs it in a format that is digestible and actionable for them. 

For example, Calixa integrates all your data sources so reps can find PQLs, gain full context into the account’s product journey, and even take action on next steps all from one place. 

View Calixa’s supported integrations here

Screenshot of a Calixa dashboard

One thing to note - based on the amount of change management you want to deploy or where reps are mandated their source of truth is 

Below is an example of a Calixa dashboard that sales teams use to find opportunities worth pursuing and get the insights they need for their outbound. 

Behavior-based actions across functions

For every business function that impacts the customer journey, adjust workflows to transition from time-based rules to behaviour-based rules. 

Examples of time-based workflows: 

  • 5 days after signing up, send an automated email. 
  • 3 days before the end of the free trial, have an SDR reach out. 
  • 1 week after upgrading, customer success reaches out to help.

Examples of behavior-based workflows: 

  • If the account reaches X milestone, trigger a personalized email. 
  • When end users try a premium feature and the associated account has over Y employees, have sales reach out. 
  • If the account has upgraded but isn’t leveraging the Z feature, have CS reach out and run a retargeting campaign. 

Doing so provides real-time messaging and inputs to end-users, making them more successful and increasing chances of converting freemium and free trial folks. 

Routing users to the right workflows

Providing a delightful experience to users requires understanding where they are throughout their journey with your product, and consequently how your teams should (or should not) engage

To do so, leads need to be sent to the right workflows based on what’s best for their experience and your conversions. This is where a strong partnership between sales leaders and revops stakeholders comes in. A good partnership can lead to discovering new invaluable insights in your data – and revenue. 

So no wonder RevOps is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the US right now. 

A few scenarios that RevOps can uncover and facilitate 👇

Table showing scenarios of GTM workflows when product users take specific actions

The role of revops is to understand various scenarios in the customer journey and route users correctly through their journey. 

4. Goal-setting & comp structure 

It’s a common mistake to follow PLG-first processes (like the hypothesis/outcome/output framework) but keep goals and comp the same as they were before transitioning.

To avoid it, let’s take a step back and look at the full picture. Take into account multiple outcomes that lead to the ultimate goal of growing revenue faster. 

Transition from: 

❌“How much revenue does this initiative (aka output) bring?”

 to 

✅“What metrics does this initiative positively impact which ultimately leads to more revenue?” 

Pyramid graph showing how to set goals for sales and growth teams

For sales, this means a change in comp structures.

For a few reasons: 

  1. PLS positively affects retention and churn. While there may be less revenue in initial deal closes, there can be more LTV long term. 
  2. Especially this year, execs are shifting sales strategies to expanding current customers rather than finding new ones (Data from Mark Kosoglow). 
  3. Sales spend more time assisting probable conversions vs digging up new opportunities.

5. Reshifting customer interactions

Our final organization shift comes with advice from Steven Boone, RVP at Twilio.

If adopting Product-Led Sales creates advantages for you but it’s not adding value to the customers’ experience: you might simply want to improve your sales process…

He argues: 

“Ask yourself: why am I doing PLS? Is it really valuable to the customer? Are you doing it because your CAC is too high? Are you doing it purely for lead gen? ”
Illustration showing how sales-assist without customer benefit can hurt revenue

On the contrary, if adding a product-led motion allows prospects to bypass roadblocks, get value quicker, or build a POC to justify wider implementation, then it’s a no-brainer! 

Weigh the benefits at the get-go and on an ongoing basis to ensure it’s right for your business and your customer. 

Table with PLG benefits for the customer and for the PLG company

Doing so will help you shift your team’s mindset into consultative selling. Engaging in a manner that answers: 

“How can I make this customer more successful with my product?” 
“What roadblocks will this customer encounter that I can help alleviate?”

Those questions, if correctly tied to your product offering, are the ones that will generate replies, booked meetings and closed revenue. 

Need concrete examples of this concept put into practice? 

👉Here are 9 ways to use product data to engage users and customers. 

Final thoughts & Hubspot’s framework for rep buy-in (coming soon)

Transitioning from pure top-down sales to a hybrid model is one of the reasons why companies like HubSpot and Gitlab have reached $1B in ARR at lightning speed. 

It requires, however, adjustments within the organization. Otherwise implementing a bottom-up sales motion can cause distraction and ultimately hurt your business. 

To ensure a smooth transition that turns into hyper-growth: 

  • Implement cross-functional organizational ownership. 
  • Define what outcomes are expected and set hypotheses around the work that will generate those outcomes.
  • Update workflows so that product data is at the center of your customer experience and all teams have the visibility they need to make an impact. 
  • Adjust goals and compensation to foster PLG, not undermine it. 
  • Rethink your customer interactions to match your new reality and provide a delightful customer experience. 

Now that you know how to shift your internal organization to make bottom-up sales work, the last remaining piece is getting rep bought in. Lucky for you, David Barron exclusively shared with us his framework for onboarding sales reps to Product-Led Sales! 

🔥 Subscribe to High Intent to receive David’s framework before anyone else. 
Playbooks
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How to build an enterprise account consolidation playbook

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Being fast and easy to adopt, PLG tools are popular among enterprise users—with many different teams across the business using the same tool without knowing it. Consolidating these smaller accounts into a single enterprise contract can be a sizeable revenue driver for PLS teams, which is why we often hear questions like:

  • When is the right time to consolidate a company’s team accounts?
  • What would an enterprise account consolidation playbook look like?
  • How can we run our consolidation sales plays more efficiently?

We covered these questions (and a few more!) during the final installment of our Product-Led Sales playbook webinar series, “Enterprise Account Consolidation Playbook.” Read on for a rundown of common enterprise account consolidation scenarios and tips for building your own playbook.

👉 New to building Product-Led Sales playbooks? Head over to this blog to master the basics with a clear, simple playbook framework. 

Running enterprise account consolidation sales plays

Enterprise account consolidation is a common playbook we see PLS leaders build out after free-to-paid conversion and upsell and expansion playbooks, which help set the foundation for a PLS motion. Compared to these two use cases, enterprise account consolidation strategies are more nuanced, focusing on accounts with multiple teams that use the product independently of each other.

Done right, a successful enterprise account consolidation play closes the gaps between siloed teams across an enterprise. It shifts the conversation away from tactical user support to drive strategic buy-in from executive stakeholders.

Building winning playbooks: enterprise account consolidation

Like most Product-Led Sales playbooks, enterprise account consolidation playbooks can vary quite a bit across the space. There are countless ways to build a playbook, but we find that simple and straightforward works best. Consider the following best practices as a helpful starting point.

1. Use a simple framework

Build your enterprise account consolidation plays using the  “Signal → Messaging → Action”  framework. Each stage is defined below, and you can see what it looks like in action in our free-to-paid conversion and upsell and expansion playbook examples.

  • Signal: The user behavior triggering your sales play
  • Messaging: The value that reps should communicate to the customer
  • Action: The steps or tactics needed to run the sales play

2. Identify your top enterprise account consolidation plays

Determine what enterprise account consolidation plays you plan to run and their signals. While sales plays vary based on pricing and business models, we see these four scenarios the most:

Scenario #1: Interest in enterprise-only features

This is a common scenario in accounts where usage is growing significantly. It might present itself as an enterprise IT team looking for more secure access via SSO functionality. Or a desire to lock down user permissions and restrict admin functionality. Both of these scenarios indicate that it may make sense to consolidate across the board.

Scenario #2: Number of siloed workspaces

Most enterprise teams have no visibility into the types of tools that other teams are using. If the sales, marketing, and engineering teams at That Big Enterprise are all using your tool—but not collaborating inside it—there could be a strong opportunity for a larger, more comprehensive plan.

Scenario #3: Percentage of total employees using the product

We’re seeing a lot of PLS leaders paying close attention to this signal, especially those with productivity tools where any employee can be a potential user. Think of this like a total account addressable market, and the sales play kicks off when a percentage of users, relative to the total employee count, reaches a defined threshold.

Scenario #4: Active decision makers from different departments

Another interesting signal to watch for is user adoption among directors, VPs, and C-level across different teams in the organization. This engagement often indicates that the product is sticky and valuable enough to negotiate a consolidated company contract.

3. Craft the right messaging

Once you’ve determined your top sales plays, craft sales messaging for each scenario. In other words, how should sales reps approach companies that fit into each of these buckets? A few examples of what this could look like:

  • Value message #1: Ease of collaboration that increases network effects and productivity among teams. In some scenarios, you might spot opportunities to integrate more tightly across different teams that usually work closely with each other, such as sales and marketing teams. This could open up new communication channels for sharing feedback, as well as crowdsourcing best practices.
  • Value message #2: Centralized billing that simplifies finance and procurement and/or bulk discounts for high usage. With more scrutiny on 2023 budgets, finance and procurement teams may appreciate greater control over expense and line items. Consolidating three bills from three teams into a single, predictable expense line item can become a win-win for everyone: You get to negotiate a longer-term contract with better terms for the buying company.
  • Value message #3: Security and governance that gives IT teams oversight of data and role permissions. This often becomes a key message when account usage reaches a certain point in the organization, and IT teams need centralized control for granting access and de-provisioning employees who leave the company. Playing into this value is typically one of the biggest differentiators for negotiating an enterprise plan.
  • Value message #4: Support that provides users with dedicated account managers to train employees and troubleshoot issues. This is a classic carrot for a lot of enterprise deals, as bigger, more consolidated enterprise plans often include a priority support queue. In exchange for upgrading to an enterprise plan, PLG companies will  provide a higher level of support with faster response times.

4. Determine the right actions for each play

Next, outline the actions that reps should take to move the sales play along. Actions will vary based on how you set up your motion, but some common actions we see are:

  • Review current account usage. Reviewing and understanding current account usage is key to running a successful enterprise account consolidation play. You’ll want to know how many teams use the product, the number of users within each team, if any users are champions, and whether any decision makers are also end users.
  • Email your champions and the decision makers. Since you’ll be negotiating a higher contract value through a centralized purchasing process, you’ll need to speak credibly about the value people get at the individual user and decision maker levels. You want internal advocates to vouch for the product, as well as direct access to the decision makers.
  • Create an upsell opportunity. Assuming initial conversations go well and the opportunity is likely to progress, a rep will want to create an upsell opportunity in the CRM.

5. Build and automate your playbook 

Finally, build out your playbook using an automated Product-Led Sales platform like Calixa. Most enterprise account consolidation plays are triggered by specific user behavior, which is why combining your sales and product data in Calixa makes running and responding to enterprise account consolidation plays easier than ever.

By alerting reps about new sales plays automatically, Calixa outlines the specific actions they should take to run the play, such as those in the example below:

  • Review current product usage
  • Create an upsell opportunity in Salesforce
  • Email the decision maker and champions

With actionable sales plays and easy access to data, sales reps can respond to the right opportunities and consolidate enterprise accounts more quickly and confidently to drive better revenue growth.

👉 Learn more about Calixa's Playbook Automation System.

Watch the full webinar

Advice for Sales
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5 questions to fine-tune your Product-Led Sales motion

Riley Harbour
Head of Business Development
|
Grammarly

Starting his career in Product-Led Sales as an early employee at a growing PLG Company, Grammarly’s Head of Business Development, Riley Harbour, knows a thing or two about driving high-performing product-led growth strategies. In this blog, he shares five questions to help others fine-tune their own selling motions.

Moving careers from GoSite to Grammarly, the contrast between markets, install bases, and product intent signals couldn’t be starker. While their ticket sizes may differ, both experiences taught me valuable opportunities and skills for strengthening the Product-Led Sales (PLS) motion. If you’re a leader looking for new ways to refine (or simply define) your PLS strategy, here are five questions to get you started.

How are you measuring value for your ideal customer?

Defining your ideal customer profile (ICP)—who they are, what they do, where they work, etc.—is key to helping your reps prioritize their outreach and hit sales targets. When building this profile, make sure you can measure (and substantiate!) the value you deliver to these customers. For example, two of our ICPs for Grammarly Business are customer experience and marketing leaders, and we’ve nailed down the value that our AI-enhanced communication assistance provides to these two distinct functions. 

These ICPs are successful because we can tie our value directly to their revenue attribution, connecting the likes of decreased ticket resolution times to better customer experiences and improved efficiency. Compared to, say, sales, this line to revenue attribution becomes less direct. While Grammarly certainly helps sales teams mitigate risks, it’s challenging to definitively say it’ll help them increase win rates by X percent.

Does your GTM strategy include product qualified leads and product qualified accounts?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for product qualified leads (PQL), and it varies across different spaces. At GoSite, high product usage was a key indicator, with us reaching out mostly to power users. At Grammarly, our top indicator is the use of a business domain. If someone logs in with a business email, it’s a high indication they’re using Grammarly in their day-to-day work. Here, we’re looking for weekly active users on a business domain who’ve accepted a Grammarly suggestion within a given time period. 

That said, I’d say our biggest indicators are product qualified accounts, which we use to aggregate users within a certain company or account that’s ready for sales assist or outreach. We stack rank based on free users, Premium users, and weekly active users within a given account, as well as recent sign-ups within the last 30 days. We monitor trends, such as increases or decreases in active users, over time before layering in firmographic data at the end. This includes information such as whether an account is commercial, enterprise, or a key sales target. We combine all of this data to create our product-led account score, and it’s a key part of our GTM strategy.

What hidden intent signals or opportunities are you overlooking?

While a business domain is our top signal, we’ve also found that a strong giveaway is finding power users who self-identify in the product. These are folks who log in using a free domain, such as Gmail or Yahoo, but self-identify during the onboarding flow. We ask them what they’re using Grammarly for, and if it’s for work, we ask for their company name, department, and seniority level. We can then connect with them on LinkedIn, reach out over email, and consolidate users within an enterprise account.

Another opportunity we focus on is collecting stories and feedback from different power users. Because Grammarly serves both the enterprise and the consumer, we must be careful not to mix signals. Many power users don’t hold influence at the enterprise, which means they’re not ideal folks for sales reps to reach out. Instead, we collect stories to form a narrative around why a specific team, pod, or department is using our product, which we leverage with the decision-maker. This might be a director, VP, or IT leader who hasn’t used Grammarly but is willing to buy it on behalf of the 200 people who love and use our product every day.

Do people have enough time to reach their a-ha! moment?

Giving people the freedom to unlock the a-ha! moment in the product on their own is the magic of any PLS motion. But knowing this doesn’t mean that sales reps aren’t tempted to reach into the cookie jar for leads that aren’t quite ready—especially when booking numbers and quotas start to get tight. This will only make the PLS motion more challenging. Not to mention, sales reps who come in too early can quickly lose a deal or turn it from a consultative sale to a hard close. 

You also want to ensure your sales team doesn’t come in over the top, make empty promises, or sell value that simply isn’t there yet. Think about your overarching PLG strategy as a combination lock between product, marketing, and sales. Your product should deliver the story your marketing team is telling, which should match what sales is providing in the PLG atmosphere. If one of these components is off-kilter, it will lead to a clunky user experience.

Where can you augment product insight with human insight?

While product insights can take you far, augmenting them with human insights can take you further. This is where layering thoughtful sales touches into the user journey can help you better understand gaps and iterate on free offerings. For example, when we started a 30-day trial at GoSite, we noticed a drop-off in usage after 14 days. At the time, we weren’t sure whether it meant the power user had been properly onboarded or the person had lost interest in the tool. 
So, we decided to implement sales touches at days 3, 7, and 10 to check in with users during their activation period. We were able to tell which folks were going to convert based on how many messages they sent, the amount of reviews they managed, and their active transactions in the first 14 days. We also found that someone who didn’t use two or three of these tools in the first 14 days had a churn rate of 85-90%. We shortened our free trial to 14 days, knowing the additional two weeks of nurturing didn’t make economic sense for us.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about selling at PLG companies, it is that product-led sales is not a linear process and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. As your product grows and your ICP evolves, so should your GTM strategy, sales tactics, and, most importantly, how you leverage product data. Start small, track patterns, and experiment.

Playbooks
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How to build an upsell and expansion playbook

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

With an economic downturn comes greater emphasis on driving efficient revenue growth. Since successful “land and expand” motions lead to higher success rates for Sales at lower acquisition costs, upsell and expansion playbooks are now a hot commodity for nearly every PLS leader. When building them out for the first time, Sales and GTM leaders ask questions like:

  • In what ways do upsell and expansion strategies differ across PLG companies?
  • What would an upsell and expansion playbook look like?
  • How do I use product and sales data to automatically run plays?

We covered these questions (and a few more!) during the second installment of our Product-Led Sales playbook webinar series, “Upsell and Expansion Playbook.” Read on for a recap of different upsell and expansion strategies, examples of common sales plays, and easy-to-follow guidelines to build your playbook.

Looking to learn the basics of Product-Led Sales playbooks? 👉 Head over to this blog for a breakdown of what Product-Led Sales playbooks are, why they matter, and how to build a free-to-paid conversion playbook.

Unpacking the upsell and expansion strategy

We see upsell and expansion playbooks vary quite a bit across the PLG space. This is because the specific pricing or business model a PLG company uses leads to different types of sales opportunities and focuses. Below are three common approaches to pricing in PLG and their respective upsell and expansion opportunities. 

  • Seat-based pricing models, which were pioneered by the likes of Salesforce, charge by the number of users on a customer account. With seat-based models, PLG folks typically focus on both bottoms-up expansion and top-down buy-in. Here’s why: Getting someone to swipe their credit card for a $25/month plan is not nearly as difficult as convincing a decision maker to sign off on a 100-person team using the product. In order to expand successfully, sales folks need to demonstrate value to stakeholders on both ends.
  • Usage-based pricing models, which are quite common in the developer space, charge customers based on total usage. For example, an enterprise will often pay more for higher usage caps because it creates more sites, pushes more builds, and uses more bandwidth than, say, a 25-person marketing organization. Here, playbooks focus on deepening adoption with existing users, introducing new use cases and ensuring that the product is delivering value.
  • Product-based pricing models charge customers for additional or premium product functionality, as well as cross-sells into related products. With a product-based pricing model, PLG companies tend to offer an Early Access program or gated usage of premium functionality, which lets them track the usage of users who are more likely to upgrade plans.

Building winning playbooks: Upsells and expansions

There are any number of ways you can build out an upsell and expansion playbook. We recommend keeping it simple, effective, and efficient using the following best practices.

1. Use a clear, simple framework. 

To structure your sales plays, we recommend building your playbook using the  “Signal → Messaging → Action”  framework. Each stage of the framework is defined below, and you’ll see what it looks like in action shortly. 

  • The signal is the user behavior that kicks off a specific sales play
  • The messaging is how sales folks should think about the opportunity and communicate value to the customer
  • The action is the steps or tactics reps will take to run the play

2. Determine your upsell and expansion plays. 

Next, you’ll want to determine the upsell and expansion plays you want reps to act on. While sales plays vary based by pricing and business model, some common upsell and expansion scenarios we see are:

  • Scenario #1: New users added to an existing account
  • Scenario #2: An active decision maker in the product
  • Scenario #3: Usage increases right before renewal 

3. Build out steps for each sales play.

Once you’ve figured out your upsell and expansion plays, build out their steps using the “Signal → Messaging → Action” framework. To show you what this framework looks like in action, let’s break down the upsell and expansion examples noted above. 

Scenario #1: New users added to an existing account

A common upsell and expansion opportunity is when an existing account adds new users, increasing usage. For this sales play, your playbook might look like:

  • Signal: The sales play kicks off when an existing customer adds new users to the account.
  • Messaging: In this scenario, you might want reps to engage new users in an onboarding session to help familiarize them with the product. This gives Sales an opportunity to uncover any potential roadblocks and make sure the account remains healthy. If a decision maker is involved, reps can use the opportunity to explore the value of upgrading to a higher-tier plan.
  • Action: A next step here might be adding the new users and decision makers to an Outreach sequence.

Scenario #2: An active decision maker in the product

Any sales rep will tell you moving up the ladder from end user to decision maker (with purchasing authority!) is no easy feat, which is why an active decision maker in the product is an exciting signal. For this sales play, your playbook might look like:

  • Signal: The sales play kicks off when a decision maker logs in and actively uses the tool in a defined capacity.
  • Messaging: In this scenario, you’ll want reps to focus their conversations with the decision maker around the value they get from the product and the long-term business case, including any future team growth or usage needs. 
  • Action: Assuming conversations with the decision maker go well, the rep will want to create an upsell opportunity in the CRM.

Scenario #3: Usage increases right before renewal 

When customers increase usage right before renewal, it’s a prime opportunity to discuss changes to their renewal agreement, such as offering a better discount for increased usage or additional seats. In this scenario, your sales play might look like:

  • Signal: The sales play kicks off when usage within an existing account increases before renewal.
  • Messaging: Here, it’s important to levelset on the value customers are getting from the product and how to unlock even greater business value. This scenario might involve CSM engagement to identify gaps or an AE running value conversations during the QBR process.
  • Action: The rep will want to create a task to follow up with internal stakeholders to prepare for the QBR.

4. Run sales plays using an automated Product-Led Sales tool like Calixa

The final step is building your playbook in a Product-Led Sales platform that can automate your plays from start to finish. Since most upsell and expansion plays are triggered by user behavior in the product, combining product and sales data in Calixa makes flagging and acting on key upsell and expansion opportunities second nature for sales reps.

Calixa automatically alerts reps to new upsell and expansion opportunities, showing them which plays were triggered offering integrated actions to take, such as those in the example below:

  • Check current product usage, along with key metrics such as Active Users and Documents Created
  • Create an upsell opportunity in Salesforce
  • Send the decision maker a tailored Outreach sequence with product usage metrics

This easy access to product usage data, along with automatic sales play notifications and next steps, helps Sales engage with existing customers to efficiently upsell higher tiers and add-ons for greater revenue growth.

👉 Learn more about Calixa's Playbook Automation System.

Watch the full webinar

Product Updates
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Product Updates: January 2023

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Hope your 2023 is off to a great start! As usual, our team was excited to ship new features and a better user experience. See what we’ve been up to.

☀️ Redesigned playbooks 

Our playbooks now put even more product insights at your fingertips. Enable reps to know exactly what plays to run for timely PQL follow-up.

👀 Get product insights at a glance so you can easily understand your plays. All PQLs are automatically grouped into the accounts you own.

📈 Equip reps with the best-practice set of steps for high conversion and close rates.

🙌 Take integrated actions into Salesforce, HubSpot, Outreach, and more without leaving your inbox.

🔁 Salesforce Sync

Get all of Calixa’s insights and other connected data (Clearbit, Outreach, Stripe, etc.) synced directly to your Salesforce records.

🎯 Display your target account list with product usage scores

🗺 Find ICP leads who are getting stuck in the activation journey

👀 Surface open opportunities that hit paywalls this week

Email team@calixa.io for beta access.

📈 Expandable side panel

View your best PQAs while also deep diving into user activity – with our new, larger side panel. With more real estate to showcase data, you can uncover insights and take action faster.

⚡️ Quick actions

Go from insight to action in one-click. Quick Actions show reps the relevant next steps – all without needing to click into a user or account. Increase conversions with faster follow-up. 

🔍 Property picker

Quickly find the data you need with our new Property Picker. Reps now have a larger view of their available data. Easily access insights from your product and CRM, while switching between properties and usage metrics.

🙌 Product-Led Sales tactics 

Check out the latest Product-Led Sales tactics and advice.

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Sign up here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Product Updates
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Introducing CRM Sync for Salesforce

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Today’s companies juggle dozens of SaaS apps. Getting data across these apps often requires costly and time-consuming migrations. In Product-Led Sales, this means waiting on data teams to update Salesforce with product data.

This delay reduces sales effectiveness. Sales teams miss out on product intent signals. All of this costs you time and money. 

Why we built CRM Sync

CRM Sync for Salesforce is the easiest way to provide access to Calixa’s product insights and scoring in Salesforce. Reps gain access to countless data sources and insights in a single place – all while minimizing requests to data teams. It also empowers RevOps to control their own destiny.

This feature fast-tracks the migration of PQL scores, user and account milestones, key usage metrics, and more into Salesforce. Syncs can be configured to run once or more times per day, so you are confident reps always have timely data to act on. 

You can sync Calixa’s insights and any of your other connected data (such as Clearbit, Outreach, Stripe, etc.) into any standard or custom field within the Lead, Contact, and Account objects in Salesforce.

The result is smarter prospecting and better visibility across the two platforms. By automatically syncing data between Calixa and Salesforce, reps are armed with the most relevant and updated data to fuel pipeline and close more deals.

Common use cases

You can choose what you want to sync from Calixa and any of your connected sources into Salesforce. This includes Calixa-specific insights such as PQL scores and journey milestones. You can also add in basic usage metrics (e.g. number of users in an account) and customer fit data. 

Here are some common ways reps use these insights in Salesforce:

  • Display your target account list with product usage scores
  • Find ICP leads who are getting stuck in the activation journey
  • Surface open opportunities that hit paywalls this week
  • Monitor closed won accounts that tried new premium features

This complete view of product usage enables reps to identify the best opportunities and tailor conversations around customer behavior and needs.

Get access to our beta

CRM Sync for Salesforce is now in public beta. Existing customers can gain access by reaching out to their sales rep or emailing team@calixa.io.

New to Calixa? Sign up today.

Advice for Growth
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9 ways sales reps use product data to book meetings

Fred Melanson
Head of Content
|
Calixa

When was the last time you received an email and after just looking at it realized that it was a sales pitch and deleted it? 

Exactly. 

And with that in mind, sales spend 21% of their days writing emails, yet most emails never get answers (less than 10%). 

One-size-fits-all email blasting ain’t working anymore. Especially for users of your product who may benefit from a sales assist motion (but don’t know yet). 

When selling into existing users of your product, reps need to be smarter and more thoughtful in their reach out. Therefore, the relevancy of a sales email has never been more important. 

The good news is that reps at product-led companies in fact have an unfair advantage. 

Relationships, grit and negotiation skills used to be what set reps apart. Until product data became a conversation starter.

Using product data can skyrocket reps’ reply rates but even better, uncover unknown revenue. By making their engagement with users hyper-personalized and contextual, reps can move from promotional selling to assisting users to achieve more value from their product.

Simply adding multiple personalization fields to an email can improve reply rates by as much as 142%! Imagine when those personal touches in an email are not just their first name or company name but instead their recent activity with your product.

Let’s jump into how reps can leverage product data to get more replies from outbound to top users. 👇

1. Using a specific feature 

When it comes to reaching out to qualified users of your product, it’s all about helping users be more successful. For example, seeing them use a specific functionality over and over is a great opportunity to mention other adjacent features perhaps underutilized or even overlooked. 

According to Steven Boone, former RVP of Sales at Twillio, this technique comes down to reps understanding how specific features being used (or lack thereof) represents a potential for your customer or leaves value on the table. And additionally how products or features coupled together can have a notable impact on customer efficiency or even cost. 

“What becomes really important, across thousands or millions of users, is being able to develop opinions about how a user should be using your product, where common pitfalls are and when a rep really needs to get engaged, and then how to deliver that message in a valuable way. ”

His take on the email: 

Email based on prospects using specific features

2. Implementing “sticky” features like integrations

Connecting integrations into a product as a self-serve user can usually indicate solid buying intent, especially during a free trial period. Reps can use that signal to their advantage and ensure the user succeeds in their integration. 

Email based on prospects integrating tools

Here’s a real example from Everhour 👇

Email from asana

Our friend Drew Teller, who works on the growth at Netlify, has a 🔑 piece of advice for reps who sell into accounts that use specific features:

Sales should consider looking at selling value-based outcomes by first understanding your product's relationship between inputs and outputs. Output is typically a usage-based metric such as bandwidth for a hosting platform or messages/pings for an API-first platform. Inputs are typically the features or actions users take to extract value from your product. It's critical to understand the connection of which features lead to certain outcomes. Depending on your feature-gating pricing model, sales can usually lead with how continued or new feature adoption (on let's say on the Enterprise tier) will drive more value (output) for their end users.

Example: Usage starts to increase for teams who host multiple sites or properties on Netlify. This usage is either at, over, or close to the limit for a particular pricing plan. At a certain point, sales will then communicate the value of faster performance, less downtime, and premium support so that their sites can scale usage even further with essentially no limits.

3. Reaching usage milestone 

Sometimes a simple “congrats” is all someone needs to build a rapport with your brand. Reps can leverage product milestones to encourage or support prospects along their product journey

Email from a sales rep when users reach milestones

In some cases, a generic product milestone can be meaningless. The question is: which milestones indicate a fundamental change in how your customer will be using your product going forward? 

Reps at Gated, for example, know that receiving your first donation is a meaningful step, and use the opportunity to start a conversation. 

Email from Gated

Steven gives an example with Salesforce: 

You can add user licenses to your own Salesforce account–going from 1 user to 10, to 100, to 110 for example. There probably isn’t a big difference between having 100 licenses and 110 licenses. And having to call a CSM to add licenses every time would be a painful experience for a customer. But maybe there's something different about the 175th license. Not because we should renegotiate the contract or I can save you a few bucks. But maybe because it fundamentally changes as a business how you should use Salesforce. And it’s at that moment that sales or CS need to chime in. 

4. Growth in users 

Accounts with high user growth who fit your ICP are more often than not ripe for a sales conversation, especially on a free trial or lower-tiered plan. Reps can educate prospects on the benefits of collaboration features for growing teams. 

Email from a sales rep when accounts have growth in usage

Underneath user growth often hides consolidation plays. Multiple workspaces across a company, but all on different plans. 

All a rep has to do is:

  • Pull all users that share an email domain
  • Check if they’re on different plans 
  • Find the decision maker
  • Reach out with: 
Email from a sales rep when accounts have growht in usage

*Reps can be guided through this with playbooks.

5. Predicting roadblocks

This brilliant technique is used by sales teams to find valuable customers who might not know that they need help. It consists of using product insights to find similarities between new customers and old customers who ran into roadblocks. 

Email from a sales rep about avoiding roadblocks

Let’s say your product is a sales automation tool. If you see that a given customer has a high bounce rate on their email, it’s smart to reach out to and educate them about the dangers of domain blacklists. You can then recommend a feature of yours that verifies emails! 

Here’s a real example from Unstack 👇

email from Unstack

6. A decision maker signed up

There are products where decision-makers are unlikely to be users, even though they’re the ones who buy. If you’re lucky enough to have decision-makers who both buy and use your product, make sure to capitalize. 

They might have different expectations when signing up, and will likely not use the same features as their colleagues. Reps can book a meeting by providing a VIP welcome to the product and showcasing case studies relevant to their use case. 

Going a bit deeper, Steven flags the importance of combining decision-makers with specific trends in the product. Otherwise, reach outs can feel salesy. 

For example: 

Email from a sales rep when decision makers sign up

7. Close to paywalls

As you’ve probably experienced yourself, prospects who are close to paywalls are often in the process of considering whether or not your paid offering is for them. Savvy reps recognize that opportunity and don’t let prospects think negatively about an upgrade! 

The key with both #7 and #8 is to know when to be reactive vs proactive. 

Reactive: The paywall has been hit but nothing is “blocking” them from being successful (i.e: Reaching user limits in Hubspot). 

Email from a sales rep when users are close to paywalls

Proactive: The paywall is close to being hit and reaching it would mean harm to the customer (i.e: being close to your Dropbox or Snowflake storage). 

Email from a sales rep when users are close to paywalls

OpinionX’s team (example below) knew very well that answers were being blurred out after 50 participants and that could annoy users, so they proactively reached out. 

OpinionX email

8. Rapid surge in usage 

Prospects might not be close to paywalls or have shown specific buying intentions in their product usage, but a spike in usage volume may indicate opportunities.

Email from a sales rep when accounts surge in usage

Expert reps look at trends to predict surges and help customers proactively. Also, knowing when not to engage during a surge.

Steven gives Black Friday as an example. 

As a rep, you don’t want to reach out to an eCommerce customer about a surge on Black Friday, since it’s a normal occurrence and you’ll come across as opportunistic if you do. However, reaching out 3 weeks prior to Black Friday to a customer to help them prepare for a surge and avoid pitfalls can lead to valuable conversations both for the rep and the customer.

🔑 Takeaway: Know your customer, and their industry. Look at past product actions to combine both into useful insights that lead to upsell opportunities. 

9. (Bonus) Contextual reach outs 

This technique isn’t directly applicable to booking meetings, but will drastically improve your chances of doing so after the fact. People are tired of automated messages, bots, AI replacing their work, etc. Using product data to connect with prospects will heavily increase your reply rates going forward. 

Here’s a solid example from Hugo that got my attention: 

Email from Josh at Hugo

How reps can access product data easily 

The simplest and most effective way to get product data in the hands of reps is by using a Product-Led Sales platform like Calixa. 

First, sales teams need access to self-serve product insights, and the ability to set criteria for product thresholds mentioned above. 

Calixa platform screenshot
Calixa platform screenshot

Second, SDRs need to be able to seamlessly visualize which, out of thousands of users or accounts, are qualified for sales engagements. 

Calixa platform screenshot

Third, reps need to be able to understand product usage to efficiently personalize their message using playbooks. 

Calixa platform screenshot

Finally, you need to take integrated actions to downstream tools like Outreach, SalesLoft, Salesforce and Hubspot easily, which Calixa provides out of the box. 

Calixa platform screenshot

Do you automate emails or send them manually?

Let's turn to Steven Boone again for this: 

“What are humans really necessary for regardless of whether or not it's always a perfectly better experience for your customers”

 His view is that PLG should be about either (or ideally both): 

  • Making GTM more efficient 
  • Improving the customer experience

Regarding automated or personal emails, ask yourself: Would the customer really appreciate a person reaching out at that time? Would it help them? Otherwise, automate it.

Caveat: Avoid spending time on bad leads 

Although unrelated to using product data to engage leads, it’s crucial to mention that not all leads are created equal. A common mistake made by reps prospecting into pools of self-serve users is to reach out to anyone with the product behaviours mentioned above. 

Layering ICP data on top of product signals is a key part of prioritizing PQLs. Check out our guide on setting up a PQL engine to learn how to implement ICP data filtering, or sign up to Calixa to track PQLs with no coding efforts. 

🐅 Happy hunting!

Playbooks
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How to build a free-to-paid conversion playbook

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

As a useful tool to accelerate self-serve revenue growth, Product-Led Sales playbooks are top of mind for every PLG sales leader. But building playbooks is no easy feat without a fine-tuned strategy in place. Chatting with playbook first-timers, we hear questions like:

  • What kinds of sales playbooks do most PLG folks use?
  • Is there a framework that playbooks should follow?
  • What would a free-to-paid conversion playbook look like?
  • Do we need any specific product or sales data?

In our recent how-to webinar, Free-to-Paid Conversion Playbook, we covered all these questions (and more!). Read on for a recap of what playbooks are, examples of free-to-paid conversion plays, and a simple framework you can use to build Product-Led Sales playbooks.

Breaking down the basics: Product-Led Sales playbooks

What is a Product-Led Sales playbook?

Product-Led Sales playbooks are step-by-step guides that level the playing field between sales reps, so to speak. Standardizing sales best practices into an easily consumable format, a playbook helps your least-tenured reps run deals using the same tactics as the most experienced ones. In this way, it helps Sales build repeatable, scalable success across the team, minimizing risks and keeping conversion rates high.

Rarely, if ever, are playbooks a one-size-fits-all use case. Most PLG companies build multiple playbooks to outline specific tactics and tools for different types of product qualified leads (PQLs) or accounts at different stages of their activation or adoption lifecycles. 

Who uses Product-Led Sales playbooks?

Sales reps use playbooks to understand the right steps to take for timely PQL follow-up. Playbooks set every rep up for repeatable success in high conversion and close rates. Sales leadership provides guidance about playbooks so that everyone is operating, selling, and running deals based on agreed-upon best practices. 

What are the most common Product-Led Sales playbooks?

Depending on your PQL conversion goals, there are any number of use cases a sales team might build a Product-Led Sales playbook for. The following are three common playbooks we see across the PLG space. 

  • Free-to-paid conversion playbook: The bread and butter of PLG, this playbook converts free users onto paid plans. It’s an easy first pick—most sales teams already have a motion in place with a need to standardize it across the company.
  • Upsell expansion playbook: With the unofficial motto of 2023 being “Do More With Less,” this playbook is another popular choice for Sales and GTM leaders. Upselling higher tiers and add-ons to happy customers is an efficient way to capture revenue. 
  • Enterprise account consolidation: This is favored by companies with significant spikes in user adoption and usage across different teams. It involves merging multiple workspaces or lower tier accounts into one centralized account on a large enterprise plan.

Building winning playbooks: Free-to-paid conversion

While there are countless ways to build a sales playbook for free-to-paid conversion, we recommend following these guidelines to expertly navigate the process.

1. First, start with a simple framework. 

Complicated is the enemy of execution. With this in mind, we recommend using the  “Signal → Messaging → Action”  framework to build out your playbook. Each of the three stages are defined below, and you’ll see what it looks like in action shortly. 

  • Signal: The user behavior that triggers your sales play
  • Messaging: How you want reps to think about the signal and communicate its value to the customer
  • Action: The steps or tactics reps should take to move the deal along 

2. Then, identify your top free-to-paid conversion scenarios

With this framework in place, identify the free-to-paid scenarios and user behaviors you want your reps to take action on. While user behavior varies across companies, we commonly see these three scenarios:

  • Scenario #1: Users who try premium functionality
  • Scenario #2: Users who hit usage caps
  • Scenario #3: Users approaching their seat limits

3. Now, begin mapping out your scenarios.

Sales plays in hand, you can start mapping them out using the “Signal → Messaging → Action” framework. To illustrate this framework in action, let’s map out the three free-to-paid conversation scenarios above.

Scenario #1: Users who try premium functionality

A common free-to-paid conversion scenario is when free-tier users show intent by experimenting with functionality that’s paywalled, behind a feature gate, or limited in some capacity. 

In this scenario, your playbook might look like:

  • Signal: The signal is a free-tier user who tested out premium functionality. When this happens, reps are notified that someone has shown interest in an upgraded feature.
  • Messaging: This is a great opportunity for reps to showcase how other companies are getting value from the feature. Rather than getting tied up in feature selling, the focus here is understanding the value a feature adds to the company’s business. 
  • Action: We've seen a lot of companies with pre-built Outreach or SalesLoft sequences for people using premium functionality or hitting other triggers. A next step here could be adding the PQL to an Outreach sequence with messaging that is tailored to their use case. 

Scenario #2: Users who hit usage caps

Whether it’s event volume or number of seats or instances, product-led companies often have usage caps in place for their free product tier. As someone gets close to hitting that limit, sales reps will want to talk to them about upgrading to a paid tier. 

In this scenario, your playbook might look like: 

  • Signal: When someone is close to reaching the usage limit, it signals to reps that they’re a power user.
  • Messaging: Alerting reps to users who are getting close to their usage caps gives them the right context to explain the value of upgrading to a higher tier (i.e. higher or unlimited usage). It’s also a good time to review the account to determine who else they should reach out to, such as the decision maker. 
  • Action: A next step here could be creating a lead in the CRM for folks using the product but aren’t being tracked. For example, a power user who isn’t a decision maker but is someone you don’t want to slip through the cracks.

Scenario #3: Users approaching their seat limits

This is a common scenario for traditional SaaS companies with seat-based pricing, looking to identify growth within existing teams. For example, they might have someone who signs up, invites one person, and is on the free plan for months before ultimately inviting 20 more people from their company.

In this scenario, your playbook might look like:

  • Signal: Approach, or exceeding, seat limits is a huge buying signal for sales reps.
  • Messaging: One thing reps can do here is send a screenshot of team usage—not just who’s using the product but a breakdown of what they’re doing and how often they’re logging in. The goal here is to build a story around the value the company gets from using your tool. 
  • Action: In a situation like this, you might want the rep to open an opportunity. 

4. Finally, build and execute your sales plays using a tool like Calixa

As a last step, execute your playbook using a Product-Led Sales platform that can automate the process from start to finish. Since most free-to-paid conversion plays are based on user behavior in the product, Calixa gives sales teams the product and sales data they need to run plays and close deals more effectively. 

Automatic alerts give sales reps a clear understanding of signal and action steps such as the ones in the free-to-paid conversion playbook example below:

  • Review this company's current product usage 
  • Create that user that tried the premium feature as a lead in Salesforce 
  • Send a follow-up email via this add-to-Outreach sequence. 

With fast, easy access to product usage data, sales reps can have rich, timely conversations with prospects and move their deals across the finish line more quickly.

👉 Learn more about Calixa's Playbook Automation System.

Watch the full webinar

Product-Led Fundamentals
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Practical framework to finding & monetizing PQLs

Fred Melanson
Head of Content
|
Calixa

Welcome to PLS Deep Dives! This series walks you through how to do Product-Led Sales from a practical standpoint – from defining your first PQL all the way to executing wall-to-wall upsells.

In Part One, we’ll go over PQLs: How to find them and turn them into sales opportunities. 

Why should I read this? 

Simple: PQLs convert more often than other lead types for businesses with free trials or freemium plans. 

  • Managers: This framework explains the fundamentals of a PQL engine and 6 step process on how to set it up. 
  • Reps: This article explains how to leverage your company’s PQLs to prospect and close more business with less effort. 

Not convinced? We recently heard from the following an AE at a $4B SaaS company: “After just 3 days of leveraging PQLs, I sourced a $1M deal!”.

Let’s get to it 👇

What is a Product Qualified Lead? (Hint: Not an MQL)

Before we start, here’s a reminder of what a PQL is: 

PQLs, also known as Product Qualified Leads, are users within your product who are qualified for sales opportunities because they have reached specific usage milestones in the product and fit with your ideal customer profile.

Think of a PQL as a user with high INTENT (product usage and/or buying signals) + FIT (customer profile). 

Note that some companies prefer to find Product Qualified Accounts, as they don’t sell to individuals, but rather to companies, or teams. The framework below can be applied to both.

A PQL is better for your revenue stream than marketing qualified leads since the intent of someone getting self-serve value from your product is clearly higher than a potential customer who has downloaded content or another basic marketing qualifier.

Let’s go through the PQL framework so you can find more opportunities for your sales team 🎯! 

Part 1: Finding PQLs

Pick a conversion event

Do you do something without a goal in mind? 

That’s the equivalent of setting PQLs without a conversion point. 

Conversion points are ways for your business to generate more revenue from people using your product. 

Common conversion points for most PLG businesses are 👇

  • Free-to-paid: Converting free users into any of your paid tiers. 
  • Self-serve to enterprise: Converting those people that have hopped on your paid tier by themselves into an enterprise contract. 
  • Expansion: Converting paid accounts into more lucrative paid accounts (more seats, more usage, more features, etc.).
  • Account consolidation: Merging multiple workspaces or lower tier accounts into one centralized account on a higher tier paid plan. 

Start with a single conversion point 

Focus is important as you develop and iterate on your PQL workflows. Starting with one conversion event ensures that you can properly track your PQL efforts. 

Also, different teams might be working on your various conversion events. As we’ll explain below, the best product-led GTM teams get one PQL workflow working for a single conversion event and then build on from there. 

If you’re new to product-led sales (PLS), you probably have an untapped pool of free users to prospect from. If that’s the case, start with free-to-paid as your conversion event. 

Depending on your PLS maturity and the dynamics of your user base (amount of users, pricing strategy), you can assess where the biggest revenue opportunities lie. 

Examples

  • You have a narrow user base with volume-related pricing tiers (Reverse ETL tools) → Focus on expansion as your first conversion point. 
  • Massive user base with sharing virality (Miro) → Focus on free-to-paid as your first conversion point.
Lead jumping through paywalls

Define an intent threshold

Once you’ve identified your conversion point, you want to find what kind of intent (or behaviors) users need to demonstrate to be worthy of your sales efforts.

Product intent can include both product usage and buying signals. 

Let’s untangle both. 

Product usage 

The most famous one is the “aha moment”. The moment at which a user realizes the value that your product is providing. 

But in general, this one is about setting milestones at which you’re confident that your users have gotten value from your product, and can become even more successful on paid plans.

Self serve revenue vs PQL activated revenue

Here’s a simple formula for setting a product usage milestone: 

Step 1: Make a list of your product’s main actions (tasks created, storage used, integrations, etc). 

Step 2: Make a list of your highest-revenue customers.

Step 3: Go to your product analytics tool (Mixpanel, Amplitude). Filter usage dashboards by those customers you identified and the product’s main actions. (You can ask product folks or data science for help). 

Step 4: Look for the moment on the graph when your best customers upgraded plans (you can get this info from your CRM). 

Step 5: Compare the trends you find between customers and define a “ballpark” threshold. 

Real-world example: Slack’s team has observed that after 9,000 messages sent, their users have a high tendency to convert to paid plans. 

Buying signals 

Buying signals are actions taken by users that demonstrate a willingness to buy.

Tracking buying signals is crucial as you might have users who have not yet reached qualifying product usage thresholds but are still good opportunities for sales because they’re (hypothetically) raising their hand to buy.

Examples

  • Buying new seats
  • Going to your pricing page
  • Trying out premium features
  • Contacted sales
  • Hit plan limits

Note that you should not weigh buying signals equally. Users contacting sales are showing more willingness to buy than users passively looking at your pricing page. 

Buying signals to convert deals

Best practice: track as many buying signals as you can and prioritize sales actions on leads who have shown the strongest intent to purchase. 

How to use product usage and buying signals to step up your sales game

We find this matrix below helpful in crafting a sales strategy that capitalizes on the type of intent (product usage vs buying signals) you can consider acting on.

Graph representing how to act based on usage and buying signals

Let’s break down what you should do based on where your lead is in this matrix: 

Lots of buying signals + high product usage: Focus sales efforts on uncovering what’s blocking your prospect from becoming a paid customer. Engage decision-makers. 

No buying signals + high product usage: Focus sales efforts on pitching the added value of paid tiers. Leverage case studies and build an ROI simulation. 

