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Advice for Growth

5 Marketing Leaders Share How to Drive Product Adoption

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing

Acquiring a new user is 25x more expensive than retaining an existing one (source: Amplitude). With that in mind, new user acquisition has only gotten harder as company budgets grow tighter. That's why it’s critical to engage and retain your best users through product-led marketing tactics.

We recently sat down with a handful of marketing leaders to learn how they drive product adoption. They shared key tactics to deploy across the customer lifecycle. Effective onboarding, campaigns, launches (and more) is critical – whether for a first-time user or managed account growth. 

Andrea Saez - Content writing and editing for SaaS

Andrea Saez, Advisor at airfocus
“Product adoption is not a one-off situation. It happens at various points in the customer journey, each with key results that let you to measure progress (e.g. increase sign ups by 10%). There are different ways of achieving retention, increasing adoption, and defining a great onboarding experience — these are all outputs of your overall product adoption strategy.”

👋 Prioritize strong onboarding

User onboarding can make-or-break most product-led companies. First impressions matter – since many users who sign up for a free SaaS plan will use it once and never come back.

The first step to building a strong onboarding experience is to define an activation milestone. It acts as a leading indicator of long-term user retention. An activation milestone is usually described as “X event completed in Y hours/days.”

Profile photo of Brittany Gulla

Brittany Gulla, Director of Growth Marketing at Jebbit:
“Jebbit’s key activation milestone for self-serve users is to launch a quiz on a site in 30-45 minutes. We have help articles, in-product live chat, and Jebbiversity – a learning portal with badges and awards. These resources empower users to become expert builders and reach activation on their own.”  

Marketing teams usually collaborate with a data team to define the activation milestone. Data teams offer a precise usage metric by running predictive analysis on retention curves. Here are a few more examples:

After you have an activation milestone, the next step is to encourage user activation. You have several marketing channels to achieve this.

Common channels to improve activation

Initial onboarding

Onboarding emails are a go-to tactic for many marketing teams. The best onboarding emails provide paths to quick wins, getting started resources, and a point-of-contact in case the user has questions.

💡 Make sure each email has a single primary purpose or CTA. Ask yourself: do you really want them to watch an onboarding video OR check out your documentation?

Onboarding checklists are also a popular choice. They help kick things off the moment the user jumps into the product. The checklist items should be straightforward and include your activation milestone (e.g. Create a design).

💡 Make sure your checklists dynamically check themselves off after the user ends up doing the action. Positive user feedback like a completed checkbox is key to creating product stickiness.

Onboarding questions are a powerful way to segment your user base. A simple question about their use case (e.g. personal, business) can help customize the onboarding experience. For example, Appcues asked users whether they plan on using the Appcues for their website, mobile app, or both and got a 50% response rate with surprising answers.

💡 Far too many companies set these and forget them, but this is a time when someone is excited and engaged with your product! Keep iterating on the best questions that help both you and them. For example, don’t waste time asking firmographic – get this through enrichment post-signup.)

In-product prompts

Chatbots are interactive messaging tools that help users contact support or access docs. Some of them give you the option to place a resource hub within your product, so users don’t have to switch tabs.

💡 Unlike website chatbots, in-product chatbots are not salesy. They are meant to guide the user as a convenient resource, so avoid being overly promotional and help them accomplish their goals.

Pop-ups & tooltips can work if well-executed. Most people have the instinct to dismiss pop-ups, but relevant ones can help them activate faster. Here’s an example from Pendo:

Profile photo of Marcus Andrews

Marcus Andrews, Sr Director of Product Marketing at Pendo
“A recent onboarding challenge we saw in our analytics product was a drop-off at installation. To solve this, we built an in-app Install Wizard that walks folks through the installation steps—which has led to a 43% increase in installation!” 

💡 Prioritize your pop-ups using tiers. So a large center pop-up should be reserved for key Tier 1 announcements, while a small corner pop-up works for Tier 2 or 3.

Further education 

Live webinars are typically held on a monthly basis for new users. Depending on how your users like to learn, this can be a great way to expedite their setup with a live Q&A.

💡 For horizontal products, it’s often helpful to teach specific use cases. Airtable has a generic “Getting started” webinar, but they also have a “Get started with your content calendar.”

Tutorials & courses are very suitable for complex products. Mature companies will often establish “academies” and “universities” (e.g. Webflow, Zapier, HubSpot). They usually offer shareable certifications for completed courses, which is another form of marketing. 

💡 Center the certification around career growth. Everyone wants new skills that help build their careers. People should be proud to have it on their LinkedIn. 

With all these marketing channels at your disposal, be careful about giving the user an information overload. Use your channels wisely in order to keep the onboarding flow focused and actionable.

Andrea Saez - Content writing and editing for SaaS

Andrea Saez, Advisor at airfocus
“The best onboarding flows strike a balance between too much information (numerous pop-ups, checklists, and chatbots) and too little information to get started. Allow the user to drive the action - once they interact with a feature, give them some time before you pop up another message that distracts them from the current experience.” 

B2B SaaS companies on average have an activation rate of 34% (source: Lenny’s Newsletter). Marketing teams can increase this rate using the tips mentioned above. They play a big role in helping new users quickly find success in the product. 

🗺 Run highly personalized campaigns

Once you have a healthy amount of active users, the next step is to run campaigns. One of the best ways to personalize campaigns is through product data. These aren’t the typical demand generation campaigns that most marketers are used to. Product-led marketing is all about tying product actions to marketing activities.

Unlike, traditional demand generation for enterprise deals, product-led sales works with smaller initial deal sizes (which grow overtime), so unit economics and customer acquisition costs should always closely monitored.

Profile photo of Brittany Gulla

Brittany Gulla, Director of Growth Marketing at Jebbit:
“We run paid ads on LinkedIn, Google, and Shopify App Store. The challenge is showing ROI against those channels when you are driving new users to try out the product for free. What’s helped here is crystallizing our exact ICPs and what they care about so we can run highly targeted ads for the ICP we know will have quick product adoption and see the value in upgrading as soon as possible.”  

Common product-led campaigns

With marketing’s shift from supporting traditional TOF acquisition to conversion and growth of an existing user base, there are many strategic campaigns they can now run in partnership with sales and success. 

For example, marketers can help sales prioritize and target qualified users through a free-to-paid conversion play by targeting top free users and offering compelling reasons to upgrade. The campaign can offer incentives and speak to how users will get more benefits alongside what they already have.

Descript’s free-to-paid email campaign

Alternatively, when you have a paying customer that has potential for higher ACV, marketing can help run an upsell & expansion play. These campaigns depend on your business model. You may want to grow the number of seats, existing feature adoption, or add-ons that the user hasn’t tried before.

Profile photo of Sarah Bond

Sarah Bond, VP Marketing at Lucky Orange
“We know users who view website heatmaps or Session Recordings want qualitative data on why a visitor took those actions. We then cross-promote our Surveys feature via in-app announcements, emails, and blogs – doubling the amount of users on our Surveys feature (40% vs 21% adoption rate).” 

🚀 Create valuable product launches

Product launches are another way to engage new and existing customers. Customers appreciate using a product that’s always improving. Launches increase product adoption of new features and keep your product sticky. If the launch is for a paid feature, it also gives free users more reasons to upgrade.

Profile photo of Marcus Andrews

Marcus Andrews, Sr Director of Product Marketing at Pendo
“Driving product adoption requires developing and maintaining a consistent rhythm of interesting, valuable product launches. These launches expand customer’s use cases and give you an opportunity to continually upsell and cross sell your users.” 

In-app announcements have become a popular channel for product launches. There’s lower friction to try out the new feature given that users have already logged in. However, it’s important to not disrupt the user experience for users that are trying to accomplish a task.

Profile photo of Sarah Bond

Sarah Bond, VP Marketing at Lucky Orange
“We've rolled out an announcements feature to keep users informed about new features and updates, and it's been really well-received. However, the marketing team needs to watch it closely because different teams want to use it. We collaborate to ensure that we're not bombarding users with too many announcements.” 

↕️ Bonus: test new industry verticals

Let’s say you’re in a high-achieving team that has gotten stellar onboarding, personalized campaigns, and a steady stream of great launches. If so, you likely have many power users in your product 🎉

In that case, you may want to expand your user base into other industry verticals. For horizontal products, going deep into multiple verticals can drive higher product adoption. Develop strategic partnerships and content that reaches and appeals to this new audience – and lean into new channels if necessary.

Profile photo of Brittany Gulla

Brittany Gulla, Director of Growth Marketing at Jebbit
“Early on, marketing focused on determining which verticals our self-serve motion was best for. We learned that eCommerce had great potential for SMB and mid-market customers. So we built an app on the Shopify app marketplace that now sources roughly 50% of our SMB customers” 

During the pandemic, many companies have experimented with new verticals. Vidyard’s GTM team decided to offer free signups to sales reps. Zoom’s Founder & CEO Eric Yuan famously said he couldn’t have predicted the number of schools and universities using his product. Having multiple verticals is especially helpful given current economic conditions. It helps you diversify the types of businesses that use your product. 

Profile photo of Shanee Ben-Zur

Shanee Ben-Zur, Chief Marketing & Growth Officer at Crunchbase
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You should create redundancy in your business so that if there is softness in one market (i.e. tech) you still have other markets or verticals that can bolster you.” 

Marketers sit in a unique position as they continually adapt to a changing product and market landscape. But as long as they strategically nurture users and grow self-serve revenue, their companies will weather tough market conditions.

Enjoyed this blog? Check out this post next 👉 5 Sales Leaders Share How Product-Led Sales Drives Revenue.

Product Updates

Run sales plays in Calixa’s Deal Inbox

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

During times of economic uncertainty, every sales leader wants predictable revenue. Reps need repeatable processes on exactly how to sell to an account for the highest close rate. 

Today we launch a completely redesigned Deal Inbox. The Deal Inbox shows high intent accounts and users along with the next best action for every deal. This solution makes it easier than ever to quickly and effectively act on PQAs and PQLs.

Here’s how the collaboration works:

  • Sales leaders specify intent signals (from connected data sources) to trigger alerts on top accounts.
  • Sales leaders define Plays, which are clear follow-up actions for those alerts.
  • Reps use the Deal Inbox to see all alerts organized by Play and take efficient action. 

It’s a win-win for the entire sales organization. Reps are handed exactly what plays to run on which accounts, and leadership is at ease that outreach is always high quality. By streamlining follow-up actions, reps maximize time spent on building customer relationships. 

💥 Sales leaders drive predictable revenue with plays

Plays scale the best practices of high performers. Think of a play as a recipe 🍳 If you follow the recipe, your team can achieve more predictable, consistent deal conversions. And if you discover a sales tactic and product signal that works best (or flops), you can experiment to continuously improve. 

Sales leaders have full control over what reps see to ​​drive efficiency and focus for their sales teams. Plays offer clear guidance and actions like “Add to Outreach sequence” or “Create Lead in Salesforce.” This enables repeatable success, speeds up ramp times for new reps, and ensures each rep is performing like your top rep. 

The most common plays that sales leaders run in Calixa are:

Explore all our plays

Once leadership has defined the best ways to act on top accounts, it's critical to make these plays simple for reps to access. That’s where the Deal Inbox comes in.