Lots of buying signals + low product usage: Educate your prospect about how to become successful in the product. Share best practices, templates, etc. 

No buying signals + low product usage: Nurture users through automated campaigns and regular product experiences. Sales teams shouldn’t spend time on these leads. 

Note that intent isn’t intended to be product usage or buying signals. For many high-performing PLG companies, the PQL threshold is a mix of both! 

(Hypothetical) PQL thresholds from notable PLG companies: 

ClickUp logo

Created more than 50 tasks (product usage) and invited 10 users in the last 30 days (buying signal).

Miro logo

Created 10 boards (product usage) and have 20 daily active users (buying signal)

Twilio logo

Made > 100 API calls in the last 30 days (product usage) and bought a phone number (buying signal)

Prioritize PQLs with customer fit (ICP) data 

Deadly mistake: having a salesperson engage a lead with low revenue potential!

You now have your product signals in place. As mentioned, the other half of your PQL is customer fit. 

Not every highly active user has the ability or needs to purchase your product. Product-Led Sales is about talking to the right users at the right companies.

To do this, you need to filter PQLs who reach your usage thresholds with firmographic data like title, company size or industry. 

Example data on the account level: 

  • Company size 
  • Industry 
  • Revenue
  • Funding raised

Example data on the user level: 

  • Title
  • Size of the team they manage
  • Function 

Think of customer fit as putting glasses on that let you see through the haystack to find the needle! 

Before and after layering ICP data on PQLs

What firmographic data should I use? 

Again, if you’re thinking: “That’s all great, but where do I start?”, here’s how you define baselines for fit criteria 👇

Look at your current customer base 

Use the same formula as for usage thresholds! What do your best-paying customers have in common? 

Start there. 

Who’s delighted by your product?

Another trick is to look further than the most lucrative customers. 

Like:

  • Going to sites like G2, Capterra, Google reviews, etc. and look for your best reviews.
  • Talking to your Customer Advisory Board (if you have one). 
  • Looking for the most active customers in your community (again, if you have one). 
  • Paying attention to customers who do case studies or provide reference calls. 

What do those users have in common? Look at their titles, company sizes, etc. 

How to add firmographic data to your PQL engine

Most PLS platforms will have built-in enrichment so you can add fit conditions to your PQL prioritization process. 

Data-based filters in Calixa

Another option is to use tools like Clearbit to enrich data through your warehouse (Snowflake, Redshift) or Customer Data Platform (Segment).

What if it's not that simple? 

PLG companies like Jasper use fit thresholds that aren’t fixed. Meaning a user that is part of a fast-growing tech company may be more valuable for their SDRs to engage than a user at a bigger company that is stalling. 

For this very reason, advanced usage of fit data to identify PQLs is to look at data points through time. 

Another one that’s often forgotten is to route PQLs to the right workflows, which we break down next 👇

Part 2: Engage PQLs

Workflows! Route your PQLs correctly

After doing steps 1-3,  you might be tempted to jump straight to hunting 🐅 your fresh leads. 

DON’T! 

Not all PQLs should be touched on by your sales team. So it’s crucial to route them to the correct workflow. 

Here’s what we mean 👇

Workflow for PQL types

In a nutshell, you want to route PQLs to specific workflows depending on their ICP fit, like: 

  • Sending big accounts to enterprise AEs. 
  • Notifying SDRs of mid-market PQLs. 
  • Passing lower-tier PQLs to a nurture campaign where they can convert on their own. 

How to route users to the correct workflow

You can do it with custom integrations and complex back-end setups. 

But in most cases, sophisticated PLG companies (like Notion, ClickUp, Jasper, Zoom,  etc.) use a PLS system to handle settings up these workflows. 

With a PLS platform in place, you can: 

  1. Qualify leads based on intent & fit data. 
  2. Automate the creation of tasks and actions based on PQL type.
  3. Route hot PQLs to the systems your reps are already using.

How to get PQL data in the hands of sales 

🚨 Get your data right! 

If your data team is not tracking events in your warehouse or customer data platform, you won’t be able to set up an intent threshold from product data. 

Assuming this is not an issue, here are 3 ways to set signals up in your current workflow: 

Best data workflow for PLS: 

Data workflow for PLS

This setup allows your rep to visualize product-qualified accounts and self-sufficiently gain the context needed to take the right actions at the right time. 

Product-Led Sales platforms play a crucial role in making sure that your GTM teams understand what prospects are doing with the product and how they should take action. 

Without it, many reps are back to shooting in the dark, engaging every lead with the same “one-size-fits-all” approach. 

Good: 

Reverse ETL workflow for PLS

This setup requires reps to dig for information, which isn’t ideal, but can power automated workflows and get product data into your GTM systems. 

Worse

Manual data workflow for PLS

This one requires custom coding by your engineering team. Product insights do get to your GTM systems, but most often aren’t even leveraged by GTM teams and lack timeliness, resulting in reps having a rearview mirror understanding of their opportunities. 

Got it? 

NOW it’s time to hunt! 

Find a product narrative to pitch

Well, not quite. Almost!  

Let’s build a sales story first. Meaning let’s find an angle to pitch to our lead so that she understands what she’s losing out on by not upgrading to a higher-paid plan. 

Here’s the idea 👇

Product perception before and after sales

What the best PLG sales teams out there do is build a story that they can explain to decision-makers using numbers. 

Paint a bright future: “Here’s how you’re using us. If you upgrade, you get X functionalities that solve problem Y that’s worth Z dollars a month for your team.” 

Or 

Anchor to the main problem: “You started using our product to solve problem Y. By allowing your marketing team to collaborate with sales using X features of our product, you can gain a Z increase in output from your team”. 

Selling to end users is a different beast. A few tips here.

When & how to reach out to PQLs – with email examples

Speed-to-lead is crucial. Zoominfo (although not a PLG company) is a great example. 

Zoominfo reps call inbound prospects within 60 seconds of an intent signal, and that’s been a game-changer for their pipeline. 

We’re not saying that you need to call PQLs, but Speed-to-lead (independent of how you get in touch) has a big impact on conversion rates. The faster reps take action, the higher the chances of creating an opportunity. 

We recommend setting up alerts when new PQLs are found. 

To increase your chances of key users responding to your sales outreach, you need to use usage context + helpful insight. 

Usage context = You have done X actions in the product. 

Helpful insight = Similar case study, product documentation, how-to guides, etc. 

Here are a few email examples: 

Reached a milestone

Email example to a PQL

Close to a paywall

Email example to a PQL

Using specific features (or not)

Email example to a PQL

Part 3: Operationalizing your PQL engine

PQL ownership: Stories from MixPanel & 1Password 

When we interviewed Dan McKnight, Director of Sales for North America at Mixpanel, he shared with us his vision of what he called the PQL Council. After running Mixpanel’s Onboarding Specialists and Experiments teams on a high volume of users, he decided to get more intelligent about increasing conversion rates. The purpose of the PQL Council was to generate their own homegrown definition of a PQL and decide how to act on PQLs. 

Mixpanel’s PQL committee included::

  • The data science team first analyzes what combination of behavior leads to revenue-generating conversations.
  • The ops team institutes these changes into the lead flow and execution.
  • The sales team then provides feedback about what’s working qualitatively and how to enable reps.

Dan said the ideal state is to run a rapid feedback loop optimizing for PQLs. Their committee does the work of data analysis, PQL notifications, and implementing playbooks – while reps focus on selling. This collaboration allowed them to learn quickly from their large user base.

Every company’s PQL committee may look a bit different. For example, in our chat with Raj Sarkar, advisor and former CMO at 1Password, he stated that such cross-functional teams belong under a Chief Growth Officer. At the end of the day, what matters is having clear PQL ownership. Reps know which PQLs belong to them, and revenue leaders have a holistic view of their motions. 

How to experiment with PQLs 

→ Set a hypothesis and goal

We believe that our users with the most revenue potential are ________ because they use the product on average _______ per (month/week/day) and gain _______ value out of taking _______ actions for/to solve ______ use case.

→ Define success 

Set a baseline KPI for success after implementing PQLs. It can vary based on your business, and we get into what’s a desired end state for PQLs below, but for now, you can start with either of these: 

  • Change in conversion % (based on conversion point set in step 1).
  • Improvement in sales close rate.
  • Net new opportunities created.
  • Net new revenue.
  • Revenue per sales rep (AE or SDRs). 

→ Analyze the results after a given time period

Numbers don’t lie. But don’t forget to talk to your stakeholders. Results are often nuanced. Give yourself some time to iterate.

One powerful insight about experimentation came from our conversation with Ryan Milligan @QuotaPath: 

Don’t hold on to dead leads because you think that they’ll come back! Ryan recycles his PQAs every 90 days if they aren’t showing intentions to buy. 

How PandaDoc thinks about revisiting PQL criteria 

Depends on your business, of course. 

But according to Pavel Hayes, former Head of Global inbound sales at PandaDoc: 

“I found that two months was a reasonable timeframe to understand what’s working well and what’s not. Weekly syncs with stakeholders across product, data, ops, sales, success, and marketing to review performance helped us a lot. A week gave us plenty of time to see how things developed and decide whether to make tweaks or let it run. Anything longer than a week made it harder for us to pivot direction or course correct.” 

How do I know if I’m tracking the right actions? 

We’ll get into turning your PQL setup into a well-oiled machine further down. 

For now, here’s a simple formula: 

Step 1: Look at the sales team’s opportunities created last quarter. 

Step 2: Implement PQL tracking with the INTENT and FIT thresholds explained above. 

Step 3: After a quarter of implementing PQL tracking, evaluate your sales team’s opportunities created again. 

Notice a difference? 

More opportunities? Higher close rate? Faster sales cycles? 

Those are all side effects of good PQL activation. It’s time to level up 🚀. 

Level up: Why is improving PQLs important? 

If your product changes, does your website copy change? 

Same thing with PQLs. 

Your pricing tiers may change. New features will be added to your product, etc. 

Those require adjustments to your PQL tracking if you want to make sure that you’re always uncovering the best revenue opportunities for your sales org. 

Especially in 2023, when every SaaS company is trying to do more with less. Chances are, you need to reach the same revenue goals with fewer reps. Keeping your PQL engine effective makes that possible. 

Repeat for other conversion points 

Simple: You don’t sell the same way an enterprise deal as you would a team expansion.

Also, you probably will have different reps handle both conversion points. 

Different PQLs = New workflows. 

Therefore, the best PLG companies set up multiple “views” and “workflows” around their conversion points. 

What’s the desired end state? 

This google sheet helps you easily calculate whether your PQL engine is making an impact on your business. 

After a few months of utilizing PQLs, input your numbers in the sheet (deal size, close rate, new user sign-ups), and see how much revenue you’re generating per sales rep (SDR or AE). 

NOTE: You might have internal reports that are similar. The idea for an end state is seeing how your revenue closed per sales rep is increasing with PQLs embedded in your revenue strategy. 

Onwards 

We hope that this gives you a concrete starting point of how to implement a product-qualified lead strategy that generates a constant pipeline for your business. 

Hungry for more? Don’t forget to check back for Part 2: In-debt breakdown of the sales workflow you need to close PLS deals.

Learn more about how to prioritize PQLs with Calixa:

Advice for Sales
rEAD-time

Why PQLs reign king over MQLs

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing
|
Calixa

Starting my career from a traditional B2B SaaS software background, Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) were the bread and butter of how we defined success and buyer intent as a marketing organization. 

I regularly looked at MQLs to gauge content and campaign impact and in turn who was sale-ready. While MQLs still have their place within marketing-led GTM motions, when shifting into a product-led motion, it didn’t take long to see that MQLs don’t offer nearly as much for Product-Led Sales (PLS).

Why marketing qualified leads aren’t relevant to the PLS motion

To levelset, an MQL score usually is made up of two factors: website or campaign activity (read blog; attended webinar) and firmographic data (company size; job title). 

In a product-led world, MQLs become less relevant because the people you’re most interested in are already in your product trying it out. 

Venn diagram showing 3 components of a PQL

At Calixa, we are seeing more growth and demand gen leaders asking how to define and prioritize Product Qualified Leads (PQL). Marketing has realized that they need a better picture of their buyer – and when set up and defined correctly, a product qualified lead can tell a much fuller story of a user's journey with your brand. 

A PQL is made up of product insights (how they are using your product) and customer fit (are they your ICP) data, so sales can be better informed when selling. By contrast, MQLs have no relation to product usage, adoption, or conversion.

MQLs are failing PLG

In traditional B2B SaaS marketing funnels, deal cycles are notoriously long with the prospect not ever interacting with the product. As a result, marketing collateral is used as a proxy for buyer interest. As an MQL accumulates points in top-of-funnel activities, such as reading this blog article, downloading a report, or signing up for a webinar and that score reaches the defined MQL criteria, the prospect is then passed over to the sales team for qualification and outreach.

Downloading a white-paper isn’t buying intent. Setting up a scoring system that emphasizes lead generation on that type of qualifying is very dangerous for PLG sales reps.

Source

But in Product-Led Growth, where users sign up to use the product on a free plan - or even paid - product-led marketers (and sales) can get ahold of far more user insights. They know which features a buyer is attracted to, and which high-value actions were taken, allowing marketers to nurture and educate product users more effectively and with a personal touch. 

After all, think about what criteria makes for a stronger sales opportunity:

❌ A prospect who opened up two marketing emails and downloaded an eBook?

✅ Or a freemium user who created an account 2 weeks ago and added 10 people to their workspace last week?

Using PQLs for deeper, more meaningful lead scoring

Unlike MQLs, which qualifies buyer intent via website visits, PQLs measure usage behaviors of users already getting value from your product. As such, these lead scores are high-quality metrics based on product usage and behavioral patterns–not vanity metrics like content downloads or blog views that don’t translate to value with your product. 

Because of this, PQLs also give marketing and sales teams deeper, more reliable context into how each lead engages and uncovers value within the product.

For example, common signals indicating users get value out of the product are engaging with specific features or adding new people to their plan. Combined with other PQL criteria (which we’ll cover below!), these types of activities indicate someone who may be ready to convert to a paying customer. What more product-led marketing teams are realizing–and what we see within our own customer base–is that PQLs drive higher conversion rates, generate more accurate lead scores, and give the sales team more valuable context for meaningful conversations. In fact, PQLs often convert 5x higher than traditional MQLs (source: Accenture).

Graph showing the difference between PQLs and MQLs

What people get wrong about PQLs–and how to get them right

Not all PQLs are created equal. Done wrong, they can push arbitrary product data into your CRM or result in sales reaching out to folks who aren’t the right customer fit. We see this happen most when product-led teams over-index on product usage data without incorporating a more holistic customer view. 

For example: a super user who’s a single, independent user without potential for a multiple-seat upsell or enterprise package. Or a power user at A Big Enterprise who’s active in the product but not a target buyer persona. If your PQLs only score product usage, without factoring in demographics or customer profile criteria, you risk higher chances of wasting your sales team’s time.  

That said, coming up with a bulletproof PQL doesn’t have to be complex. For the most part, you need to account for two key factors: product usage/activity and customer fit.

  • Product usage and activity: Here, the emphasis should be on activities that reflect points of value along the user journey with your product. Think: reaching the critical “a-ha!” moment. To do this, you’ll need to determine what activities best represent user value. This could be actions like adding more users to their plan, doing a certain high intent set of actions, or setting up a specific integration within your product.

  • Ideal customer profile (ICP): This piece then should sound familiar to marketers..define who you want to sell to and define their profile criteria. In other words, who are your most valuable customers and what organization and persona within that organization benefits the most from using your product? You can include criteria such as job titles, company size, type, and industry. If relevant, you can also expand this to target specific regions or geographies and other considerations. 

The magic is when you layer these two criteria together – they are using your product and are your ideal customer - bam! From there, you can go on to create multiple types of PQLs based on various conversion goals & pricing.

How to add PQLs into your sales process

Disclaimer: your engineers don’t have time. 

Yet you need PQLs if you want to stop missing 50% of your opportunities as a product-led business 😱. For PQLs to actually turn to revenue, you need these four steps. 

Step 1: Scoring

Find PQLs using product usage and ICP criteria. 

Step 2: Visibility

Get context into the hands of your reps so they know who to engage. Set up playbooks for them to turn a PQL model into potential customers.

Step 3: Actionability

Automate actions so users convert by themselves and bigger opportunities get created for AEs. 

(Bonus) Step 4: Machine learning

Find opportunities and correlations between product usage and revenue that you can’t see.  

Steps 1-4 are built into Calixa’s platform, no code or product team required. Play around with the product and see for yourself! 

Customer experience > revenue

Looking at MQLs vs PQLs from the point of view of your customer, one feels salesy and the other helpful.

By understanding what free users do in your product, your sales cycle is adapted to the self-service expectations of your prospects.

Going even further: your marketing strategy can help support it. Content can be used to facilitate a sale rather than lead qualification.

Start your product-led sales journey with Calixa today!

Advice for Sales
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Experimenting with product signals across the PLS cycle

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing
|
Calixa

With more than 10 years of experience in the B2B SaaS space, Pavel Hayes uncovered his sweet spot as a proven sales leader in hyper-growth start-up environments. His passion for hiring, training, mentoring, and scaling sales teams led him to PLG companies such as PandaDoc, where he drove ARR from $2M to $60M and grew the sales team from four AEs to 30. 

Below is an excerpt of a recent conversation we had about introducing, experimenting, and testing Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) throughout an early-stage Product-Led Sales (PLS) motion.

The evolution of an early sales cycle

You were one of PandaDoc’s earliest sales reps, evolving its self-serve motion over the course of six years. What did the early sales cycle look like in the early days and at what point did PQLs come into play?

At PandaDoc, self-serve is the lifeblood of the business—its main revenue driver. What’s interesting is that product signals and PQLs didn’t play a significant role until two or three years ago. The reason why is because our self-serve funnel was entirely inbound, with Sales touching every 14-day trial and demo request coming through. We put leads into automated cadences, reaching out to folks who opened emails or engaged with our outreach.

Similar to how PLS teams operate today, we positioned Sales as product specialists from the very beginning, and our conversations focused on the pain points people were trying to solve. Early on, our deal cycle was very transactional and quick, although it eventually expanded as we moved upmarket. At that point, multiple stakeholders, more product demos, and different businesses were entering the mix. Our inbound leads started to cool about four years in, which is when we turned to product data to build more pipeline.

Initiating sales conversations using product insights

I’d love to dig into that process a little more—how did you go about incorporating product data into your sales strategy? What types of product signals did you look for?

At the time, the warm leads coming into our funnel weren’t enough to cover every rep—the funnel shifted from 100% inbound to fluctuating between 50-70%. This meant reps had to recycle old opportunities and re-engage with folks they previously reached out to among other activities to supplement the pipeline gap. This opened up conversations about how we could use product data to guide this outreach. For example, what types of activities reflect someone who’d be receptive to a second sales outreach?

The first thing we looked at was whether an active user mapped to our ICP so we were focusing on the right people. If they did, we looked at their activity inside the product. Creating and sending documents, along with getting them signed, were the key actions we looked for here. This gave our sales reps an immediate signal to re-initiate a conversation. It also helped us quickly spot new folks who were actively engaging in the product, especially as we continued experimenting with different product signals

Testing and tracking product signals

Talk to me a little more about experimentation—what were the biggest success drivers for testing and experimenting with different kinds of product signals? What moved the needle the most?

For me, it really came down to three key elements: 

  • Defining success
  • Regularly tracking experiments
  • Collaborating with cross-functional stakeholders

For starters, defining what success actually means is critical to understanding which experiments are driving the right results. For example, is a successful experiment one that builds pipeline or one that drives revenue? At PandaDoc, we ran experiments that created a lot of pipeline which failed to convert to revenue. This meant digging deeper to figure out if it was a fault of Sales or pipeline that wasn’t real in the first place.

We also ran experiments for too long while not giving others enough time. I found that two months was a reasonable timeframe to understand what’s working well and what’s not. Weekly syncs with stakeholders across product, data, ops, sales, success, and marketing to review performance helped a lot here. A week gave us plenty of time to see how things developed and decide whether to make tweaks or let it run. Anything longer than a week made it harder for us to pivot direction or course correct.

Feature gating, outreach strategies, and team growth

Switching gears to life after PandaDoc, you joined another PLG company called CloudApp. Given all your PLG experience going into the new role, what did you focus on first?

For some quick background: CloudApp is an asynchronous communication tool that lets you record messages in lieu of sending an essay-long Slack response. When I first joined the company, anyone using the free tool could do almost everything in the tool—as in, there was zero incentive to upgrade to a paid tier. So, my first priority was working with the CRO, CEO and product team to limit the features in the free version so people had a reason to pay for the premium product.

Building out a sales outreach strategy was another initial focus, which is where I focused on product signals to identify three key user actions:

  • Creating a screenshot in the last 30 days
  • Recording a video
  • Dragging and dropping a media file into the app

If someone took one of those actions, we’d reach out for a conversation about the tool. Lastly, I spent a lot of time expanding the sales team. When I joined, we had one AE and one SDR running the sales process. By the time I left, I expanded the team to four mid-market AEs, three SMEs, and four SDRs, with each AE having a book of business they were responsible for when it came to upselling, cross-selling, or notifying accounts of a price increase upon renewal. 

Telling the right stories in the deal cycle

You’ve accomplished a ton of success as a PLS leader—any final words of wisdom or expert guidance you want to share for similar leaders at early-stage PLG companies?

Telling the right stories is key to selling new business and cross-selling. As long as you have stories to tell, you have everything you need to reach out to existing accounts and inquire about other areas of their business. I’ve found great success reaching out to different department heads, initiating conversations to uncover new stakeholders and use cases. I’d then use this information to sharpen our storytelling across the deal cycle.

For example, the teams using CloudApp the most are success, sales, product, and engineering, so we had tons of stories built around these personas. But when multiple departments are all using the tool, the director of IT becomes the main stakeholder we need to convince. Learning this helped us dig into the priorities that mattered most to them and then adapt our pitch accordingly: when upselling IT folks to our enterprise plan, we leaned into stories that focused on the importance of enterprise security.

Product Updates
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Product Updates: December 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Happy new year! We hope you had a great holiday season. Here’s what we’ve been up to last month.

📈 Multi-Sort

With Multi-Sort, you can quickly sort your accounts by multiple columns. Drag and drop to order the data by priority. As you sort, you’re able to see relative percent changes for any usage metric.

Leverage the insights you care most about when looking for your best customers.

🧙‍♀️ Auto-Suggest 

Filters now have “auto-suggest.” For any property, Calixa lets you see and search through all the values we’ve seen for that property.

Never struggle to remember the name of that billing plan that keeps changing, such as "enterprise-v3-metered" 😵‍💫 Immediately know what data is available to you.

⚡️ 10X Faster Search

Find PQLs in fractions of a second with our improved Quick Search. Speed up time-to-insight, so you can take the next best action sooner.

Jump into Calixa and give it a try!

💡 Flexible Ownership Filtering

New product signups are often unowned before they make it into the CRM as leads. This makes it difficult for reps to prospect into signups in their patch. Calixa now lets you filter leads based on the parent accounts or companies you own.

As usual, you can select multiple owners. This is especially helpful for SDRs that are supporting multiple AEs. 

🎊 PLS playbooks webinar series

👉 Start the new year off strong with our Product-Led Sales Playbooks webinar series. Learn about playbooks for…

Register to engage live or get the recording. 

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Sign up here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Product Updates
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Building for Product-Led Sales: 2022 Recap

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Take a look into our journey this year including launching machine learning, automations and playbooks. Everything you need to run an end-to-end Product-Led Sales motion. 

2022 was packed with new features, amazing customer growth, and a growing team 🙌

As the year comes to a close, here’s a refresher on some of Calixa’s most exciting and impactful feature launches. 

⛄️ Find top accounts using AI

This first big launch of the year helps sales teams find their best accounts. Incorporating AI into the prospecting flow increases the speed-to-lead and reduces burden on data teams. By uncovering deal opportunities quickly, salespeople can focus on having the right conversations.

Calixa’s ML models update PQL scores in real-time, evolving scoring criteria based on emerging user behavior. The best part is that no developer work is needed.

Learn more about AI-Powered Prospecting.

❄️ Orchestrate product-led GTM

After uncovering top accounts and users, the next step is to efficiently act on them. The Calixa Automation Platform lets you orchestrate your entire product-led GTM at scale. Increase revenue efficiency by automating common Sales, RevOps, and Marketing actions.

     ✉ Automated Outreach – Instantly sequence PQLs into Outreach or Salesloft

     ⚡ Alerting – Get timely Slack, email, or playbook notifications on PQLs

     📊 Workflow Orchestration – Create unified workflows and CRM automations

     🌱 Self-Serve Nurture – Run nurture campaigns in Marketo or HubSpot

Learn more about the Calixa Automation Platform.

🏂 Power teams with Playbooks

With your PQL engine humming, it’s time to provide the right context and guidance to reps. Playbooks equip sales leaders with a set of recommended next steps based on PQL signals. 

Drive repeatable success by using Playbooks on your most common customer type, market segment, and more. The initial Playbook setup goes a long way in streamlining Product-Led Sales workflows with consistency and ease.

Learn more about the Playbook Automation System. 

🏃🏻‍♀️ Heading into 2023

Can’t wait to get started on Playbooks? 👉 Start the new year off strong with our PLS Playbooks in this 3-part webinar series: (1) Free-to-Paid Conversion; (2) Upsell and Expansion; and (3) Enterprise Account Consolidation. Register to attend live or get the recording.

That’s a wrap! See you all in 2023.

Advice for Sales
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7 trade secrets from a first-time PLG founder

Alex Kracov
CEO and Co-Founder
|
Dock

Former Vice President of Marketing at Lattice, Alex Kracov, co-founded revenue enablement platform Dock in 2021. In this blog, Alex breaks down his most successful strategies as a first-time Product-Led Growth (PLG) founder.

Nothing surprises people more than hearing I co-founded a Product-Led Growth (PLG) company without any firsthand PLG experience. 

The reason why is two-fold: First, I didn’t want to hire a big sales team to grow revenue. Second, it’s become increasingly clear that folks don’t want to talk to Sales before trying out a new product.

In the future, the best companies will be the ones matching this growing buyer mindset—and PLG is the way to do it. 

The roadmap for building a new company, especially one with a PLG motion, isn’t easy but it’s certainly rewarding. Here are seven strategies I’ve found great success with as a first-time PLG founder.

#1: Saying goodbye to traditional B2B sales roles

In a PLG motion, the role of sales is completely different than that in traditional B2B software. It’s more collaborative, consultative, technical, and product-focused. 

At Dock, our sales reps need to understand our platform inside and out to have informed conversations and help our customers get to value quickly. 

At times, free-trial outreach can feel similar to traditional outbound sales. But it’s entirely different, too, which is why hiring a traditional SDR isn’t the right fit for us. 

When we get folks on a call, they want someone who can explain different product features, help optimize their onboarding experience, or recommend a proof-of-concept template. 

Here, an SDR typically doesn’t have the expertise these customers are looking for and ends up wasting the customer’s time.

#2: Making my first sales hire a revenue utility tool

Early-stage sales is like the wild, wild west. We’re still building parts of the product and figuring things out alongside our customers. 

So when it came time to hire my very first sales rep, I needed someone who wouldn’t balk at doing product work, setting up templates, or running customer success.

I wanted someone I like to call a “revenue utility tool”—as in, a generalist who floats across inbound and outbound sales, customer success, and implementation. The rep I hired has a unique—and robust—sales background: he was a former closer, has expansive CS experience, and previously managed a team of SDRs. 

But most importantly, he’s excited to be part of an early-stage startup, ready and willing to jump in to help people get started and ramp up quickly.

#3: Zoning in on our ideal customer profile (ICP) to accelerate deal cycles

For the first six months or so, I talked to anyone willing to talk to me. It didn’t matter if it was our worst customer, best power user, weird fringe use case, or required me to wake up at 3:00 am—I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could. 

But to be honest, rarely did any of those people convert into a paying customer. It wasn’t until I started focusing on our ICP that we began to win deals and close revenue. 

Dock primarily sells to revenue teams—sales, customer success, and marketing folks in SMB and lower/mid-market. Defining this ICP gave us a much better sense of who to go all out in supporting through outbound activities and free trials, as well as who to prioritize after an initial demo call.

#4: Building templates to illustrate the art of the possible 

Showing customers the art of what’s possible in our platform—rather than giving them a blank white space—was one of our earliest strategic initiatives. To do this, we took inspiration from other PLG companies, such as Notion and Airtable, that give users templates to visualize what they can build in their products. 

We’ve built out all sorts of templates to show folks what a well-laid-out customer onboarding experience or digital sales room can look like in Dock. We’ve found that doing so helps break down the barriers to entry and speeds up time to activation. Instead of starting from scratch, users can write from a template that lets them swap in their content easily. We make these templates accessible on our website, which supports our top-of-funnel efforts in addition to customer ramp up.

#5: Iterating through micro interactions and product refinements

Our product team has built a flexible, user-friendly editor that makes moving different elements around in the tool easy and intuitive while accounting for all sorts of edge cases.

However, this didn’t come easy. It took a ton of refinement over the past year. While it wasn’t a visible feature our team was shipping, it was incredibly important to make it easy for folks to get started and use our product. 

To do this, we iterated through lots of micro interactions and product tweaks. I went about this in two ways:

One, I talked to every customer but, more importantly, I watched them use our product to pattern match our different problems and opportunities. 

Two, I used our own product like crazy, setting it up for early customers to see any problems for myself. (I still do this today!) By using our own products, we can validate our own interaction problems and patterns with our customers to get a better sense for where different people are getting stuck. This gives us better direction for continuously iterating and refining the product.

#6: Arming champions with tools to advocate on our behalf

It goes without saying that supporting your champion is important. Your champion is that super-user in the product who bothers everyone else in the organization to use or buy your tool. 

In Product-Led Sales, the best sales reps organize everything in one place for champions. By curating information for champions, sales teams make it easy for champions to share your product’s benefits with internal stakeholders. 

You can use Dock’s Product-Led Sales template to better support champions. We’ve zoned in on ways we can make this power user our best friend, arming them with everything they’d need to advocate to others on our behalf.

The template includes a way to host everything from current usage, to best practices, to reasons to upgrade, to ROI analysis. 

#7: Presenting business cases instead of sales pitches

That said, there’s still a fine line between supporting your champion and end users while multithreading the entire organization and actual buyer. 

There comes a point when so many folks are using your product that Sales will need to talk with the top-down decision maker. And no matter who that person is—head of sales, IT, etc.—the way you need to present sales information will undeniably change. 

So, it’s less about pitching a deck or showing someone a product demo and more about presenting a business case for expanding their usage, hooking them through different upgrade paths. 

In this way, it’s almost like a sales QBR where you show decision makers the current state of product usage and explain what it can look like in the future—without incurring greater costs from additional products. 

Concluding thoughts

According to Gartner, only 17% of a buyer’s time is spent talking to sales—and that time is split with your competitors. As product-led growth becomes more popular, this dynamic will only accelerate and buyers will spend even less time talking to sales. 

That’s why sales teams need to focus on their buyer experience and make each moment count. To win product-led deals, you need to collaborate with your champion to drive adoption and then build the case for internal decision makers.

With Dock, we’re building a platform that gives sales teams the tools to create a buyer experience that supports your champion throughout the buying journey.

Product Updates
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Product Updates: November 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Hope you’re enjoying the beginning of the holiday season! With a fully recharged team, we’ve launched some cool features for you.

👀 Multi-Level Filtering

Find your best power users – without losing sight of the bigger opportunity at hand. Multi-Level Filtering gives you a unified view across user, account, and company level data. For example, you can see…

  • 🧍 Users who hit 3 paywalls, and belong to 🏢 companies with over 500 employees
  • 🏢 Companies without an owner, and that have 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 workspaces on the team plan
  • 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Workspaces that have growing usage, and have 🧍 users who are director level or above

Learn more in this blog.

🎉 Calixa Automation Platform 

The Calixa Automation Platform lets you orchestrate your entire product-led GTM at scale. Increase revenue efficiency by automating common Sales, RevOps, and Marketing actions.

✉ Automated Outreach – Instantly sequence PQLs into Outreach or Salesloft

⚡ Alerting – Get timely Slack, email, or playbook notifications on PQLs

📊 Workflow Orchestration – Create unified workflows and CRM automations

🌱 Self-Serve Nurture – Run nurture campaigns in Marketo or HubSpot

We’re grateful for all the support we received on Product Hunt with this launch! Learn more in this blog.

👫 Property and Metrics Manager

When there's too much data, GTM teams struggle to make sense of what's actionable. Now in Calixa, you have full control over what data is shown – and how they're named. Set up your data in a way that is second nature to reps.

Coming soon, you’ll be able to add descriptions on each property and metric to further clarify the data.

🙌 Advice from our community 

Check out the latest Product-Led Sales advice from your peers.

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Sign up here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Advice for Sales
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Combining top-down sales with a bottom-up PLG motion

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

A self-described “ardent student of Product-Led Growth (PLG),” Raj Sarkar is one of Forbes’ top 50 entrepreneurial CMOs in 2022. After leading high-performing PLG motions at 1Password, Atlassian, and Google, he currently advises others in the space how to build sustainable, scalable PLG motions. 

Below is an excerpt of a recent conversation we had about integrating top-down sales approaches with a bottom-up Product-Led Sales (PLS) motion.

The importance of data unification for scaling PLS

PLG leaders often say combining Sales-Led Growth (SLG) and PLS models is a tricky challenge when moving upmarket. You’ve not only driven successful motions at your previous companies, but you’ve also helped others in the space do so successfully. What’s the secret to combining these two selling motions?

People often struggle to combine top-down and bottom-up selling approaches for two closely connected reasons. First, their sales, marketing, and product teams each look at their customer journey independently within the organization. Second, they lack a unified data platform that connects all their customer data together. When Sales, Marketing, and Product functions don't operate as a unit, their tools, people, processes, funnel, and data all remain siloed. In most companies, sales data lives in Salesforce, Gong, and/or Outreach. Marketing data is in Marketo and Google Analytics. Product data sits in Amplitude, Pendo, or Redshift. 

Without a unified data platform or single data lake, organizations have no way to bring all of this data together. I tell every PLG founder and CEO to invest in a unified data platform early on because it sets the very foundation for a sustainable, scalable PLG motion. This becomes especially critical in measuring the effectiveness of the funnel, combining different selling motions, and making the move upmarket. 

Determining funnel ownership

Speaking of siloed people and funnels, funnel co-ownership gives me pause because as the saying goes, “owned by all = done by none.” What do you think about funnel ownership across these three teams? Who should drive what?

Historically, certain functions in the organization always owned a portion of the funnel. Yet more and more, we’re seeing the mindset shift as all three functions—Sales, Marketing, and Product—see a greater need to look at the funnel holistically. Although the exact model will differ by company, Product and Marketing are best-positioned to own the self-serve funnel and self-serve revenue while Marketing and Sales should own the sales-assist and sales-led funnels. I also don’t think it’ll make sense to bifurcate or trifurcate the funnel, so we’ll likely see a future uptick in leaders such as chief revenue officers or chief growth officers, who will own the revenue number and the funnel metrics. 

Self-serve, sales assist, and sales-led

Going another layer deeper into those three areas, how are PLG folks navigating the nuances between self-serve, sales assist, and sales-led? What’s working or not working here?

Great question! I’ll start with the distinction that sales assist and sales-led are not the same thing. Sales-led is still a primary function in the industry, meaning it’s not vanishing in any shape or form. So, it needs to be owned by Sales and primarily focused on finding, selling, and building relationships with larger customers. 

The point of sales assist, on the other hand, is to remove friction by interjecting helpful human interaction. Here, PLG folks need to experiment a lot more between what leads go into their self-serve and sales-assist funnels. Typically, people are sending leads from the larger organization into the sales-assist funnel simply because it’s the easiest way to do it. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right approach. Instead, leads should be allocated across these two funnels based on product usage and user behavior within an organization.  

One way I see companies trying to combine the sales, marketing, and product growth functions is through a chief growth officer, a role that’s becoming increasingly more common in the C-Suite. Doing this gives them components of both product growth and growth marketing, as well as SDRs responsible for the self-serve and sales-assist motions. A lot of companies are also combining sales-assist and sales-led motions and experimenting well with them. That said, I don’t see any companies fully integrating all three motions exceptionally well yet. 

Brand marketing for "B2H": Business to Human

You talked about brand marketing as essential to winning market share on a recent Spotify podcast. Why do you consider brand to be critical to the GTM motion—any pearls of wisdom you can share for PLG leaders?

The PLG companies of the future that go on to become massive $10B+ companies will be those that master these three things incredibly well: 

  1. Bottom-up PLG and growth marketing
  2. Top-down sales and demand generation
  3. Brand marketing

Now that Millennials and Gen Z generations make up a bigger piece of the B2B buyer pie, brand marketing has become more important than ever. While previous generations may not have cared deeply about the user experience, younger ones simply won’t use tools they don’t like. Buyers today also expect brands to talk to them like humans. In this way, tactics such as fluffy marketing or predictable conversations about speeds and feeds are things of the past. 

As a CEO or founder, you’re not only in control of shaping your brand but you play a huge role as a brand ambassador. You can also prioritize brand building without spending a single dime. If you have a website, you already have everything you need to build your community and brand voice. Start by using a friendly, conversational voice across all mediums and write content for the humans who buy your product. For example, emphasize the value they get out of using your product instead of talking about the features you’re putting into it.

Also, think outside of the box to raise awareness in your market. With a creative mindset, you have no shortage of free opportunities to build steady media presence—something I call “outbound fury.” This mindset also extends to connecting with folks inside your product. During my time at Bitbucket, we planted an easter egg in the command line on St. Patrick’s Day so a shamrock popped up when someone did a remote push. It was a huge hit with our developer community, who all took to Twitter to talk about it. These are the types of things you can do (at no cost!) to delight your customers and leave a lasting impression on your brand.

Product Updates
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Uncover PQLs with Multi-Level Filtering

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Prioritizing top accounts often requires more than just account-level data. Sales teams might need an account with an active decision-maker. Similarly, reaching out to the right users often requires context about the account they are a part of. Both scenarios require insight from the parent or child object.

We previously launched Flexible Account Models to help salespeople view data at any level (companies, teams, workspaces, and more). Now our latest update Multi-Level Filtering lets you reference data across levels when identifying PQLs. Access insights from anywhere all at once.

Find companies with high potential users

Sales is all about quickly reaching decision makers and power users at companies. Multi-Level Filtering gives sales teams greater transparency within each account. Reps can drill down to individual PQLs – without losing sight of the larger deal.

Here are examples of finding individual user insights within companies:

  • Show me workspaces that have growing usage, and have users who are director level or above
  • Show me companies with 30+ active users, and that have users who created over 20 pages this week
  • Show me companies without an owner, and that have workspaces on the team plan

These insights help you find accounts with existing champions. These champions can provide introductions or specific intel that help you close deals faster. 

Find a high fit workspace that’s qualified by user-level criteria

Find users at qualified companies

Not every highly active user is a true opportunity. With Multi-Level Filtering, you can marry active users with company firmographics (company size, industry, region, etc.). This ensures reps are talking to users at the right companies.

Here are examples of adding company firmographics with individual product usage:

  • Show me users who hit 3 paywalls, and belong to companies with over 500 employees
  • Show me workspaces with over 10 users, and belong to companies where the Salesforce region is US-West
  • Show me workspaces on the trial plan, and that belong to companies in the B2B SaaS industry 

This bigger picture helps you double-check that users are worth a sales rep’s time. So as the deal progresses, the organization has the economic buyer and budget for a sizable contract.

Find a high fit user that’s qualified by company-level criteria

Get started today

Multi-Level Filtering helps your sales team find your best PQLs by considering data across any level of hierarchy. Instantly find the best customers to speak with.

Start using it in Calixa today. Don’t have an account? Sign up here or book time to chat with a Product-Led Sales specialist.

Advice for Sales
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4 ways to accelerate your PLS motion with free tools

Kevin Tate
Chief Marketing Officer
|
Clearbit

It never quite hit me how nuanced Product-Led Growth (PLG) strategies were until I joined Clearbit nearly two years ago. Not only is the PLG motion a key part of Clearbit’s GTM strategy, but it’s integral to our customers’ as well—many of which have hundreds of thousands of people using their PLG offerings. 

While separating signals from noise looks different for every company and in every market, all of us in PLG share the same challenge: how to use free tools to accelerate and bring efficiency to your sales motion. Here are four strategies we use at Clearbit to speed up our Product-Led Sales cycles.

Making standalone value our PLG focal point 

Figuring out how much of your product to give away can feel like a risky roll of the dice. On one hand, you want folks to truly experience the value your product offers. On the other hand, you still want to entice them into paying for top-tier features or other paid offerings. What does striking the right balance of value look like? Equally important, how do you incorporate this into your overarching PLG strategy? 

At Clearbit, we approach this in two ways:

Put standalone value at the core of the PLG motion

First, we center our PLG motion around our free tools, such as our Total Addressable Market (TAM) Calculator and Weekly Visitor Report. While some tools are stickier than others, none of them are showcases—aka they’re not demos in disguise. Each one delivers standalone value. Case in point: thousands of companies use our Weekly Visitor Report to get visibility into de-anonymized website visitors, which is emailed as a dashboard and can be downloaded as a CSV for free. 

Build an experience that drives the right sales conversation

Second, we build our PLG experiences around where we want sales conversations to start. Here, we don’t want to simply give away free data, which is the lowest common denominator experience we could offer. We want folks to experience the value of using their data to truly inform and impact their go-to-market, as well as give them a taste of everything else we can do for them. For example, in addition to helping customers better use their data, we also demonstrate how Clearbit can activate data across their funnel. Doing this puts our sales team in a better spot when it comes to chatting with people interested in those next steps.

Casting Sales in the role of a solutions consultant

In PLS motions, I generally see Sales best-cast in that of a solutions consultant role. The relationship factor is still important, of course, but the very nature of PLG emphasizes product and technical aptitude. By definition, PLS salespeople are talking to buyers who’ve self-selected the product based on the ability to download and play around with it themselves. When these folks put 30 minutes on the calendar to talk with an actual human, they expect the person on the other side to show up with real technical knowledge, context about their company, and actual solutions to their problems. 

When sales folks have usage insights before going into these conversations, it also opens up much richer conversations. For example, not only does a customer using our Weekly Visitor Report already have a solid idea of the insights we can offer them, but our sales team can see exactly how they’re using the tool and the features they use the most. This intel positions Sales to expertly guide the conversation, recommending best practices and different features to help them unlock even more value from the product. 

Going beyond basic ICP filters with tech tags

It can be tempting to generalize the concept of the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) into “any target customer”. But your ICP gives you an incredibly valuable lens, especially once you’ve tested hypotheses to hone it into a fine grained understanding of your buyer. One mistake folks often make is not going beyond basic ICP filters, such as number of employees, industry, location, department, and so forth. In my experience, a lot of less-obvious indicators have ended up being far more useful in application. 

For example, we see a lot of value in leveraging intelligence about which technologies a customer is using today. Sure, nearly every company has Salesforce, but knowing something more nuances - such as, they use Stripe for payment processing or Figma for design collaboration is where this information becomes much more valuable. Knowing if someone uses, say, Snowflake, may be incredibly relevant to your Snowflake-related offering, giving you an opportunity to personalize your message or create a specific call to action. 

You can also pick up other contextual learnings, such as signals about their company stage and budget size. How much funding have they taken in? How much has their employee count grown in the last year? These kinds of company momentum indicators can open up some really interesting sales conversations. 

Right company, right time—and with the right message

When it comes to data, mindset matters more than anything. We’ve found the most success by using intent signals to know who to talk to, how to talk to them, and when to talk to them. These are the three areas where data can revolutionize your funnel. When you look at it through this lens, you start to see all the amazing things data can help you do. Not to mention, every decision gets better when you refine your ICP, enhance personalization, or improve timing based on data and intent. 

At some level, B2B marketing effectiveness has always been about leveraging a combination of “right company” & “right time” - and having the insight you need to deliver a message that’s relevant to their business. But what’s changing – thanks in large part to real-time intelligence and integrated martech systems – is the ability to put that combination to work at a very large scale.

And that’s the opportunity ahead for PLG (and PLS) go-to-market strategies. Teams that can use data and systems to power personalized go-to-market motions for tens of thousands of prospects per day – based on precise company fit, buyer intent signal and tailored messaging – are going to have a very real advantage in their market.

Advice for Sales
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6 Steps to Building PLG into Your Current GTM Motion

Matt Groetelaars
GTM Operator, Investor & Advisor
|
Scratchpad

The theory behind Product-Led Growth (PLG) is that it’s a way of life, not a tactic. PLG takes patience and commitment — it’s not something a company should test-drive and expect immediate results from.

This growth motion needs an ecosystem of support and company-wide commitment. As you build a PLG-first motion, the short-term challenge is that humans always expect results to materialize sooner than they tend to.

Salespeople are typically given incentives that create urgency – focused more on immediate gratification. But a PLG sales motion is on a much longer time horizon. So how can you march towards a long term vision while getting your team aligned and bought-in for the short term?

Or, in other words, how do you balance long-term revenue with short-term wins? Let’s jump in.

Get sales leadership aligned with PLG

The best sales teams have reps incentivized in a thoughtful way to drive pointed, purposeful behavior. The right incentive for a Product-Led Sales motion must be more strategic than a simple cold outbound to your user base.  

The key here is having strong alignment from sales leadership. 

Otherwise, what’s likely to happen is folks will generally revert back to what they’re used to. They might email or call customers who get more value from self-serve than sales-led. 

It’s important for leadership to share the vision to your sales team (and larger GTM teams) of: (a) why we are doing this, (b) what's our goal for the long run, and (c) where does sales help accelerate this motion. Remind sales to see and understand the larger picture you’re all marching toward. 

Creating alignment between sales reps and users

Once leadership is aligned, you need to make sure the reps are aligned with your customers in the particular buying and selling motion. This is crucial, because your sales team is an extension of the product and a key function to drive the right customer journey.

For example, say your GTM org is moving from an enterprise motion to layering in a sales-assist / PLG motion. The key component is how reps will be compensated, because that affects incentives and how they interact with customers. 

Ideally you can align the incentives between reps and customers for a strong buying experience. Always focus on delivering value at each stage of the user journey.

Splitting reps between self-service and enterprise 

But what about hybrid buying motions

When you’re layering PLG into an established enterprise buying motion, you have to decide how to split your reps’ focus between the two funnels. I look at this question through two different lenses: 

  1. Ideal customer profile (ICP)  
  2. Use cases

The ICP lens 

How you balance the self-service and enterprise funnels depends on your TAM's preferred buying motion. You have to tailor a solution that fits your market profile. 

From a high-level company strategy standpoint, you need to ask: where is most of our total addressable market that exists today? And what is the preferred buying motion for that subset of customers?

For example, imagine 80% of your TAM is enterprise. In this case, you’ll want to add a sales-assist motion in a way that minimizes distractions to existing rep workflows. Otherwise, you’ll likely struggle to see results.

But say your TAM is split 50-50 between enterprise and self-serve/bottoms up growth. Then it makes sense to have two distinct teams that focus on each GTM motion. 

The takeaway 

If it makes sense to split the teams based on the different motions, this can work great for some orgs. But most companies will need to find a balance with a blended approach.

For that, it's helpful to leverage the SDR team — they can drive the qualifying and routing between sales-led vs. self-serve. Once those Product Qualified Leads get delivered, the sales cycle isn’t as different for the reps. 

The use case lens

In addition to your ICP, you need to consider what your customer’s buying committee and specific buying motion look like. 

How does a product like this generally get bought and who needs to be involved?

Take Scratchpad for example. 

A well-oiled PLG machine helps attract end users who become raving fans in the account. But those people don’t always influence  the ultimate buyer (for Scratchpad that’s a VP of RevOps or Enablement). That's why Scratchpad has a user success team that turns self-serve sign ups into raving fans. Then they use account usage to know when to prospect into decision makers and run a conventional sales cycle.

Another example is Twilio.

Here, you have a product that's adopted and paid for on a credit card, where maybe a couple of developers are trying to build an initial use case. Then PQL signals get surfaced to the sales rep. At that point they can proactively reach out to users and understand what they're trying to build. Sales reps help create a business case in the background for a broader, or more strategic, relationship over time.

The takeaway

The way products are adopted, the way use cases get deployed, and the people that need to be involved from the client side, all affect how you need to structure your team and your GTM motion.

The ideal PLG sales rep

In the past 5-10 years, sales leaders described the “modern sales rep” as curious, data-driven, and empathetic. You want sales reps with intellectual curiosity and a data-driven mindset, rather than the traditional tendency to “run through walls.”

The goal of PLG is to take friction out of the buying process. So reps need to slow down and be more thoughtful and strategic about how they approach customer interactions. Reps that will succeed will be those that can connect the problems that they hear to real product value and adoption.

Sales enablement in PLG

Getting enablement right in PLG is critical because reps are selling to a better informed and educated customer. You don’t want your customer outsmarting your rep on their own product! 

The way the enablement team operates has to shift to fit this new expectation. It's less about enablement as a function that trains, certifies, and coaches reps. It's more about how enablement builds an accessible program so the GTM org can understand our customers based on where they are in their journey. That way reps can have the data, visibility, and insights they need to allow them to drive a thoughtful motion.

PLG enablement teams should focus less on big-bang training and certification pushes, and more on providing relevant assets in rep workflows – for example, X product action can mean Y customer need, which means Z sales motion works best. 

Enablement also needs to ask: how do we thoughtfully put these things in place so it's not information overload for the reps. They need to create a cohesive motion that gives reps exactly what they need, when they need it. 

Customer success is GTM success 

Our industry is moving toward a world where the most successful GTM orgs understand what, how, and why their customers are trying to do things. 

Customers are getting fed up with the fact that only 10-20% of sales reps are providing an exceptional experience for a relationship to click. PLG is a natural extension of how to better align with customers — just as good enterprise selling builds a tight business case for customers.

PLG allows us to see customer goals and where they are in the buying journey, based on what they're doing with our product.

And so it's our job now as a go-to-market organization to say: how can we “skate to where the puck is going?” How can we meet them where they are?

Product Updates
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Product Updates: October 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Check out these treats from October 🎃🍬

🎉 Flexible Account Models

For product-led companies selling into enterprise accounts, viewing a lead/contact and company often isn’t enough for your data structure. Because PLG drives organic growth across an org, there’s often a product-specific middle layer like a team, group, business unit, or workspace.

Calixa's Flexible Account Models work seamlessly with your PLG account model. Zoom in or out across 🧍 users, 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 workspaces, 🏢 companies, and more to get unmatched visibility into usage across enterprise organizations.

Learn more about this update.

⚡️ We’re 10X faster 

All reports, searches, and dashboards load in fractions of a second. Spend your time on finding leads and closing deals rather than waiting for pages to load.

Calixa unifies and accelerates all your data so that you can instantly get context and execute the right next action. Stop relying on slow queries from your BI tools and CRM.

👫 Owner multi-select

You now have the ability to multi-select owners within a given list. This makes it easy to put together a view of users and accounts that belong to a certain team, perhaps an AE and the SDRs who support them.

Advice from your peers 

Check out the latest Product-Led Sales advice.

  • Creating structure in PLS @ Notably
  • PQLs & monetization @ Oyster
  • PLS priorities, skillsets & pricing @ Air

Don't forget to grab your seat at our upcoming webinar “How to Layer Sales into Your PLG Motion.”

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Sign up here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Product Updates
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Orchestrate Your Product-Led GTM Motion at Scale

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Check us out on Product Hunt!

With PLG becoming a GTM norm, top SaaS companies are opening up a new revenue stream by finding and acting on PQLs. But with a hungry salesforce and qualified inbound flow, GTM now needs to orchestrate product-led best practices at scale. 

Today, we’re excited to announce the Calixa Automation Platform. These automations increase your GTM team’s revenue efficiency by automating common actions across Sales, RevOps, and Marketing. Whether facilitating PQL outreach, kicking off an upsell, or nurturing those not ready for sales, Calixa can operationalize your GTM motion at scale with ease.

The Calixa Automation Platform allows GTM teams to execute workflows across Sales, Marketing, and Revops including:

  • Automated Outreach
  • Alerting
  • Workflow Orchestration
  • Self-Serve Nurture

Keep reading to learn how your sales team can take efficient action on your users.

✉️ Automated Outreach

Never miss a beat when reaching out to PQLs. In the past, it took far too long to qualify and then reach out to different types of PQLs. Reps had to manually search for top users and then add them one-by-one to the correct sequences within sales engagement tools.

“Reps use Calixa to automatically add PQLs into the right sequences based on the Salesforce account owner.” – Rachael Watton, Director of Revenue Operations

The Calixa Automation Platform allows you to add PQLs into Outreach sequences or Salesloft cadences—immediately when they’re qualified. This allows sales teams to implement a light human touch (also known as Sales Assist) on a large volume of high velocity deals. With relevant product metrics at their fingertips, reps can own messaging and personalization at scale.

Examples of automated outreach

  • Free user tries premium feature → Add to Free-to-Paid sequence
  • Pro Plan Threshold reached → Add to Pro Plan sequence
  • User invited teammates → Add to Team Onboarding sequence

⚡ Alerting

We all know that speed-to-lead is important to sales. The Calixa Automation Platform handles all product-led GTM alerting, so your team can be proactive with customer touchpoints. Get timely alerts about PQLs, upsell opportunities, churn risk, and more.

Save time manually checking account statuses by enabling Slack or email notifications. If reps are unsure what action to take on PQLs, sales leaders can leverage Playbook alerts to provide guidance at scale.

Examples of automated alerts

  • New PQLs 
  • Upsell opportunities
  • Churn risk

📊 Workflow Orchestration

In traditional sales models, it’s common for reps to spend two-thirds of their time not selling (Forbes). Administrative tasks and disjointed salestech is a big reason for this. The benefits of having a modern, well-integrated GTM platform is that teams can spend less time on administrative tasks and can focus on higher level strategic selling.

Calixa helps you orchestrate all your RevOps workflows. These include CRM automations like pushing top signups into your CRM, creating leads and opportunities, and setting follow-up tasks. Enable sales teams to move faster by keeping leads in your CRM in sync with PQLs/PQAs in your product.

Examples of automated workflows

  • Create Salesforce leads for new PQLs 
  • Push top signups into the HubSpot lists
  • Create Salesforce task for expansion opportunities

🌱 Self-Serve Nurture

A user who isn’t ready for a sales touch today can still turn into a PQL tomorrow. Product-led marketers are key to providing inspiration and resources that nudge users into deeper product adoption.

Calixa’s new marketing automations allow marketers to find high potential users in Calixa and run nurture campaigns within Marketo, HubSpot, and Salesforce. Customize campaigns based on product insights from Calixa, so you maximize user engagement.

Examples of automated nurture

  • Unactivated new users → Onboarding campaign
  • Power users without a team → Add team members campaign
  • Users who viewed pricing without upgrading → Starter discount campaign

Start automating today

With the Calixa Automation Platform, you can orchestrate GTM workflows, save valuable rep time, and improve customer experience. Your team goes beyond basic PQL dashboards and runs on a well-oiled Product-Led Sales engine. 

Get started on your automation today.

Not on Calixa yet? Sign up here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Advice for Growth
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4 tips for building a dedicated growth function

Jordan Woods
Growth Advisor
|
Formerly @ FullStory, Cypress.io, and interviewing.io

I define the activation point for my career as the exact moment I stumbled into Product-Led Growth (PLG), which happened nearly a decade ago. I was working for an ad-supported media company that built a tool to better manage the display ads on its website. When the tool took off among others in the industry, my role quickly pivoted to figuring out how to monetize our product—aha!

I was hooked, leaving the world of media to lead strategic growth efforts for FullStory, Cypress.io, and Interviewing.io. Today, I help startups and founders develop their GTM strategies and scale for growth. Read on for four tips you can use to build an effective growth function within your own organization.

Tip #1: Don’t turn growth into another silo

I define growth as being two sides of the same coin: functional and organizational. On one side is the functional definition, which is the practice of taking a product to market and figuring out how to acquire users. Likewise, this can be applied down the funnel as an expansion strategy for penetrating existing accounts. On the other side, however, is where controversy lies. Because when it comes to the great debate over where Growth sits within the organization—”It’s in Marketing!” “No, it belongs to Product”—people sharpen their pitchforks for the conversation. 

But the reality is that neither approach translates to an optimal growth function. At my previous companies, Growth traditionally rolled into Marketing. Truth be told, it just never quite worked. I always felt like a fish out of water, so to speak. And, yet, the same would hold true had I reported into Product instead. Because while we all want to think these two organizations are joined at the hip, it’s seldom the case. Product teams do one thing; Marketing does another. Regardless of which team Growth falls under, both inevitability make it into another organizational silo.

I tell folks to think about the growth function as a common thread that weaves across all parts of their organization. Equal parts multidisciplinary and cross-functional, I think it’s often best structured as a self-contained unit with expertise across the entire growth engine—marketing, product, and customer success.

Tip #2: Product-user fit won’t guarantee product-market fit

Remember: Product-user fit always comes before product-market fit. While you can achieve product-user fit without product-market fit, the inverse is never true and a lot of companies never end up achieving product-market fit. To put this into context, think about product-market fit like supply and demand: Do you have so much demand for your product that things are breaking internally? If so, you don’t have a demand problem—you have a supply problem. In other words, you don’t have enough resources to scale to demand. This is product-market fit.

For most companies, the opposite is true. They have engineers and teams to Build The Things, but lack people who want them. This is precisely why product-user fit will always come first, and it’ll never guarantee that product-market fit follows. I’ve worked on products and in organizations where we couldn’t find a way to expand beyond a single use case, no matter how strong it was. Consequently, we never ended up achieving product-market fit. 

Tip #3: Invest in the growth function after achieving product-user fit

Revenue is a misleading indicator for whether you’ve achieved product-user fit—you’d be surprised how much revenue can be generated without it. For example, I worked at a company with a single customer who paid $200,000/year despite them not even having an established process for using the product. Internally, we pointed to this single data point as proof we'd achieved product-user fit. In reality, the usage of our product never found traction in the organization—we had simply stumbled into a high-value contract. So, it’s entirely possible to pull in $1M ARR without product-user fit as long as your contracts are large enough.

That said, generating revenue doesn’t mean you should immediately build a Growth team. Here, I recommend holding off on investing in a growth function until you’ve achieved true product-user fit. To do this, you must be able to validate and define these four areas:

  1. The specific problem you’re solving
  2. The specific person you’re solving it for
  3. The specific company they belong to
  4. That your approach to solving it is what people actually want

Once you can check the box on all four of these—using clear definitions and proof points—you can focus on growth. Until then, however, you’re still in validation mode and it’s too early for a dedicated growth team. That’s certainly not to say a growth mindset shouldn’t be a critical part of your product strategy—it should! You just don’t need a dedicated function until you’re actually ready to scale.

Tip #4: Accelerate time to activation by tracking micro-conversions

When it comes to PLG metrics, look no further than activation—the aha! moment when a user recognizes the value they gain from a product. While activation is your North Star, don’t overlook other conversion points along the funnel. These micro-conversions are critical leading indicators along the path to activation, monetization, and other critical milestones. These types of granular insights can help you connect points A and B in the funnel to paint a more accurate picture of user behavior.

For example, I once worked on a product that experienced a massive drop-off between the signup event and the registration or "email confirmation" event. We soon learned that the tiny bit of friction in our signup process—i.e. asking people to check their email to confirm their signup—triggered a massive drop-off in our signup → registered rate . This one insight led us to build social login via LinkedIn, Gmail, and others into the signup experience. As a result, Registered Users shot up nearly overnight. 

Monitoring different steps across the funnel, getting as granular as possible, will help you better understand your different audiences and their behavioral trends. Uncovering these kinds of micro-conversions give you deeper insight into buyer profiles so you can accelerate their activation throughout the funnel.

Product-Led Fundamentals
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Product-led vs sales-led: Simple way to choose, get going, and win.

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

If developing a go-to-market strategy was easy, we’d all be winners.

Everyone would be a founder. 🫅

Every startup would become a unicorn. 🦄

That isn’t the world we live in. Strategy is hard, execution even harder. 👷

Plenty of strategy thought pieces will tell you to figure out where you are, where you want to be, and decide how to get there.

But a solid growth strategy is just as much about what *not* to do.

Maybe you’re a startup getting your SaaS business off the ground. You know where you want to be next year.

You need to know which is the right and wrong path for your SaaS journey to follow.

This article helps you avoid the wrong path and choose a growth strategy that best aligns with your business.

What is “Growth” anyway? 📈

In my last post, I introduced the fundamentals of product-led vs sales-led growth.

I made the case that these go-to-market strategies can live together in the same company:

It’s easy to draw a hard line between the two sales models, but there really isn’t any competition. Many product-led startups later add sales-led motions to bring in enterprise customers (move upmarket). At the same time, traditional sales-led corporations adopt product-led strategies to capture SMB sales volume (move downmarket).

But that’s only true for product-led companies and sales-led companies that have already nailed their core strategy. Adding the new sales motion takes their growth to new heights.

At first, SaaS businesses must make the hard choice between one or the other.

Trying to be a little product-led *and* a little sales-led only creates a lot of failure.

Your SaaS strategy has got to be laser-focused on growth—how will you get more customers, and how will you get more revenue?

Build your go-to-market strategy around these 3 functions of growth:

1. Acquire: Get people to your product.

2. Engage: Make them successful.

3. Monetize: Turn them into paying customers.

Each growth strategy executes these functions differently—that’s why you must commit to one. Otherwise, you’ll spread scarce resources too thin.

So, let’s review each option and see how they acquire, engage, and monetize customers.

What is product-led growth?

Product-led growth (PLG) is a growth model where product usage drives customer acquisition, retention, and expansion.

Companies with a product-led strategy like Slack, Notion and Figma tend to grow faster than their non-PLG peers. A big advantage of PLG strategies is cost. 💰

You’re already committed to your development costs, so be smart about it. 🎓

Design the product to bring users in, deliver value, and make it easy to subscribe.

Lower customer acquisition costs (CAC) let you rapidly scale your customer base and revenue growth.

Let’s look at how PLG affect the 3 phases of your revenue funnel. 

How PLG impacts your revenue funnel

Product-led sales funnel

Acquire:

By using your product, customers share its value with other potential customers (external) or with colleagues (internal). Some products like Typeform create awareness of the product's value when Typeform users share it around and respondents reply to a survey, which generates new acquisitions.

Screenshot of typeform

Engage:

Easy discoverability, demos, and other engagements let end users appreciate the product’s value on their own. Most often with PLG companies, users perceived appreciation of the product increase as they use it. 

For example, I find Notion more useful once I have set a few templates to share with my colleagues to contribute on. 

screenshot of Notion

Don’t know how to engage your users into revenue conversations? 

Calixa helps your GTM team engage with users and accounts by generating actionable insights into their product usage. 

For instance, by building playbooks that support accounts in their journey towards new milestones in your product 👇

Screenshot of Calixa Dashboard

Monetize:

Once users have reached certain milestones in your product or are tempted to try more complex features, your product has self-converting experiences that let’s people become customers on their own.

Ongoing engagement reduces churn and boosts retention.For example, Hellosign prompts users who've been sending out more than 3 documents per month to upgrade to unlock more.

screenshot of Hellosign

Calixa’s product usage insights let sales teams identify the most qualified accounts, prioritize their outreach efforts, and plan their engagement.

Screenshot of an account page in Calixa

Making sales more effective helps them make more money and drives revenue growth.

The great thing about PLG is that everything is self-service. End users make all the decisions and convince themselves to move through the sales cycle.

Who should not use PLG?

A product-led growth motion might be the wrong choice if you answer “no” to any of these questions:

Can you go around decision makers?

If a customer’s purchases require buy-in from multiple decision-makers, then you need a sales team. Decision makers will rarely start playing around with products on their own as they evaluate a decision for new software. 

They might, in which case you can consider a sales-assisted PLG motion. 

Can people start using your product instantly?

PLG requires simplicity to get high-volume signups, rapid time to value, and self-service conversions.

End users can’t self-serve an integration project. People can’t need extensive training before using the product.

You need a sales team to make deployments happen.

Does your pricing model shorten the sales cycle?

PLG strategies compress the sales cycle:

  • Read the website, create an account.
  • Experience the product, pay for its value.

Low-stakes pricing makes that possible. Free signups are easy. Plans at $10/month make conversions easy. We even start seeing self-serve conversions for thousands of dollars.

But one million dollars?

Dr Evil GIF

The people who make million-dollar decisions don’t sign up on your website. 🧐

Product design won’t close the deal. There are exceptions, and we see more and more big ticket conversions self-serve, but for certain deal sizes, you need a salesperson! 

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways PLG can drive success.

How Jasper grew to $75M with Product-Led Growth

Jasper's website

Jasper generates compelling marketing copy with AI. Let’s look at how they adopted the 3 functions of product-led growth 👇

Acquire

Jasper’s marketing team are geniuses when it comes to creating a viral community. They use their own product to create thousands of relatable social media posts.

Jasper's community on Facebook

Their product also has a “share recipe” prompts which fosters social shares by their existing users to the community and beyond. 

Screenshot of Jasper's sharing options

Engage

Screenshot of Jasper resources

Templates for specific use cases deliver value quickly. Resources like instructional videos and an active Facebook community keep Jasper users engaged. 

Jasper users can get ramped up and successful within minutes, thanks to Jasper’s own content and “recipes” shared by their customers. 

Monetize

Screenshot of Jasper pricing

Five days is enough for end users to continue with a paid subscription. When users become advocates, they bring in more users and larger business accounts.

Jasper’s product-led growth strategy has paid off with 70K+ paying subscribers, a $1.5 billion valuation, and $75 million in revenue. 

Jasper-like success is what happens when your PLG motion works great on all 3 of the growth pillars mentioned above! 

You might face some “blockers keeping you from leveraging the strengths of PLG. Let’s evaluate if sales-led growth is ripe for your business 👇

What is sales-led growth?

It may be old school, but sales-led growth (SLG) still works. This classic approach puts sales front and center.

Product matters, but it isn’t what drives sales-led growth.

In many cases, end-user onboarding happens after the contract is signed.

It isn’t the user experience that gets you to “yes.” It’s how well salespeople convince decision-makers.

Here’s what that looks like.

How SLG impacts your revenue funnel

1. Acquire: Marketing campaigns, outbound calls, and other programs generate qualified leads for the sales team.

2. Engage: Salespeople meet with influencers within the account to explain how the product works and enhances their operations.

3. Monetize: Salespeople close the deal by convincing decision-makers that their relationship will improve the customer’s business.

Who should not use SLG?

SaaS companies need to think twice before jumping into the SLG pool—especially if you answer “yes” to any of these questions:

Will you spend more on your sales team than you get from your customers?

Paying six figures for good salespeople won’t make sense if each deal brings in a few hundred dollars a year.

High revenue on low-priced sales requires scale. Salespeople don’t scale. 🚀

You need the hands-off, self-service approach that PLG delivers.

Is your product modular enough to create a simplified offering?

Large, monolithic software companies must take the sales-assisted approach. 

Their products are too complex for a try-before-you-buy customer experience.

If your product design lets you package freemium and paid subscription tiers, you might be better off going product-led.

Do established SLG players dominate the market?

Established SLG companies already have strong relationships and reputations in the market.

As a new entrant, you don’t. That leaves you fighting on your competitors’ turf—and by their rules.

PLG companies can change the rules by entering an SLG-dominated market.

SLG sales cycles take time to close, but PLG lands you a grassroots foothold you can exploit faster.

How Snowflake crushed through an IPO with a sales-led approach

Snowflake's website

Snowflake goes head-to-head with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to deliver enterprise-quality data clouds that eliminate siloes and create analytics solutions

While Snowflake has elements of the product-led motion, the company’s enterprise focus demands a sales-led strategy:

Acquire

Snowflake get in touch page

Snowflake targets vertical markets such as finance or media with marketing campaigns. Analysts filter the results to identify marketing-qualified leads.

Engage

Sales teams work with their leads to build relationships within the account. Along the way, they demonstrate the product’s value to influencers and decision-makers

Monetize

Closing the deal is just the beginning. Sales teams work their relationships to expand customers’ data cloud usage. Network effects drive growth by bringing in the customer’s suppliers and partners.

Snowflake’s 2020 IPO launched at $120 per share, ending the day near $254 and a $70 billion market cap.

PLG and SLG together?

Successful companies like Gitlab and HubSpot started with traditional “top-down” revenue strategies and later transitioned to adding PLG. 

Even Snowflake recently added a PLG offering!

The reason why: If you’re PLG at scale and don’t have an enterprise sales motion, you’re probably leaving big revenue opportunities on the table. Slack and Miro are good examples of initial PLG motions with increasing sales headcount. 

The same goes the other way. If you started SLG but can make your product work self-serve, you might be leaving smaller opportunities on the table. Just like Snowflake, who’s trying to expand its customer base to smaller clients. 

Picking your initial strategy  

Decision tree to decide between PLG and SLG

Conclusion: Product-led vs sales-led growth

When your business is a better fit for product-led growth models, you make the most of your development spend.

Your product does the heavy lifting of acquiring, engaging, and monetizing customers. 💪

You can focus on developing user experiences that surprise and delight. 🥰

You get an advantage over slower, more established sales-led competitors. 🏎️

Calixa’s integrations with popular services like Salesforce and HubSpot unite your customer and product information into a single interface to help drive SaaS companies’ product-led growth strategy.

Get a demo or try it for free to see how Calixa helps you acquire, engage, and monetize for growth!

Product Updates
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Introducing Flexible Account Models for Product-Led Companies

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

For product-led companies selling into enterprise accounts, viewing a lead or contact and a company often isn’t enough for your data structure. Because PLG drives organic growth across an org, there’s often a product-specific middle layer like a team, group, business unit, or workspace. 

When layering on a sales-assisted motion to PLG, sales needs the data and visibility to know who and when to upgrade and consolidate these workspaces for a company. But most traditional sales tools don’t handle modern SaaS account structures. Stuck on a rigid Company/Contact model, reps are left wondering which user or team to focus on. They may ask themselves questions like: 

  • How does usage differ across a company? 
  • Which teams within a company are growing fastest and worth my attention?

With constantly increasing pressure to hit quota, reps can’t afford to miss out on this potential revenue in their account base. They need a way to quickly navigate up and down these layers to truly understand the customer’s usage and needs.

After chatting with customers who juggle dozens of workspaces inside of a single enterprise account, we knew there had to be a better way to manage this hierarchy.

Discover opportunities in your large accounts

Today we’re excited to announce the launch of Flexible Account Models. Calixa now works seamlessly with your ideal (even custom) account model. Your users can roll up to teams, workspaces, or something else – which then become a part of a company or parent account! 

So how can Flexible Account Models help you discover opportunities? 

Let’s say Nike is using your product. Flexible Account Models solves for blind spots and missed opportunities by giving your sales team full visibility into who's most active in your product. Collaboration between departments, teams or business units is a strong selling point, especially for productivity tools such as Airtable.

Or let’s say another team is using your developer tool. Unlike traditional sales tools that limit you to one account per contact, Flexible Account Models can tie users to multiple workspaces or accounts. That way you can sell effectively with an accurate mapping of usage.

Easily navigate between account layers

With Flexible Account Models, your sales team has a comprehensive view into multiple layers of usage. Here’s a common prospecting workflow we see:

  1. Click into a company with several workspaces
  2. Find the most active workspace
  3. See workspace activity and active users
  4. Reach out to the workspace owner and product champions
  5. Offer customer value such as pricing, security, or collaboration

Flexibly scale as you go

Flexible Account Models adapt to your existing tools, processes, and data. That way your team can focus on selling.

Automatic metrics aggregation - Calixa’s dashboard automatically aggregates usage metrics across multiple levels – so that you don’t have to!

Connected to your CRM - Not only does Calixa model your product account structure, it flexibly links it to your CRM objects. Our platform can accommodate both standard and custom CRM objects and lets you take action at the proper level.

Customizable naming - Whether you want to call that middle layer a workspace, team, or something else, you can customize the names of each of your account levels. This way Calixa is using the terminology that your team is already familiar with.

Get access today

Start using a GTM platform that truly reflects your business structure and needs. Existing customers can gain access by reaching out to their sales rep or emailing team@calixa.io.

New to Calixa? Sign up today.

Product-Led Fundamentals
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The Battle of the Business Models: Sales-Led vs. Product-Led

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

There’s a lot of buzz over the Product-Led Growth (PLG) model. The SaaS world was dominated by traditional sales-led organizations for several decades, but now nearly 60% of SaaS companies use PLG motions. And for good reason: product-led companies are twice as likely to generate 100%+ YOY growth rates. 

Chart by Todd Gardner

So which acquisition model should SaaS companies adopt: product-led or sales-led? In reality, companies don’t have to pick one or the other, as these two strategies can complement each other to deliver the ideal buyer experience.. 

But before discussing this hybrid approach to SaaS growth, let's compare and contrast two models.

What is sales-led growth?

If you have ever been browsing the website of a SaaS company and tried to sign up for the product, only to be met with a demo request or lead capture form, you have experienced a traditional sales-led growth funnel.

This motion focuses on closing large deals through weeks or months-long sales cycles with executive buyers (a tactic known as ‘top-down’ selling). The cost of long deal cycles and high-touch sales processes is justified by a sizable upfront contract from the buyer.

The sales-led motion uses your sales processes to move prospects along the funnel. Marketing fills the sales funnels with potential leads, sales teams filter this list to identify prospects, and they hop on a demo. After an extended sales cycle, a contract leads to implementation, and the onboarding experience can begin. Product experiences happen at the end of the sales cycle.

What is product-led growth?

PLG begins by having the end user experience immediate product value (this is a ‘bottom-up approach’). This model plays the long game by generating land and expand revenue. Deal sizes start out small – maybe even on a credit card – and grow overtime.

PLG involves using your product to drive user acquisition and revenue growth. A free trial or freemium plan starts the customer journey, letting users find value in the product's features and invite friends or colleagues. A Product-Led Sales team accelerates deals from top users and loops in executive buyers for revenue expansion.

Product-led vs sales-led: What's the difference?

The model you choose impacts your product, customer experience, and sales process. Let’s look at some differences in their GTM approach.

Showing vs. telling

PLG strategies rely on the user experience to move accounts through the sales funnel. Product usage lets users discover value for themselves without the need for human interaction.

In contrast, users don’t experience a product sold by traditional sales processes until after the deal is done. When a lead enters the sales funnel, salespeople focus on explaining the product's value to decision-makers who may see nothing more than a demo.

Self-serve vs. sales funnel

Many PLG SaaS users never talk to sales. With thousands of users, it’s impossible for all of them to get one-on-one attention. Many of them learn from documentation, forums, and communities. With lower pricing tiers, they may also pay through credit cards.

A sales-led motion requires a completely hands-on approach at every stage of the process. A contract is the ultimate goal, which requires an extended process of education and relationship development at all levels of the prospect's organization.

Helping vs selling

PLG salespeople take a consultative approach to user engagement. The goal is for people to experience as much value as possible. Engaged users become evangelists driving expansion within their company. Once sales contacts a buyer, the use case is easy to explain because their employees already benefit from the product.

In our conversation with the New Business Lead at Plaid, we’re seeing Product-Led Sales teams emphasize the motto 'Always Be Helping' – a fun play on the old sales adage ABC: Always Be Closing.

Product qualified vs marketing qualified leads

In PLG, product usage and customer fit data determine which users are defined as Product Qualified Leads (PQLs). These PQLs appear deep in the sales funnel after experiencing the product's value for themselves. As a result, PQLs require less convincing and are highly motivated to advance to the next stage.

On the other hand, Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) get generated at the top of the funnel. Their product-fit is uncertain, leaving it to sales to decide which leads are genuine prospects who could become paying customers.

The future of sales-led vs product-bed businesses

It's easy to draw a hard line between the two sales models, but there really isn't any competition. Many product-led startups later add sales-led motions to bring in enterprise customers (move upmarket). At the same time, traditional sales-led corporations adopt product-led strategies to capture SMB sales volume (move downmarket).

Adding sales-led motions to product-led businesses

Product-led companies need sales teams. That’s why 75% of PLG companies have salespeople contact freemium accounts (source: Redpoint Ventures). 

For the mid-market segment, salespeople help monetize users and typically increase freemium conversion by 3x (source: Redpoint Ventures). Having a product open to a large volume of free trial signups increases market reach, but sales teams work to keep this volume of customers engaged and retained.

For enterprise tiers, reps focus on PQLs to drive expansion within the account and generate organizational buy-in to convince enterprise buyers to sign a company-wide deal. They also meet the needs of large enterprise accounts that require custom pricing and support. Especially for these larger customers, products can’t just sell themselves.

Adding product-led motions to sales-led businesses

Traditionally sales-led companies can adopt a product-led motion to attract new users they wouldn’t otherwise have reached. It helps to generate demand from the bottom up, and can complement or replace the experience of traditional lead magnets.

Ideally, your SaaS platform is flexible enough that you can create a PLG offer. Try creating a lighter version of a more complex product that people can use on a freemium or free trial basis. Streamline the onboarding experience to quickly deliver quick time-to-value. You can always add back sales motions to convert PQLs to enterprise customers.

Get the best of both motions with Product-Led Sales

In the end, sales-led and product-led are not mutually exclusive. You can get the best of both motions by adopting a hybrid approach known as Product-Led Sales. Plenty of top companies ranging from Asana to Dropbox have explored the spectrum between product-led and sales-led. This allows them to reach multiple market segments.

Source: SaaStr.com, Chargify

The future of SaaS is not a sales-led vs. product-led competition. Successful SaaS companies will adopt a hybrid approach that complements their core business with other ways to reach more customers. Companies that start with a product-led model and add one to a traditional sales-led model share a need to get more valuable insights from their PLG business.

Calixa bridges data silos to bring customer and product data together. PLG teams get the insights they need to identify PQLs, convert users, and accelerate growth. Watch this demo below to learn more.

Advice for Sales
rEAD-time

Enabling PLG: Skills to hone & where to focus

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing
|
Calixa

I recently sat down with Paul De Barros to reflect on his journey from AE to sales manager to head of sales at companies like Box, PandaDoc, Chargebee, Hopin, and Notably. Now as a Limited Partner at Stage 2 Capital and advisor to founders building their first sales team - we discussed his PLG learnings, trends, and predictions.

What are the most important aspects of GTM in a PLG motion?

Not getting distracted. 

There will always be bright, shiny objects creating a glare in your focus and pulling people's attention away. And, because PLG is such a long-game, it’s really important to stay focused on the game plan and stay confident that it will pay off down the line — and not give up and revert back to what’s worked in the past.  

So staying focused is key and setting up swim lanes within the team can safeguard that. 

For example, having a structured cadence — maybe with one team acting as the “speed team” that jumps in when there’s a certain PQL or a certain leads threshold. Say five users from one account have been active this week — have a team ready to execute a speed play on that

And then have a team that’s meant to be thinking more holistically, like on a six month horizon. The expansion-upsell team. 

Have this AE team get alerts when the play is less about immediacy and more about overall business impact. Allowing them time to think through what that signal really means and then having the next call to action in a week, two weeks, or within that month.

How will sales and customer success differentiate (or blur) in PLG motions?  

Specialization within teams will always exist. 

When PLG is done right, sales definitely looks much more consultative or educational and many times the lines between these two functions can become blurred. 

Customer support is becoming more involved with upselling, and AE’s are taking on more of an educational role in the buying process.

But I think there will always be a need for specialization. NPS and retention rates continue to be more and more important, but at the same time you likely will need a team who can just go out and get new logos. 

So companies have to figure out what makes the most sense for their specific motion — who should be focusing on what and at what stage of the buying journey.  

There’s definitely a growing science to all of it. For example, there’s a company that’s just launching called Gradient Works. They have a whole science to how teams should build territories, getting away from the traditional zip code approach and implementing a way more strategic balancing method that suits a PLG motion so much better in most cases.  

So that’s just another interesting shift that was already taking place in the industry but seems to be getting accelerated by PLG.   

How should PLG companies scale education for sales reps? 

Plan ahead and avoid being reactionary. 

Think through what's going to be really important for the team to know over the next couple of months. For example, when you pause and take a second to look up, what are a couple of those trends and patterns you’re going to see more of?

It’s really easy to be reactionary and say, “Oh, this competitor’s popping up,” or “Oh, the execs are telling us that we need to re-think our messaging.”

But when you’re constantly implementing things ad-hocly, it still takes two to six weeks of repetition for these things to sink into the team's flow.

So it's key to look up and provide that information ahead of time whenever possible.

There's this quote by Stephen King (this book) that in order to write consistently, you need to read consistently. So he learned how to read in “small sips and long swallows,” — carrying a book under his arm everywhere he went and reading every time he had even just a free 30-seconds in line at the grocery store, at the post office, etc.

I think that relates so much to sales in the post-2020 world where everyone is always “on” and everything is done over Zoom. After selling all day, the last thing an AE wants to do is another Zoom call for training and planning or learning.

Instead, plan ahead and give the team new information in small sips.

I think most people can pick it up better anyways in smaller ‘sips’ and be ready to implement the learnings when the time is right.

What are the key skills for AE’s to have in PLG? 

I look for curiosity and preparation.

Regardless of PLG, my old CEO at Chargebee, Krish—who was amazing—always talked about hiring for people's strengths. Look for a strength, identify what it is that they can bring, and just hire for that. Then coach them up on the rest.

All those company-specific skills are something that, if you're a good coach and manager or if you have a good enablement team, should come in month one and month two, but just hire for their strengths from the beginning.

But to your point, there's a secret sauce that works well in a PLG motion that you have to look for. I always start by looking for flat-out curiosity.

There’s a couple ways to pressure-test curiosity. How do they do research? How do they prepare for the interview? What did they ask? Who did they talk to? 

And then I imagine when they're talking to customers, where do they start their questioning? Do they start with a curiosity about the business or about big news that's facing them or is it more about what their next quarter is going to look like?

And then I imagine their preparation process in a real scenario with customers. Would they start their conversations zoomed out, thinking about the business strategy as a whole and the current environment they're in? Or would they just jump straight into the zoomed-in questions about the workflow and team-specific strategy?

It creates more of a natural conversation when people display curiosity for the business as a whole instead of just diving straight into the pointed questions about a certain workflow. 

But this can manifest in a lot of different ways, and you just have to gauge how the person is wired to assess problems and search for solutions. 

The second thing I look for is preparation

I’ll just ask people directly: How do you prepare for meetings? How would you prep or do the pre-work for a big client meeting or flush out a big presentation deck? Who would you collaborate with to develop this deck or prepare for a big meeting? I'm looking for little details in the way they organize their process. Things like: how much lead time they build in, how much research they do. Do they split it up and democratize it? Do they start prepping 48 hours before? Do they have an internal check in call the day before?

I think being prepared is super key in PLG motions because, for example, if you’re going into meetings with product-led folks, you can’t just start from square one. Some of these users have been active for six months. You need to be able to adapt to many different contexts. 

So curiosity and preparation — those are two that you can definitely include in your interview process. You can work with your enablement and hiring team to find and cultivate these skills.

They don't have to all be questions that the sales manager asks verbatim. But the 1st and 2nd steps of your hiring process should create a filter of who rises to the top, like the creme de la creme of who has that secret sauce that you're looking for.

What trends are you seeing in PLG lately?

Getting users to the ‘aha’ moment faster. 

I’ll give a shout out to Mark Roberge and Stage 2 Capital here. Mark was one of the biggest presentations at SaaStr recently. His talk focused on finding the aha moment in product-led growth. Some people call it a leading indicator, some people call it an activation metric. He calls it an aha moment. 

And he walked through where that is, what that is, and how companies can try to get moments that are closer to the initial entry into the product.

Taking a look at little things like: what are you going to do with your sign up flow, or your login page? How many fields, how gated? Everyone's trying to just figure out the right balance. But really honing in on: once you get into the product, what do you want that first experience to be?

A lot of what Stage 2 Capital does with the Science of Scaling is teaching folks how to get that aha moment early on. And what I'm seeing as an overall trend is teams trying to make the product organically let the natural gravity of the user flow push you right in to that moment faster.

Or for more complex products we're seeing people do more guiding. There's the idea of a progress bar, there's the idea of an in-app checklist — those are two common levers to pull to really try to guide end users.

So you're trying to get them to go up a staircase and these tools are the handrail and that's what kind of guides the user up to the next level.

How do PLG companies know when to introduce sales?  

Qualitative user research. 

This is another trend I'm seeing. You can always look for signals inside your product but you also need to go out and have user interviews.

It’s really important to maintain that muscle —  the process of running qualitative user research. Lately, even with the economic dip in the past six months and companies tightening the belt, so to speak, we're seeing a huge refocus around user research teams.

Big and small companies are all saying we need to prioritize this every month or every quarter — to go out and do user research. We're hearing teams put out mandates, like, if you're a product manager, you need to have five user interviews with customers or with prospects every month, or every quarter.

But that's a big trend, everyone’s doing a lot more user research. 

Anything else you’re excited about or just a closing thought? 

PLG takes time.

I was listening to the Grit podcast by Kleiner Perkins and they interviewed Steve Case, the AOL founder. The big takeaway for me was: time matters. He talked about how it took seven to ten years after AOL went public to really hit product market fit and eventually explode. 

And I just think this concept relates so well to the way PLG companies are growing today where you really can’t see any obvious signs in the beginning. But if you've seen examples like Figma, and the recent big splash with the Adobe acquisition, where it takes years before any traction really hits—they had 5 years before really starting to crank on the revenue.

In that vein, we’re still in the early innings with PLG in general. There’s going to be more people who come out and win this whole thing, and no one is really seeing it happen right now but in seven to ten years another wave will hit. And then you’ll see all these companies that are playing the long game like PandaDoc and Chargebee — they’re sticking to how they think they can help customers and where they add value and if everyone needs that solution and wants to experience it in that way, they’ll be the winners.

Advice for Growth
rEAD-time

5 clever ways to use AI for lead generation

Fred Melanson
Head of Content
|
Calixa

Too many companies leave money on the table because they can’t generate the right leads. Poorly qualified leads send sales teams down dead ends. Even with the right lead, sales doesn’t always have the right insights they need to close the deals.

How many times has your head hit the desk just trying to understand your leads?

You’ve got some information in the CRM.

Then you have to ask the data team to pull product usage activity.

Then you need to know what marketing emails the lead responded to.

Man banging his head against a desk

Lead generation powered by artificial intelligence does all this for you by seamlessly linking data silos into an easy interface.

By qualifying the right leads and delivering actionable insights, AI lead generation tools empower sales and marketing, shorten time-to-value, maximize conversion rates, and drive growth.

Here’s everything you need to know about how AI lead generation can accelerate your revenue growth.

What is AI lead generation?

AI lead generation lets companies identify and develop high-quality, high-intent leads.

These systems analyze more data from more sources than humanly possible, freeing time for sales and marketing teams to engage with qualified leads meaningfully.

With traditional lead generation strategies, pulling genuine leads from large pools of prospects is too time-consuming.

The problem is that too much data comes in from email marketing campaigns, CRM systems, outbound cold-calling, content marketing, and more.

And that ignores all the internal data available from other data silos like support or product.

There’s just too much data for people to process.

Aggressive filtering is the only way to make traditional lead-generation processes manageable.

Think about it this way. You’ve probably seen entry-level job postings that require:

  • Multiple advanced degrees (or “equivalent” work history). 😮
  • Familiarity with a combination of enterprise systems only used by that employer. 😯
  • Five years of experience with a technology released last year. 😱

HR departments do this to narrow their funnel of high qualified candidates. People don’t bother applying, which makes the pool of applicants easier to handle.

Of course, it also means amazing people never get considered. 😢

How many amazing leads does your lead-generation process filter out? 🤔

Different types of lead funnels

Artificial intelligence doesn’t get bored, doesn’t get tired, and doesn’t skip leads.

Letting AI tools do what they do best automates the drudge work at scale. Every data silo gets included in the analysis. AI algorithms evaluate every prospect constantly.

Freed from their spreadsheets, sales and marketing teams can dedicate more time to high-value engagement with their leads.

And that engagement is enriched by the insights AI lead generation software produces to make campaigns more effective and sales calls more productive.

It’s no wonder you’ll find these AI tools in action at the top product-led companies.

Who’s winning with AI lead generation?

Self-serve B2B sales motions are only one part of the Product-Led Growth model. Companies like Voiceflow, Jasper, Netlify all empower salespeople with AI-generated leads and insights.

Winning companies like these use AI to give sales teams what they need to engage with users immediately.

AI also helps their AEs convert enterprise accounts by making reaching an account’s decision-makers easier.

Adopting AI lead generation is one of the secret sauces that transform Product-Led Growth companies.

AI lead gen + PLG = superpower

In the hands of Product-Led Growth companies, AI lead generation becomes a superpower that accelerates them ahead of the competition.  🦸🏻‍♀️

PLG business models create a goldmine of product usage data: you know who uses your product and understand how they use it.

AI lead generation combines real-time customer behavior with firmographic data and other sources to create Product-Qualified Leads:

🎓 PQL = customers aligned with Ideal Customer Profiles whose behavior shows they are ready for sales engagement.

Unlike traditional lead scoring, AI makes connections between vast product data sets and conversion events that salespeople can’t make. For example:

  • Looking at past customers and they’re actions. 
  • Correlations between multiple specific actions taken in the product.
  • Predicting trends and likeliness to convert. 
  • Find consolidation opportunities otherwise missed. 

Empowered by AI-generated PQLs, sales teams can move the customer to a higher tier, combine users in a team account, and convert teams to enterprise accounts.

Voiceflow is a collaborative platform for developing conversational assistants in call centers, mobile apps, and other applications. Using Calixa’s AI-powered insights, Voiceflow’s sales and marketing teams enhance their own customer conversations.

Previously, Voiceflow’s patchwork of databases and services couldn’t deliver the leads they needed:

“It was a black box. We didn’t have any idea how prospects were using Voiceflow or even a means of easily seeing which trials were active and expiring.”

Calixa lets Voiceflow’s AEs understand where customers are in the sales funnel. Product-qualified leads and behavior-driven insights give AEs the tools they need when engaging with customers.

“We can see user actions and figure out how to advance them in the customer journey. Our conversation focuses on key features to help them.”

AI lead generation increased Voiceflow’s business book and boosted sales productivity. Next, we’ll check out how AI can power your SaaS growth.

5 ways to use AI for lead generation in product-led SaaS

Whether uncovering new customers or refining the customer experience, AI lead generation raises product-led SaaS companies to new performance levels. Here are five ways you can use AI lead generation to improve your business.

1. Use a PLS tool to find revenue opportunities 💰

Without AI, analysis runs into a wall: people have limited attention spans. They can only process so much data before they glaze over.

That leaves money on the table.

With AI-generated insights marketing can optimize messaging and content for every target audience.

AI-driven engagements compress time-to-value for free self-serve users, easing them along the path to paid subscriptions.

AI tools like Calixa let you turn missed opportunities into new sources of revenue growth.

2. Use AI to qualify leads 💡

AI-powered solutions streamline lead qualification so sales teams get more actionable information and close deals faster.

Machine learning models an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) based on existing customer behavior and your SaaS product’s features.

The AI system uses the ICP to decide which users and accounts are the best fit for sales engagement.

High-quality, high-intent PQLs are primed for that next step. All they need is a little TLC from sales.

Quality PQLs would be enough to make AI lead-gen a no-brainer. But there’s more.