📥 Reps increase sales efficiency with the Deal Inbox

The Deal Inbox serves as a central hub for all active plays. It gives reps one dedicated place to act on their best accounts and most promising deals. Each rep can see the exact activity that triggered their alert and craft personalized outreach.

The Deal Inbox empowers reps with:

🔔 Speed-to-lead - Get real-time alerts tied to rep actions within the Deal Inbox. This helps reps take action right when they’re notified, instead of getting lost in different account views. Reps can easily organize alerts without worrying about missed sales opportunities.

👀 Full context - The Deal Inbox shows an account’s product adoption and user activity. Understanding the value users are receiving makes it easy to craft strategic narratives that touch on their company priorities.

⚡️ Actionability - Plays within the Deal Inbox make product data actionable for reps. Sales leaders provide guidance, so reps can quickly take meaningful action at the right time – such as sequencing and deal creation. The result: all reps know exactly how to sell to different user cohorts to win deals.

Watch this 1-minute video to see it all in action:

🙌 Getting started

Running plays in the Deal Inbox increases rep efficiency by keeping their alerts organized and actionable. All Calixa customers are able to start using it today. Read the docs to learn more.

New to Calixa? Sign up or book a demo.

Product Updates

Product Updates: May 2023

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

Alerts help sales reps proactively engage with their top accounts. Check out how Calixa's team has improved alerting (and more) this past month.

💥 Create an Alert from a View

Found interesting users or accounts from a View? Create a rep alert to keep tabs on them. The alert will conveniently remember your current View filters.

Jump into Views to try it out.

🔔 Duplicate an Alert

Duplicating alerts comes in handy when you have multiple segments or territories. For example, your team can route the same type of alert to NORAM and EMEA Slack channels.

Head over to your Alerts to get started.

👀 View Prospects in Outreach 

We’ve continued to streamline rep workflows on the Outreach integration. In addition to adding a prospect into a sequence, Calixa now offers a quick way to view that prospect in Outreach. This action is available from any of your Views.

🙌 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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read April here 👈

Advice for Sales

Continuous learning (not enablement) is key to efficient & effective selling

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing

Recently, I sat down with George Amanatiadis, Vice President of Sales Enablement at Scrive, to talk about his keys to success when running sales enablement across both PLG and top-down selling motions. 

Below is an excerpt of our conversation about the fundamentals of enablement, what most sales leaders get wrong, and how to foster an always-learning sales environment where folks aren’t afraid to fail.  

What are the fundamental elements of effective sales enablement? 

At Scrive, the success of our enablement approach boils down to a few key elements:

  • First, building trust internally with sales reps is crucial to making an initial connection, understanding their challenges, and knowing how to help them. We’ve been very successful at this by promoting folks internally, which instills a different level of trust than bringing in external sales trainers who run a mostly standardized curriculum.
  • Regular, ongoing training is another success factor for us. Sales reps tend to have a short memory, as well as a “What have you done for me lately?” mentality. Doing onboarding or training twice a year isn’t going to make things stick—sales teams need repetition, retraining, and continuous tweaking to be successful. We’re constantly evaluating things like: How are we presenting? Where can we improve discovery? How are key deals coming through the funnel? What deal stage do we perform well or drop momentum?
  • Finally, automating different aspects of our selling motions lets us focus attention on helping sales reps become more project management consultants, enabling them to navigate complex dialogues. Our free trial is one area where we've automated outreach. Free trialers get a limited number of tokens to try our service after which they can convert to a paid subscription by themselves or contact sales. We outreach to higher velocity customers via automated cadences to ask about their trial experience. 

What’s the most common mistake you see in sales enablement?

The biggest mistake I see folks make is talking at people rather than helping them apply their learnings in real life and measuring the results. Sales trainings are a perfect example of this, with a course typically ending with a multiple-choice test or an in-person assessment. But how much of that training gets implemented in real life, and what’s being measured continuously? For example, how have deal negotiations shifted when moving from the first meetings to POC to negotiations due to the new training curriculum?

In this way, sales enablement isn’t an annual training offsite or simply giving sales reps a playbook to follow. It’s an approach that should help your reps build the character traits they already possess to become more successful sellers. Some reps are stronger when discussing data; some are expert storytellers; others run a stellar discovery process. A good sales enablement leader is someone who can lift those qualities up in a trusting environment that centers on continuous learning. 

Is there a specific cadence or approach for tailored enablement & continuous learning?

True sales enablement isn’t so much about a dedicated cadence as it fosters a sales environment where reps aren’t afraid to fail—as long as they can learn from it and share those learnings with the team. For example, we run regular deal clinics where reps walk through the actions they took in a recent deal, what tactics were successful, and which ones weren’t. 

For closed-won deals, we talk about the areas they struggled with the most and what moment they could break through. Closed-lost discussions are equally important: Where did we lose and why? Did we miss a stakeholder? What could be improved for next time?

This level of openness and transparency has opened up doors for greater collaboration among the sales team. Reps now often proactively share ideas and proven tactics for getting in front of prospects who are stuck in decision-making mode. For a large-sized deal, someone might share how flying over to a neighboring country to book a lunch helped get the deal unstuck. Or a rep will share a Sunday afternoon texting correspondence as an example of how to build rapport and move a deal forward. 

With market uncertainty, it’s easy to put enablement aside and double down on selling. Any advice?

I’ve always found sales enablement to be a big conundrum in an organization. If a sales team is doing well, leadership often thinks that reps don’t need training. If they’re doing poorly, they don’t have the time for enablement because they need to sell. But given the current dynamics, now is the very worst time to stop doing enablement. 

Market dynamics are changing incredibly fast, and the dialogues that sales reps had just three or four months ago aren’t the same as the ones they have today. Sales organizations need to invest in their people and make sure they have the toolsets, product competence, and depth of knowledge needed to address and sell to the market.

Advice for Sales

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Plays | 6 Plays You Should Be Using

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

In the good ol’ days, sales opportunities would arise from leads responding to sales outreach or by requesting information on your website. 

Now prospects have access to your product. Which means there are multiple ways in which they can get to make a purchase decision. 

Whichever path prospects choose to take, they won’t turn to revenue (at least not as often as they could be) if you use the same process for each. 

When engaging with product-qualified leads, sales need a deep understanding of the context surrounding an opportunity, and clear instructions as to how to engage in a way that matches with the ever-changing needs of the customer. 

So that they can: 

  • Help users get more value from the product or get to value quicker.
  • Help users avoid roadblocks in the customer journey.
  • Close revenue while doing so (upgrades, upsell, expansion). 

They don’t have a deep understanding if only work off lead lists.

For a while now, Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) and Product Qualified Accounts (PQAs) have been the poster childs of PLG. They act as a great barometer for understanding which leads are worth sales times and which aren’t. Although being the best measure of qualification for Product-Led Sales, they answer WHO should be touched by sales, not HOW. 

Plays answer HOW. 

In order to capture every single revenue opportunity in the customer journey, there should be a separate batch of accounts for each opportunity, and an associated play. 

What is a sales play and what are the benefits? 

Plays operationalize the outreach process based on specific product activity. They tell reps WHAT to do, HOW to do it, and WHO to target at the qualified account. 

Benefits for reps  

No wasted sales time: Reps spend between 6 to 15 hours a week researching prospects. Plays reduce that to minutes by giving reps a roadmap for taking action (less than 1 min per lead for HubSpot).

Speed-to-lead: Not getting to leads fast enough can kill your pipeline. Plays ensure speed-to-lead is the fastest it can be. 

More replies, better close rates: Following Plays lifts prospect tendency to engage in a sales conversation and close, since your approach tailors to what they’ve done and what they care about. 

Focus: Routing leads to the right team and the right sales Play reduces reps workload by 20-40%, making them focused on opportunities to actually have a chance to turn into revenue. 

Benefits for sales leaders

Predictability: Most PLG sales teams are guessing when it comes to pipeline projections, close rates, sales activities needed to reach a certain quota. Plays bring predictability and repeatability to bottom-up sales. 

Happier reps: The worst thing for a rep is being flooded with work and not getting results. Plays minimize the number of leads per rep while drastically increasing close & response rates. 

Better customer experience, less churn risk: Since every human interaction with your team is tailored to the context surrounding the account, users don’t feel like they’re part of a one-size-fits-all experience.

Maximize revenue per user: Plays ensure that every sales opportunity in the user lifecycle is met with a tailored and value-add sales process. 

Components of a sales play

So you’ve determined that you should start running plays. 

Good call. 

Here are the components of the best-performing sales plays, inspired by what we’ve seen at companies like ClickUp, HubSpot and Grammarly: 

💥Trigger event

A trigger event is what defines which conditions need to be true to start executing a play. 

Example: An account that fits your ideal customer profile has had a 50% user growth in the last 7 days. 


Product-led sales involved multiple stakeholders. And different stages of the customer lifecycle (evaluation, buying decision, renewal) will also require appropriate stakeholders to be involved. Persona tells you which type of user a Play is aimed at. 

Example: Champion user.

💬 Sales messaging 

Also referred to as context, this part of a Play gives the sales rep an understanding of which angle to take and what to pitch. 

Example: If a qualified account is seeing a sudden growth in users, reach out to decision-makers to offer a discounted seat price when renewing for a year.. 


A list of tasks to be performed by reps once a Play is initiated. 


  • Research the account’s product usage
  • Create an opportunity in the CRM 
  • Add the decision-maker on LinkedIn
  • Add the decision-maker to a sequence

📃Templates & resources

Emails templates and resources at the disposition of reps to help them convert the opportunity. It can range from message templates, marketing snippets, sales engineering FAQs, product tours, etc. 


Types of PLG SaaS sales plays

Plays are usually defined by the playbook to which they’re related and some other specificity that’s related to the nature of your business. 

Playbook = a set of plays that aim at achieving a specific business goal. There are 4 main playbooks that we’ve observed with our customers like ClickUp, Netlify and Jasper. 

Sales-assist: Help prospects get to value quicker and convert them into paying customers. 

Enterprise: Enterprise is a bread of its own. It encapsulated sales-assist, expansion and retention playbooks but will require distinct approaches. 

Expansion (includes upsells, cross-sells, consolidation): Increase an account’s revenue by upgrading to a higher-paid plan or fostering wider, more consolidated adoption of your solution.  

Nature of the business = a core aspect of your business that influences how sales must engage. 

For example, seat-based pricing versus usage-based pricing. Or productivity apps versus developer platforms. A usage uptick play will be run in 2 different ways by a salesperson at a seat-based productivity app versus how a salesperson at a usage-based developer platform would run it. 

Below is a list of common plays by categories ⬇️

When should you run a sales play? 

A sales play should be run when the trigger event occurs AND the account is product-qualified (PQA). 

Engaging unqualified accounts when the trigger event happens can waste your reps’ time on accounts that would otherwise have converted on their own or don’t have enough revenue potential. 

While engaging accounts that are solely product-qualified can result in low connect rates because of irrelevant sales outreach. 

6 essential sales plays you should be using 

1. Usage uptick (Expansion)

A qualified account is showing great momentum in your product. Openness to sales outreach will be high. Engage active users to understand how the spike can be tied to a business goal. Take advantage of this opportunity to present decision-makers with a business case. Offer more advantageous unit costs.

✉️ Example of an email that will generate replies from prospects: 

Subject line: Twilio unit costs


Great to see the business growing so fast. Your team has created 81 journeys on the platform! 