Machine learning looks beyond the customers you know you want. It combines patterns in customer behavior with company information to spot customer profiles you never considered.

These new ICPs actively use the product even though they haven’t gotten a lot of attention.

Calixa and other AI lead-gen tools reveal these untapped customers so, with a little care and tracking, these ICPs will drive revenue growth.

3. Enrich leads with AI-driven insights 🤓

AI-generated leads arrive with rich insights that people can actually use.

Old approaches gave marketing teams buckets of contacts based on rough firmographic and demographic analysis.

With AI technology, marketing teams know how each contact will respond to the right campaign.

Old-school lead generation tools gave salespeople a starting point but not a lot more. But nobody really understood what a score meant. Nobody really knew where the user was on their product adoption journey.

AI-powered leads tell sales teams exactly where accounts are, how they use the product, and what they need to advance in the sales funnel.

Empowered with these insights, sales calls stop being fact-finding missions.

Instead, sales engagements start with precisely the information users need when they need it.

Insights based on product usage make sales engagements helpful conversations that users welcome.

4. Personalize user experiences 🧑‍🦰👨🏿🧑🏽‍🦳

Product-led sales allows personalization at scale. Mass market techniques just don’t cut it.

The more a user’s experience and needs align with, the faster they advance through the sales funnel.

AI-powered insights into user behavior let you understand their needs and motivations.

In effect, marketing campaigns and sales engagements become one-to-one conversations that potential customers value.

5. Improve chatbots in your product to qualify users 🤖

A top priority for AI-driven personalization are the chatbots you deploy to your website and product.

Chatbots use Natural Language Processing to let website visitors and users interact with your company on their terms while freeing reps from low-value engagements.

But a chatbot that gives the same canned responses to everything frustrates people and turns them off your product.

Artificial intelligence improves your chatbot by tailoring the customer experience to each interaction.

Behavior-based insights let you develop more nuanced templates that deliver more personalized responses.

As a result, AI chatbots cover a wider variety of interactions without handing user that are either unqualified or not sales-ready over to reps.

Finally, an in-product chatbot’s cross-selling and upselling pitches, now matched to the user’s product usage, can increase revenue growth.

Conclusion: You’re missing out. Get to work!

Too much data is siloed in too many systems for consistent, high-quality lead generation. As a result, you:

  • Miss opportunities you never knew existed.
  • Leave high-intent leads sitting without sales engagement.
  • Rely on less effective messaging and content.

Leaving money on the table depresses growth and lets competitors take the slack. 😩

If you want to win in today’s PLG SaaS markets, you must win every opportunity from free signups to converting named accounts. 🏆

Calixa’s AI-powered product-led sales platform delivers the real-time insights you need to engage with product-qualified leads and drive revenue growth. 

Calixa AI-powered prospecting

If you want a better understanding of Calixa’s approach to product-led sales, read these articles about:

Advice for Growth
rEAD-time

Mindset matters: Driving efficient growth with PLG

Phil Corson
Director of Product Growth
|
Oyster

Rapidly changing macroeconomic conditions inevitably bring shake-ups to the status quo. What this means for the Product-Led Growth (PLG) community is greater opportunity, especially as the mindset among businesses and investors shifts from “growth at all costs” to an emphasis on efficient growth.

Solving business and customer problems with efficiency and speed over the past eight years led me to PLG, where I make trade offs between building for speed or to scale every day. Based on this experience, here’s where I believe a PLG methodology can help you deliver incremental gains—leading to even bigger wins—in our new world focused on efficient growth.

Fluid and ever-changing, PQLs will evolve as you grow

The very definition of efficient growth, PLG is a user-centric business model that drives customer acquisition and growth via continuous product iteration and evolution. It’s designed to deliver enhanced product experiences across all touchpoints of the user journey, thus driving sticky user adoption. In this way, it’s similar to Agile Development—a software development approach based on iterative collaboration.

PLG is a state of continuous adaptation, which means your product qualified lead (PQL) milestones will similarly evolve as new features and experiences are built into the product. Because unlike marketing qualified leads—where conversion happens at a single moment in time—PQLs aren’t meant to be static black-and-white, hard-and-fast engagement metrics. 

What this means for driving efficient growth is two-fold:

  • First, while marketing teams optimize for a single moment of conversion, your product team must continually optimize for customer value. In other words, where and how can you eliminate friction, guiding users to value faster on an ongoing basis?
  • Second: Ever-changing and always fluid, PQLs exist as a spectrum of behaviors. As your product evolves, where and how can you glean regular insight into user behavior to identify behavioral changes, tweak different PQLs, and drive increased growth?

With this in mind, it’s not necessary to agonize over picking the perfect PQL because it should be constantly evolving. If you’ve picked an activity or behavior that conceptually makes sense, you can iterate on it (sometimes using AI/ML) based on changes in usage patterns and your product. 

Case in point: Oyster has a cost calculator that breaks down withholdings, taxes, pay, and subscription fees by hiring location. If someone hasn’t used this feature, we know they’re not ready to hire. If they do use it, it’s the tipping point to all sorts of other key engagement activities. So, we initially defined our PQL with our cost calculator before factoring in other behavior patterns as we uncovered them. Eventually, we learned that using our cost calculator in combination with another key feature—our benefits tool— indicated that someone is more likely to activate, which in our case is to submit a new hire.

Think about monetization as a series of small wins

Monetization is another PLG growth lever without a standard set of rules. When it comes to trying to solve any problem with software, starting out with an agile mindset is what’s most important. Pricing and packaging are intimidating for a lot of folks, and there are endless monetization plays you can take. To this end, I recommend using it as an opportunity to make incremental gains and build a more iterative muscle. For example, if you’re a massive organization trying to roll out more productive growth pricing, start simple with charm pricing—try out $99 instead of $100. If you’re a smaller company and new to the PLG journey, consider seat-based pricing as your starting point. Then iterate again and again as you better understand your value moments in your product.

I think about pricing as a team sport. Like it or not, everyone in your organization has an opinion on two things: your brand and your price. Collaborating with a cross-functional group of folks, such as sales, partnerships, finance, product, and marketing, is an easy way to get the creative juices flowing. Someone might suggest an idea for a new pricing page, or ways to visualize or position packages differently. Or perhaps you discover a small tweak that dramatically improves the checkout flow. As long as you remain customer-focused and iterate small enough with a high enough velocity, you’ll eventually right the monetization ship in the best direction for sustainable growth. 

Oyster is an example of how monetization can vary wildly across the PLG ecosystem. A lot of PLG business models attract and acquire users via a free plan, activating and converting them into paying customers (often with room for expansion!). Oyster’s approach is a bit different. Its platform is entirely free to use but we monetize hiring events, such as a U.S. employer hiring a candidate in France. I’ve also found that our customer behavior patterns between hiring cycles are also quite unique—nearly identical to when a user first enters the platform. So, how we evolve Oyster’s monetization strategy will differ greatly from someone whose product is subscribed to once with more linear customer usage patterns, whereas a customer at Oyster subscribes again and again every time they hire. 

The right PLG approach holds universal appeal

The biggest PLG myth is that it’s only relevant for the Small-Medium sized market segment (SMB). This couldn’t be further from the truth. People are people. They want to touch, feel, and understand the value of a product on their own time. This is a universal truth across all enterprise, mid-market, and SMB companies. What’s different across these companies is the basket size and how many people are involved in a purchase decision. In other words: the bigger the basket size, the more people involved, and the more nuanced product-led needs to be integrated into the value realization and the mental conversion decision for a buyer to purchase. 

Navigating this perception and these nuances have been my biggest learning curve. It’s also where I lean into PLG as a methodology the most, adapting its principles to better fit more complex or complicated GTM strategies. For example, PLG isn’t as simple as offering users a 14-day free trial when moving mid-market. The complexity of how mid-market customers gain approval and buy software often requires some sales involvement. Here, PLG needs to be deployed strategically so it’s complementary to a mid-market move and the buying process for those stakeholders. 

It’s true some enterprise products can’t actually deploy a true PLG model just by the nature of the product, where it cannot be truly end-user centric such as healthcare software (not everyone has a collaboration product like Notion or Zoom!). In a more traditional enterprise play, I see PLG as an opportunity to trigger human behavior that leads to new, larger deals for Sales either through expansion to an enterprise subscription as a customer grows, or when for example, say seven people from the same enterprise signed up and created their own team accounts in your product. This is the kind of data-driven insight PLG helps uncover so Sales can strike up the right conversations with the right people, and pursue those larger enterprise deals while maintaining a healthy CAC and payback than if Sales was going at it alone.

Ultimately, the beauty of PLG is it means different things for different folks. Pairing it with an agile mindset makes deploying new tactics much easier—supporting healthier sales motions and driving more efficient, sustainable growth.

Advice for Sales
rEAD-time

Getting started with Product-Led Sales: Priorities, skills, pricing

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Leaving Wall Street for a career in tech, Ben Davis never looked back. Joining Intercom as one of the first sales ops hires, he watched the company go from zero to $50M on the back of the self-serve business model. Now the Head of Growth at Air, a creative operations system for marketers, Ben leads sales, sales development, and revenue operations functions. Below is an excerpt of a recent conversation we had around the role of sales leadership with a Product-Led Sales (PLS) strategy.

Looking back on your early days at Intercom, what drew you into  product-led growth (PLG)

Ben Davis (BD): Self-serve piqued my interest from the very beginning, largely because a mentor of mine worked on that side of the business at Intercom and it always seemed like the natural evolution of SaaS. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of my career chasing that pursuit and led SMB and self-serve sales at Coda before joining Air last year. 

My perspective about the self-serve business model has also evolved over the past few years—especially when I was at Coda. At the time, we were seeing so many other companies piling on a product-led motion as the only way to market their businesses. Except they weren’t thinking about what product-led actually meant and I think this is still the case for lots of folks. 

What do you think companies need to run a successful product-led motion?

BD: Most products don’t have the natural virality required to make a product-led motion successful on its own, and it’s insanely difficult to bake virality into the product. I see a lot of companies, especially Series A and Seed startups, coming out the gates with free signups and self-serve funnels without thinking about where that near-term growth will come from—nor do they have the right resources to support it. 

For example, think about a company like Notion, a once-in-a-lifetime viral success story, that can afford program managers to manage the self-serve business. They can run tests with efficacy across hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of its self-serve users. But this isn’t the case for most businesses. Without the right resources, you’re left trying to influence a product leader or sales owner, who’s comped on business performance and sales effectiveness, to give you support. It’s a really tough position to be in. Especially for early-stage companies, where direct sales can help them show immediate proven growth while they invest in the self-serve motion long term. 

What are the top priorities for a sales leader in a product-led motion?

BD: Your goal as a sales leader is allocating the right capital to the right revenue sources. This means making decisions based on what’s best for the company. While we’re still sorting through our product-led ownership at Air, self-serve is part of the larger funnel that needs resourcing. Sales leaders, especially those in a PLS motion, can’t be afraid to fix inefficiencies or allocate resources to self-serve as they get more and more out of its funnel. 

Data-driven skills are another priority for sales in a product-led world. Sales reps need more product training. They also have to be more data-focused (possibly even comfortable writing SQL) with an ability to answer questions in tools outside of Salesforce. This requires a broader skill set than before—often involving more technical and operational backgrounds—in addition to their sales experience. 

Great point—while Product-Led Sales is a consultative relationship, it’s still sales. How do you see the role of sales evolving?

BD: In my experience, sales is often seen as a lesser craft within the organization. Lots of folks, especially those in product, see product-led as a way to crack the revenue equation without actual sales reps. Yet we continue to see a shifting view about sales with increasingly more MBAs going into the field. I think the role of sales in PLG will continue to evolve, but a sales skill set will remain critical when it comes to building relationships and winning over prospects—things that can’t be solved by the product alone. 

How should product-led GTM leaders approach pricing in a PLS motion?

BD: In a product-led motion, the goal of pricing is to clearly define what’s self-serve, what’s sales-led, and why someone would want to talk to sales. These levers should make it easy for someone to understand why they’d level up from free plans to higher plans and what they unlock in doing so. For example, when you sign up for Air’s Pro plan, you pay $30/seat/month no matter what. But if you reach out to Sales for an enterprise deal, you’re not just another enterprise to us and we don’t try to upsell you. We work with the customer to provide a different per-seat price for multiple tiers of user permission sets, which is something that you fundamentally don't get on our Pro tier. We try to make it a win-win for both parties.

What’s the biggest opportunity for PLG companies today?

BD: Great question! I think curated pricing is important when it comes to different customers and different use cases. The tension with pricing in a product-led world is that a lot of products are priced by seat, not by their usage. For example, we get companies with two seats that need 100 terabytes of storage. We also have three-seat customers paying for 500 guest users and 40-seat marketing teams that need everything. These are the kinds of situations where curated pricing becomes key. 

While your product will never be priced perfectly for every customer, you’re leaving money on the table if you monetize based on seat amounts alone. Right now, our pricing is split into two buckets: self-serve and enterprise. Self-service is our pro, plus, and free plans. Enterprise is entirely custom and we’re constantly trying out new packaging. Our next evolution of pricing will help us monetize to the maximum amount with enterprise-tier pricing and packages for different types of end users.

Are there any common mistakes or misconceptions about running a successful product-led motion?

BD: I think one mistake people make is not investing enough in their data engineering resources. Invest in your data and modern GTM stack first—then build on top of them. At the end of the day, your data engineer is your very first sales hire and the biggest mistake you can make is not investing in that function.

Second, a lot of folks think starting a product-led journey is more complex than it is or requires tools they don’t already have. Eventually, you’ll need a tool like Calixa to evolve and accelerate your product-led motion, but you can start the journey with whatever resources you have on hand. I think the simplest way to do it is along the lines of what we do today, which is just reaching out to people who’ve done specific product actions we’ve deemed as valuable – in our case: uploaded content or added another user to their plan. Everyone has to start somewhere, and there’s no need to overcomplicate it in the beginning.

Product Updates
rEAD-time

Product Updates: September 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Autumn is here 🍁 Time to turn over a new leaf! Power your Product-Led Sales motion with these latest features.

Automated Workflow: Add to Outreach and Salesloft

Acting on your PQLs just got easier. We’re excited to add two new capabilities under Automations: Add to Sequence and Add to Cadence. Calixa places the right users into your Outreach sequences or Salesloft cadences—zero clicks involved.

Learn more from this blog.

Calixa for HubSpot

Get product insights right alongside HubSpot! The Calixa Chrome Extension auto-detects your users and accounts, and then provides PQL context for sales teams without interrupting the team's existing processes and tooling.

Learn more & try it today! If you missed it, we also have Calixa for Salesforce.

New Side Panel

The Calixa interface just got even better! Check out a re-designed side panel with…

📈 Charts that highlight your customer’s product usage over time

🚀 Clear actions that streamline PQL follow-up

🎉 A way to both customize and standardize these views for your team

This feature has been rolled out to all new accounts in the past month. For existing customers, if you want to upgrade, just contact team@calixa.io.

Create Lead in Salesforce

In the old world, selectively adding PQLs to traditional CRMs was a laborious process. Calixa now makes it easy to create Salesforce leads from your signups with a few clicks. 

ICYMI: Product demo

Do you want to share an intro to Product-Led Sales with a coworker? Check out this product demo video.

Advice from our community 

Check out Product-Led Sales advice from your peers.

Lastly, we were featured in TechCrunch – give us a retweet!

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️


Advice for RevOps
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Break Inefficient Product-Led Sales habits with 3 easy fixes

Ryan Milligan
Senior Director of Revenue Operations
|
QuotaPath

Take it from me: It’s not always easy to pinpoint areas of friction and improvement within your Product-Led Sales (PLS) motion. I’ve led revenue and marketing operations at two PLG companies and still find new, unexpected places to tweak and refine every day. 

Along the way, I’ve also learned that well-meaning, but misplaced, habits can hamper PLS motions in a big way. Here are 3 PLS habits I see others doing, how they impede on your PLS motion, and easy fixes to break the cycle.

Inefficient habit #1: Emphasizing scores over human actions

Scoring prospective leads based on how they interact with your product is key to prioritizing who your sales reps should reach out to and when. But scores alone don’t explain what actions a human took and, more importantly, how your reps should reach out and engage with that person. In other words, what someone did as a human is far more important than whatever their actual score might be. 

Case in point: QuotaPath users can track commissions and earnings by integrating their CRM within our tool. So, if Joe from A Big, Exciting Company creates a free workspace, syncs it with Salesforce data, and uses it to build a plan, all of these activities trigger a score indicating that Joe is someone our sales reps should reach out to. But if all a rep gets is Joe’s score–and nothing more–they’re missing out on crucial details to help Joe get to the next step of his journey. For example, did Joe connect to a CRM? If so, which one? Did he create a path? Did he build a plan? Who did he invite to the workspace? (And so on.)

Breaking the habit

  • Create highly targeted lists based on what people are doing and why. Remember, the score itself isn’t nearly as important as how you’re using it to define thresholds. To this end, I’ve found the most success with creating lists of sales prospects sorted by actions and criteria.

What this looks like at QuotaPath: We prioritize who we want reps to reach out to by combining MQL and PQL scores. Since creating a workspace is considered a marketing-driven activity, it automatically triggers an MQL. From here, we’ll consider whether the person is a senior leader or decision maker within their organization, and that the company fits our ideal customer profile (ICP) criteria. Based on these markers, and after layering PQL actions on top, we stack rank who reps should reach out to first. 

In this way, it’s about prioritizing a list for highly targeted sales outreach. In addition to pulling in the criteria above, we’ll also sort leads by grouped scores, descending from 90s to 80s to 70s (and so forth). 

Inefficient habit #2: Holding onto dead accounts because “they might come back”

Every sales rep wants to hold onto old, dead accounts just in case they come back 6, 9, or 12 months down the road. But the reality is this only leads to inefficient account flows and fractures in company culture. If people are coming back to book demos months later, your more tenured reps will (unfairly) get more demos than your newer reps. This demotivates newer reps, potentially harming workplace culture at the same time.

Not only that, but no sales rep, no matter how talented they are, can efficiently manage and engage a book of 600+ accounts in a meaningful way. It’s simply not possible. At best, these prospects won’t get the support and attention they need; at worst, they get missed entirely (before writing off your product and company brand indefinitely). 

Breaking the habit

  • Put a cap on how many accounts your reps can have at any point. At QuotaPath, we cap our reps to no more than 200 accounts (no matter the tenure of the rep), many of which we “rip and replace” with weekly refresh cycles. With 1 BDR qualifying MQLs, our 7 full-funnel AEs own all of our outbound outreach. By regularly recycling accounts among our team, we’re not only setting a level playing field for everyone but we’re also driving better sales performance and business results. 

To do this, I prioritize 3 key elements:

  • I try to keep 35-40% of reps’ books to people they’ve never talked to. Before earning new leads, AEs have to work on and whittle this list down via the likes of proactive outreach and cold calls.
  • We use different ICP criteria and thresholds to recycle accounts. For example, when someone signs up for a free workspace, we ask them how many commissionable employees they have. Someone with 5-10 employees is round-robined between junior reps while companies with 51-100 often go to senior reps.
  • Part of our territory planning requires reps to show a burden of proof for accounts they want to keep. As it stands, reps can keep open opportunities, accounts with large volumes of Salesforce activity in the past 30 days, and closed-lost opportunities in the past 90 days. Anything else is recycled throughout the rest of the team–the last thing I want to do is round-robin the same accounts between the same reps or not look at new accounts in the market.

Inefficient habit #3: Approaching the sales cycle with a “sell, sell, sell” mentality

Proofs of concept are a much bigger part of the PLG sales equation than that of a traditional B2B SaaS software company. QuotaPath has customers, who are also prospects, creating their own comp plans and chatting with our team via Intercom. They’re asking highly technical questions before deciding to bring in, say, 75 more people to use the product. Because of this, our reps can’t approach these conversations with the conventional shark-style “sell, sell, sell” mentality sales teams are known for. The same principle holds true for every PLS team out there today.

Breaking the habit

  • Encourage a curious, problem-solving mindset. Every successful PLS rep helps first and sells later. They’re also curious about how things work, ask lots of questions, and integrate themselves with the product. In this way, the conversations they have with people are geared less around convincing them to sign up and more around doing whatever it takes to set them up for success. Empathy and patience also play a big role in nurturing these relationships since someone who’s not ready to upgrade today will likely do so down the road as an expansion opportunity.

Building helpful messaging and outreach around different milestones, such as integrating with a CRM or building a plan, has worked really well for our team. This can be as simple as emailing a new user, “It looks like you’ve just synced to your CRM–let’s hop on the phone so I can help you finish setting up.” We also credit our reps whenever outreaches lead to upsells, such as working with a single user who goes on to add 30 more people to their workspace.

Implementing a similar rewards system is critical to your PLS strategy, along with clear customer hand-offs between internal teams downstream. We have 3 teams that support customers throughout their lifecycle. Our account executive team, whose first goal is signature, works directly with new prospects before transitioning them to our onboarding team. After an initial two-month ramp-up, our customers are then assigned a dedicated account manager who runs their account moving forward. 

Bonus tip: If someone comes to your website to book a demo, get out of their way! Listen, if someone is looking at your PLG product, they have very, very little interest in jumping on a BDR qualification call to answer the same questions as the form. Get out of their way, let them book the demo, and focus your team on the opportunities that come after.

The risk of PLG is that someone can get in, play around, and have a bad experience because they simply didn’t learn how to use the product. In other words, they can quickly convince themselves of all sorts of reasons not to like it. After the demo is one of the biggest opportunities your sales reps have to get them on the phone, help them set up the product correctly, and get to value quickly.

Product Updates
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Calixa Chrome Extension for HubSpot

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

HubSpot has a great CRM that contains all of a company’s sales and marketing data. Yet teams that grow revenue with Product-Led Sales often struggle to combine product activity metrics with sales activity—it’s generally a tedious process that requires data engineers to create custom objects in HubSpot.

With the Calixa Chrome Extension for HubSpot, you can easily access product insights alongside HubSpot—no data requests needed.

Find high potential customers

Let’s say you’re busy researching a customer in HubSpot, and you’re looking for product usage insights. This extension can auto-detect the account or user based on which HubSpot Company or Contact you are viewing. Find PQL scores, number of users added to an account, and other recent product activity.

HubSpot & Calixa Account View

You also use the search box to find an account or user. Instantly see how customers are using your product without having to switch tools. 

Search within Calixa while in HubSpot

Get Product-Led Insights at Scale

Before using Calixa’s Product-Led Sales platform, many of our customers used a combination of HubSpot and manual SQL queries to find Product Qualified Leads. The data team might give them a weekly data dump, while getting inundated with additional requests. Clearly, this process won’t likely scale.

Calixa lets GTM teams combine product insights with customer fit data for a single view of customer activity. Whether you decide to work from Calixa or in HubSpot with our new extension, getting a full picture of PQLs is easier than ever.

Gain full product context without disrupting your team’s daily CRM workflows. Install the Chrome Extension today.

Product-Led Fundamentals
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Product-Led Growth: What it is & How to Make it Work for Your Business

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

The way users experience and demo software products has changed, leading many software companies to change their entire business models to keep up with the industry-wide shift. The rise of APIs and modular tools has empowered end users to create personalized solutions and integrate products into ultra-customizable software stacks that power their daily lives. 

We’ve entered the era of the end user, and the dominance of an entirely new growth model: product-led growth. In this blog post, we'll take a look at what product-led growth is and how you can use it to grow your startup.

What is product-led growth?

Product-Led Growth (PLG) is a go-to-market strategy where the product itself is the main driver of customer acquisition, activation, and retention. 

While traditional marketing- and sales-led methods push content downloads and calls with the executive buyer, PLG attracts bottom-up virality through product adoption by end users. 

The goal of product-led growth is to: 1) get as many users on the product, and 2) keep them using the product through an excellent user experience. The thinking is that if people can see the value of the product for themselves, they're much more likely to become long-term “land-and-expand” customers or even evangelists for the brand.

The fact is, to pull this off, software companies have to design a highly intuitive product that allows users to easily (and quickly) discover its value. This requires alignment and support across all teams and organizations involved with designing, engineering, selling, and marketing a company’s product. 

Company-wide buy-in is critical to executing a PLG sales motion

How does product-led growth work?

The exact process behind any product-led business strategy will depend on the product and space you’re in. However, whether a company is B2B or B2C, there are some common principles of PLG that make this growth model so effective. 

PLG relies on five key pillars: a free plan, low time-to-value, PQLs, community-growth, and a flywheel effect. Let's take a more in-depth look at each of these pillars.

Offer a free plan

For a product to become a lead generation machine, it must have a type of free plan that lets prospective customers try before they buy. 

The easiest way to spot a PLG company is to check if it allows anyone to sign up for free. You’ll be able to find this on a company’s homepage (“Try for free”) and on the pricing page (“Free Forever” or “30-day trial”). 

That said, freemium and free trials aren’t synonymous with PLG. Our friends at Arcade wrote, “Product-led growth is way more than just a free trial — it's a culture, and a way of thinking about customers, products, and growth.” The signup button is just one tactic in PLG.

It had to be said! 😆

Decreasing Time to Value (TTV)

Once you have a free plan, the next step is to reduce friction to the ‘aha’ moment. Reducing friction is the most critical component of a PLG strategy. 

Make it easy for users to get in and start seeing the value. Users are more likely to stick around and continue using the product if they see value in it from the very beginning.

When friction is decreased, the time-to-value decreases as well. But truly successful PLG companies don’t just deliver value quickly. To achieve exponential growth, you have to deliver the ‘aha’ moment, that moment where the user understands how your product is about to completely transform their workflow, as quickly as possible. 

Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)

In a PLG sales motion (also known as Product-Led Sales), the product is not only utilized as the primary driver of growth, but also as a powerful lead qualifier. 

The best way to unlock the full potential of your user base is by finding product qualified leads (PQLs). PQLs combine signals from both what the lead is doing in your SaaS product and who they are. Showing sales reps exactly what features users are not only interested in, but already rolling up their sleeves and using the product.

Engaging with prospects using product signals gives you the ability to target folks who have experienced your product's value and are more willing to engage with a salesperson. It’s no wonder PQLs convert 5X better than MQLs.

And there are many different types of PQLs. These include:

  • Free signups ready for upgrade
  • Active trials that can be converted to paid plans
  • Paid accounts who are expanding / ready for enterprise plan

With these PQLs in place, the role of salespeople at PLG companies becomes to drive high-velocity deals from this product-led lead volume. They encourage expansion revenue by offering additional features or upgrades that appeal to power users.

Virality & community-growth  

Virality isn’t new and neither is the concept of a viral loop. What’s new is regarding viral loops as a product requirement. 

PLG companies build viral components into the standard user journey of their apps and products to ensure their users become promoters. Delighted users attract more users, creating a self-driven growth engine that paves the way for endless expansion. 

To amplify these effects, PLG companies tend to place a heavy emphasis on community growth. Investing in the practices and people that help users engage with each other creates a second layer of virality that fuels the original viral loop within the product. 

The result is the coveted Flywheel effect every PLG company is chasing. 

The Flywheel funnel

The flywheel effect: building a product experience that creates a virtuous cycle of acquisition, conversion, and retention. 

Traditional sales and marketing funnels are effective ways to generate leads and acquire customers, but they leave cash on the table, so to speak, in terms of customer acquisition. See, in these growth models, once customers are acquired, they largely become afterthoughts. Sure there’s customer success, and referral marketing, and plenty of other ways where customers do get their deserved attention. But these activities aren’t a core component of the growth machine. 

In contrast, the Flywheel funnel used in a PLG sales motion leverages acquired customers as the primary driver of customer acquisition. How does this work?

Software companies with this growth model invest heavily on building a product that delivers a customer experience that’s so good people have to talk about it. It’s also important to make it easy for users to share your product with their networks. This could include team plans, referral codes, or discounts that give users an incentive to spread the word. 

The result is compound acquisition. The more customers you acquire, the more your customer acquisition rates begin to accelerate. 

Meanwhile, the follow-on advantage is your customer acquisition cost, CAC, metrics trend downwards. 

How do I know if product-led growth is right for my business?  

The first two questions to ask to understand if a product-led sales motion is right for your business are:

  1. How much of our product can be “self-serve”?
  2. Do our end users drive adoption? 

For a PLG motion to work, end users need to be able to easily access the products ‘aha’ moment by themselves. If users experience too many pain points in the first moments spent with the product, you won’t achieve the flywheel effect and you’d be better off with a marketing & sales-led motion. 

If your product is able to become self-serve, the next thing to ask is whether or not your end users are the personas driving adoption of the product. 

Typically, a product’s buyer persona is whoever makes the final decision to convert into a paying customer. In enterprise SaaS, this is often the leader of a department. However, these folks aren’t always the power users of these products — more often, the individual contributors within these departments are. So in these cases, the end users are typically not driving the internal adoption. 

But with PLG, the product’s buyer persona is not necessarily the person who makes the final buying decision. Instead of thinking of a PLG buyer persona as the person with the purchasing authority, think of them as the person with the purchasing influence

For example, consider Slack, Asana, and Notion: end users discover these products, (often through word of mouth) fall in love with the experience (via some form of a freemium entry price) and then convince whoever has the company credit card to get it for the whole team, turning a 2-person account into a 500-person account

This is what end user-driven adoption looks like.

The benefits of product-led growth

There’s no way around it: implementing a product-led sales motion requires significant collaboration and support across an organization. Taking this approach may even cause a company to grow less rapidly in the beginning as problems with the user journey are ironed-out and the revenue teams get a handle on conversion.

But once the necessary foundation is in place, PLG companies are able to grow faster and more efficiently at scale

OpenView Partner's data report shows that PLG companies scale faster than their non-PLG peers once they hit a magic number of the $10M ARR mark. PLG accelerates growth by making lead generation, sales, and customer success processes more efficient and high intent. This allows companies to sustain hyper-growth at scale.

So, while it might take longer to turn users into high paying customers in the beginning with PLG, using the product to qualify users is ultimately more efficient.

Advice for Growth
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Driving Community-Led Growth at HubSpot

Eric Peters
Product Lead
|
HubSpot

Community-led growth is the future of product-led business models. It’s one thing to build products that drive the unit economics of your SaaS company, but enabling your biggest advocates to become your best sales and support reps and your loudest marketers—that’s the dream.

We have three main community-driven platforms at HubSpot: our Community forum, our annual INBOUND event, and HubSpot Academy, where I’ve been focused since 2015. Over those years, we have transformed HubSpot Academy from a customer-enablement service into an acquisition channel into a vast community of experts. Certifying people does more than teach them how to use HubSpot. They become advocates for the rest of the HubSpot ecosystem, because we focus on helping them build their careers.

Any SaaS company with a product-led sales motion inherently has the foundation for community-led growth. Customers self-qualify and believe in the product based on their lived experience. What you need are the practices and people to help customers engage with each other. Here are three tips for leveraging your users to drive community and sales.

Plant the seeds for future communities

Don’t try to do everything at the same time. You can’t magically make a community for 20,000 customers. Instead, you need to plant the seed so that your community infrastructure is already somewhat sophisticated by the time you need community-led growth.

Before we created the Academy, our service organization taught customers one-on-one. Of course, we had a knowledge base and documentation that people could use to teach themselves. But only a certain type of user would take the time to self-educate. It was much easier to call support reps. Responsible for keeping the customer happy, they taught our early customers how to use our product.

Over time, teaching each customer individually wasn’t scalable so it became webinars, then courses, and finally Academy certifications. The only reason certifications work as an acquisition channel for prospects is because our customers love it so much. That would never have happened if we hadn’t started by developing a community mentality in our customer success organization. We listened to what our customers needed to learn and built a curriculum around that. 

Serve the community by creating value

Fostering your community requires a clear understanding of its value system. Think about why you joined LinkedIn. It wasn’t because they have a cool way to share a post. It’s because 800 million people are there. Ask yourself what makes being part of your community valuable, unique, and interesting. Once you understand the source of your community’s value, you can start developing the content and services to reinforce that value.

For example, we only created certification courses for our customers at first. We created the courses to help existing customers get better at using HubSpot. They were also good at teaching how to use SEO, content marketing, and social media in a holistic inbound strategy (with or without HubSpot). That’s why a lot of people outside of our customer base found their way to HubSpot Academy - even though these people didn’t buy our product, they learned new skills that helped their careers.

That was our actual value to the community. Sure, you can learn how to create email faster and more efficiently. But what we really do is help everyone in the community grow their careers. So, we opened the Academy to anyone who wants to take our courses and earn our certifications. That way, when they get the promotion or the next job, they remember that we helped them get there.

Understanding the Academy’s value makes it clear that it is all about the content we build. We take three to six months to create a new course. For the same reason, we try to keep 90% of the content up to date at any given time. That’s hard to do when your product constantly changes. It’s a big commitment to building our community and making sure our content is always fresh.

Start with the customer success managers

So, you’ve built your systems and fostered a community based on a core value. Now you need a team that supports this community to become paying customers. Start with your Customer Success Managers because they tend to understand what the customers value the most. And find people who are really excited about education, have good presentation skills, and come from diverse backgrounds. They’ll ask themselves, “What do I need to teach customers to make them truly successful?”

Next, what I tell startups to do is create a small council. This tiny startup-in-a-startup should have people coming from marketing, sales, and customer success. Find people in you organization who are excited to build this community platform that could one day be a mission critical part of the company’s ecosystem.

As your team finds opportunities to motivate community participation, you get more buy-in from people in the community. That buy-in not only helps retention, but it’s going to change the people’s relationship with your company. You’re taking the self-serve, product-led sales motion and adding a community-led sales element. Thanks to your community, your biggest advocates become your biggest marketers and help drive growth.

While supporting HubSpot Academy, I’ve come to learn that a community consists of people having a shared interest and a shared experience. They feel like, together, they’re all part of something bigger. Seeing the positive impact that community has on HubSpot (including HubSpot’s product-led sales motion) has been exciting. At the same time, being able to foster the community’s shared sense of purpose has been both humbling and fulfilling. That’s the great thing about community-led growth: it makes things better for everyone.

Product Updates
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New Automated Workflow: Add to Outreach and Salesloft

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Automation is key to sales productivity. It’s most needed in Product-Led Sales, where sales reps must prioritize thousands or even tens of thousands of users. That’s why Calixa makes it easier to reach out to the PQLs you are confident about in a timely manner.

Tired of adding PQLs into cadences one-by-one? Now, Calixa’s Automations can add PQLs into Outreach sequences or Salesloft cadences—instantly when they’re qualified. Instead of doing manual work upon receiving alerts, automated workflows are the most efficient way to move PQLs into sales engagement tools.

Increase time spent selling

Check out these two new capabilities under Automations: Add to Sequence and Add to Cadence. Our previously one-click follow-up Action for PQLs is now zero clicks. Right when users meet your PQL conditions, Automations will immediately add them into the proper downstream outreach.

It only takes a minute to get started. First, connect your Outreach or Salesloft account under Integrations using a simple login. Then select the proper follow-up cadence for your PQL. 

For example: all users who’ve met the Pro Plan Threshold milestone can be automatically added to the Pro Plan cadence.

Choose from any cadence to automate your PQL follow-up.

You’re definitely not limited to a single cadence. Since there are multiple types of PQLs, you can create multiple automations to scale your prospecting process. This enables you to personalize the automated sales emails and tasks based on PQL criteria.

You may have spent time in Outreach or Salesloft before. But while traditional cadences only bring up the firmographic data or marketing activity, Calixa’s Product-Led Sales platform gives you the advantage of acting on product insights. Go from impersonal time-based cadences to usage-based outreach.

Automate your PQL follow-up today

Calixa’s Automation immediately places the right user in the right cadence—far better than going through a PQL list one-by-one and clicking 'Add to cadence' over and over again! Say goodbye to manual processes and streamline your Product-Led Sales workflow. Sign up to set up your first automated workflow so you can focus back on your warmer prospects.

Advice for Sales
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Building Sales Teams that Unleash PLG’s Potential

Assa Eldar
Sales Leader
|
Formerly at Lusha

Efficiency and prioritization are the hallmark of finding and converting revenue in Product-Led Growth (PLG). Self-serve lets customers qualify and convert themselves. But many SaaS startups simply tack a traditional sales strategy onto their self-serve funnel. While what you really want to do is create a PLG-optimized sales motion with the right culture and incentives to drive exponential growth. 

From leading sales at Lusha for nearly 4 years, I’ve learned a lot of what to do – and not do – when implementing a Product-Led Sales motion. Below are 4 selling strategies that worked for us - in their own nuanced ways. 

My biggest lesson - don’t be scared to take risks on big accounts in your self-serve funnel.  

Design your self-serve customer journey

The first step is to design your PLG packages for the customer journey. How do you package your free offering? What features do customers get as they upgrade to paid packages? Those differences should create a natural conversion path from free all the way to enterprise.

You start with a free package that offers real value for one person. Someone shares it with their colleagues. Now, they’re interested in a paid package — maybe one with a team view. Eventually, they reach a point where they want integrations. Or maybe they want large teams. Now they talk to sales.

Of course, some people will never follow that journey. They’ll be happy with your starter packages. It’s companies that match your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) whose journeys you want to guide. Design your PLG packages the right way, and you control that narrative.

Accelerating inbound sales

Too many times, young PLG companies treat their inbound sales teams as active versions of their self-serve model. They spend all day calling existing users and convincing them to move from a free account to, say, a $50 per month subscription. But you’re not going to control volume that way. If you close 60 deals a month, that salesperson has brought in only $3,000 monthly — not a lot! Even worse, that monthly rate doesn’t translate into $36,000 yearly because the odds of churn are much higher. At the end of the day, this kind of inbound sales doesn’t make financial sense.

Something I’ve done is tell the inbound team they can only sell yearly plans with minimum user counts. With the same effort, they close fewer, higher-quality deals. Instead of producing less than $36,000 annually, they add $300,000 in new accounts every month.

Now you need to expand your inbound team. Raising your targets from 15 to 30 deals won’t accelerate your sales. You fall back into that high-volume, high-churn model. You need to start hiring. Each person will have fewer leads to work on, but they will pay more attention to each one. Compared to your original assisted self-serve model, your growing inbound sales team becomes a game changer with annual recurring revenue 20 or 30 times higher than before.

Expand your accounts with outbound sales

At some point, adding more people stops producing the same results. You hit this glass ceiling where your inbound sales just stop growing no matter what you do. So, now’s the time for you to add what I call outreach sales. 

In traditional B2B selling, the outbound team cold calls people who don’t use your product. It starts a sales cycle that can take months. PLG is different. Your leads are companies whose employees already use the product. You’re not cold calling. You’re reaching out to existing users to get to the decision-makers.

With 100s of 1,000s of users, you must prioritize the Product-Qualified Leads (PQLs) with the biggest revenue potential. Look at the low-hanging fruit like your premium accounts — companies with maybe half a dozen users. Have your team reach out and convert them to enterprise accounts.

Next, you start expanding your enterprise accounts. Work with RevOps to slice and dice the numbers. Find companies that fit your ICP but don’t have as many people using your product as they could. Let’s say an enterprise account only has 50 users when it could support 500. Targeting 70% penetration drives your outbound team to have the potential to expand that account by another 300 users.

Exponential growth with account-based marketing

With your inbound and outbound operations running efficiently, it’s time to get ready for the next jump in your sales strategy. Become more strategic by building an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) sales team. Have RevOps run the numbers again. This time, create a list of the largest companies with many free and paid users. 

Now you do something I call creating PLG demand. Have your BDR work their way through LinkedIn and give every potential user in this named account your free service. It won’t be a pure cold call. Your BDR can say, “Hey, your colleagues are already using our product, so here’s your free account.” Eventually, you get to a point where so many people use your product that the company says, “Okay, I’ll just buy it for everyone.”

It’s weird paying your BDRs just to get people using the product. They aren’t getting meetings. There’s no revenue. So, the important thing is to set expectations when you target a named account. And note, this strategy is most likely deployed to just the top 5% of your accounts. Give yourself 6 months and 2 BDRs per account. Their only job is to see how much traction you can get from that company. It takes a long time, and it’s riskier. At the end of the day, everything works out when a named account generates 30 times more revenue.

Make your sales teams revenue multipliers

Product-led growth can be very efficient, but you can’t limit that to the self-serve part of your business. If you want to unleash your company’s revenue potential, you must build inbound and outbound sales teams for PLG selling (these are your routes to market). You won’t do everything all at once. It will take time. But the more you build sales muscles you didn’t have before, the more your inbound and outbound sales teams will multiply your revenues.

Product Updates
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Product Updates: August 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Use Calixa for Salesforce

Calixa’s Chrome Extension gives you full customer context without leaving your favorite tools. We built this feature so you can get product insights while working your opportunities from Salesforce.

This extension auto-detects the accounts and contacts you see in Salesforce. Then it displays a Calixa sidebar view of where these customers are in their product adoption journey.

Install the Chrome Extension today.

We have a new look and feel

Calixa has a new interface 👀

Just like the product-led companies we serve, Calixa is always ready to create delight in our user experience and truly let the product shine.

Customers can now see the latest style update with a new set of icons, fonts, and styles. Jump into the product today to see it for yourself!

Give reps the right plays to run

Playbooks equip sales leaders with a set of recommended next steps based on PQL signals. 

Set your team up for repeatable success with a list of Playbooks on your most common customer type, PQLs, market segment, etc. The initial Playbook setup goes a long way in streamlining Product-Led Sales workflows with consistency and ease.

Learn more in our blog.

Final Playbooks-thumb

Sequence leads in HubSpot

Calixa now lets you add users directly to the lists that you have created in HubSpot. This can be used for sequencing users that are getting activated, re-engaging users that have usage drops, or keeping track of high value customers.

Featured in ProductLed!

Need to convince leadership about the value of Product-Led Sales?

In a truly product-led fashion...Kevin Krom shares with ProductLed how he built a business case for PLS.

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Advice for Sales
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5 Product-Led Sales strategies we used at HubSpot

David Barron
Global Director of Sales
|
HubSpot

Product-Led Sales (PLS) can be a challenging concept for folks to grasp, especially those falling into the trap of “Doesn’t my product need a salesperson?” But what these folks are missing is the element of human change. That the person they’re selling to is the same person buying products on Instagram in one click. 

Humans are changing and, thus, buyer behaviors are changing too. People want to try out tools and see value from them first. What this ultimately means for companies is a different kind of motion with a different kind of sales team. Change of this magnitude is never easy, but companies that can do this iteratively and successfully stand to reap its full rewards. 

Your product sells your product. Sales guides the journey. 

Before adopting a Product-Led Sales strategy, you need to first forget everything you know about traditional B2B software sales. In PLG or high-velocity motions, sales teams don’t motivate buyer behavior—your brand does. Customers self-select your products based on the community you’ve built and how well you’re evangelizing what your company is doing. Based on what they know about your brand, and without talking to a single sales rep, your buyer believes your company and product can solve their problem. 

Where, then, does sales fit into the PLS equation? Think of your salespeople as sherpas. Comparing this scenario to that of, say, climbing Mount Everest, your brand is what got people on the plane. Once there, they need someone to guide their path. This is when sales steps in as their sherpa, guiding them as if to say, “Not an experienced mountaineer? Let me take you to the top.”

My tips for engaging sales in a Product-Led Sales motion

Eventually, I see B2B software sales folks evolving into more of a solution engineer role with sales skills. Until then, it’s critical to help your sales team build and strengthen these muscles. Product-Led Sales isn’t an exact science, and I often learned my biggest lessons through trial and error. Here are five tips and tactics we used at HubSpot to bring Sales into our PLS motion and further develop their skills. 

Motivate reps through incentives & education opportunities

First, create an incentive for sales. If you want to do anything different with your sales org, it starts with the comp plan. At HubSpot, we created a kicker for the comp plan to motivate sales folks to sell the product. Because unlike traditional B2B sales, they’re now talking to someone deep in the buyer journey. This is where the sherpa mentality comes into play: They need to become product experts, showing value by shepherding buyers through the product. Here’s the upside: These buyers already have the pain and they’re already trying the product. Let them tell you what they need. 

Second, lean into success stories. Sales folks want proof—they want to see what kind of success their peers are having. (After all, salespeople are nothing if not competitive!) One way we approached this was by interviewing our top performers, promoting their stories in our weekly Sales Digest. In the beginning, our freemium product was $50/user/month so we’d simply keep track of how many seats our reps sold each month. The next month, we’d compare any differences and find sales reps getting 50-seat upgrades without doing anything for it. We’d interview them talking about the sale and then promote their stories front and center every week. 

Finally, consider how to motivate sales as new features are added to the product. In general, think about pricing in two ways: feature gating and usage-based pricing. Here, think about whether the customer can understand The Thing and whether you’re charging for something that adds value. We approach this at HubSpot with a bimodal strategy, which is essentially two go-to-market motions. We have downmarket freemium, which is our free and starter tier (types of free plans). Then we have our upmarket, more traditional sales, like B2B software sales, which is our pro and enterprise feature set. Our free and starter tier includes limits-based things like seats and then we gate features as you move up to pro. Some of the limits might be similar but you get more of something as you move up to a higher tier.

Separate signals from noise — implementing PQL types like HI-NQLs

Where and if possible, give your sales team as much product-led insight as you can. Case in point: Because HubSpot has a ton of data, we can aggregate data across everyone who’s purchased our products—back to when they first started using us. By analyzing this data, we’ve found there are specific free and ungated activities in the tool that lead to a high likelihood of purchase when people tested them at a lower tier. 

We call these predictions HINQLs, which translates to “high-intent, no qualified lead,” because even though a lead hasn’t hit a PQL, it still indicates a high propensity to buy. We service these, along with PQLs, to salespeople but leave it up to each rep how they want to use this insight. Some AEs reach out to these HINQLs directly. Others work with their BDR to qualify or help them further along, and only step in when it turns into a bigger opportunity. 

Give reps different playbooks based on PQL signals

Make it impossibly easy to pitch to PQLs. In other words, tell sales exactly what to do. For example, consider giving your reps a playbook outlining what they need to do and say per lead type. For example, our reps get an email whenever we get a PQL. In it, we include a 30-second video clip of what the user experienced, along with three or four ways to next pitch to them. What I like about this is by showing them what a lead did in the product, they’re also learning the product with bite-sized reinforcements. 

You don’t have to worry about making anything fancy or complicated. I would take screencaps imitating the customer hitting the PQL point to show sales what they experienced in the product, which better educated reps on what their follow-up strategy should be. The playbook pitch can be two to three bullets describing the value of specific features. If you’re already doing a good job launching features, you’ll likely have all this written already and can link out to any supporting material.

Automate (when logical!) through an auto-prospecting program

I can’t stress this enough: once you understand your data and intent signals, automate wherever possible. For example, HubSpot runs an auto-prospecting program for PQLs, which triggers outreach based on specific activities in the tool. When someone hits a PQL in, say, our enterprise product, an in-app modal automatically flips and offers them a conversation with sales. They also get an automatic email that links out to their salesperson’s calendar to book a meeting. 

Side bar: Calendar links are pretty common these days, but I still remember the day we started doing this at HubSpot. It was early 2015, our CRM sales team had grown to 10 people, and we had so many leads we couldn’t book time with them all. Someone on the team said, “What if we put our calendar links in our email sequences?” So, we sent them out and for two weeks straight, every rep had more than 10 half-hour calls booked and our director was catering breakfast, lunch, and dinner for us. The icing on the cake? Because people were using our own calendar tool to book meetings, it gave us another opportunity to walk prospects through one of our products. 

Don’t tackle Product-Led Sales without executive buy-in first

Listen, making significant, fundamental go-to-market changes is really hard. One reason we were so successful is because our executives threw their full support behind us. Our CEO at the time explained to everyone it was the future of how we sell and go to market. But without that level of executive support, it’s nearly impossible to adopt a successful PLS motion. 

Equally important is your mindset. PLS is an iterative process—it’s not something you turn on and it instantly works. You need a roster of people constantly thinking about and owning it. Guide them from good to great with a clear north star metric. Pick one that’s highly specific to your PLG journey and tailored to your product. If you’re early on, start simple. Lots of folks start by measuring activation until they can shift focus to self-serve revenue. 

As a final word of advice, I often compare a PLS motion to an NPS score. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what your score is today. It’s a baseline for improvement and getting better every day. Your PLS journey doesn’t start or end with a mad rush to the finish line—there is no final destination. So, be patient, stay the course, and remember that even the smallest wins lead to big victories.

Product Updates
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Calixa Chrome Extension for Salesforce

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Today, we're excited to launch the Calixa Chrome Extension for Salesforce, a free extension that surfaces product and customer data for sales teams. Now you can easily access product insights alongside Salesforce.

Many sales teams use Salesforce as their source of truth when it comes to managing revenue. But in Product-Led Sales, reps need to access valuable product insights usually not found in Salesforce.

Luckily, you don’t have to choose between living in Salesforce or learning a new tool. 

Product-Led Sales in Salesforce

Calixa’s Chrome Extension gives you full customer context without leaving Salesforce. We built this feature because customers wanted to see product insights while working on their daily Salesforce tasks—and now you can! 

This extension auto-detects the accounts and contacts you see in Salesforce. Then it displays a Calixa sidebar view of where these customers are in their product adoption journey.

Salesforce & Calixa Account View

As you view different contacts and accounts, this extension smartly follows along. The sidebar shows you the relevant user or account with no extra steps needed on your part.

Salesforce & Calixa User View

You can also search directly in Calixa for an account or user without leaving Salesforce. The extension’s easy search box helps to eliminate tab jumping while viewing all customer data in one place.

Search within Calixa while in Salesforce

Keeping your source of truth

Oftentimes, too many tools usually lead to too little insight. Since it can be difficult to get a full picture of the customer between fragmented systems, Calixa offers complete views and workflows across all apps (e.g. Salesforce, Outreach, Stripe, Intercom, and the data warehouse) to orchestrate a Product-Led Sales motion at scale.

Gain full product context without disrupting your team’s daily sales workflows. Install the Chrome Extension today.

Advice for RevOps
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Where the Future of the Modern GTM Stack is Headed

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing
|
Calixa

From product teams to developers, RevOps leaders, and GTM teams, the modern tech stack remains on people's minds – with everyone voicing an opinion on how to build it and what to include. Recently, I caught up with Andy Mowat, CEO and co-founder of Gated, to chat about his prediction for the modern GTM stack.

Andy has spent his career building successful sales and marketing engines for companies such as UpWork, Box, and Culture Amp, while also advising and investing in other market-leading software companies in the GTM space. Below is an excerpt of our conversation and where he sees the future of the modern tech stack headed. 

Where do you see the space headed over the next five to 10 years?

I believe all GTM SaaS systems will be rebuilt and rearchitected on top of the data warehouse in, say, the next five years. I think this for two reasons: The first is that RevOps teams are limited in the analyses they can do with their current GTM systems. Historical analysis, cross-object insights and goal tracking are just three examples (dive deeper). They plug-and-play tools, download from Salesforce, and run out-of-the-box reports versus doing real-time analysis and insights. 

The second, which is the overarching thesis I’m investing, advising, and operating around, is that the modern data stack allows for more flexible data architecture, reduces the dependence on direct integrations, and allows companies to move faster with their data.

What role do you see the CRM playing in Product-Led Growth?

Ultimately, I see the back-end architecture for RevOps divorcing from the front-end UX. The UX layer for GTM systems like Salesforce is less than par, to say the least. This is why work from companies like Scratchpad to reinvent the UX layer is so exciting. If you can divorce the UX layer from Salesforce, you have much more flexibility to rearchitect your CRM on the data warehouse. You also don’t have to pay for users and it becomes a much more flexible model.

Think about how many different tools and apps GTM teams struggle to combine. It always comes down to plugging different apps together, pulling data from one into another, then manipulating and pumping it elsewhere. This is why at Culture Amp we worked hard to have a core system for each GTM team (Intercom for support, Salesforce for CS/AM/AE, Outreach for SDR) and integrated all they needed into that system. With a data warehouse-led world, hacking all these integrations (hopefully) won’t be necessary. 

Side note: Scratchpad is a Calixa customer! Calixa helps them sort through and take action on their self-serve accounts. 

Is the power of the modern data stack really the freedom to do what you want with your own data? 

Yeah, the benefits are that data analysis and changing data models both become that much easier. For example, I was once on a Box data committee that met for months before deciding to change a single data field. Yet you can roll up a new field and use DBT to create new data models very easily. So, being able to replay and fix your data model, analyze your data, and flexibly connect data points all factor in here–you’re not limited by off-the-shelf connectors or having to wire something expensive. The integrations are no longer critical to unlocking your data. 

How important do you believe it is to get product data out of a warehouse and into modern GTM tools?

You draw an interesting line when it comes to product data versus GTM data. When I joined Culture Amp, we weren’t getting any product data into Salesforce. One of my first projects was sitting down with the head of engineering to architect how to solve that problem using my previous insights at Box. We were able to define the wiring and get data flowing within weeks. In PLG product data is even more core to your GTM motion so getting product data and GTM data working together is even more foundational. 

Once it’s easy to get and use your product data in other places, you can innovate and test things faster. 

I think you’re right, but many companies are still using data engineers to unlock the potential of data today. For example, I hired two data engineers on my team at Culture Amp because I had to have them. That said, when we can all get to the place where engineering can take a backseat, I think this gets really fun.

What tools for the GTM tech stack do you predict will be game-changers over the next few years? 

Great question! I believe data is going to change RevOps completely, which is why I’m excited about a few different groups of companies and tools. I’m seeing some exciting startups rethink foundational GTM systems, data piping companies like Census and Fivetran (and many others), and finally data modeling platforms like DBT. But for RevOps teams to make the leap, this stuff needs to be simpler and remove the need for data engineering. RevOps teams are world class at configuring but writing SQL is new for most. Either RevOps teams are going to learn how to code or companies are going to make this stuff no code. I’d bet on the latter.

How To
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How to Efficiently Act on PQLs with Calixa

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

This is part three of our how-to series. You can check out our previous how-to pieces at the end of this blog.

Product-Led Sales draws upon many sources for user insights. Without a purpose-built solution, this often requires jumping across your GTM stack. Whether it's going from a Salesforce report to the list of Outreach cadences or refreshing a BI dashboard of signups that you then need to search for in the CRM, reps lose precious time context-switching and navigating through numerous tabs. 

Calixa equips sales teams with a view of your most active users and the ability to take action in a single place. Seamlessly sync with other apps like Salesforce or Outreach to centralize your Product-Led Sales workflow.

Take Action on PQLs

Finding your top users is a big step forward in Product-Led Sales productivity. But knowing how to follow up these new insights is as important. Below are common ways salespeople take action on high-activity users directly within Calixa.

Each of these actions can be taken from directly within Calixa. Never miss a beat when you find a sales-ready user. Immediately create an opportunity, kick off a sequence, or build something custom to trigger processes.

Ready to act on your PQLs? There are two simple steps involved.

Step one: configure actions 

For each of the apps you have integrated, you’ll see popular actions taken by sales teams. These are pre-built and ready to use as soon as you integrate the tool with Calixa.

To use these standard actions, simply flick on the switch from the Actions page.

If you have another idea for an action, check out our Custom Action Builder to create custom workflows using a no-code interface.

Step two: try out the action! 

Now that you have your actions setup, go ahead and take action on an interesting user or account. 

The Actions button will appear when you click into a user or account. Select which action you’d like to take from the dropdown.

When you select an action, a short form will instantly appear with the typical fields you see from the original app. Everything will sync between tools after clicking ‘Submit.’

Product-Led Sales is a big endeavor. With Actions from Calixa, you can ensure no large usage spike or lull goes unnoticed – and allow sales to be proactive when acting on the right users at the right time. 

Explore our other how-to posts:

How To
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How I Learned to Sell to End Users

Kevin Krom
Product-Led Sales
|
Calixa

With the massive shift to product-led growth where users are bypassing sales and using the product on their own, a trend of bottom-up sales has taken form – what’s called Product-Led Sales. Traditional sales teams are being challenged to adapt and balance two opposite but mutually beneficial sales motions

The thing that scares me about product-led selling is that old habits die hard. How do you change the habit and approach of a lifelong salesperson who has been successful in the traditional top-down sales motion?

Having made this transition myself, one adjustment that takes some strategic thinking and effort is shifting from selling to executives during a traditional enterprise sale, to selling to end users that are early adopters and active advocates of your product. Here’s how I learned to sell to users.

Reframe the product using new offerings 

When you have an existing customer who uses your product and already has their own routines built in, you have to reframe the way your customer thinks about your platform and the problem you solve. Chances are, they're probably missing certain features and functionality that you can help them take better advantage of.

It starts with understanding what's the main problem they're trying to solve. Why did they start using it, and how are they using it today? 

Personal experience

The first time that I sold to users was when I worked at CircleCI, a continuous integration and continuous delivery platform for developers (learn more about developer-led sales). We had an exquisite Product-Led Sales motion. About 80% of the deals we closed were existing customers.

We started with a traditional seat-based plan. Our job as salespeople was to convert users to our new usage-based model. The usage-based model had some different functionality, and the way that we were able to sell to developers was to point to a problem and speak to how the new functionality would solve said problem.

DevOps engineers aren't particuarly easy to sell too—they don't particularly trust salespeople. I quickly realized I had to come armed with the right data that mattered to them. For us that was focused around getting the time it took for them to run tests cut down by 50-75%. If they understand they could be much more efficient with an upgraded plan and actually lead the industry benchmark then it was a slam dunk.

Help them sell internally

Besides offering something new, it’s important to tell a story of how the product can solve the user’s problems. People don't just buy products—they buy solutions to the problems they are experiencing

In terms of what stories resonate with users, you can sell on three things: 

  1. You can sell users on the actual job that's being done. What are you trying to solve? Figure out how to map features and capabilities to actual user goals.
  2. Then there's the emotional piece. Have customer empathy. What does the way that you're doing things today feel like? For example if you're sitting around waiting on your test to run, how silly does that feel? You're thinking, “I could be going home. I could be hanging out with my kids.” And what if there's a failed test? Then you have to fix it and rerun it again. This sounds frustrating. 
  3. Lastly, there’s always the perception component. That's another reason people buy. How am I perceived by my organization if I solve this problem? Am I going to be celebrated after making this change, because we shipped more features and gained a competitive edge? 

Remember the purpose is to really help your customers. Allow them to fall in love with your company, product, and brand to help them sell into the organization. By showcasing product value and telling the right stories, users turn into product advocates. That’s how users become your sales force.

Personal experience

At CircleCI, I quickly realized if we solved the end user’s problems, it was far easier to internally sell to the engineering manager up to the CTO. They understand the value of solving a very pressing business priority: developer productivity. It’s then a no brainer for them.

Final thoughts

Product-Led Sales is about being user-centric. It's getting people to talk, and having them trust that you can a) solve their problem and b) help them sell the value of the product internally.

Embracing Product-Led Sales is game-changing. But some things haven’t changed. As usual, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of the problems you solve, how those problems impact your customers, and how you as the salesperson can position yourself as a resource to help your users.

Learn more about the role of salespeople in a product-led world.

Product Updates
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Scale Your Product-Led Sales with Playbook Automation System

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Before the rise of Product-Led Sales tooling, sales reps lacked access to product insights and workflows that enabled them to prospect a self-serve funnel. They relied on the data team’s time and resources to find PQLs

Today, Product-Led Sales is no longer blocked by a backlog of data requests. Self-serve PQL lists and AI-Powered Prospecting have streamlined the process of uncovering sales-ready users. Finding your top users is easier than ever.

But our work is not done. Product-Led Sales isn’t only about finding PQLs—the next step is to efficiently act on them!

Playbooks drive repeatable success

Every sales team strives for fast and effective outreach. We all know speed-to-lead increases conversion likelihood. But there are two hurdles that slow down the PQL follow-up process:

  1. Sales teams get lost in an overwhelming number of lead notifications. These alerts compete for your attention and are difficult to manage.
  2. Different types of PQLs require different outreach messaging. Reps often spend too much time figuring out how to customize outreach and follow up accordingly.

Playbooks solve this. With Playbooks, sales leadership gain control over their Product-Led Sales motion by offering guidance at scale. Sales leaders equip their teams with repeatable plays based on PQL signals. These Playbooks enable reps to act fast on PQLs through a suggested action (or set of actions).

Set your team up for repeatable success with a list of Playbooks on your most common customer type, PQLs, market segment, etc. The initial Playbook setup goes a long way in streamlining Product-Led Sales workflows with consistency and ease.

The best sales outreach strategy aligns to both user intent and conversion goals. For example​​, imagine reaching out to free users who have tried a paid feature. You want to highlight the additional value of this feature and why an upgrade makes sense. The Playbook below includes instructions on a feature-specific email, with a meeting link as a call-to-action.

Playbooks have actions built in that allow reps to take their next steps—such as instantly adding the PQL to a Salesloft cadence and opening a HubSpot deal. All user and account information is auto-synced into these downstream actions.

Creating Playbooks is easy in Calixa. Simply go to Playbooks and fill in your guidance and Actions for different types of PQLs—then roll out the best practices at scale to your team.

A PQL Inbox with less noise, more action

As part of Playbooks, sales teams get a PQL Inbox right within Calixa. For each Inbox item, reps can see the recommended actions from that Playbook. This replaces messy traditional alerts with a dedicated task management system. Reps can mark items as Open, Completed, or Archived.

Try Playbook Automation System today

With account alerts and next steps all in one place, Playbooks can scale your Product-Led Sales motion by providing best practices for PQL outreach and downstream actions. Shift your sales team’s focus from “do something” to “do this set of steps” for incoming PQLs.

Ready to drive a consistent and scalable Product-Led Sales motion today? Check out how to implement Playbooks and get started today!

Advice for Growth
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How To Set Up a PLG Motion From Scratch and Measure Success

David Ly Khim
Growth Leader
|
Formerly @ People.ai, dbt Labs, and HubSpot

Getting people into your product is one challenge. Deciding when (and where) a person should reach out to them once they’ve made it inside is an entirely different challenge. Contrary to popular belief, human interaction is a necessary part of product-led growth (PLG), especially when you’re still building out a frictionless self-service flow. You can’t jump straight to a self-service flow without first learning directly from your product users.

I’ve spent the last seven-plus years at the intersection between product and marketing, helping companies such as HubSpot and People.ai build their PLG motions. Below I’ll go through why engaging with your users early on is critical, plus tips for understanding who you should be talking to and how to build a more cohesive PLG strategy.  

Never underestimate the value of human interaction in PLG 

The biggest mistake people make early on in building a company is not talking to their users enough. If you’re an early-stage PLG company, or still sharpening your PLG motions, talking to customers is still your fastest path to success. 

Offering new users the option to talk to someone during onboarding is always a good idea. These interactions are opportunities to understand how you can make the self-service experience even better and eventually reduce the need for human intervention. 

There is usually something you can learn from users regardless of the level of product usage they demonstrate. It’s a matter of who should reach out. For example, if they’re not using the product much, it’s an opportunity for a product manager to reach out to understand why. You may uncover useful feedback to improve the product experience or improve your messaging and positioning.

If they’re using the product a lot and frequently, it could be an opportunity for sales to reach out and learn more about what else they’re interested in, or for product to learn why the product resonated so strongly.

This type of feedback will help your product and marketing teams improve the self-service functionalities as you aim to build a frictionless customer flow. 

Knowing which users make sense to talk to…and which ones to leave alone 

It goes without saying that some parts of the business require more human effort than others. As your business scales and you acquire more users and customers, you need to evolve your criteria of who you want to speak to based on your company goals.

Once you’re getting 3X more monthly sign-ups as you previously did, it’s challenging to take calls with every single user. At this point, you’ll need to be more clear in what you hope to learn about your users then systematically qualify which users to reach out to and how.

For example, if you want specific feedback on a new feature, only reach out to people who’ve demonstrated they tried the feature. If you want to improve onboarding, then you might only reach out to new users within the first 7 days of signing up.

If you want to improve retention, you might have criteria that the user must have used the product for at least 4 weeks straight to understand why they stuck around. On the flip side, you might also want to look at users who stopped using the product after 1 week and understand why they stopped using the product. These specific guardrails will help you maintain focus and strategically reach out to the right users.

Once you’ve generated a consistent volume of new users and have a strong understanding of how to improve your onboarding and retention, you can productize and automate parts of onboarding, segment users based on usage behaviors, and even begin to automate parts of the sales follow up and upsell motion.

Generating product qualified leads

All that information helps you automate and streamline PQL generation. You’ll be able to tell what type of users are a better fit for your product and paid offers using product usage data.

That will allow marketing to update forms to collect the appropriate information from new sign-ups and then create a strong product fit segment. Some qualifications might include job titles, company size, or current tool stack.

If a user doesn’t meet the criteria for direct sales outreach, they might receive an automated onboarding experience. If they do meet the criteria that deems them a strong fit, then you may have your sales team reach out to provide support and a white glove experience. Sales can then focus on qualified users.

If you don’t already have a large volume of data to make those correlations, the alternative is to start identifying patterns that signal high intent or interest in your product (even through machine learning). For example, how often do they log in; is they’re user count growing; have they utilized certain critical integrations, activity spikes or lulls – all of this informs what type of conversation sales should have with the user.

Three common PLG pitfalls (and how to overcome them)

A lot of PLG companies struggle to align their self-service and top-down funnels. Managing multiple selling motions and how the sales process and behavior should differ is difficult. Here are three of the biggest pitfalls I see PLG companies stumble over and how to avoid them. 

  1. Not having a clear owner of the PLS strategy. Prior to PLG coming along, sales and marketing always worked closely and usually product and marketing did as well. There was also always a clear division of responsibilities between the sales and customer success teams. All of this is now blurred and being redefined with a PLS motion. It’s critical that sales, marketing, and product are bought in on implementing a PLS motion and work hand and hand to ensure a smooth user experience and happy customer. Even more so, the role of sales and customer success is one in the same. It’s now about the consultative sale which is helping the user realize value until they’re ready to buy more. But with all this interaction and cross-collaboration, there still needs to be a single point person responsible for driving PLS processes and strategies forward, otherwise you’ll encounter the age-old finger pointing.  
  1. Not having the right buy-in. Success with any new selling motion hinges on buy-in from the sales organization, and primarily sales leadership. It’s a challenge to ask an entire sales team – and humans in general – to change their behaviors. But it is critical that sales is bought in to the idea of product-led sales, or perhaps even leading the charge. The mistake I’ve seen is product or marketing teams trying to force a PLS motion onto a sales team who already has a playbook that works and has no interest in trying something new because hey, they’re already meeting quota and doing fine. For a PLS motion to succeed, the Sales team needs to believe that a PLS motion can grow their pipeline. For example, they probably will wonder why they should waste time on people signing up for a free product with no intentions to pay. This is often because the people pushing the PLS strategy are not properly communicating the value and potential impact of the strategy. If sales isn’t bought in, then it’s on the marketing and product teams to create case studies of real free-users who turned enterprise customers to prove that the strategy delivers pipe.
  2. Not measuring the right success metrics. Another critical piece to making PLS work is measuring the right success metrics. For example, free sign-ups are great but they won’t grow the business. They’re a means to an end. You need to go beyond sign-up and think about activated users and free-to-paid conversion. The goal of PLS is to use the product to qualify users for sales. The way to qualify users is to help them see value in the product and continue using it. Those users are the ones that will typically fall into the “strong product fit” bucket and will likely be the ones who are more likely to convert into a paying customer. You might notice that I don’t mention paying customers or revenue as the metric. Those will come as you grow and scale. In the early stages you need active, retained users. Have sales reach out to those users and see how much easier it is to sell. 

The bottom line? If you’re early into your PLG journey, don’t immediately jump to automation and self-service. Talk to your users. You’ll uncover points of friction faster and develop hypotheses to improve those self-service capabilities. Not to mention, you’ll avoid the risks of following your own assumptions down a rabbit hole. Likewise, if your sales team doesn’t see the value yet, help them see the value by generating product qualified leads for them.

While it might take longer to turn those users into high paying customers, using the product to qualify users is ultimately more efficient. To be successful, Sales needs to pursue all routes to market—and PLS is another route to take, now let’s prove it.

Product Updates
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Product Updates: July 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

July was a big month for Calixa product updates. We opened up a beta of AI-Powered Prospecting, a completely new way of surfacing high-potential accounts. Mixpanel and Data Warehouse Metric support are now available to all, and we launched a Marketo integration beta.

🧙AI- Powered Prospecting Beta

Our core vision has always been to help sales teams execute and automate the product-led sales workflow. Incorporating AI into the prospecting flow increases the speed to lead and reduces the operational burden on data teams. By uncovering deal opportunities quickly, salespeople can focus on having the right conversations.

Calixa’s ML models update PQL scores in real-time, evolving PQL criteria based on emerging user behavior. The best part is that no developer work is needed.

AI-Powered Prospecting Beta

Each ML model is custom built and uses thousands of signals to identify unseen patterns among your current best customers. Then it applies these learned patterns to your user base in search of future best customers. Multiple models can be created to predict any desired outcome—such as free-to-paid conversion and account growth.

Email us at team@calixa.io to join our beta program.

🎛 Mixpanel for all!

We have gotten great feedback from our beta users and have now rolled out the Mixpanel integration to all customers. The integration syncs event data directly to Calixa and gives you a real-time view of your customers behavior. This allows you to prioritize customers based on engagement metrics and filter down to specific groups of users with our event property filters.

📨️ Send PQLs to Marketo

Calixa customers have already been syncing Marketo data from their data warehouse to surface high intent signups. We are excited to announce a beta of our Marketo direct integration which allows you to automatically add PQLs to your Marketo campaigns.

Email us at team@calixa.io to join our beta program.

🏭 Sync metrics from your warehouse

Another beta that we are opening up to the world: You can now sync any time-series metrics from Snowflake, BigQuery or Redshift to Calixa. Once sync'd, we make it easy to prioritize or filter by value and see changes over any time period.

Sync metrics from your warehouse with Calixa

You can create your first metric sync here.

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Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Advice for Growth
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5 ways to boost conversions with PQL marketing

Fred Melanson
Head of Content
|
Calixa

If you're new to product-qualified lead (PQL) marketing, it can be hard to know where to start. What's a PQL? How does that differ from an MQL? How do I think about PQL vs MQL? And how do I set up a PQL marketing initiative? 

If these questions sound familiar, don't worry: We're here for you! 

This post is an introduction to how you can market to PQLs and how these marketing initiatives should convert leads into paying customers.

New to PLG? If you need a refresher on PLG as a whole, check out this in-depth article.

Your product-led future

In the "utopian future" of PQL marketing that’s waiting for you and your team, your company has successfully implemented a lead scoring system that targets and qualifies leads based on:

  • Their level of realized value from your product
  • Fit with your target buyer profile 
  • And readiness to make a purchase 

As a result, your company is able to focus its marketing efforts on individuals who are most likely to purchase your product, resulting in:

  • A higher conversion rate
  • Lower customer acquisition costs (CAC)
  • Less churn
  • And more revenue

But before you can realize this future for your company, let’s first take a look at how others are doing it today. 👇

Notion's PQL marketing tactic

Notion is a great example of how to do PQL marketing well.

Notion’s note-taking application is entirely community-driven. Users can create their own templates and share them with others, but they can also contribute to the templates other people have shared. 

Screenshot of notion templates

Notion’s user-generated template gallery.

These power users are able to earn money from the contributions they make to the Notion community. This PQL marketing strategy allows Notion to build on their existing community while also encouraging power users to be even more bought in to the product.

Notion's approach is similar to what other SaaS companies like Buffer and Groove have done in the past. The difference here is that Notion is not just asking for free content from its users; it's also asking them for feedback on what features need improvement, so that they can make sure their products remain relevant for as long as possible!

In Notion’s case: PQL marketing = rapid product growth + more successful users. 🚀`

Wait: What’s a PQL again?

Ever played whac-a-mole? Or tried to find a light switch in a dark room? 

That's what it feels like to have a sea of qualified leads to go after. You're doing a lot of outreach, alright. 

But the metrics aren't there. 

PQLs solve this problem for sales teams at product-led companies by combining signals from both your potential customer's product usage and their profile to identify your most promising leads. 

PQL definition: Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) are leads that exhibit both strong signals of engagement with your SaaS product (often through a freemium pricing model) and the potential to be a good fit for your ideal customer profile (ICP). 

PQLs are identified by analyzing both buying intent (how your users or accounts are interacting with your product) and fit (whether they are the right type of buyer for your product).

Venn diagram of PQLs

By focusing on PQLs, you can target prospects who are already actively engaging with your product and are more likely to be receptive to sales outreach. 

With this approach, you’re spending the majority of your selling efforts on users who have already experienced that aha moment with your product. 

How to build a PQL engine

As a result, PQLs tend to convert at a higher rate (5 times better) than Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and can be a valuable tool for driving growth in a product-led growth business model.

Here's a full breakdown of the illustration above (how to create a PQL engine).

Why should a company use PQLs instead of MQLs?

Let's get real: PQLs reign over MQLs for product-led businesses.

Sure MQLs can have potential but the probability them being the right person, at the right time, with the right need is much slimmer than someone already engaging with and getting value from your product.

Product-qualified leads, on the other hand? They've already taken a huge step toward understanding their needs and desires, and are ready to make a purchase.

There are several reasons why PLG companies use PQLs instead of MQLs:

  • PQLs are more likely to convert
  • PQLs are further along in the product journey
  • PQLs require less time and resources to convert
  • PQLs are a better use of sales reps' time

How to run PQL marketing tactics

Below is a quick guide to getting started with an effective PQL marketing strategy, broken down into a 5 concrete strategies.

1. Segment your PQLs  

Before you start marketing to your product qualified leads: it’s important to note that not all PQLs are created equal! 

The marketing strategy you pick from the list below will vary based on where your user fits within the scope of your PQL criteria. Here are the 4 most common PQL types.

PQL score in Calixa

If you look at product usage, here’s a matrix to understand which type of marketing engagement is best: 

Product usage qualification matrix

If you look at both product usage (Intent) and fit with your best customers (Fit), here’s a handy reference: 

Lead engagement matrix

2. Use in-app messaging to boost conversions

In-app messaging is one of the most effective ways to nurture product-qualified leads, and it's an important marketing tactic for product-led growth companies. This tactic should take an integrated approach with collaboration between the marketing, sales, customer success, and product team. 

Below is an example from Slack’s product team marketing a new feature to users 👇

Screenshot of Slack in-app notification

When you're striving for a product-led adoption, you need to be able to engage with your customers in a way that helps them understand your value proposition without having to talk to sales. 

In-app messaging allows you to do just that by giving you an opportunity to interact directly with your user and deliver personalized content at the right time.

Here’s a few ways to boost conversions with in-app messaging:

  • Provide real-time support and assistance to users who may be experiencing issues or have questions about your product. This can help resolve any roadblocks that may be preventing users from converting.
  • Showcase new features or updates that may be relevant to your user and encourage them to take action.
  • Highlight limited-time offers or promotions that may incentivize your user to convert.
  • Send personalized recommendations or suggestions based on your user's past activity or behavior within your product.
  • Provide educational content or resources that help your user understand the full value and capabilities of your product, which may encourage them to convert.
  • Collect feedback from users and use that feedback to make improvements to your customer experience.

3. Speed up paid conversions through social media awareness 

Social media awareness is an important marketing tactic for product-led growth companies because it allows you to build a community around your brand and product

This community is an essential part of your growth process, because it gives people who are interested in what you're doing a place to interact with one another and share ideas (think back to the example of how Notion shares their power users’ templates to drive engagement). 

Calixa case study Netlify

Here’s a few ways to drive conversion through social media awareness:

  • Utilize targeted social media advertising to reach PQLs.
  • Showcase the value and benefits of your product through customer testimonials and case studies with past PQLs. 
  • Offer special promotions or discounts to followers, which can incentivize them to convert.
  • Share user-generated content, such as reviews or photos from satisfied customers. This can help build social proof and encourage others to convert.
  • Use social media to gather feedback from customers and use that feedback to make improvements to your product.

🎯 Pro tip: Track the impacts of social media awareness on your PQLs’ usage of your product. This way you can see real-time impacts of your PQL social media marketing. 

4. Encourage successful users to share wins and review

As a product-led growth company, it's important to encourage your successful users to share their wins and experiences with your product. Not only does this help build social proof and credibility, but it can also inspire other users to achieve their own success with your product. 

Jasper testimonial

Remember: PQLs are successful users! 

And because they’ve already gotten value from your product, they're more likely to participate in the initiatives below and share deep insights.

A few ways to encourage successful users to share their product experiences:

  • Make it easy for users to share their successes by providing in-app sharing tools or integrations with social media platforms.
  • Showcase user-generated content, such as reviews and testimonials, prominently on your website and marketing materials.
  • Offer incentives or rewards for users who share their customer journey, such as discounts, exclusive access to features, or merchandise.
  • Create a community or ambassador program that rewards users for sharing their successes and promoting your product to their networks.
  • Utilize email marketing to reach out to successful users and ask for their feedback or to share their experiences with your product.

By actively encouraging successful users to share their experiences and wins, product-led growth companies can drive conversions and inspire others to achieve their own success with your product.

Example: Hugo

Hugo is a note-taking app recently acquired by Calendly. They engaged their PQLs by asking them to promote meeting templates they’ve created on the Hugo website. 

Hugo templates

The result was better relationships with their most qualified users (who eventually converted at a higher %), and free marketing for Hugo because PQLs were proud to make the list! 

5. Layer in sales at the right time 

Sales can be an essential part of converting PQLs, especially ones with high-revenue potential! 

Some PQLs need a human touch to feel comfortable committing to being paid customers, and having a sales team integrated into your PQL marketing strategy ready to upsell can make a huge difference.

It's important for PLG companies to track PQLs closely. This allows sales to focus on the qualified opportunities and leave the self-serve users alone, so they don't waste their time.

In this approach, sales acts as a special unit of the marketing team. Equipped with context on how the user is using the product, sales can send case studies, share tricks, suggest new approaches, and more. This is a great way to start a conversation with users and build trust without being overly promotional. 

Email to a product qualified lead

Revenue's on the table, go get it!

Having a well-structured PQL marketing strategy is key to your PLG motion. This includes leveraging your product to drive conversions, integrating sales and marketing efforts, and using data and machine learning to continuously optimize and improve your strategy.

When run effectively, PQL marketing has the potential to drive significant revenue growth, increased customer retention, and a strong GTM competitive advantage. 

Ready to get started? 

Check out the The Product-Led Sales Blog to go deeper and learn more. 

Product-Led Fundamentals
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Guide to the Types of Free Plans for SaaS

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

We’ve all seen products that say, ‘Try for free. No credit card required.’ Great products are lead-generation machines, where the free signup option widens and accelerates your top-of-funnel marketing.

Modern SaaS buyers don’t want to waste time listening to sales pitches. They want to do their own exploration and verify that what they see from marketing is what they get in the product. Free trials or freemium plans create experiences that lower the initial barrier to entry. Giving potential customers free access to your product also creates upselling and cross-selling opportunities that move people to your paid products. That’s the heart of product-led growth.

When becoming product-led, there are various ways to open up your product to free users. In this blog, we discuss:

  • Why offer a free plan?
  • The different customer acquisition models.
  • Types of free trial, freemium, and combination plans.
  • Increasing free-to-paid conversion

By the end, you’ll have an idea of which free plan and sales motion is right for you.

Why Offer a Free Plan?

There are quite a few benefits to offering a free signup option in your product-led growth marketing strategy. Prospects who already use your product are already motivated, making upgrade decisions easier. These users evangelize your product within their company, expanding the number of users per account. Finally, established user bases make businesses more likely to stick with your solution.

🚀 Increase Sales Momentum = $$$

When leads experience quick time-to-value, they will likely convert earlier in the funnel. They don’t have to imagine using a product by viewing slide decks or demo videos. Instead, users can log in and explore for themselves. Free plans end the struggle to communicate value – as long as your product is intuitive.

When there is enough widespread bottoms-up usage and product adoption, product usage data becomes a reliable buying intent signal. Salespeople no longer need to do hard selling. Instead, they can double down on the excitement of users who are already convinced.

🔁 Create Viral Loops = Lower CAC

Free products are also famously known for lead generation. Whether it’s network effects (inviting collaborators), social referrals (sharing embedded links), or simply word of mouth, product virality significantly decreases customer acquisition cost (CAC).

In recent years, traditional growth channels such as advertising have become oversaturated and more expensive. Meanwhile, software development has become more available with low-code tools and talented developers. A delightful free plan can go a long way in generating top-of-the-funnel growth.

📚 Promote User Education = High Retention

With early user acquisition, leads can self-educate before talking to sales. A strong emphasis on product content and education nurtures can lead to power users. High-fit power users (known as PQLs) are not only sales-ready and most likely to upgrade, but they also have higher retention over time.

With power users present, executive buyers are less concerned about buying a tool that won’t get used (or becoming a churned customer). After all, their employees already use the product.

Ready to kickstart a product-led lead volume with early conversion, high retention, and low cost? Let’s explore what free plan options exist.

Free Trials and Freemium Customer Acquisition Models

First, you must understand that “free” is not a business model. It is a way to acquire customers, filling the top of the funnel so your marketing and sales operations can start convincing free users to become paying customers.

Free Trial Models

The free trial model gives potential customers unlimited access to your product for a limited time. They are free to explore every feature but pretty quickly have to make a buying decision. If you make your product easy to explore within the trial period, customers rapidly see its value and do not hesitate to let the first payment go through.

Freemium Models

Freemium products give people limited access to your product for an unlimited time. Nothing prevents them from making the freemium product’s features part of their daily routine. Designed right, however, freemium models give your customers enough of a taste that they ask to pay for more.

Which is the Best Customer Acquisition Strategy?

Your SaaS product, customers, and resources will determine which customer acquisition strategy makes the most sense. If your product is straightforward with a simple discovery process, then people have time to try everything during a free trial. The more complex your product is, the more time customers need to understand its value, and the more likely a freemium model will be more appropriate. Everything depends on the details, so let’s take a deeper look at each model.

Types of Free Trials

In a time-bounded free trial model, people have seven, fourteen, or maybe thirty days to use as much of the product as possible. Once the trial period ends, free trial users must upgrade to continue using the product—otherwise, they lose their access.

For example, Sprout Social offers a 30-day trial for any paid tier. If you are interested in features from another paid tier, they’ll let you switch to a different plan for free during your trial.

Opt-in Versus Opt-out Free Trials

In most cases, the upgrade is structured as an opt-out. The only way people can complete the signup process is to give their credit card number. If free trial users do not actively cancel the trial before it expires, you automatically charge the first month’s payment.

Startups and other companies with little brand recognition or offering a SaaS product people are unfamiliar with may choose an opt-in trial to erase any barrier to customer acquisition. In this case, people do not provide their credit card details until the end of the trial.

Another option is to combine the two, offering a brief opt-in period and then letting people continue a more extended free trial by handing over their credit card information.

Free Trial Pros and Cons

Pro: Time-based free trials can create a sense of urgency that boosts initial engagement with your product and conversions. Free trial users have limited time to use the product, which makes them more proactive about exploring it. If they experience enough value as the deadline approaches, they will take the easy path by letting the subscription kick in.

Con: On the flip side, time pressure can create a poor experience. Products take time to unlock value and become a habit. When customers have shifting priorities, they don’t always have enough time to poke around in the product.

Free trials are good ways to monetize quickly, but rushing people to make a decision is more business-centric than user-centric. Forcing free trial users to convert or else lose access can leave people with a negative impression of the product and your business. As we’ll see, freemium has slower conversions, but it’s a healthy long-game approach for retaining users.

Types of Freemium Plans

Whereas free trials limit access based on time, freemium models have many ways to give customers long-term but limited experiences. The constraint you choose—whether by usage, features, or support—depends on your product. In some cases, combining constraints may create a more compelling free product with product-based incentives to self-serve into a paid version.

📈 Usage-Based Freemium Models

Usage-based freemium plans are similar to free trials. Customers get free access to your SaaS product’s core functionality. They can use it as much as they want up to a specific limit.

For example, Zoom allows anyone to host a meeting (use the core feature), but each meeting can only run for 40 minutes (the usage limit). To host longer meetings, people must convert to a paid plan.

Pro: Many features are free, so the barrier to entry is low. In turn, the value realized can be high. Users can take their time and grow to the usage threshold. They pay according to the value they receive.

Con: Usage is hard to predict. Even as a paid user, it may rise and fall. People who bump against the usage limit but not enough to justify the paid plan may grow frustrated. On the business side, your revenue forecasting must become more sophisticated than traditional licenses with annual commitments.

Usage-based freemium models are strongly aligned with user value. Inspiring a new use case naturally encourages higher usage. For this reason, many companies (freemium or not) are transitioning from traditional license contracts to usage-based pricing.

🛠 Feature-Based Freemium Models

Sometimes users require add-on tools to deepen usage. In this scenario, feature-based freemium models are good alternatives. Feature-based freemium plans give core functionality for free. The plan monetizes through additional features and add-ons.

For example, Canva doesn’t have a usage limit on core designs. Instead, they offer paid users premium photos, Background Remover, Brand Kits, and other features. These tools all provide a specific benefit for advanced users.

Pro: Feature-based freemium models tend to have Free Forever tiers. Without any limits on core features, free users have low churn. They can stay loyal free users until they’re ready to introduce the product to their organization.

Con: Out of all the free plans, this one requires the most patience to show ROI. There’s a risk of customers using a free plan in perpetuity, which cannibalizes revenue from paid tiers. (We’ll explore ways to combat this in more depth later in the blog.)

Add-ons are a great way to offer more than your core features. Knowing when and how to introduce paid features is crucial to the success of this plan. It should be easy to find and unlock value from features and tools.

🧑 Support-Based Freemium Models

Support-based freemium plans are upgrade incentives that lie outside the product. The plan starts free and then lets users upgrade for additional support. Support-based freemium models complement usage-based and feature-based models as value differentiators between the free and paid tiers.

For example, MailChimp increases the support level for paying users. Alongside the other freemium tactics mentioned above, they offer 24/7 email & chat support when users upgrade.

Pro: This plan is a good way to move products upmarket to larger customers that require white glove support. When enterprise companies start using a free product, they’ll naturally have complexities requiring upgrades for more support.

Con: Unlike the other free models, support-based rarely works as a standalone tactic. It is more expensive to maintain while having less free-to-paid differentiation than the other models.

This strategy prioritizes the time of support, sales engineering, and customer success teams for the high-value customers who need them.

✅ A Combination of Customer Acquisition Models

To avoid cannibalizing revenue from paid tiers, most companies creatively combine free trials and the various freemium models into a combination free plan. Examples include:

  • Free trials with usage limits.
  • Free trials with feature limits.
  • Free trials that downgrade to a freemium forever tier.

This last example is worth elaborating on. Recently, growth teams have found success in ‘trials turned freemium.’ In this motion, users start with a normal trial of the paid tier. But if users don’t convert, they aren’t fully cut off from the product (unlike traditional trials) and are instead retained in a free tier. They can continue as a free user, albeit with more limited features than before the trial.

Why is this so effective? First, people naturally have a strong loss aversion. Staying as a free user after the trial ends would be a downgrade event. This approach retains the free trial’s sense of urgency without losing the customer entirely. Second, combining a free trial with a freemium plan creates the opportunity for remorse in your customers’ minds. They’re still users but have less than they did during the trial. Because yesterday’s luxuries become today’s necessities, they’ll be more likely to convert to a paid user to restore the features they started with.

Lastly, you don’t have to combine the four constraints we discussed into a single plan. You can run multiple free plans alongside one another—as long as they’re in separate tiers. For example, you can run usage-based freemium for the lowest tier and trial for the highest tier. Keep iterating to find that perfect combination.

Increasing Free-to-Paid Conversion

Free product experiences get people in the door. They act as the hook before the sale. With a solid free plan, you’ll have a large user base and compelling product-led reasons for your users to upsell themselves to your paid plans. You’ll have different action items to increase paid revenue based on the free model (or combination of models) you pick. 

Here are a few ways to turn free users into paying customers:

There are also universal upselling strategies for free plans. These include:

  • Identify the free users most likely to upgrade. Learn how to define product-qualified leads (PQLs).
  • Prioritize these users in your upselling motion. Reach them using in-app prompts, marketing emails, and sales conversations.
  • Regularly promote high-value and paid features.
  • Test offering free temporary upgrades.

With the right tools and playbooks in place, sales teams can strongly influence your free-to-paid conversion rates. Timely and personalized outreach by salespeople can engage users with high intent and interest in your product and convert them into paying customers faster. In a Redpoint study, sales teams increased the average free-to-paid conversion rate by 3x.

Free trial and freemium customer acquisition models fill the top of the funnel while nurturing users and generating the product signals sales teams need for value-based conversations. That’s why your product-led engine and sales team are multipliers of each other.

Product Updates
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Why we built it: AI-Powered Prospecting

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

The toughest sales challenge product-led companies face is figuring who to talk to in their self-serve funnel. At scale, it’s not practical to talk to everyone who signs up. On the flip side, if you just wait for customers to raise their hands, you’re missing out on opportunities. You’ll miss out on prospects who get frustrated trying your product or find a competitor they like better.

So to solve this, companies set up scoring rules to prioritize accounts. 10 new users in a week → +10 points. Created 25 projects in the first month → +25 points. Signed up from a freemail domain → -20 points. The problem with this approach is that it’s arbitrary and brittle. Your scoring is only as good as humans can reason about the data and Product-Led companies have too much data for humans to make sense of.

There’s a better way: machine learning.

A decade of ML experience

We saw the power of machine learning (ML) first when we worked at Sift. Fred, my co-founder at Calixa, was also the co-founder of Sift. We used ML to catch fraud on the internet for companies like Twilio, Box, and McDonalds.

We built systems that detect fraud in real-time across over a billion users per month. Our ML would look at thousands of different signals to figure out who could be trusted. Fraud is really tricky because you have criminals on the other side trying to evade whatever systems you put in place. So our ML needed to continuously evolve as fraudsters devised new attacks.

We often had companies say to us, “you’re great at catching our bad accounts, how about helping us find the good ones.” And it made sense. We built models to detect fraud based on user behavior. Why not look at user behavior and find the good accounts.

When Fred and I brainstormed the next problem we wanted to solve, it was easy. We saw the massive untapped potential that Product-Led companies have in their self-serve funnel. They had all this rich data but couldn’t do anything with it. We knew that we could use machine learning to help companies turn sign-ups into revenue.

Enter AI-Powered Prospecting

Product-led companies are sitting on a goldmine of data.

Traditionally, companies would just have access to firmographic data. Which company someone was from. What their title was. What their lead source was. You’d use this data to prioritize your outreach.

In the era of product-led, accounts are generating a rich set of data beyond this. Accounts are using your product and showing clear signs of intent. This intent data is the unique advantage that product led companies have over a traditional GTM motion. But how do you tap it? If you don’t have a dedicated data science team, you’re stuck.

So that’s why we built AI-Power Prospecting. We are empowering Sales to take control of their data. Calixa finds the accounts your reps should be talking to and gives them insights on what to talk to them about. Our machine learning models leverage both your product usage and firmographic data to find the most promising accounts.

Our ML is not a black box. We give reps both a score and a set of reasons to understand what signals our systems have picked up. Those signals can then be used to run playbooks or drive conversations with customers.

The best part is that it’s more than just a score. You can use it in any of your Calixa workflows and automations. Alert reps via Slack to a new hot lead. Automatically add a lead to a sales cadence or marketing campaign. Surface the data inside of Salesforce to give reps extra context. All of this is possible and more.