At this rate, it’d be wise to get you on a committed-usage plan. You’ll get a much lower unit cost and predictable billing. 

That’s what we did with Doordash. With the current economic climate, the executive team wanted better cost prediction. 

Does it align with your priorities? 


🏈 View the full details of this play here

2. Tending-out-of-compliance (Sales-assist)

One of your top accounts is approaching the limit of the free plan. Proactively engage active users to convert them to your paid plan. If account usage is healthy, users are getting value from your product. Mention how hitting the paywall can have negative impacts on their business. If account usage is below expectations, offer a call with a product expert to help them become more successful.

✉️ Example of an email that will generate replies from prospects: 

Subject line: Interruption to customer SMS

Hey Sarah - Looks like your getting close to your monthly SMS limit. Great to see the boost in reply rates since you guys activated automatic content encoding! 

I suppose that you don’t want to see any interruptions to your customer communications. Happy to extend your plan if needed. 

Heard from your David that automating WhatsApp responses was on his mind. You can cut costs by consolidating your Twilio products. 

Worth exploring? 


🏈 View the full details of this play here

3. Named account sign up (Sales-assist)

A decision maker just signed up to one of your workspaces. They might have different expectations when signing up, and will likely not use the same features as the end users in that account. Reach out and ask about their business priorities as it relates to your tool. Pitch them alignment between their priorities and the benefits of a paid plan. Share case studies to back up your claims.

✉️Example of an email that will generate replies from prospects: 

Subject line: Non-authorized access in ClickUp

Stephen - Great to see you join the team in ClickUp. 

Seeing how many docs your team has created and shared (350 docs this month), security must be top of mind. 

Same things happened at Netflix. We deployed our access management capabilities and roles. They saw a 90% decrease in non-authorized access to internal docs. 

Does that align with your priorities? 



🏈 View the full details of this play here

4. Account champion engagement (Sales-assist)

You identify a champion at one of your top accounts. This person gets the value of your product and is trying to spread adoption. Help them by providing resources and offering discounted seats with an annual subscription. Communicate the collaboration benefits of your paid plan and ask for an intro to the decision-maker if their champion doesn’t have buying influence.

✉️ Example of an email that will generate replies from prospects: 

Subject line: Spotify’s move in ClickUp


Looks like you and the team have been getting things done in Whiteboards! With this amount of users, we typically see teams struggle with task routing. 

Spotify’s marketing team upped their time savings by 25% when they started using Automations. Here’s how 👈

I assumed it’d be top of mind. Worth exploring? 


🏈 View the full details of this play here

5. Trial conversion (Sales-assist)

Across all of your timeboxed free trials, some accounts should be engaged by sales. Either because the account has great revenue potential or sales can intervene to guarantee quick and latest success with your product. Proper sales touches are all about understanding what success means for your prospect and helping them get there faster.

✉️ Example of an email that will generate replies from prospects: 

Subject line: Tasks

Sarah, love the project you and your team just created in ClickUp. 

Put together a few resources (in this folder) to help you get the best out of projects and examples from folks like Netflix, Spotify. 

If all goes well, what does success look like with ClickUp? 


🏈 View the full details of this play here

6. New user velocity (Sales-assist)

You’re notified of an uptick in users at an account that has revenue potential (fits your ICP). The value of your product is spreading, indicating a potential to convert to paid plans. Engage end users to understand how they perceive your product’s value and objectives. Offer help. Then, identify a decision-maker and discuss how their team’s objectives can be supported by upgrading to a paid plan.

✉️ Example of an email that will generate replies from prospects: 

Subject line: User Growth in ClickUp

Jenn, I see that you’re team has reached 25 users in ClickUp and keeps growing, that’s awesome! 

Considering your team’s growth and the feedback I received from Tom, you can save another 5 hours per week with our team-sharing feature. We’ve seen that outcome with Netflix and Spotify. 

I have the green light to give you discounted seats if that’s top of mind for you. 

Worth a chat? 


🏈 View the full details of this play here

🚨Get free access to all plays and copy-pastable templates

How to prioritize sales plays 

I might happen that accounts is qualified for multiple plays. 

For example. You can have an account that has both a sudden uptick in users and a whitespace opportunity. 

How do you pick which plays reps should run (which usually is assigned automatically. Looking at you Rev Ops 👀)? 

Use a lead-to-opportunity ratio to prioritize which Play to assign. That’s what I get into next 👇

How to track if your plays are working

You will see healthier pipeline metrics as a result of introducing plays to guide your Product-Led Sales motion. 

Since seeing is believing, you need to track their performance. In my opinion, simple wins over complicated dashboards. Therefore, you can implement 2 north star metrics to keep track of: 

1. Lead-to-opportunity (%)

Out of X product-qualified leads that have been assigned to a given Play, how many turned into an opportunity in your CRM? 

To facilitate tracking the metric, the best PLS teams sync custom values from their Product-Led Sales platform (where they run plays) to their CRM.  

2. Closed-won rate (%)

Out of Y opportunities created from a given Play, how many closed? 

Looking at lead-to-opportunity and closed-won rate should give you a good indication of which plays are outperforming others, and which need some adjustments (details in the next section).

Note that speed-to-lead is crucial if you want plays to work. A common mistake is to put all of the responsibility on sales. When in fact, 99% of the work comes from Rev Ops. 

It is Rev Ops’ job to make sure you have real-time lead tracking, that your criteria for scoring are on point and that reps receive a notification to act as quick as possible and get assigned the right play. 

When to revisit your playbook

According to David Barron at Hubspot, sales leadership should reassess plays’ performance quarterly, depending on the size of your business and your sales cycle. 

A few scenarios would demand updates to your playbook (book of plays): 

Some plays are not performing

As mentioned above, some plays will outperform others. It’s tempting to get the false-impression that a Play is simply not needed for a given product trigger event. 

It is needed. You can never tailor your prospect’s experience too much. 

Your Data or Product team finds new usage insights

It’s not sales job to understand where in your product journey do people fall in love with the product. When those kinds of insights rise to the surface, it’s sales job, however, to adjust plays to match it. 

Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you’re Asana. For years you’ve thought that the aha moment of your platform was after a workspace has created and completed 50 tasks. 

A few months back, the Data team discovers that the willingness to buy is at an all time high after only 25 tasks, which happens 3x faster in the lifecycle than 50. 

If that’s the case, your plays that depend on usage milestone events all need to be updated 🔄

Major changes in your product experience

In the same vein, if a major product update has impact on moments at which your users become activated, fall in love with your product, realize it’s business value, etc., you need to update Play to reflect those impacts. 

Updates to your pricing structure 

You don’t want to reach out offering a seat discount if Finance & Product have decided to introduce usage-based pricing. Some plays work great with both, but some are specific to the method your business uses to capture value from customers. 

Update plays that are tied to a specific pricing model when pricing changes happen. 

Changes to your conversion points 

Sometimes forces outside of your control will dictate the timing at which reps need to engage qualified users. 

A great example is CoderPad. Amanda Richardson, CoderPad CEO, realized that their 7-day trial wasn’t giving users enough time to become activated in the product AND have to make a buying decision. 

They increased to 14 days and conversions went up! 

Same concept applies to sales plays. If you observe changes in conversion points across your customer lifecycle, plays need to be updated. 

How do you improve plays? Thought you’d never ask ⤵️

How to improve plays

There are 4 major levers to work with when improving plays: 


Are you reaching out at the right moment? There’s a fine line between reaching out before prospects have a willingness to buy and after they’ve lost interest in a sales conversation 

Tip: Work with Rev Ops to optimize your speed-to-lead

Message/Sales angle

Is the value prop of your toubound resonating with prospects? 

Tip: If your messages aren’t getting replies, try to take a different approach. Use different product usage data to personalize. Share guides versus case studies. Templates versus new use cases, etc. 

Target persona

Are you reaching out to the right person?

Tip: You may need to nurture end-users before getting to decision-makers, or engage leads that have not signed up to your product yet. 


Are you running your Play in the right steps? In order to convince executives to take your expansion, consolidation or enterprise conversion pitch seriously, you often need to build a business case through interactions with end-users. That’s how Grammarly closes enterprise contracts

Made it to the end 🥳

Final thoughts

Customer journeys are complex. As users progress through your product, their needs change and what they care about shifts. 

These distinct shifts in customer needs require nuanced approaches from sales. Relying on a single score won't provide the necessary guidance for your team to determine the next steps or when to take action. To truly operationalize a product-led sales motion, your go-to-market teams need comprehensive insights into the customer journey stage, specific goals for each customer cohort, and precise instructions for the optimal course of action tailored to each buyer persona. 

Aka plays 🏈

By adding plays to your sales processes, you alignment with the principles of product-led growth and real revenue gains 💰.

Advice for Growth

How CoderPad scales its PLG motion to increase virality & drive growth

Amanda Richardson

When I joined CoderPad as CEO in late 2019, we had one product and ran a 100% self-serve motion (with no sales team) across a customer base of more than 1,500. But with thousands of monthly signups, in a market that’s less than 30% penetrated, I knew there was room to evolve our go-to-market (GTM) motion and drive product-led growth (PLG) at an even greater scale. 

Flash forward a few years, and we now have two products, 4,000 customers, multiple buyer personas, and a dedicated sales team. As such, we’re continuously evolving our PLG motion to get folks into the funnel, understand the problem we solve, and find value quickly. 

Here are four guiding PLG principles CoderPad follows to boost our product’s virality while driving deeper account growth. 

Customers don’t fall down funnels that can’t meet their needs

To scale, you need to meet customers where they are. In other words: Someone won’t fall into your funnel if you can’t give them what they need. At CoderPad, this means adjusting our GTM strategy to accommodate different types of buyers. 

CoderPad is built for engineering and talent acquisition leaders who want to run efficient interview processes and discern which candidates with the seemingly beautiful resumes actually have the right skills for the job. Our tools give them an integrated developer environment (IDE) to do paired programming, collaboratively solve problems, and work on code together throughout the interview process. 

While we sell primarily to developers, we also sell to talent acquisition (TA) teams, who take a lot of heat when sending underqualified candidates into the interview process. In addition to this,  our ideal customer profile (ICP) is software companies with 500-5,000 employees, so we also have to factor in a traditional enterprise sale. To this end, we’ve since expanded our funnel from one pure PLG motion to multiple motions that can support two buyers personas and two types of companies – these personas and company types can interact in a multitude of ways:

Buyer Personas 

Developers seeking a self-serve experience that want to use CodePad immediately and pay via credit card.

TA teams who are more comfortable seeing a demo and asking questions vs. playing in the product themselves.

Company Types

Small- to medium-sized software companies that prefer starting out on their own via a free trial but require sales support upon expanding.

Large software enterprises with multiple stakeholders, contractingRFP processes, and longer buying cycles - that definitely need to talk to sales before purchasing.

Remove the roadblocks in front of your high-intent customers 

Bringing in 1,000+ monthly signups, our free trial is a regular source of scrutiny for what levers we can pull to increase our paid conversions. CoderPad runs a reverse trial, which offers unlimited access to features during the trial period and then downgrades folks to our freemium plan if they don’t convert to a paid plan. 