Machine learning made easy

To teach our AI, it's easy. You just tell us which of your existing accounts are examples of ones you want us to find. Our systems then take those examples and build models unique to your business and customers. We figure out which behaviors and attributes are indicative of your best accounts and then look for those signals in your other accounts.

What’s even better is that we can build models for multiple segments of your business. We first start with finding your product qualified accounts but can easily extend this to predict other things like upsell opportunities. Calixa helps sellers across multiple phases of the customer's buying journey.

The machine learning that powers our AI-prospecting is trained daily so that it always stays fresh. Because we keep training your models, we can adapt to changes in user behavior. For example, if you were to add new features to your product or add a new feature gate, our ML will adapt. It will learn the new patterns of good customers.

Most importantly, we continuously test our predictions to see how we did. This helps us catch cases where we were wrong and can feed those learnings back into the model. We can even take signals from how your reps are engaging with accounts as feedback to improve our predictions.

Powering Product-Led Sales

We built our AI-Powered Prospecting to give Sales control of their own destiny. We kept hearing from Sales teams at Product-Led companies that they were not getting access to the data resources they needed to run their GTM motions. With Calixa, it’s now easy to get started running Product-Led Sales motions at scale. We’ve done all the heavy-lifting so you don’t have to.

To read more about our AI-Powered Prospecting product, check out our launch blog post. To request access to our beta, email team@calixa.io.

If you have feedback for me, just shoot me a note at thomas@calixa.io.  I’d love to chat.

Product Updates
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Introducing AI-Powered Prospecting for Product-Led Sales

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Check us out on Product Hunt!

Product-led companies often struggle to know which signups to talk to. Since salespeople can’t talk to every user, they look for the ones with the highest revenue potential. That’s why the first step in making product-led sales work is to define product qualified leads (PQLs).

But determining a PQL is tricky. People end up manually creating rules to score leads. This is limiting for three reasons:

  1. Rules are based on human guesswork
  2. Rules are brittle and don’t adapt to emerging user behavior
  3. Rules are slow to change and take up the data engineering team’s time

Instead of only relying on institutional knowledge and intuition, top product-led sales teams leverage artificial intelligence to be scientific about which usage metrics are critical to their business.

This doesn’t have to involve a backlog of requests for your data team. Sales teams can leverage an out-of-box solution to make sense of all the data. The advantages of using machine learning are clear:

Find patterns humans can’t

Finding real value metrics is sometimes counterintuitive. How do you identify the usage signals that strongly impact revenue? For example, it might appear Dropbox users gain value from uploading files. In reality, their greatest 'Aha moment' comes from sharing those files. Machine learning is required to know which usage metrics belong in your PQL and how much to weigh each product signal.

Update criteria based on new data

As the company grows and your product evolves, how people use your product will change too. New product features change your PQL input signals. Machine learning adapts to this new data by refreshing rules and evolving PQL criteria overtime.

Save time spent on data analysis

Machine learning automates hours of data analysis into a short period of time. It can surface insights within seconds, simulating the process of a top rep who has spent years learning about why people buy.

With ML you can arm your sales reps with actionable insights—without spending time gathering them.

Introducing AI-Powered Prospecting by Calixa

Our core vision has always been to streamline the product-led sales workflow. Machine learning further closes the gap of time and resources spent on data analysis. By uncovering deal opportunities quickly, salespeople can focus on having the right conversations.

Calixa’s ML models update PQL scores in real-time, evolving PQL criteria based on emerging user behavior. The best part is that no developer work is needed.

Each ML model is custom built and uses thousands of signals to identify unseen patterns among your current best customers. Then it applies these learned patterns to your user base in search of future best customers. Multiple models can be created to predict any desired outcome—such as free-to-paid conversion and account growth.

Sales reps will see a PQL score ranging from 1 (low potential) to 5 (high potential). With Calixa, you can filter your lead lists by these scores or directly route high scored leads to reps via Slack messages.

Our approach to machine learning

Machine learning is often used as a buzzword. But in a sea of thousands of signups, no human can find the right ones to speak with. Predictive scoring helps you proactively use data to discover how you can better serve and sell to your users. Machine learning makes sales more proactive and productive—given the right guiding principles.

Goodbye black box

We’re committed to being transparent and accessible to all teams. That’s why Calixa shows you the context behind each PQL score. Sales reps will instantly see why it was scored the way it was. These usage insights bring credibility into the sales conversation, which benefits both the sales rep and customer.

Two-way feedback

The power of machine learning is that it increases accuracy overtime. Did reaching out to the user with a PQL Score 4 then result in a deal? Every action reps take trains the signal inputs (example inputs above) and the model itself to then narrow down the margin of error. After continuous improvement from observing and testing, you’ll get a fine-tuned revenue engine.

Clear impact

AI-Powered Prospecting helps you leverage personalization in the right places. It’s scientific about which leads have diminishing returns, and which deserve hand-crafted messages and attention for higher conversion. You’ll see an increase in sales productivity, more opportunities created, and revenue growth.

Sales is (and always will be) a quintessentially human endeavor, because you’re solving real problems real humans have. By letting machine learning automate the science of data analysis, you can focus on the art of selling.

Get access to our beta

AI-Powered Prospecting is a game-changing way to shorten the product-led sales cycle. Instead of digging through data, sales reps can focus on building more personal connections with sales-ready users. Use ML to help you close more deals and avoid letting them slip through the cracks.

Email us at team@calixa.io to join our beta program.

Product Updates
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Product Updates: June 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

2022 has flown by, and in June, we launched a slew of features designed to empower reps to move faster. Our AI-Powered Prospecting surfaces the best leads in no time, updated search is now lightning fast and auto-domain rollup uncovers consolidation opps with a single click. The redesigned folder structure also makes Calixa easier to use for large teams.

🤖 AI-Powered Prospecting Beta

We are excited to announce our upcoming Product Hunt launch. We've been hard at work applying AI to Product-Led Sales and now we're excited to finally show it to a broader audience. Introducing AI-Powered Prospecting.

Calixa's AI models update PQL scores in real-time, evolving PQL criteria based on emerging user behavior. The best part is that no developer work is needed. By uncovering deal opportunities quickly, salespeople can focus on having the right conversations.

Sales reps will see a PQL score ranging from 1 (low potential) to 5 (high potential) along with a list of signals that generated this score. You can filter your lists by these scores or directly route high scored leads to reps via Slack messages.

🪢 Run Consolidation Plays with Automatic Domain Grouping

Large organizations often have many disparate teams using a product independently, which can make it challenging for a sales rep to understand the total usage footprint. Calixa's automatic domain grouping surfaces consolidation opportunities without requiring any complex data work.

By looking at customers with lots of accounts, teams or workspaces, sales teams can efficiently run consolidation plays. Simply click the ‘Group by Domain' toggle button to instantly see the number of accounts and users under each company domain.

Read more about running consolidation plays.

🗂 Team Folders

For sales teams trying to understand product usage and buying intent as part of their selling strategy, it's easy to get lost in user data. Team folders in Calixa helps you stay organized so you know when and where to take action.

You can now categorize custom views for sales, support, and other teams. The views you use every day can also be favorited for easy access.

⚡️ Smarter, faster search results

We re-engineered our search to improve the experience for customers with massive scale. Searching through 10+ million records now takes under a second.

We also made the results more relevant. Accounts with high user counts always appear at the top of the list, so you never have to scroll to find the account you are looking for.

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Advice for Sales
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My Largest Deals Come from Freemium Users

Kevin Krom
Product-Led Sales
|
Calixa

I've been in tech sales for nearly a decade. I navigated everything from the traditional nine-month sales cycle, all the way to high-velocity one-call closes.

There are two deals that really stand out in my career. While at the time I was skeptical of the value of these deals, I was proved wrong. Both deals originally came from freemium users and taught me the value of consultative selling—helping existing users get more value from our product.

"Try before you buy" got us executive buy-in at a healthcare company

The first deal was with a large healthcare company. The director of analytics saw our Instagram ad, and he downloaded the tool. He played around and created two or three widgets. Then he shared that with his COO.

That's already pretty exciting, right? I mean, these were executives at a large organization, and they had begun taking core actions in the product.

But the director wasn't done researching us! He then went onto our website and read about our security. Even before our first call, I already knew they were existing users who wanted to talk about security.

I decided to reach out to him saying, 'Hey, it looks like you have a pretty decent understanding of the product base.' I sent him some graphs of his usage. He threw some time on my calendar without responding (shocking how many people do this) and then added a bunch of executives to the invite. Not a bad first disco call, eh?

The day before the call, I sent him a confirmation email and asked if there was anything in particular he'd like added to the agenda. I had a feeling they wanted to know about security based on their website signals but wanted to let him guide the conversation.

Then he was like, 'Yeah, we used your product and loved it. We have some questions about SOC2 Type II and HIPAA compliance.'

And with that, I was no longer walking into a security call blind. We got our security engineer to join and were prepared.

The cool thing was as activated users, they were already sold on the product. All I had to do was unblock their concerns, which in this case happened to be the friction that lays outside of the product.

Word-of-mouth helped us win over an insurance company

The next story also involved a highly regulated industry—insurance.

This woman discovered us through word-of-mouth. One of her interns had shown her the product. At the time, they were already undergoing a big internal initiative to solve exactly what we offered. So she told me, 'If you can impress our security person, I will buy. I don't care what the cost is.'

They were already convinced of the product's value. In fact, they were product champions! I just had to navigate them through the security and procurement process.

These are the conversations that we salespeople love, because that's buying intent. Remember, people don't care about security unless they're ready to buy. Compared to traditional sales processes, it was astounding how quickly they were already at the bottom funnel.

What if they never happened?

What if these two customers weren't able to sign up for free? Or what if I hadn't been aware of their activity? I may have never closed these deals.

Freemium users are the newest channel (also known as a 'route to market') for sales teams. Many are already product advocates. We no longer have to convince them about the product's value. Instead, it's just negotiation of the package, security, etc. This changes the sales role from hard selling to helping—specifically, helping users sell internally and navigate the procurement process.

Because product-led sales is in its early days, I don't take it for granted. These are great leads and opportunities that we could have missed. Imagine the huge opportunity cost involved!

In retrospect, it would've really helped to have product qualified lead scoring and rep alerts instead of manually looking at website visitors, comparing those domains to our signups, then looking at another dashboard to see who was activating on our platform. That's really the best way to not lose out on existing revenue in your user base.

Which makes me wonder—how much revenue are you missing without a product-led sales motion?

Product-Led Fundamentals
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How Product-Led Sales Recession-Proofs Your Revenue

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Tech companies are increasingly feeling the effects of the recent economic downturn. Layoffs dominate the headlines, stocks have dropped, and funds are drying up. Y Combinator even published this email warning startup founders to 'plan for the worst.'

So how does this economic downturn impact GTM teams and your bottom line?

Capital is Drying Up

When budget and headcount is tight, GTM teams typically have fewer net new prospects. This is because SDR layoffs result in less outbound, and marketing budget cuts means less inbound. "Growth at all costs" is replaced by strategies to drive the same pipeline using less dollars. Even before the economic downturn, the trend of increasingly saturated channels have made traditional lead generation expensive. Now more than ever, companies need to be more capital efficient in achieving growth.

As sales teams pivot to new growth levers, product-led sales emerges as a popular GTM motion. OpenView's third annual product benchmarks report found that 'Product-led companies, especially those with a freemium model, are over 2x more likely to be growing quickly (100%+ year-over-year revenue growth) than sales-led models.'

Product-led sales turns free signups into paid or upgrading customers. Instead of throwing more dollars into a leaky top of funnel initiative, this motion focuses on deepening product usage and increasing deal velocity and deal sizes among existing users.

Is it worth reaching out to every user? No—OpenView's report reveals that 'standout PLG companies reach out to only 14% of signups on average.' There is no question that product qualified leads (PQLs) are an untapped source of quality pipeline. In fact, PQLs have less buying friction and stronger financial margins than chasing and nurturing new deals. Compared to traditionally rigid sales models, these high-velocity deals can keep sales teams nimble and efficient during downturns.

Atlassian's product-led sales model. Source: Intercom's blog

In addition to getting high-intent leads, this diagram highlights that the product-led sales motion fits any budget. Product-led sales utilizes a land and expand motion to make initial deal sizes more digestible. As more and more companies become cognizant of software spend, these initial smaller deals (typically based on usage-based pricing) are more attractive than large upfront commitments. It is a more relevant GTM model during these times.

Product-Led: Costs ⬇ + Revenue ⬆

Product-led adoption lowers Customer Acquisition Cost. Self-serve onboarding allows users to explore on their own prior to jumping on a call. As a result, product-led sales targets more qualified leads who have demonstrated that they're interested in using your product. This reduces your cost of operations and increases sales productivity by automating repeatable onboarding processes.

By eliminating time-intensive discovery calls with prospects who've never heard of the product, salespeople can engage in high-value conversations with PQLs. This includes advising freemium users and crafting strategic business cases for expansion deals. They intelligently reach out to users with the highest chances of conversion and accelerate deals.

Product usage is real intent. When leads are non-users with zero product data, it's hard to generate predictable revenue. Having a product-led sales motion in place offers confidence in win rates, customer retention, and forecasting.

⛈ Weathering the Storm

Product-led sales ensures you have efficiency gains and less friction from self-serve signups, as well as predictable revenue from your existing user base. Rather than pay more for top of funnel, you can leverage product insights to uncover upsell deals.

Many companies become singularly focused on cost-cutting during hard times. Mastering revenue efficiency is often overlooked. An effective product-led sales process requires more than in-house BI dashboards. Cobbling together fragmented systems leads to revenue leakage, because it lacks a streamlined process to find, close, and grow top accounts. Calixa's purpose-built solution enables you to fully implement a product-led sales strategy to protect revenue.

Despite all the economic conditions outside of your control, having strong revenue systems in place is one thing that can help companies thrive—not just survive. Solving for revenue efficiencies is the best way to emerge from the downturn stronger than you went in.

If you want revenue efficiency during economic uncertainty, learn more about how to uncover revenue potential using product usage insights.

Advice for Sales
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Product-Led Sales for Developer Tools

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Yukito Isoda recently shared insights with us about developer-led sales. He's been in the SaaS sales space for 7 years. Prior to being in SaaS sales, he spent his early career leading product development in the food manufacturing space. His career spans time at Yelp, Salesforce, and developer API companies PubNub and Moesif. At these developer-first companies, Yukito made a transition from selling traditional licensing to a usage-based model.

Describe your experience selling a self-serve, developer product

The self-service route is important for developers, because it takes away the barriers, politics, and often lengthy approval processes for decision making that is involved in bringing on new tools. It offers that red carpet for developers.

Self-serve also helps sales and customer success teams, because users have already done their due diligence and research on your docs and product. It allows everyone to have a productive conversation, ask great questions, and make everyone's time useful. Customers typically already have an awareness of what they're trying to do with your product. It's our job as a rep to understand what product and engineering folks are trying to achieve and help them through the buying cycle to accelerate time to production.

What are your tips for selling developer products?

As a sales rep, it's important to be mindful in your approach when working with developers and understand how to best communicate with your customers.

It starts with a conversation, being empathetic and understanding what's most important to them. Engineers have a lot on their plate. As a sales rep, if we come in blind and don't have awareness of where they're at in the versioning process and what they're going through, they're just going to think of us as someone trying to push a square peg in a round hole.

Most importantly, my biggest tip is to help product and engineering folks align on the business objectives and the implementation plan. One of the best ways to tackle this scenario is through a POC. In the situation of a paid POC it gives all stakeholders an opportunity to qualify against their objectives without the burden and pressure of taking on a large commitment initially. It allows for our customers to experience the value and grow into our products or services.

Which signups do you prioritize?

Moesif allows us to see the whole picture around API analytics for product, engineering, sales and customer success teams. Product insights give us deep insights into key areas that can tell a story about how a customer (company or user) is onboarding your APIs, how they're interacting with your APIs, and why.

For product usage, I want to see what use cases folks are signing up for, what the volume of successful APIs look like, and if we can help them monetize their API's through usage-based billing (which allows customers to monetize their APIs and send invoices directly out to them). That is definitely a great sign of a high priority customer.

Moesif cofounders Derric Gilling (CEO) and Xing (CTO) have done a very nice job building a super technical API analytics platform that normal business users like myself in sales, customer success can use to understand our customers API usage. Self-service tools need to be intuitive and easy to understand for everyone, and that's why our customers like Symbl.ai leverage Moesif in tandem with Calixa to enable their internal teams and build a stronger connection with their customers by reducing friction during the onboarding process of their APIs.

When are you ready to talk to the executive buying team?

There's a couple of different scenarios. For example, when event volume is increasing we will want to understand what the actual usage is and forecast expected usage with the product or engineering teams before we get the finance team involved. But mostly, we are ready for executive buyers once we find use cases that expand product usage into other areas of the business.

It's easy to fall into the trap of simply selling or pitching the technical features and functionality, rather than focusing on the greater business objectives. The question we should ask ourselves as sales reps is why should a company pay 6 figures for our solution, or how do we enable the business decision makers to re-prioritize things to impact their business now and future proof themselves for the long run.

What are your thoughts on traditional licensing versus usage-based pricing?

I've worked with both pricing models. I have seen instances where customers would end up paying for licenses during a one year implementation which doesn't include the cost of the implementation itself. That's a very tough pill to swallow!

Many companies are now looking to change their entire selling process and forecasting model from license-based to usage-based. Usage-based is a completely different ballgame. There's definitely challenges when it comes to accurately forecasting usage-based from a sales perspective.

It is very rare to find sales leaders who are able to manage usage-based selling motions and reporting. Casey Clegg (who had brought me onto PubNub) and who built out the sales org at Twilio and PubNub did a really nice job at this. He showed our teams how to run these kind of deals, what customers want, and also what investors want to see. Derric my boss and CEO of Moesif is also one of the very few that understand this kind of selling motion, so it is exciting to meet, learn, and work with folks in the API space. Investors want to see forecastable or predictable growth in self-serve customer usage from an MRR and ARR perspective. That means as a rep you must thoroughly understand your customers business inside and out, because their success means your success.

Depending on the software, I think that a usage-based model is the true SaaS customer success model. It gives flexibility back to the customer in terms of getting up and running, and allows for greater adoption of your product offerings. I'd challenge all B2B SaaS companies to consider offering a usage-based model that will improve the customer's onboarding experience and build a strong long-term relationship.

Product-Led Fundamentals
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3 Common Product-Led Sales Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Modern SaaS companies are combining product-led adoption with top-down sales into a motion called product-led sales. Users choose a type of free plan, try the product, and then engage in user-centric sales conversations. The benefits of this hybrid approach are clear. Companies get lower CAC from the product-led motion, plus the higher LTV from the sales motion.

Sounds great, right? That said, product-led sales comes with its own set of challenges. It requires navigating through lots of organizational change management—and data.

Below are three common mistakes made in product-led sales, and critical takeaways from each. Understanding these pitfalls can ensure you get maximum benefit from your product-led sales motion.

Mistake #1: Prematurely applying traditional selling methods

Product-led sales promises that today's free gmail user can be tomorrow's enterprise tier. But exactly when does that happen?

Pushing self-service users into a large commitment too fast will hurt your deal outcome and customer experience. For sales leaders used to the traditional top-down approach, this can be an easy trap to fall into.

Here are telltale signs you are applying a top-down sale motion prematurely:

The user doesn't have a budget.

If the user doesn't control a departmental budget, selling an enterprise plan is the wrong way to go. It's better to focus on user success and product adoption. With enough happy users, you'll eventually be able to convince the head of a department to purchase the tool.

The user isn't the buyer.

Just like the budget problem, it's important to have a clearly defined Ideal Customer Profile. Seek introductions when necessary. If the user isn't the buyer, talking about ROI and high-level business cases is less appealing.

The user is happy on the current tier.

If the user is satisfied on billing month-to-month, don't hard sell an annual contract. An early-stage startup for example might not need extensive custom admin controls. By understanding the user's needs, you'll have empathy for what the right plan is for that customer.

Sales teams often fall into this trap because they are accustomed to getting that large upfront commitment, instead of playing the long game and growing usage overtime. It's a mistake to use traditional metrics to measure a new bottom-up sales motion.

Product-led deal sizes start off small. But it's these early deals that garner user loyalty, which pays dividends for the long run.

Chart by Todd Gardner

Takeaway—Reach out users with the proper product context. Use customer data to identify and prioritize PQLs to know when a user is sales-ready. Outside of being data-driven, listen in your conversations for excited users who want to champion the product. If the excitement is real and reflected in usage data, you're ready to take the next step.

Mistake #2: Not differentiating self-serve and enterprise offerings

Once a user is truly sales-ready, most sales teams progress to a top-down approach. You need to show why an organizational rollout is needed.

This may seem like an obvious point, but users are not willing to upgrade unless they see substantial value gains from doing so. If the difference between self-serve and enterprise plans is incremental, there's no incentive to change the status quo.

The enterprise plan needs clear advantages. For example, Airtable's Growth AEs emphasize the power of collaboration across departments. There are inherent network effects for each teammate you invite to the platform. Then as usage grows, you'll also need enterprise-grade security for the databases.

Think of the biggest reasons for the switch to enterprise. Is it cloud storage, security & governance, consolidated billing, or volume discounts? Make a strong case for why it is strategic and necessary to move up a plan.

Takeaway—While self-serve gets users through the door, you cannot assume the original use case is sufficient to move upmarket. Larger deals are complex and more sophisticated. They require crafting a strategic business case that shows ROI. Highlight features around security, support, and scale.

Mistake #3: Treating all PQLs the same

Mistake #1 warns against being too used to top-down. Mistake #2 happens if people are too used to self-serve. Assuming you've got past those hurdles, we're now in the nitty gritty of product-led sales!

The third mistake is to assume all PQLs deserve the same type of sales touch. In traditional top-down sales, new prospects go through more or less the same funnel: discovery calls, demos, POCs, vendor evaluations, contract negotiations, etc.

In the product-led world, however, each user journey is unique. People sign up for different reasons, use different features, and have different friction points. The follow up must be tailored according to where they are in the product adoption journey (what we call journey view).

Takeaway—Create multiple PQLs segmented by customer profile and product context. Users have specific goals and may prefer certain selling motions. Make sure follow up aligns with their most recent activities and needs.

Aligning product-led sales incentives

Maybe you've tried all these tips before, and these mistakes continue to persist in your organization. One underlying factor could be faulty incentives. In a fast-moving sales environment, it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of hitting quotas. But are you chasing after the right metrics?

For example if your company only rewards new logos with little regard to expansion deals, sales reps will always be pushing for that large upfront commitment. They won't care about deepening product usage overtime.

Hard selling annual commitments is a legacy from the on-prem days—back when there were no SaaS cloud solutions and no usage-based billing. That sales technique may have worked for the on-prem world, but wrong incentives can kill a product-led motion.

OpenView created a handy resource for sales compensation based on usage-based pricing. With the right incentives in place, sales reps can offer value-added conversations. Ultimately, these conversations are how salespeople drive revenue at product-led companies.

Product-Led Fundamentals
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The Most Common Types of PQLs at Product-Led Companies

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Product-led sales is about selling into your current user base. This sales motion leverages indicators like customer fit and product signals to qualify users as product qualified leads (PQLs). In part one of our PQL guide, we went over what PQLs are and why they matter—you may want to first dive into that if the concept of a PQL is new to you.  

While user intent signals vary by company and product, we've found that there is a standard pattern for PQLs across product-led companies.

In this post, we'll cover:

🤔 Why product-led companies have multiple PQLs

⭐️ The most common types of PQLs

By the end, you'll have ideas of how to create, prioritize, and target different types of users.

Why do product-led companies have multiple PQLs?

Mature product-led sales teams tend to use more than one PQL. The reasons for defining different types of PQLs are simple:

Multiple conversion points

Most organizations have multiple conversion points. For example, SaaS companies often separate GTM motions between landing new customers and expanding current customers. Segmenting PQLs helps to ensure each conversion point is properly routed and personalized to the user.

Multiple customer segments

Differentiating PQLs helps to account for multiple customer segments. Sometimes you need to route leads to subject matter experts who understand the persona and department (revops vs product team). Other times, the segment is divided by company size (mid-market vs enterprise).

No touch, low touch or high touch sales

Product-led sales is a hybrid sales model—meaning there are options for no touch, low touch, and high touch sales depending on how much hand-holding is required. Time investment depends on deal potential. A low fit lead can be completely no touch/self-serve. For an extremely high fit lead, it might be worth reaching out and building a relationship from the very beginning.

Each new PQL category can increase the complexity and resources involved in your pipeline. When evaluating whether to create a new PQL, consider whether it increases conversion rates through a well-tailored customer experience and clear team incentives. Your team will also need a scalable product-led sales platform such as Calixa to handle different PQL views and routing. Investing in a PLS platform can automate a lot of this complexity so you can focus on selling.

Four most common types of PQLs

Here are four common PQLs types found at product-led companies.

  • Free-to-paid conversion
  • Team/seat expansion
  • Enterprise conversion
  • Enterprise expansion

These PQLs are ordered by deal size (small to large revenue potential). The user type and business case is very different at each stage. Below we go over each of these PQLs and exactly how they benefit from sales.

Free-to-paid conversion

This conversion point is the bread and butter of product-led sales. It is crucial to monetize signups from the product-led flywheel. Sales reps prospect to free users who are receiving value from the product and likely want additional features or usage, and gently nudge them to pay. Free users might be hand raisers asking for more information (how pricing works), or simply users who reached a product usage threshold and are ready to buy.

Team/seat expansion

These are users who have specifically experienced the collaborative nature of the product. Sometimes a sales rep or onboarding specialist will be there to guide a newly upgraded team. Sales reps are product evangelists who understand the network effects of each additional team member that gets added on the team plan.

Enterprise conversion

This conversion requires meeting executive buyers to negotiate a custom SLA. The account executive's pitch consists of two components: enterprise-level security and compliance, plus user-level new features and integrations. Enterprise security and account consolidation are table stakes, but advocating for the end user is equally (if not more) important because they do internal selling for you. Equip the end user with a thoughtful business case, and they'll become a product champion.

Enterprise expansion

At this stage, account executives will continually grow the product(s) into new departments and new use cases. They'll implement an organization-wide, wall-to-wall rollout plan if possible.

For enterprise conversion and enterprise expansion PQLs, it is useful to rollup individual users into a Product Qualified Account (PQA) view. Alternatively, you can see PQLs progress along deal board stages—from the first free user to higher paid plans—using Calixa's Journey View. The platform lets sales reps to easily define, view, and route all these PQLs.

As you can see, each PQL above requires a different selling motion. Your first free user may call for a low touch sales-assist, while large accounts require layering in top-down sales. That's why having visibility into PQLs within your user base is critical to selling well.

If you're feeling inspired to create PQL segments, here's how to create and prioritize PQLs with Calixa.

How To
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How to Create PQL Alerts with Calixa

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

This is part of a How To blog series on using the Calixa platform. Don't miss our first installment – How to Prioritize PQLs with Calixa.

Speed to lead is the essence of a strong sales process. Harvard Business Review reports you'll be 10x more likely to receive a response if you follow up on your lead within 5 minutes.

This urgency is especially true in product-led sales. Your PQLs are already actively using the product. Whether it's a new account ramping up or a mature account inviting more teammates, timely outreach increases upsell conversion.

With real-time PQL alerts, you can uncover expansion opportunities with early signs of upgrade potential. Notifications based on product triggers make it easy to do contextual outreach. Each alert lets you dig into that user or account's activity, so sales teams can formulate a hypothesis about the underlying use case.

Calixa makes PQL alerting simple. There are two steps to create real-time alerts:

  1. Choose the criteria for notifications: stay on top of activated signups, invited teammates, usage spikes, etc.
  2. Create the message and cadence: receive alerts through email, Slack, or webhook

After this tutorial, you'll have PQL notifications that allow reps to act when it matters most.

Choosing the Criteria

First let's define which customer and product events you care about. What criteria would result in meaningful alerts? Here are some common criteria at both the user and account level we encounter.

*Learn more about Clearbit-enriched customer profiles

You can always customize these alerts to the accounts you own. If you have another idea for an alert that's not listed above, you're free to try it!

Once you have a general sense of the alert you'd like, head on over to the Automations tab. Click "Add Automation" and name the alert.

You'll be taken to a page that lets you pick an Automation Trigger. Here you have two options:

  • Event-based: notifies you about specific events. The user clicked on a feature or invited users. There is no criteria for the number of times this event has occurred. If you just need to see who signed up, choose this option.
  • Metric-based: filters events by the frequency of usage. The user clicked on a feature over 5 times or invited over 3 users. There are numeric calculations done. Generally for expansion opportunities, you'll need metric-based alerts to define these usage thresholds.

There's no limit to the conditions used to customize triggers.

Creating the Message

After defining the notification criteria, you're ready to customize how you'd like to receive the notification. You can set up an automated Slack message, a standard email alert, or a webhook to another app like Zapier. Pick a recipient and include a short description about the notification so it's easy to take action right away. For example:

Once you have the message ready, you can manage how often you'll receive the notification for that particular customer. For instance, maybe you want to limit receiving a notification when an account is growing to once per month. You set that limit under 'Max notification frequency' and that notification will only trigger for each particular account once, during the time period.

Click Save and switch the toggle to Active. Congrats! 🎉 You have your first notification (the first of many)! Sales teams can now reach out to the right users at the right time.

Check back here for part three of our How To series, where we discuss how you can efficiently act on PQLs with Calixa.

Product Updates
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Product Updates: May 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

May was an exciting month. We shipped an easier way to rank engagement and discover power users among your top accounts, more flexible dashboard graphs, owner aware alerts and are opening up a beta of our Mixpanel integration.

💪 Easily surface engaged accounts and power users

Calixa makes it easier than ever to uncover opportunities with our new Active Users and Days Active metrics. All Calixa customers can now see how many days a user or account has been active in the last week, month, or longer time periods. We also let you sort and filter by how many users have been recently active in an account.

🚨 Get DMs when your accounts are ready to buy

Sales, success, and growth teams are already using Calixa's alerts to surface PQLs, find expansion opportunities and get early warning of usage dips. Now these alerts can be automatically routed to the owner of the account or lead in question.

Ownership syncs bi-directionally from your CRM or can be configured directly in Calixa. Owners will receive emails or Slack DMs without having to check a shared channel. To make sure nothing slips through the cracks, we route ownerless alerts to a channel of your choosing.

📈 View metrics over flexible intervals

By popular request, we made our dashboard graphs more flexible. You can now view metric data in daily, weekly and monthly increments over configurable time windows. This allows you to zoom out and see business metric trends over longer time periods, or keep a close pulse on recent product behavior with a daily view.

🎛 Mixpanel Beta

We are getting ready to roll our our Mixpanel integration and are looking for beta customers. The integration syncs event data directly to Calixa and gives you a real-time view of your customers behavior. This allows you to prioritize customers based on engagement metrics and filter down to specific groups of users with our event property filters. If you are interested in enrolling in the beta, email team@calixa.io.

And lastly, our globally distributed team also gathered under the redwoods of Guerneville, California to make some memories and talk about what we need to do to better serve our customers. If you are interested in joining the team, check out our open roles!

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Advice for Sales
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A CRO's Strategy for Product-Led Sales

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Chetan Chaudhary is a former CRO and GTM Executive who led revenue teams at Scale AI, Twilio, Cisco, and Oracle. In his over 10 years of sales leadership at Twilio, he learned that sales executives must evolve into a modern 'distribution executive' in this era of product-led growth. Chetan is now investing in and advising startups as a partner at NewView Capital.

How was selling at Twilio different from your experiences at Cisco and Oracle?

We had a significant amount of leads that were signing up every day. Jeff Lawson had this idea of treating every developer like a consumer. We were marketing to developers as though we were a B2C company versus an enterprise sales company.

Jeff, along with the Product teams, built a frictionless process allowing developers to sign up with ease. This created a ton of top of the funnel leads.

Users would sign up using their first name, last name, and email address. That's it. We had to bring them on top of the funnel. Twilio is a very horizontal product. You start broad and then narrow down the use case for each customer.

How did Sales at Twilio evolve to meet this new Product-Led motion?

That's one of the biggest learnings in my time at Twilio. George Hu, who was our COO and also the former COO of Salesforce, introduced the notion of a 'distribution executive.' It's a different way to think about Sales.

There are two types of individuals in sales. The first is a traditional sales executive. I call them transactional heroes. They understood how to negotiate and close the transaction. They are typically good at deal prosecution. They understand how to execute a pipeline and forecast deals.

The second individual - I would call a Distribution executive. The main difference between the two is the understanding how to create a route to market. Distribution executives understand how to build a process that can scale to drive revenue. The number of companies you touch, the content you provide them, and their usage all tell a story. Through a large set of touchpoints, you can understand how to address more and more customers. Distribution executives in my opinion fundamentally focus on building vs transacting.  

Twilio changed the game for traditional sales motion companies, because they quickly learned how to hire distribution executives, who understood how to layer in sales executives to distribute Twilio to particular market segments. Upon my new role at NewView Capital, I am attempting to provide that insight into our portfolio companies as I believe it is a different way of thinking.

When you're a distribution executive, you start thinking about Sales as a machine. And you have to build the telemetry of that machine in order to really understand the ROI of your routes to market. Some of those routes to market are worth investing in and others you need to ignore. Twilio built a lot of this telemetry providing insights not only to product usage, but also how customers were interacting with the platform. This allowed sales individuals to have intelligent conversations with customers.

As you scale a product-led company, you'll inevitably have multiple routes to market going in parallel. You need to think about what are the inputs needed for each route to market to get the outputs so when they all roll up, you'll hit your number.

How does a Sales team figure out routes to market in the first place?

We just saw these usage patterns. We were seeing early adopters, and we had to bucket them somehow.

We started by just trying to sell it to anyone. Then that usage pattern gave us the ability to pattern recognize customers in a particular cohort. Once you identify it, it allows you to layer in a sales motion that was complementary to that cohort.

Sometimes you have a general thesis, and it doesn't have to be exact. You layer in a sales motion that can see if that will boost the overall revenue amount. Then you kind of established that this cohort needs XYZ salespeople.

A huge part of the bottom-up sales strategy is listening to your users. For example, if your product is ready for enterprise, your customers will tell you instantly. If you have a product-led self service motion where Coca Cola and Citibank are buying through a credit card, you're probably on your way to becoming enterprise-ready and need to apply a sales rep there.

Tell us how you figured out one of these early routes to market?

I started at Twilio as an AE. There were three things I looked for in each PQL:

I would always ask myself as a rep, Could this become a big deal? I would try to to a quick back of the napkin math on how big the deal could be, giving myself a target.

  1. Then I looked at the usage pattern. Was there a continual usage over some period of time? I wanted an ‘up into the right' type of usage pattern on important features.
  2. Lastly, what would be the use case? I'd look at their usage and support tickets to formulate a pitch in my head of why they potentially would use it. So we would then marry the use case with the usage pattern and make pitches.

In this process, I came across ISVs as an important route to market for Twilio. These were companies like Zendesk who embedded Twilio in their own product. I figured it out by talking to customers and seeing the traction. Companies wanted to embed voice and SMS capabilities into their own products. After proving out the early traction with customers, we built a route to market around it.

How did figuring out routes to market evolve over time?

We definitely got more scientific about it over time. As we grew larger, we could look across a lot more data. We grouped different usage patterns into cohorts to see if we could see which usage patterns turned into the biggest deals.

So for example, if you were spending $10 dollars a month with us, what was your likelihood of becoming a $100 a month customer and how could we influence it. From there, can we take them from $100 to $1000 a month and so on. This process informed us of who to go after and when to call.

From there, we did lots of testing on pitches and tactics. We started simply with a marketing drip email. Then eventually we tried having a BDR reach out. Later we got a BDR to reach out with specific content based on use cases. We'd eventually looped in the Solutions Engineer and AE once we saw that we could really influence the speed and size of deals.

We AB tested each of these pitches and tactics. Did the customer grow faster or bigger with sales getting involved or not? What size customer does the ROI make sense to get a BDR involved versus a Solutions Engineer and AE?

How can individual sales reps become distribution executives?

You create a culture where everyone is the general manager of their patch. At Twilio, there was a program called, 'having the GM mentality.'

CROs and CEOs constantly allocate capital within business functions. As a CRO, you're allocating capital across the sales compensation, sales enablement, and headcount to see if these levers move your productivity metrics and drive revenue.

You want to filter that down into the organization. You want individuals to think in a very similar way. An AE should look at their users and product usage data to make smart decisions. They should be able to say, ‘I need X dollars or users here within this territory in order to drive Y revenue.' The GM mentality is knowing what it means to allocate capital within your sphere.

So if you're an individual AE covering Southeast in the United States, you need to be thinking about what it will take to get 100% of the quota number. What would it take to get to 150%? The only way that you can do that is to think broadly. How many signups from marketing do you need to get PQLs coming through the door? How many events do you have to do?

It doesn't change from CRO to AE in terms of concepts. It's just in terms of scale and responsibility.

Where do you see the future of sales headed?

Sales reps and AEs will all understand how to build routes to market. They're not transactional heroes. They're not snapping their fingers or shooting from the hip. Those days are over.

The next generation of salespeople will have usage data and use cases very integrated into their pitches. If you don't, you're going to get left behind primarily because the buyers are becoming more sophisticated. The tolerance level for salespeople not understanding their business is very low. So you want to go in there with really strong data points to be able to drive a particular outcome. If you don't, you just get eaten alive. I think this expectation of the customer wasn't there ten years ago as deeply as it is today.

What's your advice for building Sales teams at a product-led companies?

If you are $0 to $5 million in revenue, you want to do a product-led, self-service motion. I would not hire a salesperson first. I would start with marketing, and I would figure out a way to use content to generate top of the funnel leads. At $5 to $10 million, I would hire BDRs initially. Someone who could talk to customers and help them buy. They would be supporting the inbound demand. I would hire a traditional salesperson to help learn why and how customers are buying. Focus on developing a sales process, or at least a baseline of a sales process before layering in a small sales team.

Beyond $10 million, that's when you want to start hiring sales reps as a product-led company. I'd recommend you hire (1) leader and at least 3 to 5 reps . They'll start leveraging the sales processes you developed in the previous phase.

Iterate on and start measuring sales productivity right away. Constantly ask yourself the question, how can I feed these sales people?

What are the interesting trends you're looking to invest in?

Sales tooling is a great space right now. You can now track emails, phone calls, product usage, support tickets, and all of these data points. Sales readiness is definitely a problem that AI could solve. We need to have a holistic score about whether a deal is going to potentially close or not, or where sales reps should spend more time. It's exciting to leverage both AI and all of these data sources.

I would love to see another product-led sales motion company with similar characteristics to Twilio. It's an interesting dynamic to create a flywheel through product-led first, before layering in sales. If you can get the product-led flywheel to work first, it compounds. The flywheel is the work of demand generation, product marketing, and product teams. Then the intersection of these three drives interesting usage patterns, which helps salespeople.


Product-Led Fundamentals
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What is Product-Led Sales?

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

B2B SaaS products are easier to use than ever. Within minutes of signing up, for example, anyone can attend a meeting on Zoom, ping a coworker on Slack, and make project plans on Airtable. Product-led growth (PLG) lets people self-serve onto a product–and it’s become the hottest customer acquisition channel. But what sales strategies will turn your large user base into revenue-generating customers?

The B2B SaaS Product-Led Funnel

Product-led sales is a go-to-market strategy where sales teams leverage insights into product usage to engage and retain end users. It all starts with a product that’s open for free trials. This delightful, simple user experience acts as the ultimate lead generation machine. Marketing nurtures users to drive the self-serve model, but the best part comes next. Sales teams (also called ’sales assists’) do warm outbound onto an existing account base to increase conversion rates and expand revenue from each deal.

Product-led sales combines a product-led acquisition model with a sales-led monetization model. The upsell motion works by uncovering a key business case and mapping it to a team or enterprise plan. Higher-paid plans let users unlock additional features, integrations, and usage while benefiting their businesses with security and custom SLAs.

Sales teams enable existing end-users to become enterprise champions who do the internal selling for you. This future champion comes from certain users known as Product-Qualified Leads (PQLs).

PQL → The New Lead Type for Your Product-Led Sales Strategy

Product-led sales teams ‘fish’ for a different kind of lead in the account base. Sales reps do prospect for Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP) –you still want to target companies whose use cases fit your solution and that offer growth potential. But the buying process accelerates when they match each ICP with product usage insights to measure buying intent. Highly engaged users whose companies meet your Ideal Customer Profile are known as Product Qualified Leads. PQLs convert 5x better than Marketing Qualified Leads that haven’t tried the product.

When your free signups have high product engagement, they are far more likely to convert into paid or upgrading customers. Even after onboarding these accounts as paid customers, the widespread bottom-up usage means they’ll be less inclined to churn. Since PQLs predict who will be your best customer, increasing PQL conversion is the best strategy for using salespeople’s time to drive revenue growth.

Prioritize PQLs Using Tiers

Some things traditional and product-led sales share include limited sales rep bandwidth and the need to prioritize needs. With much more data, PLS combines customer fit and usage-informed buying intent to let your sales reps work more efficiently. Based on the expected value of an account and its likelihood to convert, PQL tiers change the ways sales teams prioritize leads in the funnel and how they approach PQLs.

Tier 1: This group has a very high propensity to buy. They are using the software intensely and fit your customer profile. They offer the best opportunity for success since they close faster than any other deals. These accounts should be your sales team’s #1 focus. 

Tier 2: This group fits your customer profile well but only uses your product in a limited way. A salesperson should approach these users and figure out ways to deepen the account’s engagement with your product. New motions of product-led selling and product evangelism will make this approach successful.

Tier 3: Depending on deal size, this group may or may not be worth your time. They are very active accounts but may be smaller or have unsuitable use cases. You need to figure out whether the deal size is the best use of a salesperson’s time. If not, let the accounts self-serve and support them with marketing nurture.

Tier 4: Your sales team shouldn’t go anywhere near this problem tier. Poor customer fit and low engagement make these users the least likely to become productive accounts. Leave them to your marketing team and the self-serve sales motion.

PQLs become product champions when sales teams equip them with product education and business cases. These users will engage with the product more intensely and get so much value that they begin evangelizing the product among their peers. Product champions help roll out the product to the rest of the company. 

This word-of-mouth expansion lets your sales team perform a ‘land and expand’ motion. An account’s first user is rarely the enterprise-tier buyer. As the account grows from one to many users, the sales team builds relationships within the account and works their way up to the people who can sign for the company.

Benefits of Product-Led Sales

Product-led sales is a win-win growth strategy for buyers and sales teams. The self-serve model takes care of acquisition. Prospects quickly get value out of the product, which informs their purchase decision, increases deal velocity, and accelerates revenue growth.

📈 Reach and Monetize an Entire Market

Having a product open to a large volume of free trial signups increases market reach. At the same time, sales teams work to keep this volume of customers engaged and retained. They sell fast: instead of worrying about a big upfront transaction, sales reps quickly land deals and expand usage over time.

The bottom-up, product-led acquisition approach amplifies the sales team’s lead volume. Sales teams, in turn, amplify the product-led upsell conversion. These two pieces don’t oppose each other. PLG business models rely on self-serve sales motions and product insights to funnel Product-Qualified Leads into the sales team. It’s all about go-to-market at scale.

😁 Improve Buyer Experience

Modern SaaS buyers do not want to jump through hoops to see the product. They don’t want discovery calls prior to signup. They want to get their hands on the software as fast as possible to see how it benefits them. Getting out of the way lets the product show—rather than tell—its value to the user. This quick time-to-value engages the user with the product, removing friction, and helping them convert themselves from free users to paying customers.

At this point, sales reps can approach these self-qualified users, offering to help them unlock maximum value from the product. Sales teams serve as resources for demos, use cases, blockers, and product education. Their role is to guide users along a product adoption journeys. Consultative selling is about evangelizing the product and solving specific problems—a far more significant value-add than the typical hard sell.

🏎 Drive Sales Efficiency

When users can immediately access the product, they self-educate by using the software. Sales reps don’t have to do traditional lead nurturing or worry about implementation details and timelines. Users already get value from the product. That gives sales teams the ability to focus on self-qualified PQLs whose product usage clearly signals a readiness to purchase. This time saving, combined with higher deal velocities and lower churn rates, reduces customer acquisition costs (CAC).

🙌 Increase Expansion Opportunities

Early user activation and self-nurturing leads not only help land the initial deal–they even help with expansion efforts to increase lifetime value (LTV). Users sell themselves on the product, which creates momentum to upsell into team and enterprise deals. Sales reps can approach management with a much stronger sales pitch. Executives receive dozens of cold emails daily telling them to adopt organization-wide tools their company has never used. By starting with product usage instead of ending with it, your sales team assures buyers that their team will actually use the product—because they already are.

This upsell momentum is so powerful that 55% of customers who reached Zoom’s enterprise plan–the customers spending over $100k–had started with one free user. Today’s free Gmail user can be tomorrow’s enterprise tier. On top of that, PLS sales momentum creates more consistent growth.

Product Data = Sales Advantage

Layering a product-led sales motion with top-down enterprise sales creates a healthy and efficient self-serve flywheel. Your product drives user engagement and quickly surfaces Product-Qualified Leads. This high volume of self-qualified warm signups lets your sales team accelerate deal velocity. Sales reps proactively monitor product usage signals instead of waiting for one decision maker to inform them about key updates. Armed with this information, they expand the account and convert groups of users into business or enterprise customers.

That’s why it’s so important to have actionable product insights along with your CRM.

Calixa powers your product-led sales motion by combining CRM and product insights into streamlined sales workflows. Sales reps can live within Calixa’s interface for deep-dive PQL research or set automations that complement your CRM. Our platform helps you prioritize PQLs, increase upsell conversion rates, and drive your product-led growth model.

Ready to find sales-ready users? Sign up today.

Advice for Sales
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5 Sales Leaders Share How Product-Led Sales Drives Revenue

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

In the past few months, we've had the pleasure of chatting with revenue leaders from Airtable, Webflow, Mixpanel, Plaid, and Contentful. One question consistently comes up in these interviews:

What is the role of salespeople in a product-led world?

We can't help but explore this in more detail. Modern SaaS products are able to attract, nurture, retain, and—some would say—sell to users. It is highly scalable and efficient. How can sales teams add value to this modern buying experience?

At this point, we think we've found some answers. Below are key ways these five product-led sales teams discover and act on new untapped revenue.

Offer Guidance

Product-led sales reps prioritize user success and product adoption. They're product educators who assist users on specific goals. After all, even products with world-class user experiences have sales friction.

"I hear ‘it must be so easy' all the time. It must sell itself, because all these folks are already using the product. There's definitely a misconception that customers come in, already in love with the product just from getting that free usage, and that they're ready to upgrade without any help. But buyers like a human connection. They want that sales rep to come in and help consult with them on the product.

I always say to my customers, my job is to make sure you're on the best plan for your business needs. Having a sales rep guiding you through the process can help uncover a better plan for an organization, whether it's because of security, scale, or dedicated support."

–Katie Cascino, Account Executive at Webflow - Read the full interview

Sometimes the sales friction is regarding pricing and what plan is best for them, or it could be uncertainty around gated features they can't access. Other times, users are looking for inspiration around use cases.

"A big part of my job is to educate the customer on the possibilities. It's helping to build the vision together and letting them dream a little bigger."

–Meredith Doty, Account Executive at Contentful - Read the full interview

The next step is to map these use cases to features. If team collaboration is a priority, sales reps articulate which features of the team plan enable effective teamwork. Salespeople thrive at bridging the gap between business goals and product solutions. Product education is a major way salespeople add value, not friction, to the product-led motion. The best sales mantra is to focus on helping.

"One of our core principles on the team is ABH: Always Be Helping. It's a play on the old sales adage ABC: Always Be Closing."

–Emerald Maravilla, New Business Lead at Plaid -
Read the full interview

Product-led sales teams smooth out bumps in the road to accelerate customer adoption and satisfaction.

Lead Organizational Buy-In

As products move upmarket, selling becomes more complex. Salespeople take on a highly strategic partnership role that requires navigating multiple stakeholders—including end users, the executive sponsor, finance, legal, IT and security.

"We believe that great Growth AEs are world-class business partners.

That's not lip service. We are really tough on the organization and on ourselves to be incredibly good at understanding who we're talking to: what they care about, what the business case is, what the business is trying to do long-term and short-term, and how we can impact it."

–Sam Werboff, Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable -
Read the full interview

Salespeople work with users to generate organizational buy-in together. Users need a strong business case to be properly equipped for internal selling. While a product-led motion does generate initial buy-in, crafting that strategic business case is still hard work.

"I think the beauty of PLG is you can use product-led growth to build a customer base, and then when the time is right—for example, what I'm doing at Webflow now—we bring in reps to help users increase their value through a broader deployment.

It takes a village to craft a business case to get these enterprise organizations using our enterprise-tier product."

–Katie Cascino, Account Executive at Webflow -
Read the full interview

The value proposition that landed users on the self-serve plan is very different from the business case for enterprise plans. Higher paid plans allow users to unlock additional features, integrations, and usage—while benefiting the organization with security and custom SLA's. It's incredibly important to articulate these differences.

"It typically is a pretty big jump from the credit card plan to the invoice plan. With the Enterprise tier, you have to be more strategic. That's why customers buy through the sales rep.

What I'm finding is the buyer of the credit card plan is not usually going to be the buyer of the enterprise plan. So you've got to be able to spider web through the organization and do some digging to uncover a larger use case. Just upselling them for the project that they need the credit card plan for is not the play."

–Meredith Doty, Account Executive at Contentful -
Read the full interview

Salespeople are key to helping users roll out their product throughout the organization. However many of your users may already love the product, sales teams must be there to address fundamental questions around security and high-level questions around return on investment.

Build Trust

As deal sizes increase, buyers want a human connection. They'd like to see the people behind the product before signing a large commitment.

Sales teams earn trust through long-term customer relationships. Especially within SaaS, buyers aren't here to make a one-time transaction. Customers will only stick around if every sales conversation adds value rather than extracts it.

"It's not selling at all costs. Our goal is to land that customer and make them happy in the process. It's okay to not extract all the revenue possible in the first sale. We know that once we land them, their usage will grow. You need to be thinking long-term."

–Dan McKnight, Director of Sales for North America at Mixpanel -
Read the full interview

There's no replacement for human-to-human relationships. Value-driven narratives ensure customers know you're here to help. Great sales teams use product signals to consistently drive value.

Closing Thoughts

In this product-led age, people are amazed that users still talk to sales. There's a common misconception that everything—including sales—can be done in-product.

Product-led sales practitioners know nothing is further from the truth.

"I think it's really dangerous to say that the product sells itself.

It might sell itself for an amount that is much less than if a human was involved. It might sell itself in a way that's not healthy long-term. It might sell itself and churn six months later.

PLG to me is sales. They're one and the same. The marriage between product-led and sales-led is really important.

Product-led is a data point, but it's still a sales lead. We are still the ones driving the conversations around revenue for the business."

–Sam Werboff, Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable -
Read the full interview

Sales teams are a value-add at product-led companies. They marry top-down and bottom-up motions to fully reach and monetize an organization's addressable market.

Next, let's take a look at what product-led sales actually is.

Product Updates
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Product Updates: April 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

We had a solid set of launches this month, including an easier way to manage lists, our eagerly anticipated Clearbit and Amplitude integrations, and Customer Fit scoring.

🧩 Customer Fit Scoring

Calixa customers have been using our Product Intent Score to effectively find and prioritize their most engaged users, and based on the positive feedback we received, we decided to add a second score type. We now give you the ability to evaluate users and accounts based on Customer Fit.

This gives you the ability to set criteria like company size, funding amount, title and industry that align with your ideal customer profile. Once configured, fit scores can then be used to filter and prioritize PQL or other account lists.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Clearbit PQL Enrichment

Speaking of Customer Fit, we also partnered with Clearbit to enrich your leads directly in Calixa. You'll instantly know more about who signs up are and what company they work for, even if they don't share this info. This expands the set of attributes that you can incorporate into your Customer Fit score.

You now have access to over 100 points of data about the user and the company. like, Employee title, Number of employees, Annual revenue, and Industry. Check out the blog post for more detail.

📈 Amplitude Integration

We officially rolled out our Amplitude integration which syncs event data directly to Calixa. You'll get a real-time view of your customers behavior, be able to prioritize customers with their engagement metrics and filter down to specific groups of users with our event property filters.

All of this can be enabled by simply entering your Amplitude API keys.

🗂 View Tabs

You have probably already created your first custom views to find PQLs, Power Users, Growing Accounts or other interesting segments of users. Now we are giving you a better way of organizing the views you frequently reference.

The new tab layout brings the most used lists to the forefront. You can easily drag and drop new lists to create an order that suits your workflow, saving you time.

Thanks for reading! You can stay in the loop by subscribing to our blog and following us on LinkedIn. Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists. ✌️

Product Updates
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Product Qualified Lead Enrichment with Clearbit

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

The best product-led companies make signing up quick and easy. You want to put as little friction in the sign up process as possible. Name, email, and click 'Sign up'. That's it!

The big downside is that you get limited data about who that user is and what company they work for. So how do you know if an account fits your Ideal Customer Profile?

That's where lead enrichment comes in. You need to pull in data about users and accounts so that you can prioritize.

Calixa + Clearbit

Calixa has partnered with Clearbit to enrich your leads directly in Calixa. You'll know who the user is and what company they work for. This way you effectively prioritize your product-qualified leads.

You'll have access to over 100 points of data about the user and the company. Here are some examples of the data you'll have access to:

  • Number of employees
  • Funding raised
  • Annual revenue
  • Industry
  • Full name of user
  • Employee title
  • LinkedIn Handle
  • Github ID
  • Twitter ID
  • Twitter Followers
  • The list goes on and on!

We make it easy to use this data all throughout the Calixa product. Here's an example of what it looks when prioritizing your leads:

Here are some other ways you can use it.

  • Enhanced User and Account Context → Add Clearbit data to any of your user and account views to give reps extra context over who they are talking to. It can help reps prioritize which user in an account to talk to. For example, you might want to message the manager level user for a pricing conversation.
  • Customer Fit Scoring → Use Clearbit data in your customer fit scoring. Don't make reps have to think about who is a good fit or not. You can use Calixa's Scoring + Clearbit data to give them guidance on which accounts and users to be talking to. For example, makes sure reps are only talking to accounts with at least 50 employees.
  • Accounts Alerts → Get alerted any time a company of a certain size or users with specific titles sign up. We have one customer who gets alerts whenever a user with a high Twitter following signs up. They know that these accounts can be important influencers for their product.

How to Get Started

To get started, all you need to do is sign up for a Clearbit account. Go to the Calixa Integration page and click 'Add Integration'. Select Clearbit and paste your Clearbit Secret Key in the form.

If you need any help setting up Clearbit, don't hesitate to email team@calixa.io and we will help you out.

How To
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How to Prioritize PQLs with Calixa

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

PQLs are the best way to keep sales operations efficient as your signup volume scales. Knowing who to talk to ensures you don't waste time on leads with low chances of conversion. Working the right leads enables larger deals.

PQLs are self-qualified, sales-ready users who meet your organization's Customer Fit (eg. size of company, buyer role, industry) and Product Usage criteria. Both of these provide good indicators that an account is ready to purchase.

Calixa helps you intelligently find your best users. When starting off, it can be helpful to categorize leads in four buckets:

Create Your First PQL List in Calixa

Calixa combines all your product and CRM data into one place. This enables you to create lists of product-qualified leads using any combination of product usage, user, account, or CRM data.

Here's how to create a basic user list in a few steps:

1. Create a list of users that have recently signed up for your product.

2. Sort the list by a key product usage metric. For example, it could be a user who performed 5 or more key product actions (such as projects created, documents published, deploys, etc.)

3. Next, you can filter that list to only those users that you own. We pull this ownership data from your CRM. Each rep can see their own view of the accounts they own.

4. If you want to make sure that you're only talking to companies of a certain size, you could add another filter based on employee count. You can get this information via Calixa's Clearbit integration.

The great thing is you can use any of the data and usage metrics you send to Calixa for filtering your PQL list. That way, you're only talking to high value users.

Adding additional data to your list

Need to add data into your view? Let's say you want to show what pricing plan users are on. Simply click the add column button on the right. Any CRM properties, product usage metrics, billing info, etc. can be added to a list.

Creating an Account List

Some businesses prefer to look at accounts instead of individual end users. An account view rolls up all usage metrics from underlying users so you can find your most active accounts.

Here are examples of account lists you can try:

  • To find which accounts are growing the fastest, you can sort the number of users added to the account.
  • You can add in a key product actions that indicate an account has hit that 'aha moment.'
  • You can then filter by the pricing plan (trial, team, etc.) they're on to focus on free-to-paid conversion or expansion opportunities.

Scoring

To make lists easier to prioritize, you can generate scores that quickly show who you should be talking to. Scores are great because they include multiple properties into a single summarized metric.

With Calixa, you can customize the two major components of PQL scoring:

  • Customer Fit
  • Product Usage

For example, let's say your Ideal Customer Profile (aka Customer Fit) includes companies with over 100 employees, that have raised more than $10M, and based in the US, CA, or UK.

Let's then say strong Product Intent signals are when an account has added more than 5 users in a week and created more than 3 projects in the last 30 days.

Once you have your Scoring setup, you can use the scores all throughout the Calixa product. They're useful in lists when prioritizing who to speak with. You can also use them to power automated alerts.

You can learn more about Scoring criteria here.

That's it! You're on your way to finding PQLs.

Advice for Sales
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'Land and Expand' in Product-Led Sales - Contentful

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

We were lucky to get a chance to chat with Meredith Doty, an Account Executive at Contentful.  Meredith began her SaaS Sales journey at ​​LogMeIn and has been selling SaaS products for over 7 years. For those who don't already know about Contentful, it's one of most popular headless CMS and was recently valued at over $3 billion.

What types of leads do you work at Contentful?

Majority of our opportunities are inbound leads and hand-raisers. All of them have varying levels of product usage.

The tricky part is that product usage is all over the gamut. So it's our job as salespeople to understand from the get-go where the customer is in their product adoption journey. Their familiarity with the product very much influences how long the sales cycle will still be.

How does product usage affect the sales cycle?

People who've tried the product are going to move much quicker. They already have a high level of education and understanding of the product. At that point, all that hard work is done for me.

In cold outreach, I have to pitch the concept of headless CMS versus a traditional CMS. That's a new concept for many still. Then we figure out how to work with developers to build out the stack and manage the implementation timeline. We have to develop the whole conversation. There's a huge time cost that comes with that.

What do conversations with product qualified leads look like?

Rather than a hard sell, it's more teasing out how far we can take this opportunity. There's a lot you can learn by asking about the different projects within the organization. That helps you uncover a couple more use cases.

Depending on how large the business is, I also ask for introductions among the organization to meet different teams and see what's on their mind and any projects on their roadmap that could be a fit for our product.

From there, we talk through what ROI they can expect by using Contentful and a Jamstack architecture, plus what's in it for the people working on the projects–whether it be from the builder's side or the content creator side. Ultimately, the more projects an organization rolls Contentful out to, the stickier it will be to the client.

Your sales are going to exponentially grow if you take that time to dig a little deeper.

Do you focus on product usage before signing contracts?

It's definitely a land and expand play. That's my MO here. Because once you kind of get people going and prove it out, the sales friction dramatically decreases.

First they get their systems developed and up and running. Then from a sales perspective, teams start talking internally and the legal process is already done. So all you have to do is send over an order form when they're ready to buy.

So if customers can build on their own, what's the role of Sales?

There are two key roles.

First, we need to give them ideas of what other companies have done, and what the other use cases are. They could just be thinking in one way, but another company is using it in a completely different way that they would have never thought of.

A big part of my job is to educate them on the possibilities. It's helping to build the vision together and letting them dream a little bigger.

Second, expansion deals require building relationships from the very beginning. It starts from that initial call. The relationships you establish from education and rapport are the key to spiderwebbing through an organization. Sales has the unique ability to discover and solve for pain points throughout an organization and it would be doing everyone a disservice to not have that human connection.

What's the toughest part about moving an account from a self-serve plan to an Enterprise plan?

It typically is a pretty big jump from the credit card plan to the invoice plan. With the Enterprise tier, you have to be more strategic. That's why customers buy through the sales rep.

What I'm finding is the buyer of the credit card plan is not usually going to be the buyer of the enterprise plan. So you've got to be able to spider web through the organization and do some digging to uncover a larger use case. Just upselling them for the project that they need the credit card plan for is not the play.

Advice for Sales
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The Rise of the Growth AE - Airtable

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Tell me about your role at Airtable

I run the growth side of the Airtable sales organization. I oversee all sales expansion motions across different company size segments.

The Sales organization is split by New Business and Growth. The New Business team is responsible for landing net new logos. Then our Growth team is responsible for expanding those accounts once they land with us.

What excites you about selling at a product-led company?

Airtable has a large number of organic signups–an awareness of the product that I've just never seen before. This bottom-up motion is a massive opportunity for user activation and conversion experiments.

One of the beautiful things about Airtable is that it's the most horizontal product I've ever used. Every single person in the company and every vertical can use it. So we have a large addressable audience and can find many different ways to expand within an account.

How do your Growth AEs find an expansion opportunity?

The marriage between bottoms-up PLG and tops-down sales is so important. When that starts to happen, plenty of expansion opportunities present themselves.

Expansion opportunities usually appear in three ways:

  • First is organic product adoption. Cross-functional teams start using the product, which makes way for sales conversations.
  • Second is through ongoing conversations that we do to support them. The Growth AE and Customer Success Manager talk with our product champions and pre-existing users around where the value is. Inevitably, it will open up conversations with other teams, because Airtable is best when used cross-functionally.
  • Third is purely top-down enterprise sales. That's us being really proactive with our accounts and leveraging that initial use case to go into other business units.

How do Growth AE's develop a new enterprise relationship?

There's always, inevitably going to be conversations around what features and services come with enterprise, and how those features and services align with your business.

We want to establish a human-to-human business relationship with enterprises. Airtable's superpower is when many cross-functional teams use the product. There's a whole suite of services that come with the enterprise team.

You have your Growth AE, Customer Success, and Technical services. All of them come together in this symphony to support the customer. In the presale motion, we're very clear about this package and why they will be successful with us.

What's the right amount of product data to enable reps?

I don't think there's one right answer for this. Some accounts you'll want to talk to because of the intensity of the product usage. Others might be light users of the product but they're part of a big company so we want to talk to them.

Ultimately, we want to simplify that for the reps. Especially since understanding product usage could be a number of different data points. We need to provide easy ways for them to understand who to talk to and why.

We've started to generate our homegrown definition of a PQL based on product behaviors and customer fit. We surface combinations of behaviors that actually lead to revenue-generating conversations. Sales reps get relevant data points on the lead and know why that person is someone they should talk to.

The ideal state is to do the data analysis for reps. You don't want to throw in too much data. You want to let the team sprint.

What qualities do you want in your Growth AEs?

We believe that great Growth AEs are world-class business partners.

That's not lip service. We are really tough on the organization and on ourselves to be incredibly good at understanding who we're talking to: what they care about, what the business case is, what the business is trying to do long-term and short-term, and how we can impact it.

That's the kind of the culture and role this is. Yes, we're revenue driven, but the means by which we get there is by high business acumen. We're relationship-focused rather than transactional, while also being revenue-driven and very much a sales organization.

I always use this metaphor people make fun of. I think the ideal profile is what I call an athletic nerd. It's basically the athlete–the person who's got all of those sales attributes. They're competitive with a ton of hustle, and they're really motivated to drive revenue for the business.

But they have a business acumen and intellectual curiosity that feels truly sincere. This combination is a really good customer experience.

What's the role of sales in Product-Led Growth (PLG) world?

PLG is a great experience for the customer. They get to use the tool and they get to try things out on their own. We want to give people the opportunity to run things.

It's also a great opportunity for sales to be informed and intelligent business partners when we reach out. We're not just doing the classic 1990s of pounding the phones for hours.

The product team is great at enabling the user in the product itself, and even booking meetings from the product.

At the same time, I think it's really dangerous to say that the product sells itself.

It might sell itself for an amount that is much less than if a human was involved. It might sell itself in a way that's not healthy long-term. It might sell itself and churn six months later.

PLG to me is sales. They're one and the same. The marriage between product-led and sales-led is really important. Product-led is a data point, but it's still a sales lead. We are still the ones driving the conversations around revenue for the business.

Advice for Sales
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Building a Product-Led Sales Development team

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Tell us about your role at Plaid

I am the new business lead at Plaid. Our team is responsible for generating revenue pipeline. We split our team into groups: inbound and outbound.

Our inbound team is responsible for working with prospects who have expressed some form of intent: signed up, testing our APIs, filled out a contact sales form, etc.

Our outbound team is looking for companies who have a key pain that Plaid can help them with. We are reaching out to companies to educate them about Plaid.

How do you segment your inbound team?

We break down the inbound team into three groups.

First, we released live chat recently on the website so that we can make sure that those who eagerly need to talk to a sales person have that opportunity.

Second, we've got a team that's focused on responding to the contact sales form. So if you submit a form, we try to get back to you within a couple of hours.

Third, we have a team that's focused on people who are more casually learning, investigating. These leads need more nurturing and education.

What's the a-ha moment for your customers?

For Plaid, the best thing for us to do is get the API in the hands of the developer. It's hard for someone to imagine what's possible if it's not the world you live in. We want the developer to see the magic of our platform. Once they see how easily they can make great experiences for their customers, they're hooked.

I saw the same thing at Twilio where I led a similar team. The power of a Product-Led model is that product is your advantage. As a salesperson at a product-led company, your job is to educate and evangelize. Your role is to accelerate the sale and ensure that your customers are successful.

What's the role of a SDR in a Product-Led company?

One of our core principles on the team is ABH, which is a play on the old sales adage ABC: Always Be Closing.

ABH means 'Always Be Helping'. We need to first think about how we help our customers. And so what that means is we deal with folks across a spectrum of awareness and education.

Sometimes we are working with people who are new to this space. Maybe they've just signed up and are looking to learn more. We need to offer knowledge and expertise to make these people successful.

Other times people come to us and they say: 'I have a fire in my house. Please help me solve it.' And so we respond to them urgently and get them set up with the resources they need to start building the plan immediately.

The BDR needs to figure out what's needed in that situation and respond accordingly.

What qualities do you look for when hiring BDRs?

For a product like ours, technical aptitude, obviously, first and foremost.

Now, this doesn't mean they have had to go be a software developer previously. You don't have to be able to do that, but we want to know that you have the ability to communicate complex ideas to a variety of different audiences.

Second, Emotional intelligence is really important for us. People are dynamic. People are different. You have to be able to read your context, situations and emotions of your audience to deliver what they need.

So once you've hired a BDR, how do you make them successful?

We train you up, We focus on product, processes, and people in the organization. We go through a rigorous certification process to make sure that we are delivering our A game to our customers.

We do mock calls. We record them and give feedback afterwards. Once someone has got that down, you move on to live calls. We record those too, and do coaching afterwards.

The BDR role is often someone's first sales role. Our goal is to give you a solid foundation for your long-term career. I am passionate about the role of the BDR org as a talent pipeline for the rest of the company.

So after they've been trained, what's next for a BDR in your org?

Once someone's mastered fundamental sales skills and mastered the product, then we start conversations about what's next. What skills and experiences do they want and how can we help them get there in the next 12 to 18 months.

We're working together to help them verify that those are actually things they might want to do or continue to do. Maybe you say, actually, I hate doing this. That's good to find out early in your career.

Most of the BDRs graduate into other Sales roles: AEs or AMs. Some find that their passions are in adjacent orgs like Sales Ops or Marketing. We've even had some move into areas like Product.

That's impressive. How are you able to grow talent like that?

It's also a matter of staying connected to different functional leaders to see what is your appetite for talent. While they may be junior in their career, we've equipped them with a unique skill.

Our team is some of the most knowledgeable product experts in the company and who know the most about our customers. The BDR role is at the intersection of what the market demands and what our product offers.

And that knowledge sets people apart. It's something that other teams and leaders want to tap. It's a win-win for the organization.

In the last 10 years, have you seen any changes in what you look for in reps?

What's interesting is that ten years ago people thought the greatest AEs had to be the ones who are the loudest in the room. And I'm super excited to see that has shifted. It's now more assist, don't sell. Educate, don't pitch.

Even enterprise AEs are taking that approach. Maybe they have different skills in navigating an organization, but in many ways these BDR roles are the training grounds. This role helps you mature as a sales professional.

Product-Led Fundamentals
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Intro to Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

The number one problem we hear from salespeople at product-led companies is: 'I have so many users I could talk to. Where do I focus?'

Enter the Product Qualified Lead (PQL). The PQL combines signals from both what the lead is doing in your SaaS product AND who they are.

  • Intent → how is the user or account using your product? (product usage)
  • Fit → are they the right buyer for our product? (customer profile / ICP)

By leveraging product usage signals, you're talking to prospects ready to talk to the sales team. As a result, PQLs convert 5X better than Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and drive growth in a Product Led Growth business model.

PQLs can be used to find both:

Here are some tips for combining product usage data and customer fit to develop PQLs and prioritize Sales activity to drive revenue.

Product Qualified Leads ≠ Marketing Qualified Leads

Traditionally, B2B selling relied on Marketing Qualified Leads to fill the top of the sales funnel. From an analytics perspective, the data MQLs generate are fairly basic:

  • How many emails did people open?
  • What whitepapers or other content did people download?
  • Which web pages did they visit, and how frequently?

The narrow range of actions tracked in this MQL process limits the value a sales team gets from MQLs. Among the weaknesses of the marketing-led approach:

  • Metrics are based on what marketing thinks, not what the customer does.
  • MQLs measure customer intent indirectly—and weakly.
  • Sales get few insights into customer wants or needs.
  • Sales can only touch a fraction of the MQLs marketing generates.

Most importantly, potential customers entering a traditional sales funnel do not live in the SaaS product until after the deal closes. Most of the Sales effort goes into convincing customers of the software's business value—which only gets confirmed after the customer commits.

Let products generate leads

A Product Led Growth (PLG) model takes the opposite approach by getting potential customers to use the product from the beginning. Free plans let these users discover the product's value and take action for themselves.

With potential customers already convinced, Sales can take consultative approaches to guide PQLs along the customer journey. This head start makes PQLs easier and faster to convert while reducing churn.

A challenge PLG and traditional Sales share is time. Reps can only contact so many customers in a day. Since a PLG business model generates even higher volumes of potential customers, how do you filter the best PQLs so Sales can maximize your revenue potential?

The key is to get the right PQL definitions.

Product Usage = Real Intent

A core component of your PQL definition is product usage. Product-led companies are sitting on a treasure trove of usage data that is a valuable signal. How an account is using your product provides insight into how real their intent is. It answers questions like:

  • How intensely are they using the product?
  • Have they uncovered the core value of our product?
  • Are they using the product in a way that indicates they need a higher tier plan?

Answers to these questions give Sales a foundation on which to have a conversation with the customer—a massive advantage for PLG companies. Sales can use PQLs to identify who to talk to and leverage the usage itself as the conversation starter for their sales engagement. It makes the outreach relevant.

Data reveals usage patterns

Because companies are different, so too are the product usage criteria defining a PQL. Here are some examples that products might have:

Created more than 50 tasks and invited 10 users in the last 30 days

Created 10 boards and have 20 daily active users

Made > 100 API calls in the last 30 days and bought a phone number

Usage-informed criteria are where the Product Led Growth advantage kicks in. Because you have thousands of people using your product every day, you have all the data you need to understand the patterns that indicate:

  • Free users are ready for a paid plan.
  • Teams of users need the features in a business plan.
  • Accounts are poised to become enterprise accounts.

When figuring out your own product usage criteria, it's essential to look at:

  • What do existing successful customers look like?
  • What are the key milestones in the customer journey? (e.g., what's the aha moment)
  • What volume of leads can our Sales team handle today?
  • What customer size is worth Sales involvement?

You don't need to have one and only one PQL definition. You can further segment into levels of product intent via multiple definitions. In the beginning, we generally recommend starting with one PQL definition. Once you've mastered that, you can add more definitions.

PQLs = Fit + Intent

While product usage is a powerful indicator of intent, usage alone doesn't make someone a PQL. Your PQL definition needs to combine both intent and fit to ensure you're talking to the right leads.

  • Intent → are they going to use our product?
  • Fit → are they the right buyer/persona for our product?

To figure out Fit, companies often leverage firmographic data (e.g., role, industry, company size, annual revenue, etc.) from providers like Clearbit, Zoominfo, or PeopleDataLabs. Using data providers to enrich your signups will give you deeper insights. For example:

  • Industry → Is this company in the right industry?
  • Funding → Do they have enough funding such that they'd be willing to pay?
  • Company Size → Is the business big enough to have this problem / willing to pay?
  • Title → Which of the users has the buying authority for the business?

If you don't want to rely on data providers alone, it's increasingly common for companies to have quick questionnaires (5 questions or less) when customers sign up. It will ask about things like industry, use cases, etc. as part of the signup flow.

As customers use your product and you earn the right to ask more questions, you can round out your information about each user and their business. This data is a great way to augment or get around the need for data providers.

Tiering your PQLs

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Tiering Your Product-Qualified Leads (PQLs) 

These PQL tiers group accounts by their revenue potential: the size and probability of closing the deal. PQL tiers change how sales teams should approach the leads.

Tier 1: This group is most likely to buy because they use your product intensely and have a good ICP Fit. Prioritize these accounts since Sales can close deals with them faster than any others.

Tier 2: With a good Fit, this group could convert into higher revenue accounts, but they don't use your product as much as they could. Sales can improve engagement by helping users get so much from the product they become evangelists within their business.

Tier 3: Since this group's product usage shows they value your product, they may be worth spending time on even if their revenue potential is smaller or they are not an ICP Fit. Keep in mind that customers often find new ways to use your product that you don't expect. A few tweaks to packaging and pricing, or a new PQL definition, could make these users worth Sales' attention. The question with Tier 3 is whether Sales should engage or should you let marketing campaigns encourage the account to self-serve?

Revenue Growth = Intent + Fit + Tiering

Rather than relying on a pure, self-serve business model, PQLs let you add an effective Product-Led Sales motion. Product usage data generated by thousands of free and paid accounts let you identify the accounts ready to advance along the customer journey. Filtering these accounts by their Fit to your Ideal Customer Profiles gives Sales the high-quality Product Qualified Leads they need to prioritize their time.

PQLs are customers who already see the value of your product because they use it every day. At the same time, PQLs give Sales the usage-driven insights they need to open consultative conversations that reinforce your product's value and accelerate conversions.

PQLs are the heart of Product-Led Sales motions, driving account growth and revenue while delighting customers.

Product Updates
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Product Updates - March 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

March was an exciting month for releases. We launched Journey view, increased the flexibility of our filters to support event properties, completed an integration with reverse ETL provider Hightouch, and added Redshift to our list of supported data warehouses.

🛤 Journey view

Journey View allows Sales and Success teams to better understand where customers are in the activation lifecycle and engage with full context. They're fully customizable so you can tailor Journeys to your unique business.

Journey view shows you who is ready to buy, who got stuck in onboarding, who's an internal advocate and everything in between. Milestones can be easily configured to align with the key stages in your customer activation funnel and can be viewed at the user, account or team level.

🥑 Event property filters

We are excited to announce that we have now extended all of our filters to include event properties.  This additional flexibility enables more companies to identify their top users and accounts, without having to ask a developer to update their implementation.

You can use event properties in custom views, automations, scoring, and journeys which makes it easier than ever to take on tasks like this no matter how your data is structured:

  • Segmenting your pipeline between free, team and enterprise users
  • Setting up a Slack alert when a user adds a specific type of integration
  • Filter your signups based on their industry or use case
  • Identifying free users using premium features

🙏 Hightouch

Reverse ETL tools like Hightouch help many of our customers keep all the tools in their stack in sync with the source of truth, the data warehouse. Companies using Hightouch can now reverse ETL their user, account, metric and custom object data without having to build out any complex integrations.

🧮 Redshift Beta

We are excited to launch a beta of our latest warehouse connector. You can now sync your accounts, users, usage data, and custom objects to Calixa directly from your Redshift warehouse. This empowers the GTM team with self-serve reporting, dashboards, 360° customer views, and automated workflows. If you are interested in giving it a try, shoot an email to team@calixa.io.

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Product Updates
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Finding your ideal customers, now more flexible than ever

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

When speaking with product-led sales leaders about how usage data impacts daily workflows, one common objection is that the data is often messy.

Every business has a unique customer journey and set of PQL criteria, with countless ways that that this data gets tracked. Many of our customers send their event data to Calixa using Segment, and prior to today, we allowed customers to filter and prioritize users and accounts based on user and account traits.

We are excited to announce that we have now extended all of our filters to include event properties. This additional flexibility enables more companies to identify their top users and accounts, without having to ask a developer to update their implementation.

Identifying the right users with event properties

You can use event properties in custom views, automations, scoring, and journeys which makes it easier than ever to take on tasks like this no matter how your data is structured:

  • Segmenting your pipeline between free, team and enterprise users
  • Setting up a Slack alert when a user adds a specific type of integration
  • Filter your signups based on their industry or use case
  • Identifying free users using premium features

Setting up your first property filter

From Calixa's list view, add a new filter, and select one of Segment event metrics. A good place to start would be filtering for users that have used a premium feature but not currently on a paid plan.

Once added, you will instantly see users that meet those filter criteria.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Product Updates
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Transform your Product-Led Sales Pipeline with Journey View

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

The Product-led Sales motion is all about helping buyers realize value before asking them to pay. To effectively do this, sales needs a way of understanding where their customers are on the journey from signup to activation. Having this context ensures that outreach is relevant and drives more conversions. For example, someone that has newly signed up is going to need to hear a different pitch than a power user who has invited several team members.

A new way to identify and engage with PQLs

Calixa is excited to launch Journey View, which allows Sales and Success teams to better understand where customers are in the activation lifecycle and engage with full context. They're fully customizable so you can tailor Journeys to your unique business.

Journey view shows you who is ready to buy, who got stuck in onboarding, who's an internal advocate and everything in between. Milestones can be easily configured to align with the key stages in your customer activation funnel and can be viewed at the user, account or team level.

An account or team journey might look something like:

Account Created > Multiple Users Added > Pro Plan Usage Reached

Whereas milestones in a user journey may be more focussed on completion of onboarding or usage of features:

Signup > First Key Actions > Invited teammate > Healthy Product Usage

This gives reps an easy way to identify top users in each stage of the journey and reach out with contextually aware messaging.

Configuring your first Journey

Let's walk through how you can quickly set this up in Calixa.

Milestone #1: Recent Signups

The first milestone for almost all product-led, freemium, or self-serve companies is the signup. As a rep, I care most about recent signups so I am going to filter to users "first seen in the last 30 days."

Tracking your signups

Suggested Milestone Actions:

  • offer 1:1 onboarding
  • send getting started materials
  • schedule product demo

Milestone #2: First Key Actions

This will vary based on the type of product you offer, but there is generally 1 or a set of actions that correspond with someone starting to use the product. It is important for a sales rep to understand who has moved from the "signup and do nothing" stage to beginning activation.

In this case I am going to set a couple conditions for hitting this milestone.

Users who have started to take action

Suggested Milestone Actions:

  • nudge to next step in product adoption
  • solicit feedback on the product experience
  • offer support if there are issues

Milestone #3: Invited Teammate

After some product usage, a key behavior for SaaS users is to invite their teammates.

See who has invited a teammate

Suggested Milestone Actions:

  • coordinate team training

Milestone #4: Healthy Product Usage

Determining when product usage has reached a healthy point is often times when it makes sense to make things official. Pick a few actions that you have seen other users take before converting to paying accounts. When users reach this final milestone, its time to get them on the right plan.

Suggested Milestone Actions:

  • pricing discussions

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Advice for Sales
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How to build your Product-led Sales team

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

What do Mixpanel sales motions look like?

We have  a product-led sales motion and enterprise sales motion.

As a Sales organization, we need to be nimble enough to handle both types. There are people who are signing up, getting value for free before they need to or want to talk to anyone. There are also people who want to talk to sales and have an enterprise sales conversation.

The Product-led Sales motion has always been important to us. Our freemium offering has been a great foundation for that. We are doubling down on our sales-assist motions because it's been performing so well.

Why is a Product-Led Sales Motion so powerful for Mixpanel?

We want to get people into our product to see the value of it. It makes the Sales conversation a lot easier. When they see their data in Mixpanel reports, they get hooked. Customers are willing to make a bunch of the progress on their own. We're there to remove obstacles and coach them to success.

Even in enterprise sales conversations, our goal is to get the customer into at least a proof of concept. Once they start using the product, they get it and it makes the Sales conversation so much smoother.

How does the Product-Led Sales motion look different between SMB and the Mid-Market?

For SMB, which is roughly companies with up to 200 employees, the decision maker, implementer, and end user is all in the same team. So they tend to move fast and our job is making sure they get through any hiccups and understand the full value of the product. This is very much a sales-assist motion.

For the Mid-Market, It gets more complex when you add more stakeholders. Our strategy is trying to target a specific team and run that similar product-led motion with that team to prove it out. You want to get that initial success in place and then grow it across teams. It's very much land and expand. For example, we might first get success with the Mobile team. After that, the Web team will see the value and want to implement it as well.

For the Mid-Market, it can definitely be more like a traditional enterprise sale but we try to use elements of the Sales-assist motion because it can be very successful.

What are the challenges for a technical product like Mixpanel?

It can be a tricky balance for a technical product. You want to find the right balance of quick onboarding and time to value while at the same time setting them up for long-term success. If you rush a customer, they can end up with a bad implementation, which can actually lead to poor experience. So it's really on the rep to guide the customer through the process.

What do you look for in a Product-Led Sales rep?

You need to be data driven, curious, and have the ability to balance wanting to help with keeping your Sales hat on. It's a high velocity motion so you need to keep a bunch of conversations moving along and spend the appropriate amount of effort on the right deals.

Also, it's not selling at all costs. Our goal is to land that customer and make them happy in the process. It's okay to not extract all the revenue possible in the first sale. We know that once we land them, their usage will grow. You need to be thinking long-term.

How do you compensate your Sales-Assist reps to keep incentives aligned?

We believe it's important to have both an individual component and a team component.

The personal component is key because you do want to give reps a reason to touch more accounts and close more deals. You want to incentivize hustle. You also need to make sure to give Sales-Assist reps an incentive to hand off a deal to the enterprise team when the deal warrants it.

The team component is in there because you want to make sure they don't have a win at all costs mentality. We have NPS for customers publicly internally so it would be apparent to all if someone was taking that approach. We've never had an issue with that though.

How do you divide your Sales-Assist motions across freemium and paid accounts?

We have different teams and motions for each. One set is working freemium accounts and getting them onto paid plans. Another is working with paid plans that would benefit from a higher tier plan.

Each motion has different playbooks and messaging so it's really important to specialize. You'll see better results.

How do you score your Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) for these motions?

For anyone who signs up and is in our freemium tier, we look at:

  • How much they are using the product
  • What their use case is
  • Who they are

We use these attributes to tier our PQLs. It's based on our ICP and the revenue potential. For example:

  • We may have a PQL that is high usage but from a 20 person startup. We want to talk to them because of their usage and we trust in their long-term growth.
  • We may have a PQL that has zero usage but it's from an enterprise company. We want to talk to them based on who they are alone.

It's important that you have different playbooks and cadences based on what type of PQL they are.

How much do you customize your outreach to customers?

We have a bunch of different cadences and playbooks that we've tested. So each rep doesn't really need to do much customization at all when they are sending initial outreach.

Having access to product insights is most critical when it comes time to meet with the customer. We want to go into that conversation having an understanding of how they are using our product. Context builds credibility, and it helps us best guide the conversation.

Case Study
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Unlock Product-Led Sales with the Modern Data Stack

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

We sat down with Daniel, Head of Customer Success & Experience at Voiceflow to discuss how they are using Calixa to power their GTM workflows.

When we last spoke with Daniel, Voiceflow was primarily using Calixa to automate Customer Success workflows. However over the last few months, they have made significant progress implementing the modern data stack. This started with consolidating all of their customer data within BigQuery, making the data warehouse their source of truth. Calixa's native BigQuery connector made exposing this data to sales and success teams a no-brainer.

Maintaining focus while scaling

Voiceflow's growth was the primary catalyst for standardizing around the modern data stack. Early on, they learned that customer data was essential in the sales and success motions, and as they continued to land and expand new accounts, the volume of data in disparate tools began to explode.

With the sales team growing from 1 to 5 reps and customer success tripling, it quickly became clear that expecting employees to log into 5+ tools to get the data they needed to do their job, was not going to scale. Customer trials are an integral part of the Voiceflow sales motion, but reps were left with little visibility into which trials were going well and which were going to expire without converting.

Daniel shared the need for a tool that makes it easy for anyone to pull actionable insights.

As our sales and success teams started to grow, we needed a platform that would make it easy for an account executive or support rep or CSM to actually understand the buyer journey, like how trials are performing and prospects are using the tool, then be able to turn those into actionable insights.

Voiceflow had implemented Mixpanel for product analytics, but it wasn't the right tool for the customer teams.

If you don't really understand how our data is set up, Mixpanel is difficult to navigate. It was essential that we found a tool that was easy to use for everyone from Sales to Success.

The BigQuery + Calixa Unlock

Thanks to the investments Voiceflow had made in the modern data stack. Giving sales people the data they need to manage trials, close deals and grow accounts was a breeze.

The thing that got us really excited to start using Calixa was the integration of BigQuery. Being able to have our team create custom views in BigQuery and then being able to leverage those in Calixa in combination with all of our other data like Segment events and Intercom conversations allowed us to actually paint a full 360 degree picture of our customers.

Not having to involve developers was also a huge win.

We were able to get setup with minimal developer help compared to some of the other tools we were using in the past, like Mixpanel.

Ensuring Trial Success

Managing trials to conversion is an integral part of Voiceflow's GTM motion, but before Calixa reps were often flying blind.

Before Calixa, it was a black box. We didn't have any idea how prospects were using the Voiceflow or even a means of easily seeing which trials were active and expiring. Most people didn't even know where to look at to go find this information.

Managing this process with Calixa is simple and effective:

  • Calixa Segments are prebuilt to show sales reps their active trials that require attention.
  • Clicking into trial accounts help reps uncover usage details, find the top users, get context from Intercom conversations, and find opportunities to nudge the customer.
  • When trials require attention Account executives receive Slack alerts to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
  • With full context, they can then put together a plan for ensuring the trial converts to a paying customer.

Becoming Data Driven

Before Calixa, Daniel describes a world where reps would login to Intercom to search for when a user was last seen.

The data we had access to in Intercom was extremely limited. You can really only see things like when the user was last seen rather than how they are actually utilizing the tool... And just because someone was last seen a couple of days ago doesn't and mean they're actually using the tool at all.

This newfound visibility that Calixa is providing into the customer journey has caused the sales team to change the way they engage with customers.

The biggest change has been how the sales team approaches their prospective customers. Reps now go into every deal fully informed, with a data driven perspective. They understand where the customer is getting value, what core features are being used, how many users in the account, who are the champions. All of this gives them a better chance to succeed.

What's on the Horizon

Voiceflow is always looking for ways that they can use data to improve how they engage with customers. They are currently exploring Segment Personas which will improve the way they target and engage with users, plus it works out of the box with Calixa.

We are looking forward to being able to use Segment properties to identify groups users and then actually run automations that send out email campaigns, Outreach sequences, even just pinging ourselves in Slack.

Finally, Daniel is excited about taking advantage of Calixa's sales engagement integrations with Outreach.

I'm working with the sales team to get them using Calixa's Outreach integration. This will allow us to add potential prospects to campaigns or even see who's been emailed and who hasn't. It's stuff like this that we've dreamed of doing for the past year, but we just haven't had the tools or data to pull off.




Product-Led Fundamentals
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3 Types of SaaS Sales Models

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

There are generally three GTM sales motions found at B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies today. Each SaaS sales model seeks to maximize annual recurring revenue in different ways.

Traditional enterprise sales processes have been around for decades. Whereas, self-serve and hybrid models only emerged in the past several years.

Self-serve SaaS sales: The most efficient

Self-serve is a bottom-up sales process, with customers as the end users. We have a guide to free SaaS plans that dives into the details, but the benefits are easy to summarize:

  • Experience with the product increases momentum towards conversion,
  • Users generate leads, lowering customer acquisition costs, and
  • Retention increases, before and after conversion, when users get value from the free tier.

Users try out a product's free tier and potentially upgrade for more features. Self-serve pricing is affordable. In this sales model, deal sizes are small, but deal volume is high.

Self-serve sales model

A key component of self-serve is that there is no sales team. Customers sign up for the product for free instead of going through a lead form or demo. This product-led approach is increasingly common because it reduces customer acquisition costs.

Since customers decide how and when they upgrade, it’s up to cross-functional collaboration between product, sales and marketing to guide them along their journeys within the product. Product content raises awareness. Promotions create incentives. But still, the customer makes the final decision.

Support also tends to become self-serve. Knowledge bases, community forums, and other self-serve options help users resolve issues independently. Behind the scenes, analytics identify friction points so SaaS companies can continuously strive to build a frictionless self-serve product.

Benefits and challenges of self-serve selling

This model is heavily inspired by the product. Software-as-a-Service products are easy to use and purchase without hand-holding from sales reps. Creating a robust sales team simply isn't cost-efficient, given the pricing. For example, Calendly first began with a self-serve sales process. With the first paid tier being $8 a month, it wouldn't make sense to have a sales rep close just this one customer.

Self-serve is highly efficient. The limitation is that it's product-only, with no involvement from sales teams. It’s up to the customer to choose a higher service tier. B2B SaaS products have an untapped potential to accelerate sales for larger opportunities through a predictable outbound SaaS sales process.

Enterprise sales process: The biggest deals

While self-serve is simple and fully automated, enterprise selling is complex and high touch. It works top-down by convincing executive buyers of the product’s value. End users play little role in enterprise sales.

Enterprise SaaS sales model

Sales takes the lead in the enterprise model. Business development and account executives foster relationships within a prospective customer's organization. Ultimately, they want contact with the executive buyers who manage sizable teams and budgets. Through demos, negotiations, and due diligence, the account executive convinces the buyer that the product can transform the organization.

Marketing plays a supporting role in enterprise sales processes. Branding and awareness campaigns, market research, and other activities feed the sales funnel. Product roadmaps, social proof, and other sales tools help the sales team close the deals.

Complex enterprise SaaS products require dedicated support resources at every level, from executive buyers to the customer’s end-users.

Benefits and challenges of enterprise selling

Getting from prospects and leads to contracts and deployments takes time — months or years. Only at the end of this process do the customer’s employees actually use the product.

Both the sales team and buyer want this full-service approach because of the large deal size and enterprise product capabilities. The sales team must establish trust, explain a highly complex product, and tailor the deal. The buyer gets custom contracts, price negotiation, and a point of contact when problems occur.

That said, traditional enterprise selling has become less popular in recent years. Although executive buy-in is still needed for large deals, the drawn-out sales process and lack of initial adoption from end users is a big hurdle to closing deals. Today's buyers require a shorter, more agile SaaS sales cycle.

Hybrid SaaS sales models: The best of both

You might've noticed a bit of tug-of-war between the self-serve and enterprise sales models. How do you balance self-serve's scalable deal volume with enterprise selling’s profitable deal size? Do you have to pick between fully automated versus full-service?