The reverse trial approach works best for us because people typically have a candidate in hand going into the trial and, thus, get to peak value right away—80% of folks who activate in the product do so within the first hour. We recently expanded the trial length from 7 days to 14, which, at face value, seems counterintuitive based on how quickly folks activate. But here’s why it’s not:

  • Our purchase cycle is much longer than the activation window. Because folks are often in the throes of interviewing when starting the trial, we have no issues getting them to activate in the product quickly. But there’s still the matter of handling logistics, such as getting a credit card on file, bringing in procurement, deciding on a plan, and so forth. Since the average purchasing cycle takes two weeks from the point of activation to when the deal closes, a 7-day trial simply doesn’t give people the runway they need.
  • We put roadblocks in front of our highest-intent accounts. Not giving trialers enough time to purchase a paid plan or achieve product value caused unnecessary friction and human touchpoints for users who were going to convert anyway. While trialers could email us for an extension—something we initially viewed as a hot lead indicator—it ultimately slowed our self-serve motion and inserted sales reps into a process they weren’t needed for.   

Navigate customer expansions using internal and external signals

Customer expansions are a key growth driver at CoderPad. We blend firmographic data with product behavior to uncover key signals, such as accounts that regularly hit their planned monthly capacities or usage. We also look at usage acceleration within an account, whether someone uses both products, and if TA and/or procurement stakeholders are added to an account. 

To identify expansions in existing accounts, our reps focus on three key areas: 

  • Account consolidation. Consolidating accounts is one of our biggest expansion opportunities. It’s also where we see TA stakeholders the most since it often signals the need to standardize across all engineering hiring processes.
  • Account penetration. Adding new teams and technologies within an established account is another core expansion opportunity for us. For example, the core development team might use JavaScript, but the front-end team works in React, which allows us to expand to a new team. (How to run an account penetration play)
  • Cross-selling products. Finally, while we’re best known for our live-interview product, we also have an upfront assessment tool that supports high-volume recruiting and helps TA teams vet whether candidates have the right skills during the recruiting process. Here, a strong signal is an account with a large number of open engineering roles.

In some circumstances, the best intel comes from information that isn’t readily available, such as how many open reqs are on a customer’s website. Say a customer churns due to a hiring freeze, but their website still shows 40 open reqs. Are they really not hiring—or are they going somewhere else? Or maybe we’re simply talking to the wrong person. Perhaps we’re talking to the head of mobile engineering, but all the growth is happening over on the API side. These are the types of external influences we have to be mindful of to grow the account. 

The dollar you optimize for today won’t be there tomorrow 

Finally, don’t optimize your PLG motion for the dollar today. Instead, focus on how and where you can do more to get people into your product. For us, this means experimenting with new channels and strategies to drive top-of-funnel growth, word of mouth, and product virality.

For example, community is an area we’re experimenting with a lot right now. While CoderPad has a community for leveling up interview skills and product knowledge in a fun and engaging way (, no engineer wants to actively participate in a community for technical interviewing—it’s simply a functional aspect of their job role. What we focus on here is where we can grow CoderPad’s presence within existing developer communities, whether those are language-based, framework-based, or topically-based.

Another unique value of CoderPad is that there is a candidate on one side of the interview process and an interviewer on the other. Whether that candidate gets the job or not, they will have experienced our tech and may need to eventually hire people in their next role. Because our end user is our future customer, we’ve always prioritized the candidate experience since it increases the virality of our tool. 

Looking ahead

The here and now is very much about providing value, which plays right into CoderPad’s sweet spot: making the technical interview process faster and easier. Right now, I see our future as being able to successfully reach and connect with all our buying stakeholders. For example, how can we support TA and recruiting teams who are currently constrained by budget and time? 

We also have so many opportunities ahead of us. It’s always exciting to explore non-interviewing use cases, such as learning and development, but we also don’t want to lose sight of the core problem we’re solving. Most technical interviews are still done through screen share, Google Docs, or even a whiteboard, so our market is only 20-30% penetrated. So, while it’s easy to get distracted by the next use case and the one after that, we still have to finish the work we started.

More Product-Led GTM frameworks like this one?

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Advice for RevOps

Speed-to-lead is crushing your pipeline | Fix it in 3 steps

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

Picture this: You’re at work (home or office) and need a burst of energy to finish the day. 

Instead of going for the good ol’ filtered coffee, you decide to treat yourself to a premium frappuccino coffee from Starbucks. 

You get to Starbucks, head to the counter, and no one’s there to take your order. How long would you stick around? 

A few seconds, it’s fine. 2 minutes? Maybe. But 15 min of waiting will likely turn into frustration and you’ll head back to the office. 

Starbucks just lost a $7 order. 

The same thing happens to your revenue when sales are too slow to engage product-qualified leads. 

Let’s get it 👇

This guide is for: Sales Management & Rev Ops people at companies with a high-volume self-serve motion.

Why is speed-to-lead so important? 

Lack of speed = fading buying intent from prospects.

The harsh reality is, the faster you engage a lead, the higher your chances are of converting that lead into a paying customer. 

Exponentially higher. 

Indeed, responding within five minutes versus 30 minutes increases the chances of connecting with a lead by 100x and the chances of qualifying that lead by 21x! 

Stats concerning speed-to-lead times
Source: Leadsimple

Not convinced? More speed-to-lead stats:

In a nutshell: Slow speed-to-lead = fading interest from prospects = fewer deals closing 📉

Impact of speed-to-lead on sales qualifications

Not so fast. If only leads were this forgiving…

There is a “drop off” point at which a lead’s buying interest will drastically fall. It’s different for every company and finding it is very difficult. 

The reality of the impact of speed-to-lead on sales qualifications

For one of our customers (that I can’t name), they found that if sales don’t reach out within 4 hours of a lead signing up and taking a key action in the product, chances of converting go to almost 0% 😨

And this only accounts for losses in revenue. Let us remind ourselves that marketing dollars are also being wasted when engaging leads too slowly. 

You don’t invite someone for dinner with the intention of not opening up when they ring your doorbell, don’t you?

You got it wrong. It’s not a sales issue

Speed-to-lead has always been considered a sales problem. 

“Reps ignore alerts.” 

“Reps don’t reach out quick enough.”

“Reps don’t personalize outreach to get leads’ attention.”

Slow speed-to-lead - at the core -  is not a sales problem, it’s a data problem

❌ Slow speed-to-lead usually happens because GTM teams focus on improving the time between identifying a lead and having sales engage. Which is a sales execution issue

✅ Yet you should start by reducing the time between tracking product actions and surfacing that user/account. Which is a data issue.

Illustration showing parts of the lead engagement journey and where rev ops teams focus their efforts

Here’s why: great sales execution in a bottom-up motion (sales assist, expansion, upsell) comes from 3 things.

⚖️ Prioritization: Are sales focusing on the most qualified accounts and leads? 

🎯 Context: Can sale outreach in a contextual manner that either speeds up user’s  success in the product  or helps them avoid roadblocks (while suggesting upgrades and upsell opportunities)? 

Timing: Are sales engaging leads when there’s intent to have a purchasing conversation? 

Wait… What does that have to do with data?

In PLG, the data contains answers to your prioritization, context, and timing problems. 

Let’s use the same statements as above and explain what causes them. 

“Reps ignore alerts.” → Because the quality of leads sent to them is a mixed bag and requires another round (or two) of filtering down.  

“Reps don’t reach out quick enough.” → Because they have to dig into countless tools  to manually research account activity. 

“Reps don’t personalize outreach to get leads’ attention.” → Because they don’t have the insight they need to make outreach contextual and personalized. 

It is Revenue Operations’ responsibility to enable sales reps to act fast. 

Venn diagram illustrating the perfect sales-assist execution

Let’s break down how Revenue Operations teams can improve speed-to-lead for sales: 

⚖️ Prioritization: How to know which leads are actually worth sales’ time

Some leads show intent but SHOULDN’T BE TOUCHED by sales. 

They either: 

  • Don’t have enough revenue potential to justify reps’ time
  • Can reach their full revenue potential without sales help. 

I call it the lead blindspot 👇

Illustration of the lead blindpsot in Product-led growth

Lead blindspots are caused because we humans are very bad at discerning between good and bad leads when the data volume is high, which is the case in PLG (more on why you shouldn’t have humans score leads here). 

Furthermore, you can cannibalize organic conversions by having reps reach out too soon

Lead prioritization fixes that problem and ensures that the right leads are touched at the right time.

Below is an example of criteria Grammarly’s rev ops team takes into consideration when prioritizing accounts that are ready for enterprise sales. 

From Riley Harbour, Grammarly’s head of Business Development: 

First, we look at product usage. 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. Second, we look at whether or not the account’s firmographics match our enterprise criteria, meaning that the account either has a revenue potential over $X of annual revenue or the employee count is greater than 5,000.
What goes into Grammarly's PQA scoring

Read Grammarly’s complete enterprise expansion playbook here

A other key piece of advice from Jared DeLuca, Marketing Ops at Appcues is to automate prioritization efforts as much as you can and leave the subjective prioritization to reps:

We’re starting to explore ways to incorporate PQLs and usage-based metrics into our scoring, such as inviting a new user or visiting a specific area of the product. This will make everything from our go-to-market messaging and sales conversations that much more sophisticated.
How Appcues prioritizes leads

Learn the 5 pivotal changes to Appcues’ PLG strategy here

Even after setting up a prioritization funnel like Appcues, you might still have too many sign-ups coming in and want to minimize the additionalprioritization done by reps.  

Consider AI scoring models. 

Top PLG companies like Netlfiy and Jasper leverage AI prospecting models to find leads with the highest potential. AI can look at all your past paid conversions and find correlations between product usage patterns and potential to be worthwhile for sales.  

Gif of a Calixa prospecting dashboard for sales

🎯 Context: How to give reps the information they need to act, in one place

When David Barron first introduced the sales-assist motion at HubSpot, reps resisted it. They saw sales-assist deals as more complicated to approach and with less revenue potential.  

When they get a lead, David told us that tell reps need to know EXACTLY what they have to do:

Let’s say you have this crazy freemium funnel with volume coming through, you must give your team all needed information  to take action and get quick wins. 

Here’s what Hubspot did 👇

Every time a new Product-Qualified Lead would be flagged, reps would receive a video recording of their exact usage of HubSpot, along with information about the account and its users. When seeing the user moving around the product, reps were able to understand exactly where they’d get stuck or see value. 


After 1 min, reps understood why the account was qualified and why they needed to reach out. This cut speed-to-lead times and increases pipeline. 

How to craft a sales pitch when accounts become product-qualified

Another option is to provide your sales reps with a dashboard that gives them an overview of an account’s product usage history, along with key users and important business context, like below. 

Screenshot of an account page in Calixa

⏰ Timing: How to get leads to sales in time

By now, you should have a good idea of which leads are worth passing to sales, along with the context they need to take action

Next is getting to leads in front of them asap. But before you rush things, it’s important to know where your drop-off point is. 

Your drop-off point is the point in your customer journey at which a qualified user’s intent to purchase your product decreases significantly.

Remember the graph at the beginning of this article? Here’s where the drop-off point is: 

Graph showing a drop-off point in lead interest to purchase a solution

Finding your intent drop-off point (most often) resorts to collaboration between Product, Data, and Rev Ops.

2 popular frameworks to find it ⬇️

1️⃣ Look at your self-serve funnel. 

What is the time between the aha moment (activation) and a frequent conversion point (monetization)?

Chances are, the drop-off point is around your self-serve conversion point. So try to get sales to reach out before that time.

This is where a lead prioritization layer comes into play, you only want to engage users that are qualified and want to hear from sales. 

2️⃣ Look at historical product usage. 

Where do people churn? Where do you see a drop in usage? Start at that point in time and work your way back until you find your drop-off point. 

Now that you have assumptions around drop-off, how do you actually reduce the time it takes for a lead to get in front of sales?

Most internal data syncs or manually built reporting between tools happen once a day (or in 24hr periods), so even if your sales rep picks up the dialer or sends an email the second he/she gets an alert, it’s too late

Example of how many leads you lose when data updates are too infrequent

A few remedies ⤵️

Increase the frequency of your internal data updates 

You can increase the frequency of your internal system’s data updates. Similarly, you can increase the frequency of your reporting. 

Illustration showing how frequent data updates an qualify more leads

If cost is in play regarding your data, you can leverage a Product-Led Sales platform to sync product data in real-time. With a PLS platform, leads are routed to sales workflows as soon as they take qualifying actions

Opencomp saw a 15% increase in paid conversions after integrating real-time PQL tracking.

Send alerts to sales

Slack or email alerts that are often ignored by reps. But since you followed this guide and now know how to prioritize, that won’t be an issue 😉.  

When new leads become qualified, you can send reps notifications with a call-to-action redirecting them to the sales play they should run. 

Gif of a slack notification leading to a sales playbook in Calixa

Set up automated routing for leads that are users of your product yet.

Tools like Chilipiper or Intercom can route leads automatically when leads take qualifying actions like submitting a form on your site or booking time with an SDR. Fields are updated in your CRM so reps don’t have to manually entry this information. 

Screenshot of chilipiper CRM router

Set up automated routing for product-qualified leads

Similarly, Product-Led Sales platforms like Calixa allow you to set up automated workflows when leads become qualified, like creating opportunities in your CRM, adding to a sequence, etc. 

Screenshot of Calixa automations

Final thoughts: Keep track of outcomes when doing speed-to-lead experiments

How do you know if your speed-to-lead improvements are affecting revenue?

Here’s a simple formula: 

Step 1: Look at the number of PQLs who became SQLs last quarter. 

Step 2: Reduce your time to lead by following this guide. 

Step 3: After a quarter, evaluate your PQL to SQL conversion again. 

Notice a difference? More opportunities? Higher close rate? Faster sales cycles?

Note that as a product-led business, you’ll need to iterate on sales processes as your product experience evolves. 

Pricing updates, onboarding changes, shifts in paywalls, etc. may affect how fast your GTM teams need to engage leads. So keep experimenting and documenting results!

✌️ Fred

Advice for Sales

Enterprise Deal Playbook: How Grammarly turns end-user adoption into enterprise deals

Riley Harbour
Head of Business Development

Enterprise deals are a different beast. They’re more complex, require more people involved, take more time to come to fruition, and can be very volatile. 

On the flip side, they’re home runs that can skyrocket your business to new heights. 

The ultimate expression of Product-Led Sales (PLS) done right is when you can close enterprise deals from initial bottom-up product adoption. 

As exciting as it can sound to have self-serve adoption turn into huge deals, it’s not an easy process to master. 

Lucky for you, Riley, Harbour, Head of Business Development at Grammarly, shared with us the sales playbook that Grammarly’s product-led sales team follows to close enterprise customers who start using their product for free. 

Take out your notebooks, this is a good one! 📓 Now from Riley himself… 


Before I get started, let’s address one caveat 👇

You can’t rely on a bottom-up motion for enterprise sales

Atlassian or Shopify won’t hop on your enterprise plan without talking to your sales team. 

Not going to happen. 

Chances are, even their usage of your free plan might become limited from a scale perceptive due to security or compliance requirements. 

Even if end-users adopt your product for free initially, they will need to go through managerial loops and approval processes if they want to dive deeper into your product’s value. 

Therefore, you need a strategy for capturing enterprise adoption! 

Our enterprise sales process has 3 components: 

➕ Identifying accounts that qualify for enterprise expansion

➕ Running our enterprise playbook 

➕ How other functions support the playbook’s execution

Illustration of Grammarly's enterprise motion

The meat of this sales playbook will be to break down our enterprise playbook. In other words: how we go from identifying opportunities to closing them. 

🔍 How Grammarly’s sales team identifies expansion opportunities

Weekly meeting between SDR and AE. 

Every week, our SDRs and AEs on the enterprise team meet to review new opportunities that have been flagged by our system as qualified for enterprise expansion.. 

Which accounts qualify for enterprise deals? 

Our tool is used by such a wide range of people that it’s important for us to prioritize efficiently. 

First, we look at product usage. 

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. 

We combine all of this data to create our product-qualfiied account (PQA) score – a key part of our GTM strategy.

List of criteria that are factored in to Grammarly's Product Qualified Account's scoring

Second, we look at whether or not the account’s firmographics match our enterprise criteria, meaning that the account either has a revenue potential over $X of annual revenue or the employee count is greater than 5,000.

Example of which accounts qualify for enterprise expansion at Grammarly

More on PQLs and PQAs at Grammarly in this article

Once reps find a qualified account, they get to work! 

Here’s the PQA enterprise expansion playbook we run ⤵️

📋 Grammarly’s enterprise expansion playbook 


Our team focused on 2 things throughout the Product-Led Sales process:

😍 Making users more successful 

🤝 Expanding accounts into enterprise customers  

The sales cycle has 4 phases: 

1 - Understanding end-user value

2 - Understanding management value and priorities 

3 - Crafting a case for business-wide value

4 - Getting to executives and closing the deal 

How Grammarly builds a bottom-up sales narrative in 4 phases

Let’s explore HOW we execute each step ⤵️

Phase 1: Understand end-user value 

Marketing fires sequences to end-users. 

The intention here is to support users through their journey and gather data about the value that they’re getting from Grammarly. This data is paramount to back up claims made to decision-makers down the line. 

Examples of what our marketing campaigns gather from end-users: 

  • Direct ROI: “I’m saving 5 hours a week”
  • Before and after: “My articles readability has increased from basic to expert in a few days”
  • UX: “Grammarly is so much easier to use than other alternatives” 
  • Big swings: “I avoided a huge mistake in an email last week because of Grammarly”

To pull this off efficiently, our marketing team leverages product usage data to send hyper-personalized marketing emails. 

For example: 

Sending an email based on product triggers rather than generic time-based triggers.

The chances of your email resonating with users are slim if you send everyone a one-size-fits-all campaign. Our sales teams fire emails right after users hit specific milestones in Grammarly. 

Examples of product usage triggers that cause emails to be fired by Grammarly's team

Utilizing product usage to make emails contextual and personalized 

Every week, we send our users a written update with a summary of their progress and contextual tips and best practices. This helps maintain user success. 

Example of marketing email sent to new Grammarly users

Reps research the account’s product usage

BDRs do not reach out to end-users because of the sheer volume of Grammarly’s user base. The financials of involving our reps too early simply don’t make sense. 

We’ve found that the best way to understand user value is to research how they’ve been using the product. Reps leverage product usage dashboards similar to the one shown below in Calixa, where it’s easy to find which features are utilized, and by whom. 

Example of an account dashboard in Calixa

Phase 2: Understand management-level value

BDRs go after directors and managers 

While our marketing nurtures end-users and gathers the value end users achieve as well as ROI statements, BDRs start reaching out to managers. 

The relevancy of BDR emails and sales calls comes from product usage. Not only does product data make outbound messages super personalized and timely, but it also raises trust with prospects.  

It validates that we’ve done our homework and are experts on their business then proving why we believe that we can provide value. 

📨 Sales angles reps can take to make outbound relevant to prospects ⤵️ 

Examples of email hooks that are personalized with product data

More examples here 👈

Email templates for enterprise sellers here 👈

Hand-off to AEs 

Once a few conversations with prospects are underway and end-users have provided feedback, BDRs gather the value that managers are getting from Grammarly as well as their objectives with the tool. 

Then, they pass that information to our AEs. 

These findings are added to the account notes in the CRM and discussed during weekly meetings.

AEs reach out and meet with managers before they pitch executives. 

Mainly to understand: 

  • What do executives care about? 
  • Who needs to be involved in the decision-making process?
  • Who are the gatekeepers to enterprise adoption? (Security, compliance, legal, IT). 
  • What type of pitch resonates more? ROI or loss aversion, or both? (more on this below). 

Reaching out to users, non-users or both 

90% of my team's outreach is to current Grammarly users (all management levels). 

We surface managers, directors, and VPs that are end users to our GTM teams as PQLs and high-priority contacts for outreach. 

Note that Grammarly can deliver value to pretty much everyone within an organization, so we benefit from having a high % of adoption throughout all management and non-management levels.

If that’s not the case for your product, you can still leverage what users are doing in your product to make cold outreach to non-users contextual and relevant.  

Here’s an example from Calixa’s named account signup GTM Play ⤵️

Grammarly email template using product data to be personalized

Phase 3: Build a case for business-wide value 

Executives’ goals are always tied to business goals. So Phase 3 is all about taking insights from Phase 1 and Phase 2 and making hypotheses about how Grammarly can help the organization as a whole. 

Tying end-user value to business value is one of the crucial requirements in the buying process of PLG companies in 2023. 

To do so, our AEs analyze overall product adoption across teams and pick a sales angle to use in their pitch.  

Depending on the context and data at hand, they can anchor their business case on: 

📈 ROI 

--> The value that the prospect can gain from upgrading to Grammarly’s enterprise plan.

📉 Loss aversion 

--> The cost of not upgrading to Grammarly’s enterprise plan. 

🎯 Both. 

What does the actual business case look like? 

A business case is a story, backed by facts. It can take many forms, such as presentations, infographics, what reps pitch during demos, proposals, emails, etc. 

Here’s an example ⤵️

👎 Identified problem

Screenshot of Grammarly's cost of miscommunication report

👍 Our provable solution

Benefits of improving miscommunication at work

Back your business case with data

You have a business case. Great! It won’t fly if you can’t back it up with quantifiable proof. 

Execs are busy. They follow data, not opinions. If you want their attention, you better be able to back your claims. That’s why proving ROI or loss aversion is so important. 

Here’s how we do it: 

📈 ROI: Leverage product data to quantify ROI

We're able to basically aggregate all of the words typed across the entire account, as well as the suggestions that have been accepted. Based on the % of suggestions accepted by a prospect’s team from Grammarly, we can work that back to time savings. 

So we'll actually be able to say: “Hey, just from using Grammarly free, your team's saving 23 minutes per day on average”.

How Grammarly leverages product usage to provide business ROI

📉 Loss aversion

 You can pitch ROI all day, but in tough economic times, what’s the cost of not doing anything?

Our team at Grammarly worked with a research firm to calculate the real cost of NOT improving your writing communication. 

Turns out that bad writing is costing your employer a chunk of cash! 

Furthermore, if your business is struggling, you want your sales teams to spend less time writing and more time they’re spending with customers! 

Grammarly has the data to back it up 👇

Common outcomes of effective communication

Phase 4: Getting to executives & closing the deal

By this phase in our playbook, account executives have: 

✅ Full understanding of the account’s product usage and goals with Grammarly

✅ A compelling sales narrative to present to executives

✅ Data to back up their claims and be credible to decision-makers

Now, how do you get in front of the right executive, cold? 