Not at all! That's where the hybrid model, also known as the Product-Led Sales motion, comes in. Product-Led Sales marries bottom-up and top-down sales processes. Reps can turn free signups into paid users, or assist a team of active users into an enterprise tier.

Hybrid sales model

The first step is to separate prospective customers from the thousands of free users. Fortunately, the way customers use your product says a lot about their intent. Analytics and machine learning software spot these behaviors and flag high-intent Product-Qualified Leads (PQLs).

From there, you have a choice. Marketing-led programs make the most sense in early stages, such as moving free users to low-cost paid tiers. Automated marketing campaigns can reinforce the value PQLs are getting from your product, introduce features the PQLs haven’t used yet, and encourage them to make the next move.

When you want to move a team of active users — or an entire company — onto an enterprise tier, it’s time to bring in the SaaS sales reps. A hybrid SaaS sales process gives the team a head start towards establishing trust because there are already product champions within its organization that can help upsell internally. Reps can then present to executive buyers concrete use cases based on the value your product already provides the company. 

Benefits and challenges of hybrid sales models

Modern SaaS companies like Slack, Zapier, and Notion started out product-led and evolved into a hybrid SaaS sales model. It is a highly strategic GTM motion to choose. Of course, you can still keep a pure self-serve or pure enterprise motion alongside the hybrid model.

Most SaaS products today are user-friendly enough to leverage product-led acquisition—AND valuable enough for sales to speak with buyers at the right time to unlock additional revenue. A Product-Led Sales model combines effective automation with top-notch service. Your customers buy in the way they prefer, and your sales achieve non-linear growth.

There are purpose-built solutions for each SaaS sales process. Traditional CRMs are perfect for enterprise sales models. They track each prospect’s engagement with sales reps to manage the SaaS sales cycle. For tracking feature use and points of friction transactional self-serve sales processes, product analytics are perfect.

Yet hybrid tooling that combines sales and product data is still quite new. As Sapphire Ventures noted:

To date, in a hybrid PLG model, there has been a disconnect between the ‘Product-Led' and ‘Rep-Assist' sides of the equation. The product usage data required to bridge the gap has long been available, but a dedicated tool to serve this data to GTM teams has been lacking.

Product-Led Sales has proven so compelling that many companies spend months building an internal tool. Now, what if going hybrid was as easy as the other two models? With Calixa, it is.

Case Study
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Starting Your Morning with PQLs

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Hookdeck enables developers to instantly and reliably manage webhooks. The company has gained immense early traction, and co-founder Eric Bang Tri Tran needed a way to identify the sales-ready users among their free signups.

The Hookdeck team utilizes a modern startup stack of Segment, HubSpot, Mixpanel, Stripe, and Customer.io. Eric got interested in Calixa after realizing that despite having all of these tools, there was still a visibility gap in his funnel. People would read helpful web content and sign up, which is tracked as contacts in HubSpot. Once in the product, their usage was tracked in Mixpanel, but there was no sales-centric view of the entire journey.

There's a real gap between product analytics and the action needed to move people along the sales funnel. We're interested in having visibility of product qualified leads, so we can nudge them the right way at the right time. We were constantly thinking, how can we better understand the user journey and capture users' high value activities?

After linking Segment, Hubspot and Stripe with Calixa, Eric was able to get insight into which users were worth reaching out to and confidence that he was leading with the right message. He found Calixa's platform so helpful that he starts each day with it.

A Co-founder's Morning Routine

As Hookdeck's co-founder, Eric constantly balances countless conflicting priorities. Speaking to active users is one thing that he always makes time for. His warm outreach allows him to capitalize on his top of funnel efforts and scale revenue efficiently.

As a one person team, I have like 75 things to do. But talking to the right users is top of my list. I already put so much effort into getting these people on the platform and using it. It's important that I get them across the last mile.

Like most startups, Hookdeck regularly iterates on their ideal customer profile. While they have a general idea of who they want to target, Calixa surfaces insights about people Eric may have overlooked.

The insight that Calixa brings helps me be more focused on what brings value. Who are we helping? Who are we really solving a problem for?

After finding a sales-ready user, Eric decides the best course of action. He can go from lead qualification to opportunity creation to sales engagement in a single workflow. Whenever he has questions, he's been able to quickly gain context with the data that exists in Calixa.

Starting the day off entirely focused on customers ensures that the decisions I make throughout the day are always in our customers' best interests. My ideal morning looks like:

1) monitoring qualified signups from the day before
2) creating opportunities from that list
3) taking the next best action

Who did XYZ? Should I contact them? Is that somebody to upsell? Is there somebody I can nurture?

All these questions that are fundamental for product-led growth are answered in Calixa. I spend every morning making sure that I don't let opportunities fall into the cracks.

Value Before Revenue

For Eric, every sales conversation is a chance to show value to customers. He understands the power of a consultative sale.

Unless you're solving their problem, they're not going to buy it. Why talk about revenue before you showed them how to get the first win? Once you prove that you can deliver value, then they will be happy to buy.

Incorporating product insights into the conversation reinforces the value customers are getting from the product. Rather than providing hypothetical examples, Eric suggests best practices that other companies have used to achieve success and highlights the results they saw.

Another big component to Eric's value selling is his speed to lead. Before using Calixa, Eric manually coded automations for key product metrics. However, his DIY approach lacked the context of each alert. He realized that effective alerts must promptly reveal all the information at a glance, so he can trust the data he was seeing and be more opinionated. Calixa's real-time notifications–with full context views–enabled him to do timely outreach for the product triggers he cares most about.

As soon as somebody logs in five times within a week, send me an alert. I'll look at what they did. Then I'll go talk to them. ‘Hey you've been using Hookdeck. I saw you clicked XYZ. Do you need help to get to your next step?'

That has been really well received by users, because I catch them at exactly the perfect time. It's not three days later. I saw that the moment they're trying to get something done. And they're coming back a lot to get something done. I'm there to help them. That's my goal.'

At the end of the day, Eric cares most about user happiness. That's a big part of what drew him to product-led sales. That's why he co-founded a startup.

If you want to make sure that your users stay happy and you're helping them as much as you can, Calixa is critical in your stack. Without it, how can you trust that you are actually helping your customers?
Product Updates
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Your Warehouse, now synced with Calixa

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Customer response to the beta of our Snowflake and BigQuery connectors has been overwhelmingly positive, and today, we're excited to announce their general availability. If you use Census or Hightouch for Reverse ETL, we have got you covered too!

As more sales teams rely on product usage data as a key signal in their sales efforts, the importance of the data warehouse as the single source of truth grows. You can now sync your accounts, users, usage data, and custom objects to Calixa directly from your warehouse. This empowers the GTM team with self-serve reporting, dashboards, 360° customer views, and automated workflows.

Link then sync

Anyone with read access to your warehouse can connect your Big Query or Snowflake instance. End-to-end, the process takes about a minute. Once this is complete, Calixa users will have the ability to select the data they want to sync.

Sync new fields right from our UI

Your GTM teams no longer have to make requests for the data team to expose new fields or metrics. Once the warehouse is connected, any of this information can be synced with Calixa in a few clicks.

We make it easy to pull in properties like current plans, team size, customer segment, trial expiry dates, and anything else that can help identify the right accounts.

We also sync rollups of your key product usage metrics so sales is always in the loop when usage is growing.

Sync whats unique to your business

Customers can also sync custom objects that give another level of context to a team trying to understand product usage. For example, a team selling a developer product may want to know more about the sites that a user has built and deployed. Whereas a collaboration app may want to see what shared workspaces have been created. Calixa makes it easy for sales and success teams to quickly get visibility into this rich detail.

This is just the first public release of a series of investments we are making to enable companies better leverage the modern data stack. Right now in private beta, we have built support for:

  • Census for Reverse ETL
  • Hightouch for Reverse ETL
  • Redshift Data Warehouse
  • dbt integration for easier model syncing

If you want access to the private beta, just email team@calixa.io.

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Product Updates
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Product Updates - Jan 2022

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Back from the holidays and we were back to shipping. We launched:

💯 PQL Scoring

Key to any Product-Led Sales motion is scoring customers based on their level of intent and fit. Product qualified leads (PQLs) are a new lead scoring methodology product-led companies use to efficiently prioritize which signups to engage. It combines both product usage data with the firmographic data (eg role, industry) to create a score.

Calixa has launched native PQL scoring that's easy for anyone to setup. You can leverage any product data along with firmographic data. If you aren't yet enriching your users with firmographic data, we've got you covered. Sign up for our Clearbit Enrichment Beta for native support within Calixa.

Read more about PQL Scoring.

🗄️ Data Warehouse Beta V2

Late last year we launched connectivity to BigQuery and Snowflake directly as well as an integration with Census (a reverse ETL platform). We're now announcing a beta for Redshift data warehouse and Hightouch (a reverse ETL platform).

In addition, we've launched support for customers to send:

  • Metrics You can now send any time series metrics (eg usage) to Calixa for users and accounts. This data let's you see week-over-week changes and powers graphs in our dashboards.
  • Custom Objects You can now send custom objects (eg projects, workspaces, websites, tasks, etc) that are important for understanding user and account activity. By sending custom objects, it gives your team better insight into what customers are doing so you can have better conversations.

If you are interested in the beta, just email team@calixa.io .

👤 User and 🏢 Account Quick Views

We were excited to launch new User and Account Quick Views. These new features make it easier than ever to quickly get this context all in one place.

We've consolidated information so that you have easy access to things like account owner, last active date, and usage scoring. We've also added a new Metrics section that you can customize to see whatever metrics matter most.

Read more about our new User and Account Quick Views.

📈 Better Filtering in Reports

We've now added support for:

  • Relative Dates in the Future An important part of customer workflows is to manage trial and renewal dates. You now can filter users based on dates in the future. For example, you might want to see all customers who have a trial ending in the next 7 days.
  • Is Set / Is Not Set Filtering Sometimes you want to filter on the presence or absence of a value, not the value itself. For example, show me all accounts that don't have an owner. Calixa now supports filtering on the presence or absence of a value.

🔬Clearbit Enrichment Beta

When deciding who to talk to, it's important not just to see how they're using your product but also who they are and where they work. This is especially hard if the user signs up from an email like bonglord5000@gmail.com.

To solve this, Calixa is integrating directly with enrichment provider Clearbit which can tell you based on email who the user is, where they work, and what they do. You'll have access to details like name, title, company, company size, funding, industry, etc.

We believe this data - called firmographic data - will help you figure out who to talk to and let you have better conversations. It will also be a key input into your PQL scores.

If you have your own enrichment data, you can feed that in instead. But we wanted to make it for anyone to get started enriching users and having better conversations.

If you are interested in the beta, just email team@calixa.io .

Product-Led Fundamentals
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Why Product-led Sales Works

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer
|
Calixa

Product-led sales sounds like an oxymoron. Doesn't 'Product-led' mean 'No Sales?'

Not exactly!

Product-led sales is a GTM motion where new prospects sign up for free product experiences. Sales teams then leverage product insights to see when and how to best reach out.

Sounds simple enough. But it leaves some open questions:

  • How can self-serve and sales reps co-exist?
  • How can 'low touch' sales bring high impact?
  • Why can't the product just sell itself?

These are longstanding questions about the role of automations vs humans. To answer these questions, we first need to ask 'Why now?' Companies are rapidly opening up their products for free signups.

Why is there a new GTM motion emerging?

Buyers want quick time-to-value

Gartner shocked the B2B world a couple years ago with its report on The SaaS Buying Experience. Everyone was amazed how 'buyers are completing a little over 60% of the buying process before engaging a vendor.'

This statistic quantified what sales reps were seeing on the front lines: people don't want to talk to sales too soon.

Put yourself in the buyer's shoes. Would you rather do quick research and 'try before you buy'–or do you want to jump through hoops to see the product?

Both intuitively and from the Gartner report, we know that the first to help buyers wins their business: 'You need to make sure that buyers find your trial first—and that you don't squander that opportunity when you get it.' Otherwise, they'll simply go somewhere else.

That's why companies now offer free product experiences with quick time-to-value. Product-led companies lean into this trend. Why? Because self-educating prospects is a win-win-win.

It's a win for top-level buyers. Gartner wrote that 'With so much information available and SaaS being a lower-risk investment, many decision-makers are delegating the buying process to others.' They no longer have to worry about lengthy demos or extensive POC for their team.

It's a win for the end users. Vendors race to empower them with immediate access and value from the product. With decision-making less concentrated, internal leadership is supportive of granting these tools.

It's a win for sales reps. Remember when marketing automation (download ebook, watch webinar, etc.) relieved inbound salespeople from basic buyer education? Product-led motions take this one step further–not only did the lead read an ebook, but they've actually explored product features. Product experiences essentially automate the top half of the funnel, so sales reps can focus on areas of high impact.

The top-level buyer delegates, the end user finds quick value, and the sales rep gets warm leads.

Along the way, everybody saves time.

People want to buy from people

If product experiences are so powerful, why not just go all the way? Can't we self-serve the purchasing process too?

Many product-led companies do offer self-serve upgrades to a paid tier. But it isn't enough. Redpoint conducted this study on free trials. 75% of the product-led companies they surveyed have salespeople contact freemium leads.

Visual by the Product-led Growth Collective

Sales teams accelerate organic free-to-paid conversion by 3x. What it comes down to is that people still buy from people.

Conversations between sales reps and users can happen proactively or reactively. Some signups are hand-raisers who request assistance.

But with thousands of free signups, most aren't hand-raisers. In that case, the sales rep must proactively engage with people who show intent as Product Qualified Leads (PQLs). These leads may be power users looking for more features. PQLs have clear opportunities–and high conversions–for upgrades.

The size of those upgrades will definitely range. Yet human connection is especially important for large deals (common to 'land and expand' SaaS sales).

Large commitments tend to have more buyer friction:

  • People get stuck on a complex use case, or the sales rep needs to equip a use case for the buyer.
  • People need help navigating pricing plans.
  • People want to discuss enterprise capabilities, such as account consolidation, security, and governance.

No matter how automated or self-serve the buyer journey gets…there will always be sales complexity that exists OUTSIDE of the product.

Product-led does not mean product-only.

Meet buyers where they are

The product is a strong foundation to a good sale. Self-educated buyers can chat with sales prior to expansion deals.

In this new selling environment, viewing PQLs is crucial for understanding product context. By the time that sales touch comes in, sales reps will be exactly where they're needed at the highest point of impact.

With the right data and tools, sales reps will be well-informed to help customers through value-driven narratives. Salespeople are just as valuable–if not more–in a PLG motion.

Advice for Sales
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A Webflow AE's Perspective on Product-Led Sales

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

We sat down with Katie Cascino, a top account executive at Webflow, to discuss Sales at product-led companies. She started her product-led sales career as an SDR at Slack, building a team and then transitioned into being an AE. Her experience working in Sales at product-led companies is a great example why even the best PLG companies need Sales.  

How has selling evolved over the last five years?

I originally started in entry level sales, doing a hundred cold calls a day. I did that for about a year until Slack tapped me to help build their sales development team. That team became a foundational part of capitalizing on product-led growth at Slack.

Now that I'm at Webflow, which is another strong product-led growth company, I'm taking what I learned at Slack and applying it into playbooks at Webflow.

I can also say now, as a sales rep, I would never want to work for another company that's not a product-led growth company. I think it's super sticky for all the sales reps that get into PLG. They all feel this way.

The biggest challenge for a salesperson at a PLG company is creating focus. With so many customers you can talk to, which are the right ones.

What makes you never want to work for a non-PLG company again?

I went from cold calling buyers that don't even know our product or our name to having maybe a hundred warm leads a day, already using my product, already interested in understanding more.

So my job is now to help them understand what value the product can continue to provide their organization and ensure they're on the best plan fit for their business, which isn't necessarily the freemium model. All that opportunity means we don't have to do as much cold outreach as we did before.

A lot of people might have a misconception that PLG means no sales. How would you respond to that?

I love this question. Ironically enough, Slack's CEO used to say – and I think he was misquoted on this – 'we'll never have a sales team.' Of course, now they have a well oiled sales machine, so it is such a misconception that PLG eliminates the sales role.

I think the beauty of PLG is you can use product-led growth to build a customer base, and then when the time is right – for example, what I'm doing at Webflow now – we bring in reps to help users increase their value through a broader deployment.

It takes a village to craft a business case to get these enterprise organizations using our enterprise-tier product. So sales reps are often there to help PLG organizations with taking their product upmarket.

Are there any other big misconceptions around product-led sales you'd like to clear up?

I hear 'it must be so easy' all the time. It must sell itself, because all these folks are already using the product.

There's definitely a misconception that customers come in, already in love with the product from getting that free usage, and they're ready to upgrade without any help. But buyers like a human connection. They want that sales rep to come in and help consult with them on the product. I always say to my customers, my job is to make sure you're on the best plan for your business.

Having a sales rep guiding you through the process can help uncover that a better plan for an organization, whether it's because of security, scale, or dedicated support. If a customer is making the case for a premium tier, having a sales rep guide you through the process is really critical.

How's selling been similar or different between Slack and Webflow?

Slack works for every single line of business, so we were selling to every single persona. Webflow is more of a fit for marketers, designers, and dev team members. But it was nice to have the broader experience from Slack to draw on.

Slack and Webflow also model their packages in similar ways, where we're taking them from these freemium standard plans up to increased security, increased support, increased scale.

It's been easy using my experience from Slack to help Webflow users, primarily IT buyers or dev team buyers, explore the scale and support and security. That experience has been very repeatable.

What types of metrics or signals are you looking at when identifying which sign-ups you want to talk to?

I like to look for a couple of things. The sign up date shows me how long they've been using the product. If they've been using the product for a long time, we can assume they're getting value out of it, right?

I also look at who's using the product. With some organizations, you figure out if the account admins or owners are key decision makers for their orgs. Some of my accounts have been owned by the COO of the organization. When leadership has visibility into your product, they're more likely to take a meeting with you, since they already know your name and your product and what it can do.

Other [signals] depend on your product. With Webflow, we look at how many websites or workspaces they've created with us. We also want to see how many users they have in the product, right? If the entire org, multiple users, [is active], it's another good sign.

How often do you customize your email cadences?

I  take an 80-20 approach to my outreach.

I start with a high quality template, which often gets me 80% of the way there, and I'm typically customizing the other 20%. If I'm contacting C-level executives, I usually customize much more than 20% of my message.

The great thing about product-led sales is I can conduct user interviews and talk to the folks in the product to hear what's working and what isn't. I can take what I learn in these interviews into a customized email to a C-level executive to show I've already talked to their team and already understand their problems.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities to improve prospecting for PLG companies?

That's a really good question. I think there's a world where there's a better way to connect the insights we have within the product to my prospecting workflow.

Let's say Deborah, the CEO of the organization, is the owner on the account. Can I tie that directly into LinkedIn, so I can immediately get Deborah into a sales cadence? Can I click into her profile and send her a direct message?

I look for all these signals in my core application, but when I need to identify who to focus on, I need to switch to other sales tools like SalesLoft, or LinkedIn. Streamlining that workflow to help reps stay focused and tie those signals together would be very helpful.

I think strong workflows are key for a sales rep in general, they're just so critical. Sometimes I have like 17 tabs open and it feels like my brain is spiraling.

What are the best sales tools you use today?

Our number one sales tool is Gong. It's my favorite tool. It makes good reps great. It makes everyone more coachable, and you get insights on how to strengthen your meetings with customers. It's just so critical, especially while we're all remote.

I also like SalesLoft for automating my prospecting, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator too. I don't know how you could prospect without Sales Nav, so it's a really big one.

Finally, what are the qualities of a great product-led sales rep?

Adaptability and innovation. Not everyone has figured this out just yet, right? It's new. You have to kind of come in with a growth mindset and try to figure out new ways to prospect into this lead generation machine. Be eager to learn and grow your sales career with a new motion.

Product Updates
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A Better Customer 360: Account Quick View

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Last week we announced a new User Quick View designed to give reps a better way of gaining all necessary context about a user, faster than ever. We have heard from several customers that it would be great if we could extend this functionality to account data as well.

We didn't waste much time. You can now take advantage of Account Quick View. When you want some key details about an account, but don't want to break your workflow by loading the dashboard, Quick View can help.

Having a 360º account view at their fingertips allows reps to gain customer context which yields more meaningful conversations, higher conversion rates and increased account growth.

Example Account Quick View

The data you need, without the noise

Out of the box, the new Account Quick View highlights key account data like when a customer was last seen, ownership and their engagement score.

Account Details

We also make it easy to customize the layout, adding the metrics and properties you care about most. Plus, you can arrange the order of the cards incase you want to place more emphasis on conversations or the event timeline.

Account Timeline, Conversations and Metrics

Zooming in on a specific user is just a click away. Selecting one of the account's users will take you directly to the User Quick View.

Account Users

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Product Updates
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Gain Context Faster with User Quick View

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

A deep understanding of how customers engage with their product can often differentiate a good from a great sales rep. New users that haven't hit their 'aha moment' are going to be receptive to different messaging than power users who have championed your product across the organization. Bringing the right customer context and empathy yields more meaningful conversations, higher conversion rates and increased account growth. But gathering the necessary details from different tools takes time.

We are excited to launch a redesigned User Quick View that makes it easier than ever to quickly get this context all in one place.

Example User Quick View

An out of the box view that prioritizes what matters

The new User Quick View places the data you care about front and center. You can see who the user is, what they have done, past interactions and any additional details that may help with your outreach.

We now highlight more of the data you need for full customer context. This includes:

Easily customizable with metrics and properties unique to your business

We also understand that businesses' data needs are unique. The new User Quick View allows you to customize the metrics and properties that are displayed.

Metric and Property Configuration

Metrics can be shown over daily, weekly, monthly or yearly ranges, and they include convenient indicators of change over the previous period.

View Metric Trends

You can also arrange the section order to make sure the the data you care most about remains above the fold.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Product Updates
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Score PQLs with Calixa

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Healthy product engagement is one of the strongest indicators that a user will convert into a paying customer. However, scoring your users and accounts based on product usage has historically been a challenging and time consuming task.

Calixa is excited to tackle this problem with our latest feature: Product Engagement Scoring. Now you can easily find and prioritize customers based on their product usage as well as data from your warehouse, CRM and other connected business apps. This empowers empowers SDRs, AEs and CSMs to easily uncover Product Qualified Leads and tailor their outreach with complete context.

Easily configure score criteria

Product engagement varies significantly from business to business. A platform for building websites like Webflow is going to have different engagement criteria than a productivity app like Calendly. As such, we have made sure scoring can be tailored to the unique needs of each business.

Calixa's Scoring configuration allows you to easily define what High, Medium and Low engagement looks like for both your users and accounts. Give it a try by configuring your first scoring criteria.

Scoring criteria are easy to update, so you can start with one or two criteria and iterate from there. As your product evolves, new features are added, and usage patterns change you will be able to easily adjust your score configuration to keep up with how customers are using your product.

Each score level contains one or more condition groups. A condition group is set of criteria that you define. Within a condition group, all criteria must be met for the condition to be satisfied. For example, you might specify a condition group for Medium engagement to be:

"2 Users added last 30 days" AND "3 Projects Created in the last 7 days" AND "Billing Plan is Freemium"

All three of these would need to be met for the account to be scored Medium. However, you can create multiple condition groups per score level. Only one of the condition groups must be met for it to be scored at that level.

Surface the customers that matter

Product Engagement Scores can be used in Segments to filter and sort your user and account data. Look for "Product Usage" in any of the property drop-downs to add this data to your Segment view.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Product Updates
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Product Updates - Nov 2021

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

In November, we launched a Snowflake and Google BigQuery integration that allows customers to sync directly with from their data warehouse. We also added new ways of incorporating Calixa into your daily workflow by launching Actions, a Salesloft and Outreach integration. Lastly, we kicked off a program to help customers backfill their historical data.

🚀 Announced our Series A

We're excited to announce that we've raised a $12M Series A led by Kleiner Perkins. We'll be using this round to accelerate our mission to build a GTM platform purpose-built for product-led growth. We're also excited that Salesforce Ventures and Twilio have invested in our Series A underscoring the magnitude of the industry interest in product-led growth.

Here's our blog post on our Series A.

📖 Connect your Data Warehouse (Snowflake & BigQuery)

More and more companies are centralizing their data into a modern cloud data warehouse. As a result, companies have a single source of truth to operate their business. We believe that any tool a company uses should connect directly to the warehouse.

Now, Calixa can connect to your Snowflake and BigQuery warehouse to sync now users, accounts, custom objects, analytics, and event data. With a few clicks in the Calixa interface, you can set this all up.

Let us know if you would like us to enable this in your account!

BigQuery Integration Setup

👉 Take action in connected apps without switching tabs

All customers can now start using Actions! Now you can push Calixa data to any of your connected tools without the burden of changing tabs, locating the customer in question, switching context or filling out extensive forms.

Creating a Salesforce opportunity from inside of Calixa.


A few examples of Actions you can take in Calixa include adding to a Salesloft cadence, creating a Hubspot deal, adding a new Salesforce task, and refunding a Stripe charge. You can even create any custom action with our no-code builder!

📝 Salesloft and Outreach Integrations launched

Now it's easy to kickoff automated sales engagement directly from Calixa. With a click of button you can add users to your sales cadences. Our Salesloft and Outreach integrations are now available to all.

These integrations simplify your SDR and AE workflows, allowing them to find product qualified leads in the Calixa console and add them to a sequence without hopping tabs.

🦖 Historical backfill program

Historical data can dramatically shorten time to value when onboarding to a new tool, however it often isn't available via live integrations. To improve the onboarding experience for our customers, we are launching a program to help import historical data to your Calixa account. If you are interested in this, just drop us a line at moock@calixa.io and we will get things setup for you!

Stay product-led,

Team Calixa

Not on Calixa yet? Signup here or book time to chat with one of our friendly product specialists.

Product Updates
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Data Warehouses + Calixa

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Product Data for Your Sales Motion

The Modern Data Stack is bringing about a re-architecture of business apps and workflows to be centered on the data warehouse. Companies are increasingly relying on the data warehouse as the single source of truth.

We're excited to announce a beta of direct connectivity for Snowflake and Google BigQuery data warehouses. You're able to sync accounts, users, usage data, and custom objects to Calixa. Data teams now can easily empower their GTM counterparts with self-serve reporting, dashboards, 360° customer views, and automated workflows. Companies can directly connect their data warehouses or use a leading Reverse ETL provider, Hightouch or Census.

Sign up for the beta.

Company News
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Announcing our Series A

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

We're excited to announce that we've raised a $12M Series A led by Kleiner Perkins. We'll be using this round to accelerate our mission to build a GTM platform purpose-built for product-led growth. We're also excited that Salesforce Ventures and Twilio have invested in our Series A underscoring the magnitude of the industry interest in product-led growth.

Product-Led Growth (PLG) & Today's GTM Tooling

Today's fastest growing software companies - Twilio, Slack, Calendly, Netlify - leverage a product-led GTM. They let users try products right away and put them in control of their buying journey. Now, software is adopted inside companies by end-users and championed by those who feel the pain. This is a fundamental shift from traditional top-down GTM motions.

The PLG customer journey begins with a free signup and the account grows as the user and their teammates find value with the product. Companies struggle to stay on top of thousands of sign ups that are all at different stages of their journey. It's no longer acceptable to hope your marketing drip emails will convert these sign-ups. To be successful, sales teams need to easily prioritize who to talk to, quickly get context, and effortlessly engage. We built Calixa to solve this.

There's a myth that PLG means no Sales. It's simply a new motion that evolves how you work with customers. You're now talking to users of your product, showing them how to get even more value, and accelerating their adoption. That's why it's critical that you arm your sellers with insights into both who and how customers are using your product.

We're still early in the early days of PLG. We've had initial breakout stars who have shown us the promise of this GTM motion. The next generation of software companies will all be built product-led from Day 1. The companies that will be most successful will use a GTM stack purpose-built for PLG. We believe the foundation of that stack is Calixa.

Calixa: Powering Product-Led Sales

With our public launch in March of this year, companies finally have a GTM tool purpose-built for product-led growth. Software companies like Netlify, Voiceflow and Courier are relying on Calixa to power their product-led sales motion… and it's really paying off. Netlify's Director of Sales Development, Devin Oliver, says that,

'Calixa cuts down our time from insight to action. There is a huge efficiency and conversion gain with product qualified leads that Calixa identifies.'

Our Series A enables us to grow our team and accelerate our mission. Our current focus is building the foundational layer that enables companies to easily prioritize, engage, and convert their product qualified leads. We've optimized our product for a high-velocity sales workflow for companies that need to manage large self-serve funnels (eg Netlify has millions of end users).

The exciting thing we've also discovered along the way is that start-ups, even early in their lives, benefit from Calixa.  10s of signups soon become 100s of sign ups and, soon enough, you're starting to have users slip through the cracks. With Calixa, you can ensure that your startup stays focused on customers and is prioritizing the most engaged sign-ups. We're committed to Product-Led companies of all sizes. That's why we've created a generous free plan for startups. Just sign up and start using us. We're betting that your startups will be the next breakout Product-Led successes.

The Rise of the Modern Data Stack

The Modern Data Stack is bringing about a re-architecture of business apps and workflows to be centered on the data warehouse. Companies are increasingly relying on the data warehouse as the single source of truth. GTM teams and their tooling need to be able to leverage the warehouse data to ensure they're operating off a company's gold-standard data.

Today, we are also announcing the beta of support for the Modern Data Stack. Companies can now directly connect their Snowflake or Google BigQuery data warehouses to Calixa. You're able to sync accounts, users, events, usage data, and custom objects. Data teams now can easily empower their GTM counterparts with self-serve reporting, dashboards, 360° customer views, and automated workflows. We also support leading Reverse ETL providers Hightouch and Census.

Sign up for the data warehouse beta.

The Right Partners: Kleiner Perkins, Salesforce,  & Twilio

We couldn't be more thrilled to deepen the relationship we have with Kleiner Perkins. Bucky Moore who has led both our Seed and Series A will be joining our Board of Directors. He and the Kleiner Perkins team have been amazing partners from the beginning.

Joining this round are two companies that we admire greatly: Salesforce and Twilio. We're thrilled that each has shown great enthusiasm for product-led growth. Even better, each of these companies make products important to our joint customers. Salesforce is the #1 CRM that our customers use and Twilio Segment is the #1 Customer Data Platform that our customers use. Both have been integrated into the Calixa platform from day 1.

Thanks!

Fred and I couldn't be more thankful for all the support from our customers, investors, angels, family, and friends. We've come a long way in the last 7 months but this is just the beginning.

One of the things we're most proud of is the team we are building. We've been exceptionally lucky to find people who are both good at what they do and are good people. If that sounds like you, come join us! Feel free just to email me if easier (thomas@calixa.io).

Thanks again!

Thomas and Fred

P.S. As always, you can sign up for Calixa on your own and start using today. If you want some help getting started, don't hesitate to reach out. (thomas@calixa.io)

Advice for Growth
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Product-Led Growth Tooling - PLG CRM

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

This is a cross-post of some thoughts I shared with with Zachary DeWitt on his blog "Notorious PLG". I've gotten to know Zachary over the past couple years. He was one of the first VC's to really understand what we were up to. Here's his thoughts on the space:

"I believe there will be many unicorns built that enable the PLG movement and Calixa has the potential to be one of them. One of the challenges for PLG companies is to make usage data actionable for GTM teams and Calixa is building a purpose-built application that helps find signal in product noise. Calixa is more than just an analytics dashboard as it allows users to take actions and create workflows based on user behavior. Thus, Calixa has the opportunity to become a system of engagement."

I highly recommend you all subscribe to Zachary's blog. Here's what I shared with him:

Calixa was inspired by my experiences at Twilio in the early 2010's. Twilio saw a deluge of developer sign ups and needed some way to stay on top of it. None of the existing tools or CRMs could solve it, so we built our own. The tool quickly became critical to Twilio's PLG success. The tool did a few key things:

  • Democratized product usage data
  • Gave full visibility into the customer journey
  • Centralized customer actions (eg extend trial, upgrade account)

Fast-forward to 2020. We still saw that customer tools were all optimized for the traditional top down sales approach. So we decided to fix that. Calixa's goal is to be the one unified platform that Sales, Success, and Support use to power the product-led GTM motion.

Insights from Product-Led Companies

As we've been building over the last 18 months, we've spoken to over 200 product-led companies. Here are some of the common insights and challenges from these conversations:

  • Your users are in control→ Central to a product-led motion is being user centric. Today's users want to sign up and explore your product on their own. It's your job as a company to figure out how to best inject your teams (Sales, Success, Marketing, Support) in this journey. This is often a combination of automated and human outreach in response to key customer milestones of adoption. It's critical that companies are able to proactively reach out to keep users moving in the right direction.
  • One shared customer journey → Product-led companies see the customer journey as one shared journey across Sales, Marketing, Product, etc. This enables a company-wide focus on getting customers to the 'a-ha moment' as fast as possible. However, to tune and optimize their product-led GTM motion, companies need a single shared view across all their sources of data. This is often where companies struggle.
  • Humans in the loop → While the idealized goal is that customers sell themselves, reality is a lot messier. You still need customer facing teams coaching customers to success and catching them if they fall. Product-led companies are redefining the roles of Sales and Success. The goal is a more consultative and product-focused approach that doesn't necessarily stop with the first sale. The first sale is often the tip of the spear into a company. The true value of the customer will be realized as your product spreads internally.
  • Harnessing product usage data → In a PLG motion, customers are often using your product before you even get a chance to speak with them. Traditional CRMs don't capture or display event data which often leaves customer teams in the dark. Product-led companies look to democratize this usage data so that they can prioritize and tailor customer outreach. Leveraging this data makes it easier to deliver more compelling, contextual 1:1 outreach which improves conversion.
  • Rise of the warehouse → There is a shared excitement across GTM and Data teams about the potential power of the modern data stack. GTM and data teams are excited to operationalize warehouse data because it's seen as their gold-standard data. We're seeing companies adopt a modern data warehouse earlier and earlier in their life. This is the big reason why we built Calixa to be warehouse-native from day 1… to get easy access to a company's gold-standard data.

As you can see, there's a lot that product-led companies want to be able to do that traditional customer tools don't enable. We're building Calixa to finally give product-led companies a product purpose-built for them. Calixa gives companies full visibility into the customer journey, easy prioritization with product usage data, and the ability to automate manual workflows.

We'd love to hear about any pain points other product-led companies are facing. If you have feedback on what we could build to make your life easier, just drop me a line (thomas@calixa.io).

Case Study
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Automating your Customer Success Workflows - Case Study

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Voiceflow helps teams design, prototype, collaborate and ship conversational apps across any voice or chat channel. As a player in the PLG space, their product is used by individuals, small teams and enterprises alike.

I chatted with Daniel D'Souza who leads Voiceflow's Customer Success team. His team is responsible for all enterprise accounts, from agencies to huge retailers like Home Depot and banks such as US Bank.

The Success Foundation

Given that there was nothing in place when he joined, Daniel's first challenge was to set up Voiceflow's post-sales processes and tooling.

It was critical that everything he setup allowed the team to deliver a proactive experience for their top accounts. Some things they would need to closely monitor included which accounts are healthy, how users within those accounts are engaging, and who are the promoters or advocates.

Ultimately this helps his team drive net revenue retention,

From the business perspective, the number one goal the team is measured against is the ability to retain and increase revenue.

When Daniel unpacked his methodology for achieving this goal, he broke things up into 4 main categories:

  • Onboarding Success - Achieving speedy adoption and flattening the learning curve are top priorities.
  • Equipping power users - Identify and equip users who are going to be spending lots of time in the product and evangelizing it to their peers.
  • Workflow optimization - Optimize the customer day-to-day by partnering with anyone at the company trying to build conversational AI products.
  • Tying product to business goals - Make sure that everything the team is doing is helping customers achieve their goals of shipping products faster and more effectively than before.

From Product Analytics to Customer Analytics

Before Calixa, the primary tool that Daniel used for tracking customer engagement was Mixpanel.

As with many PLG companies, Voiceflow is a mix of enterprise and B2C. We're selling to new customers, but we also have a ton of individual users who are all using the product for their unique everyday needs. An account may have, upwards of 60 individual users and we need to have a pulse on all of those users.

Mixpanel was doing a great job of surfacing product data and finding trends. But it was clear that it wasn't designed to help the CSM team keep track of all the different users within Voiceflow's accounts. Daniel routinely wanted to go from a high level account health view to zoom in on individual user behavior. This was tricky in Mixpanel.

We are a very product-driven CS team, so we spend a lot of time looking at product analytics and inferring from the data. Having a tool that's able to aggregate a lot of that data and make it really easy to read and understand in an organized way that allows us to zoom in and out was exactly what we were looking to for.

Daniel also wanted to make sure the team was engaging with customers in a proactive manner whenever possible. For this to scale, it was important for automation to become a core part of their workflow.

The Customer Data Layer

Calixa gave Voiceflow a customer-centric interface that helped them sift through all of their user and account data and automate key parts of their workflow to save tons of time.

I think of Calixa as the middle customer data layer that ingests all the raw data from Segment and other sources, organizes it, then using automations, sends it to whatever tool I need to in a lightweight fashion.

Getting started was completely painless as Voiceflow was able to connect their Segment, Intercom, Sentry and Stripe accounts in a matter of minutes, all without having to involve a developer.

The Power of Automation

As soon as Voiceflow connected their tools, Daniel hit the ground running by creating automations that would allow his team to reduce the time they were spending manually checking account statuses dramatically.

I just want to be able to notify customers of what's happening proactively, without having to dig through each single account every week.

Here are a couple examples of the ways Voiceflow has configured Calixa automations today:

  • They receive a Slack alert if account's weekly usage is lower than expected.
  • Product usage thresholds trigger a webhook alert which updates a shared Airtable account health dashboard.

Daniel and team are big fans of Calixa's webhook automations and are regularly thinking about how this data can be leveraged in other parts of their workflow.

With Calixa, going from insight to automation with the webhook was super easy because I was able to build the segments I was looking for, see the results, then create the automation. I was confident it was going to be pumping out exactly what I needed. Also, the webhook format actually worked for my team's workflow whereas I could not figure out the structure of Mixpanel's API.

Saving Hours a Week

Manually keeping track of individual usage on top accounts was previously a laborious process. Multiple times a week, Daniel would have to calculate and report on the "product scores" (an internal metric based on how active an account was) from each customer. This process would take him anywhere from two to four hours and always opened up unnecessary rabbit holes.

Searching for and tracking inactive accounts was another 1-2 hours a week. Now, with Calixa, he gets Slack notifications whenever usage drops below important thresholds and he can reach out to help. Not only is he saving time, but he is able to be more proactive with top accounts.

Each Calixa automation saved me at least two hours of work, each week. I no longer have to manually jump from customer to customer to analyze the same data. Instead, I just see everything in one condensed view that allows me to prioritize really quickly.

Advice for other CS leaders

Daniel expressed that Customer Success tooling generally feels like an after thought. Given that the role is becoming so much more data-centric, it's no longer nice to have, but now a requirement for anyone in Customer Success to be able to marry your customer and product data in one place.

The reality is that if you're on a CS Team at a product led company, you don't have many tools that are designed for you, and this is one of the biggest challenges that Calixa is solving for. Everyone should check out Calixa. It will make your life a lot easier.
Advice for Growth
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Time-to-value and the Aha moment: Lessons in Product-Led Growth (PLG)

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder
|
Calixa

Product-led growth often starts with a customer champion. An end-user who falls in love with your product and spreads it to the rest of the organization.

But how you turn an end-user into a champion? How do you encourage them to share your product with others? When do you involve sales, and when do you step away?

It's a challenge that is central to the growth story of Writer, an AI writing assistant that enables teams to write more effectively. Since writing is a daily habit, it's key that Writer has a daily presence in the end-user's workflow.

We chatted with Writer's founder May Habib about how her team tracks and activates these end-users, and how Writer reinforces network effects in the product. A journey that has led them to understand how important it is to activate users within the first 24 hours – or even within the first few minutes – of sign up.

Calixa: May, tell us a little bit about Writer as a product.

May: Writer is an AI writing assistant for teams. It's a very collaborative product that is end user-first. So, folks bring on Writer to help improve their own writing and get their whole team writing in the same way, whether that's using the same writing style, the same editorial style, the same voice, the same terms, or the same snippets as the rest of their team.

What signals or metrics do you use to identify potential customers from your free sign-ups?

For us, it's all about activation. The activation metric we've defined has several inputs, and they're basically along three lines. One is have they used the product consistently over the past 14 days, and we also look at the past 30 days. Writing is something most people do almost every day, so that's the kind of usage we're looking for.

From a ‘multi-player' perspective, activation is also about the kinds of customizations someone has done in Writer. That could be inviting someone to the team, editing the out-of-the-box editorial style, or adding their terms. Lastly, have they taken moves to integrate Writer into their workflow? So we've got an ecosystem of plugins for where professionals work. Are they using Writer in the other tools they use to author and distribute and write? Those three things together comprise our activation metric.

Do you find that there's an 'aha moment', or maybe even a collection of them, that pushes users from being free users to being activated users?

Absolutely. We see it when someone has written up a guidance card in Writer and then sees it in the wild while they are writing up a knowledge base article or an email. That is an aha moment of, "Oh, wow. I can coach everybody to write like me anywhere where they're writing, and it's my voice coming through on the other end." It's just an incredible way to scale yourself if you are the person who is the keeper of the magic content touch, or kind of the acting managing editor, or the otherwise grammar girl or grammar guy of your team. That is a pretty magical moment.

How do you go about minimizing that time-to-value with your user persona and your users?

For us, it's really about that first 24 hours. We measure time-to-value in minutes, the question being: Has the user accepted a suggestion within minutes of installing the extension? That's what we're looking at.

How do you go about balancing the role of automated touchpoints against human outreach and involvement?

We've got two flows: a trial flow and an education flow. They're already getting many automated touches from Writer. So we keep the human touch very high-level. And within an activated account, the human touch may only go to one or two people.

We make sure only folks are hearing from us who want to hear from us. That touchpoint is informed by where they are in the product and where we think they can get even more value. It's definitely not about selling them into more than what they've signed up for. It's really about helping them use the product well and learn from other folks like them who have gotten a lot of value out of Writer.

How do you go about building network effects at Writer?

If you have gone through the trouble of setting up Writer to sound like your company — whether that's editing editorial style rules, adding modular content, or identifying phrases and terms you want people to use — it is natural to then want others to use it and leverage it. That is the main collaboration loop in the product. A person who has customized Writer a little bit for themselves then wants to share it with others who want to follow the same rules.

What do you wish you'd known years ago about growth?

Even at billions of dollars of enterprise value, word-of-mouth at the top PLG companies is still the largest acquisition channel.

May Habib began her career in finance and investing, helping software companies raise capital, and leading one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds. She is now the co-founder and CEO of Writer. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Case Study
rEAD-time

How Netlify uses Calixa to find Product Qualified Leads (PQLs)

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Netlify is a cloud computing company that offers hosting and serverless backend services for web applications and static websites. They currently have millions of developers using their product and see tens of thousands of weekly signups.

I sat down with Devin Oliver, Director of Sales Development at Netlify. Devin's SDRs are tasked with delivering a healthy pipeline of Product Qualified Accounts for the enterprise team.

In addition to his responsibilities leading the Sales Development team, Devin also manages Sales Ops and has been instrumental in building out processes that have allowed Netlify to scale in true PLG fashion. These processes have enabled sales and account management to focus their time and energy on the right PQAs which has allowed for highly efficient company growth.

We are presented with a unique opportunity to engage with a ton of developers, but also layer on a fun, strategic sales motion that is both bottoms-up, engaging with developers who are actively using the tool, as well as top-down, focussing on large strategic logos that will have major long term impacts on the business.

Another key focus of Devin's is to develop and grow the SDRs into high-performing sales professionals. A big part of this is not just teaching them traditional sales fundamentals, but ensuring they stay up to speed on modern approaches like using product data to generate outsized results.

Mo' data mo' problems

Netlify was faced with a set of challenges likely familiar to many high-growth SaaS businesses. Devin needed to figure out how they should define and measure the ideal touch points in the user journey that would indicate a Product Qualified Account.

With tens of thousands of weekly signups, not all are raising their hand to talk to sales.  

Luckily, Netlify was in a better position than most, in that they had a well resourced data team who was able to help by running some targeted experiments involving identifying key usage metrics, defining what a growing account looks like, testing hypotheses against real accounts, building out models, then rinsing and repeating.

However, despite having a helpful team, the back and forth required to support this laborious process quickly became painful.

The length of the process varied based on the data team's bandwidth, but was often a few weeks. Because they [the data team] are operating on a sprint cycle we would have to make a case then wait and see if our request was going to be included in the next sprint, before the work could even take place.

The process also grew in complexity as the company scaled.

It got to the point where you had to know SQL to surface usage metrics that we wanted to track.

In order to keep up with increasing pipeline demands, the SDR team needed to move faster.

Tab turmoil

Getting the data needed to prioritize PQAs wasn't the only challenge the SDR team faced when trying to prioritize PQAs. Their standard workflow involved a convoluted mess of tabs, apps and browsers all required to perform routine outreach.

  • Viewing an account in their internal system and spoofing the customer required different browsers
  • Product usage and CRM data had to be referenced in spreadsheets that were often populated with stale data
  • Duplicate manual work was the norm, as info that had already been updated in a spreadsheet would also have to be copied to Salesforce  

Setting Up Calixa

Generally new tools mean new integrations, and getting in a queue for engineering resources. Netlify's experience with Calixa proved quite different:

Calixa's Census integration allowed the data team to link our warehouse using their preferred tool. We also added Hubspot and Salesforce to bring in the necessary CRM properties. It was super easy. Not only was the Calixa team responsible for providing guidance on how the data should be sent, but they were also quick to provide solutions to asks that were specific to our business.

The PQA-ha Moment

In Devin's words,