Traditional sales techniques apply here. I won’t go into details. 

It’s worth noting, however, that product data heavily support how our reps execute PLS deals.

💻 How we use end-user insights & product data to curate demos

Because we have the bottom-up context and we understand the value of Grammarly business for multiple stakeholders, we're able to thread that through our sales activities like demos. 

For example, if accounts tell our sales reps that they're on G Suite and they use HubSpot, we show HubSpot marketing integrated into Grammarly.

Similarly, if we know that they’ve been using a specific functionality like plagiarism detection, sales reps lead demos with a use case that leverages it. 

Sales leaders: there’s one other non-intuitive technique that’s super effective when nurturing an enterprise account that’s already using your product. 


How ABM supports our sales process

Every week, our reps submit a list of accounts to marketing for ABM. Once an account is in an enterprise ABM campaign, decision-makers will start seeing more of Grammarly’s ads and content.  

It raises buyer awareness throughout the sales cycle and improves our chances of initiating conversations and closing deals.  

How Grammarly's marketing team supports enterprise deals with Account Based Marketing (ABM)

I believe that over is the time when marketing’s responsibilities end at passing leads to sales. In PLG, marketing supports the whole customer journey.

This sums up our enterprise sales playbook. Here’s a visual summary👇. Feel free to download the PDF and share it with your team. 

A visual summary of Grammarly's enterprise expansion playbook

Enterprise sellers, I hope I’ve laid out a good framework for you to get started on driving enterprise expansion and become successful with Product-Led enterprise sales. 

Spoiler alert: There's no finish line. Product-Led enterprise sales is a very iterative process, but following a sales playbook like this one has been proven to generate great results. 

Follow sales processes like this one and you’ll see more deals, larger deals, improved deal velocity, and an ability to create opportunities with large enterprises. 

If you want more from me, read 5 questions to fine-tune your sales motion and connect with me on LinkedIn.  

Advice for Growth

Six hard truths from a recovering Product-Led Growth skeptic

Jenn Steele

Jenn Steele is the CEO of Kissmetrics, a behavioral analytics tool for product and marketing teams. Here, she shares six cardinal truths she’s learned on the path to becoming product led.

I can admit to being a smart aleck about Product-Led Growth (PLG) in the past. “Product-led, you say?” Ohhh, you mean freemium,’” may have crossed my mind once or thrice. In my defense, I came from enterprise sales and complex products. I worked at Amazon, sold B2B multi-touch attribution at Bizible, and was CMO of Madison Logic. I even spent time in FinTech.

But my mindset has shifted a lot since then. I’ve joined new companies—learning the ins and outs of running a true PLG motion—and since evolved into a passionate, data-obsessed PLG leader. And like any good growth story, mine has certainly come with its fair share of bumps, bruises, and hard lessons in between. Here are six cardinal truths I’ve learned along the road to product led.

🎙️ Read our first interview with Jenn to learn how Kissmetrics is rolling out its new PLG motion!

Hard truth #1: People want the sizzle alongside the steak

Watching the mantra “Sell the sizzle not the steak” shake out in MarTech is when I noticed my perspective about PLG really start to shift. Not only did every company sound exactly the same, but they all talked about revenue. (I often joked that the taglines could sell my athletic shoes.) It also led to a lot of skepticism from buyers, who constantly asked, “That’s nice that you can grow my revenue, but what do you actually do? Are you an account-based marketing platform? Product-led growth tool? A content AI generator?” 

It was this “That’s nice, but how?” pushback that helped me synthesize my thoughts around the value of PLG, and it stayed top of mind when I joined Reprise—an enterprise-grade demo creation platform that just so happened to double down on its PLG motion before I came on board. 

Since it was easiest to manage PLG at the top of the funnel, and I’m not above copying absolutely everything, I decided to borrow a strategy from my former co-head of marketing at Bizible, Dave Rigotti. Dave is phenomenal at driving top-of-funnel growth—because he sells the sizzle alongside the steak. 

At Bizible, he invited customers onto every webinar to talk about the business value they were getting, which he’d support with screenshots and gifs of how it looked inside our product. This let visual folks see our product in action while auditory learners could hear someone talk about how they’re using it. 

Knowing it would take time to build up a freemium base, I took a similar approach as we started developing our free version at Reprise. By showing prospects our product early on, and highlighting the value our customers were achieving, we avoided a lot of the “That’s nice, but how” pushback we’d have otherwise heard.

Hard truth #2: An older product makes everything as hard as possible

Joining Kissmetrics in 2022, I spent my early days rebuilding our go-to-market strategy and PLG motion from scratch. We rolled out our free trial a few months after I started, and it’s been anything but a smooth, seamless journey. Being on the market for 15 years, the challenge we have isn’t a lack of awareness or low sign-up volumes. (On the contrary, I get hundreds of sign-ups each month.) 

It’s that getting a PLG motion to work in an older product is like playing Whac-A-Mole: Where are they stopping now? What’s happening? Why? How do we fix it? Wait, why did they stop again?

An older product makes it as hard as possible for people to self-onboard and use the product. Because unlike newer tools, which are built for self service, older products like Kissmetrics were designed for a guided onboarding experience. So, for us, it’s not so much about removing entire roadblocks as it is narrowing the barriers so folks can simply do the things we want them to inside the product. 

For example, instead of redirecting users to configure domain names and time zones, we teach them how to create a metric first. Rather than throw folks into a blank instance and figure it out themselves, we created pre-built reports that help show the art of the possible in the product. Moral of the story: Be prepared for thing after thing after thing if you’re starting out with an older product.

Hard truth #3: Never underestimate the basics of product marketing

Recently, I had an a-ha! moment about some long-standing friction in our onboarding flow.

For context: Our free trial is designed for a quick win that lets business folks do website tracking without any coding. But more complex scenarios, such as tracking behavior across multiple web properties or after a login, will typically require engineering support. This is also where we tend to see our biggest stalls in the onboarding process.

So, I asked a friend who uses our product about her onboarding experience. When she mentioned sending the link to our Knowledge Base to her engineering team to scope out the project, it hit me. Somewhere along the line we completely skipped over Product Marketing 101. Because while our Knowledge Base has tons of context documentation and technical guides, what it didn’t have is a simple one-pager explaining the exact steps Engineering needs to take to set up our product! 

We had to go back to the basics of product marketing, creating a quick-start guide that outlines our data structure, basic JavaScript requirements, and the three steps engineers need to take: track the necessary elements, identify the person, and test. Rather than force engineering teams to sort through endless documentation and figure it out themselves, marketers can now send them a one-pager with easy instructions to get up and running quickly. 

Hard truth #4: Your price point might not match your sales cycle length

Kissmetrics currently offers a 30-day free trial; however, I’ve been debating shrinking it to 21 days. Part of my reasoning is based on the speed of implementation. 

We’re seeing that people can achieve their first milestone of product adoption - setting up website tracking - within the first week. This is a good initial indicator. But the deeper and more telling product signal is setting up product tracking. This is again a higher handraise because it takes tapping an engineering resource. The point being that we’re seeing our 2 largest product indicators can happen within roughly 14 days (or to be safe 3 weeks) and don’t need a 30 day trial period – it’s diminishing returns after that. 

But most of all, I’m debating our trial length because throwing people into a 30-day trial leaves me dealing with an eight-week sales process. In other words, a spike in demo requests in mid-March won’t close until May. Quite frankly, my product isn’t expensive enough to drag the sales cycle out that long. 

To track all of this, we’ve been leaning into our own product’s analytics of measuring both website and product data, to evaluate trial performance and figure out the ideal trial length. I can use Kissmetrics analytics to see what actions our free trial users are taking in the product (and when!), as well as understand where our referral traffic is coming from. We leverage these types of insights to validate other parts of the sales cycle as well. 

Not too long ago, Sales mentioned that the demo requests coming from Google Analytics doubled over the past few months. Digging into our web traffic data in Kissmetrics, I looked at the referral sites for both our demo requests and scheduled demos. Sure enough, my sales team was right—100% of the folks who scheduled demos with us had previously visited the “Google Analytics vs. Kissmetrics” page. Whereas before, more than 50% had not looked at that page before scheduling a demo. 

Hard truth #5: No, your growth team should not sit under Product.

Here’s where I may stir up some controversy. I agree that a cross-functional growth team is an ideal org structure for PLG companies that 1. have the headcount and 2. want to get things done fast. But I don’t agree that it should sit under Product. Honestly, have you ever seen a bunch of marketers answer to a product leadership? Because I have, and I can tell you that it’s not good. 

All humor aside, the ideal org structure for a PLG team looks different at every company and for every motion. Smaller companies, such as Kissmetrics, typically don’t have the headcount to build out a dedicated growth team. In our case, we converted our whole team to support the PLG motion. If a PLG motion fails at a small company, it’s especially tough because they can only take on one big bet at a time. 

When it comes to shifting gears internally, I’ve also found that more technical sales teams will adapt to a Product-Led Sales (PLS) motion more easily than traditional sales. When you’re talking to prospects who have someone on their buying committee already using the product, your initial calls no longer follow the “song and dance” sales demo routine. You’re already leaning into a customer support role instead.  

But if your sales team traditionally relies on support from sales or solutions engineers, pivoting to a PLS motion becomes a lot harder. The best sales folks know how to talk technology and benefits at the same time, so you’ll want reps with that tech knowledge much sooner in the process. 

📚 Read our guide on how to make bottom-up sales work internally.

Hard truth #6: PLG and its future tech stack remains undefined

Speaking of controversy, even the very definition of Product-Led Growth remains up for debate, with most folks subscribing to one of two schools of thought. The first, which is a more narrow view, defines PLG as a free trial or freemium version that lets people use your actual product. The second takes a much broader view, likening PLG to a philosophy for selling your product with your product. 

As a systems thinker, I find that the second viewpoint resonates with me the most—it helps me think about how we can apply our product across every stage of the funnel. For example, how do I build my content strategy to support a PLG motion? What should my product marketing strategy look like? How does a PLS motion change my first call?

Likewise, we’re also in the early stages of defining the PLG tech stack as a whole.  While there’s definitely an ecosystem in place, it remains unclear where, exactly, PLG tools will fit into the broader mix. Will we have a PLG tech stack or category similar to marketing, sales, and CS tech stacks? Or will PLG be a subset of existing product or marketing tech stacks? 

Because just like everything else, PLG technology is highly matrixed and integrated yet still its own system in and of itself. It’ll be interesting to see how the space gets carved out over the next few years. 

More Product-Led GTM frameworks?

Follow Calixa to be notified when new expert frameworks and guides are published.

Product Updates

Product Updates: April 2023

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

Last month Calixa introduced the ability to test alerts and automations. We also published top PLS plays to help sales teams hit the ground running.

🔐 Securely connect your data warehouse

The data warehouse has become core to many enterprises. Calixa securely connects to your company infrastructure through a set of static IPs. Easily connect your data warehouse and maintain enterprise security.

Learn more in the docs.

🔔 Test automations and alerts

It’s common practice to test automations or usage-based alerts after creating them. You now have the option to "Run now" to immediately see if they work. Set up automations and alerts with confidence.

Jump into automations to try it out.

🎉 Steal these winning PLS plays

Plays operationalize the outreach process and messaging based on specific high-intent product activity – so all reps perform at the highest level. We’re excited to showcase plays that are inspired by the real GTM workflows and interviews with users like yourself. 

Check at all the plays.

🙌 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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read March here 👈

Advice for Growth

5 pivotal shifts that evolved Appcues’ 10-year-old PLG motion

Jared Deluca
Marketing Technology & Ops Manager

On the market for nearly 10 years, Appcues’ free trial has been around from the very beginning. Appcues’ leadership has always believed that someone who can experience and see the value of our product for themselves will ultimately decide to pay for it. 

Shifting into a more dedicated PLG mindset over the past few years, we uncovered new opportunities to optimize our free trial offering, better qualify prospects, and evolve our product journey into a more self-sufficient experience. Here are five pivotal shifts we made to evolve our PLG motion and deliver greater value to our users.

Creating urgency without compromising value

Every free trial revolves around two objectives:

1. Letting folks unlock value in the product by themselves

2. Motivating them to upgrade to a paid subscription or product tier.

One rarely exists without the other—and Appcues’ free trial is no exception.

Up until last year, free trialers could install Appcues and use its full functionality within their product for up to 50 flows before the trial expired. (For context: flows represent a series of steps that guide a user through a specific experience.)

Depending on their product usage, a free trialer could play around in the tool for free for upwards of a year (or longer!). In other words: Our trial delivered a ton of value, but it lacked urgency for users to buy our tool.

Graph showing how to create a product experience that converts

We remedied this by transitioning to a time-based 14-day trial, offering the full suite of product functionality as before.

Aside from a handful of enterprise-grade features, our free trialers can do anything they want during the two-week period—which includes customizing in-app features with corporate branding, logos, and font (example below ⤵️).

Example of Appcues branded product experience

Since most people see value during the first few days of their trial and invest in a paid version soon after, we didn’t get any pushback about shortening the timeframe.


Had we shortened the trial and removed product functionality, we’d likely see greater disruption and hesitation from prospects to buy.

Offering incentives to speed activation and boost conversion

Appcues is a very conceptual product, which makes it difficult for some folks to understand without seeing it in action. To start building with the tool, free trialers need to install our Chrome extension—which lets them build anything, anywhere—or install Javascript in their product, which typically requires developer support. 

Since both options can be barriers for users, we’re constantly looking for ways to remove roadblocks or incentivize our trialers to reach one of those two activation points in the product faster. 

For example, customizing in-product messaging with corporate branding—and pushing them live within a product—is a top activation point. But to do this, trialers first need to install Javascript in their product. To incentivize them to take this step, we’ll extend their free trial for two weeks once the Javascript is installed.

Giving folks this nudge makes them much more likely to get up and running during their trial period. This also encourages them to work with their developer to add events or user properties while the project is fresh—helping them reach that activation point even faster. 

Flywheel showing how to accelerate product adoption

We’ve also evolved our product guidance and onboarding to be more prescriptive about the actions people need to take. By extending the time box for higher-intent trialers and offering them more detailed resources, we can get them to see value early on and drive higher conversions. 

Asking people what, exactly, they want to accomplish

Remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer becomes the Moviefone Man? Exasperated by his questions, he asks George, “Why don’t you just tell me where you want to see the movie?” I find that a similar principle applies to PLG. 

Sometimes the best way to deliver value is to simply ask folks what they want to accomplish and then guide them from there.

Here are a few ways we drive higher-quality interactions and strategic initiatives based on the feedback we receive to our questions. 

  • Personalized onboarding experiences. A lot of product teams and marketers use Appcues to create modals, slideouts, and checklists, so we started asking a lot of questions about their goals at the beginning of their trial. For example, are they looking to onboard new users, engage folks during a feature launch, or drive adoption for specific product functionality? Their answers help us guide them to the right templates and best resources to get started immediately.
  • Proactive sales consultations. Our sales reps are really proficient in the product, reaching out to trialers within 24 hours of signup as a technical resource to help them get up and running. Our sales motion is inherently consultative, with reps asking questions like: “How can I help you build? What are your goals? What brought you to Appcues in the first place?” Our reps also aren’t shy about telling people if another tool is a better fit for their objectives—a rarity in tech.
  • New use cases and product strategies. We also evaluate the types of questions we ask during trial sign-up, such as whether someone plans to use Appcues for their website, mobile app, or both. Almost 50% of people who sign up for a trial will answer this question, and the answers have surprised us. Most of our customers are B2B software companies who’ve responded that they plan to use Appcues for both. This insight shifted our strategies a bit and led to us launching our mobile product last fall. It also supports the notion that people are willing to tell you what they want to do—as long as you ask the right question. 
Example of onboarding experience from Appcues

Serving up tailored, bite-sized insights to sales reps

Keeping sales reps focused on taking the right actions—without overwhelming them with endless Slack and email notifications—is a common challenge at any company, including ours. One way we’re reducing background noise for reps is by tailoring our playbooks around sales conversations for two key buyers. 

The first is the end user of our product: an active trialer who’s performing a specific function. Sales conversations with this buyer will be a lot different than those of our second buyer type: someone buying Appcues on behalf of their team or company.

The non-end user buyer doesn't build flows or track events nor do they need a product deep dive—they want to know more about how we can deliver high-level value. Structuring our playbooks in this way helps sales reps guide these conversations at the appropriate levels. 

Appcues' sales strategy by user type

Another key priority we’re working on is identifying a short list of key actions and buyer signals to roll up to the sales team, such as leads who recently visited the pricing page, installed the JavaScript, or created their first checklist. Once we nail down the top actions to share, we plan to roll them out to reps via an easily consumable format, such as a daily digest.

Prioritizing and qualifying leads with better scoring

Right now, a lot of our scoring is firmographic-based. From the overall pool of our trial signups, we whittle down to a smaller group based on business size and whether someone signed up with a business or personal email.

From there, we have some automated scoring in place based on our ICP, which shrinks that pool down to the most valuable prospects for our sales reps to focus on with more personalized follow-ups.

How Appcues prioritizes leads

However, we’re starting to explore ways to incorporate PQLs and usage-based metrics into our scoring, such as inviting a new user or visiting a specific area of the product. This will make everything from our go-to-market messaging and sales conversations that much more sophisticated.

For example, instead of blanket messaging for enterprise users vs. small businesses vs. mid-market companies, we can go a lot deeper—and offer value much faster. “This is a mid-market user who’s installed the Javascript and built an onboarding flow. We know they’re focused on onboarding and don’t care about these other features, so let’s talk to them differently.”

It’s humbling to look back and see how far we’ve come on our product-led journey at Appcues, and inspiring to see how much we can still do to improve our own product experience. We’re still product-led transformers striving to become elite, and it’s incredible to think about how much we’ve learned from our customers along the way. 

Ultimately, product-led experiences are about empowering end users to get value from software as quickly and frictionlessly as possible, and I’m excited to see the progress we all continue to make toward that goal!

More frameworks like this one?

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More from Appcues?

Read our interview with Eric Keating, VP of Marketing at Appcues.

Advice for Growth

How marketing drives upsell & expansion deals

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing

Let’s be honest. In the past, marketing hasn’t had a significant role in much outside of acquisition. 🤷🏻‍♀️

It wasn’t their fault. Marketers often had KPIs that focus on new leads and logos, not renewals or expansion. Yet with product-led that’s quickly changing. 

Shanee Ben-Zur, Chief Marketing & Growth Officer at Crunchbase recently shared, “In a product-led world, marketing teams must change their perspective from traditional demand generation like webinars and ebooks to being the connective tissue between product and customer teams. Helping product understand what UX changes are necessary, aligning lifecycle campaigns to the in-product experience, and aligning demand generation to usage data.”

Just as salespeople now put more focus towards the “land and expand” and a consultative approach, marketers too are moving away from pure top of funnel lead gen tactics. Roles within marketing such as growth, demand gen, and lifecycle marketing are now tasked with deepening product adoption and increasing active users. Going back to Shanee: 

“Traditionally it’s all about the land. But in PLG, this concept is flipped on its head. The land may be small, but the potential for expansion is where the revenue really comes from.”

This blog covers how marketing can run campaigns based on product usage data to drive expansion deals. We’ll share a general overview of product-led marketing and then showcase real-world examples.

Note: we refer to the traditional approach to marketing as “top-down marketing”, while “product-led marketing” is the same as bottom-up marketing.

💡 Product-led marketing vs top-down marketing

Before diving into tactics, let’s get a high-level understanding of these two approaches. Product-led marketing is suited for self-serve or hybrid sales motions, while top-down marketing fits the top-down sales motion. But they’re not mutually exclusive – the same company can run multiple GTM motions.

So what are the major differences between the two?

🙋 Users vs leads

Product-led marketers understand the value of free users – because they know PQLs convert better than MQLs. Although users are often individual contributors, they play a key role in bottom-up sales by becoming a product advocate who can help sell the product internally and potentially influence the right decision makers. 

Top-down marketing aims to get leads into the sales process. These are typically executives who might not have time to use the product themselves, but have the buying power for their entire organization to adopt your product. Unlike users, leads go through discovery calls, demos, and contract negotiations instead of regularly using the product. 

It’s worth noting that new users usually shouldn’t be treated as new leads. They can act as product champions. Instead of selling at them, you eventually build a business case for leadership with them.

📈 Product usage vs general awareness

Product-led marketing encourages active product usage. The messaging is deeply specific and highlights the product's value, because the audience is using (or will use) your product. Marketers focus on optimizing SEO for product keywords, using CTAs like “Try for free,” and having ongoing user education to deepen product engagement. 

Marketing teams increase product usage by investing in:

Top-down marketing has multi-touches for general awareness, so that the lead will eventually Request a Demo. The messaging is a high level product overview, because the audience has never used your product before. It leverages demand gen content that can pique the interest of executive buyers. 

Marketing teams increase general awareness by investing in:

  • Top of funnel - Thought leadership, ebooks, webinars
  • Bottom of funnel - Case studies, sales decks

Product-led marketing is powerful because firsthand experience with the product goes a long way. You can see in the graph below that people find free trials and user reviews the most trustworthy. While top-down marketing is a helpful method to generate buzz, product-led marketing provides tangible value.

Data source / Image source

🎯 Different KPIs

As mentioned, product-led marketing is focused on driving product adoption. The core idea is to grow revenue over the long-term. This includes usage metrics and revenue goals around PQLs and expansion revenue.

Top-down marketing builds pipe through sales activities. The goal is to help sales teams close a large upfront deal. Typically, the quarterly goals include new leads and new logo revenue. Top-down marketing is usually less concerned with post-sales.

You can see a full comparison in this chart:

We’ll walk through tactics for succeeding at these product-led marketing’s KPIs in the next section.

🗺 Driving revenue throughout the user journey

Similar to how top-down marketing aligns with sales deal stages, product-led marketing aligns with the product’s user journey. The core stages of the user journey are activation, retention, and expansion.

🏎 Activation

Goal: Nurture free users into active users

Common KPIs: time-to-value (TTV), PQLs, free-to-paid/sales-assisted conversion

Activation is arguably the most important part of the user funnel. Right after a user signs up, you have a brief period of time to help them discover the product’s Aha moment. Otherwise, the chance of them coming back is incredibly slim. 

Marketers leverage various channels such as onboarding checklists, onboarding emails, and onboarding specialist teams (a sales-assist that’s a crossover between sales and success) to ensure the user is successful. The key here is to continually experiment and identify points of user friction. Tools like Calixa make it easier to run nurture campaigns at scale and turn users into PQLs.


Asana’s onboarding checklist helps users understand the core product value. Users quickly learn how to create projects, tasks, and due dates.

Best in-product checklists

Airtable’s onboarding email gives users the option to join a training webinar – so users can pick according to their learning preferences.

Best onboarding emails

🔁 Retention

Goal: Bring users back into product to deepen product adoption 

Common KPIs: daily, weekly, or monthly retention; net revenue retention (NRR); usage growth; premium features used; net promoter score (NPS)

After you’ve done the hard work of activating users, you want them to stay active and become more active. Marketers increase retention through adoption campaigns and churn campaigns. They often work with success and product teams to learn about the most sticky features.

For example, having teams collaborate on your product can introduce network effects and is incredibly sticky. Many marketers encourage users to add their teammates. Calixa’s Journey View is an intuitive way to see your most important user milestones (e.g. invited teammate).


Canva encourages individual users to create a team in this email. That way, the product can become even more valuable and indispensable.’s email reminds users who have dropped off about new features. Periodic emails like this invite churned users to come back.

🙌 Upsell & expansion

Goal: Drive expansion deals & go from credit card plans to enterprise plans

Common KPIs: users added (seat-based), paywalls hit (usage-based/usage limit), PQAs, deals created, expansion revenue

When you have enough active users who are consistently using your product, it’s time to upgrade to an enterprise plan. Organizations choose to upgrade for the enterprise security, custom SLAs, bulk discounts, and feature add-ons. 

Marketers drive expansion by promoting wall-to-wall product adoption. They market into new departments, and they also target the executive buyer persona with a top-down marketing CTA (Book a demo). Oftentimes, executives are unaware they have so many departments and employees using your product.

Calixa supports your data infrastructure to make it possible to spot these account consolidation opportunities. The platform simplifies your sales handoff using expansion plays – so you can surface the PQAs you worked so hard for.


Notion is a horizontal product that encourages wall-to-wall product adoption (“Get Notion for the whole team”). The LinkedIn ad has a top-down marketing CTA to appeal to executive buyers.

Intercom uses a paywall as an opportunity to facilitate a bottoms-up sale. This in-product message recognizes the fact that the user was not an admin, and instructs them to recommend this upgrade to our co-founders (CEO and CTO):

Instead of relying on typical channels, Loom encourages company-wide usage through their Slackbot. The main takeaway is that marketing messaging can go wherever your product goes – so get creative!

🤔 Succeeding in product-led marketing

Marketers have many channels to experiment with in a product-led motion. In order to succeed, they must learn how to take advantage of new channels such as templates, free tools, and in-app messages. These help users engage with your product.

Product-led marketing strategically activates, retains, and drives expansion deals with top accounts. Yet as marketing teams work their way up an organization to the C-suite, top-down marketing is still relevant.

Calixa supports marketers by visualizing the user journey, running nurture campaigns, and surfacing top deals for sales. Sign up today or book a demo.

Advice for Growth

How to make PLG onboarding emails that drive activation

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

The success of product-led companies largely depends on their ability to onboard new users effectively. 

Unfortunately, many PLG organizations stick to the old-fashioned method of onboarding, which consists of a time-based sequence of sending a few emails over a short period. 

This approach sucks. Don’t believe me? One huge PLG company (that I won’t name) had a bug in their system last year. 

The bug made it so that no onboarding emails were sent to new users. 

Result: nothing… 

No impact on activation rates, at all! 

In a recent interview with Rev-Ops Co-Op, my colleague Stephen Moock laid out the most burning PLG trends for 2023, with one key opportunity for improvement being the need for marketing to change how they think about onboarding users. 

In this article, we'll explore the problems with traditional time-based onboarding sequences and introduce how you can use product usage data to craft onboarding sequences that: 

✅ Actually help your users become successful

✅ Increases activation

✅ Brings users closer to your brand, thus decreasing churn risk 

Time to put your generic onboarding sequences aside

They suck and users ignore them. 

Traditional time-based onboarding sequences typically involve sending new users a series of emails over a fixed number of days. 

While this approach may seem simple and straightforward, it has significant drawbacks:

Lack of personalization

Time-based onboarding emails often fail to address the unique needs and preferences of individual users, which can result in disengagement and lower conversion rates.

Inadequate engagement

Since these emails are sent on a fixed schedule, users who progress more quickly or slowly through the onboarding process may not receive relevant information at the right time, leading to confusion and frustration.

Appeal to everyone = appeal to no one

Time-based onboarding emails assume that all users have the same level of familiarity with your product and require the same information, which is rarely true. 

This can result in irrelevant content that doesn't resonate with your audience.

What makes a great PLG onboarding email

Before we get into how to use product data to superpower your email cadence and PLG strategy, let’s start with the basics, shall we?

Great onboarding emails have the following ⤵️

  1. Clear subject line: A great onboarding email starts with an attention-grabbing subject line. Ensure that it's concise, informative, and clearly communicates the value the email offers to your new user.
  2. Keep it simple: Keep your email content easy to digest by using short sentences and breaking up large blocks of text. This approach enhances readability and increases the likelihood that users will absorb the key points you're trying to convey.
Tweet from Tro Osinoff on emails
  1. One goal per email: To avoid overwhelming your users, focus on just one goal or objective per email. Whether getting them to complete a specific action or introducing a particular feature, maintaining a single focus ensures that your message is clear and effective.
Graph about reply rates from
  1. Human as the sender: Instead of using a generic "no-reply" email address, consider sending your onboarding emails from a real person, such as a sales representative or customer success manager. This helps humanize your brand, making your users more likely to engage with your content.
  2. Relevance to user's product behavior: Your onboarding emails should align with the user's current stage in their product journey. By addressing the user's immediate needs and concerns, you can make your emails more relevant and valuable.
  3. About them, not you: Onboarding emails are not about showcasing what you have to offer, they’re about understanding where users are coming from and what can be communicated to help them. 
Email illustration from Kevin MLZ
  1. Show > Tell: Use screenshots, product gifs, and videos to show not just tell what you're asking them to achieve.
  2. Leveraging product data: More on this below ⬇️

Whether you get fancy or not, simply incorporating these elements into your PLG onboarding emails will do wonders for your user experience. 

Remember: the key to successful onboarding lies in personalization, relevance, and a genuine understanding of your user's needs throughout their product journey.

Best user onboarding emails for PLG

A well-crafted onboarding sequence can greatly impact the user experience and help new users get the most out of your product. Here are some types of emails to consider including in your onboarding sequence:

Welcome email

This email sets the tone for your relationship with the new user. It should thank them for signing up, provide an overview of your product, and offer clear guidance on the next steps for them to gain value from your product.

Welcome email from Clay

Product education email

These emails introduce new users to key features and functionalities of your product. Break down complex concepts into simple, easy-to-understand steps, and consider using visuals or linking to video tutorials for better engagement.

Onboarding email from Loom

Milestone or achievement email

Celebrate your users' accomplishments by acknowledging when they've completed essential tasks or reached specific milestones within your product. This encourages continued engagement and creates a positive user experience.

Onboarding email from OpinionX

Check-in or feedback

Based on what they’ve done with your product, check in with new users to gauge their progress, address any questions or concerns, and collect feedback on their experience. This helps identify potential roadblocks and demonstrates that you value their opinions.

Contextual onboarding email from Josh @Hugo

Personalized recommendations

Leverage user data to provide personalized recommendations for additional features or content that may be relevant to their specific needs. This fosters a deeper connection with your product and encourages further exploration.

Onboarding email from Userpilot

Case studies and success stories

Share real-life examples of how other users or businesses have successfully used your product to achieve their goals. Make sure these successes are related to how that user is using your product, their role, use case, etc. This helps to inspire and motivate new users while showcasing that you understand them.

Helpful email from Asana during onboarding

Invitations to webinars or events

Based on a recent feature they just activated or poked around in but perhaps dropped off, invite new users to participate in webinars, training sessions, or other events that can further enhance their understanding of your product and its benefits. 

Webinar invite email from OpinionX

Ready to level up? 

Step 1: Fire emails with product usage data

This means that you trigger messages off users’ adoption of your product. 

Why is it powerful? 

It allows you to: 

  1. Personalize onboarding: By sending emails based on user activity, you can tailor your onboarding process to each individual, addressing their specific needs and interests.
  2. Optimize engagement: Product activity-based onboarding emails are sent in response to user actions, ensuring that users receive relevant information at the right time, improving engagement and overall satisfaction.
  3. Accelerate onboarding: This approach typically requires fewer emails than time-based sequences, resulting in a more efficient onboarding process and faster adoption of your product.


Platforms like allow you to build cadences off product usage data coming from either a customer data platform (CDP) or warehouse. 

Workflow builder in

Step 2: Branch users by firmographics for enhanced personalization

On top of firing emails off product usage data, layer in firmographics like: 

  • Industry, 
  • Company size, 
  • Title
  • Location
  • Etc.


First, each industry has unique challenges and requirements. By tailoring to specific industry pain points, you're speaking directly to the user's needs, making your content more relatable.

Second, large enterprises have more complex structures and different needs. Adapting your emails to match the user's company size lets you resonate with their context.

Third, users from various departments have different objectives for your product. Branching by  role helps you share personalized onboarding content focused on use cases for their position.

Illustration showing how a user might not care about the same features as a manager

Fourth (and by far most important), firmographics influence which product signals should be tracked to fire onboarding emails. 

Let’s say we’re Asana, here’s an example: You may want to wait until end-users complete 25 tasks before you send a help doc about Projects, yet send the same email after only 1 task is completed if the user’s a decision-maker!  

Step 3: Qualified users should be out of onboarding campaigns and passed to sales

With some users, you’re wasting your time with onboarding cadences. Or at least leaving money on the table. 

Who are those users? Product-qualified leads or top users at product-qualified accounts? 

With a Product-Led Sales platform like Calixa, PQLs and PQAs are surfaced automatically and sent to sales.  

What's key here is that sales is made aware of qualified users exiting onboarding. Reps should focus on providing personalized onboarding, and picking up where the emails left off instead of just trying to sell them. 

Product Qualified Accounts in Calixa

Went that happens, top PLG companies have their reps run playbooks to either drive users to success or convert them faster on a paid plan. 

Example of a free-to-paid conversion playbook

Read this to find examples of manual emails sent to qualified leads by sales. 

Marketing’s job doesn’t stop at onboarding

💡 In a product-led growth (PLG) motion, the marketing team's responsibility extends far beyond the onboarding process.

One of the most critical reasons is maximizing LTV. When you continue to engage with and nurture users after onboarding, you can drive more revenue from each user through upsells or expansions.

Besides, nurturing helps enhance product adoption. By educating users about advanced features and use cases, you ensure they continue exploring your product and getting the most value from it.

Well-nurtured users are more likely to become brand advocates. They'll promote your product within their networks, contributing to organic growth and word-of-mouth marketing.

Keep in mind that PLG thrives on cross-functional collaboration between marketing, sales, product, and customer success teams. Nurturing shouldn't just be through email. It should carry over to the other parts of the user experience (website, email, slack, in-product, etc). Your ongoing nurturing efforts contribute to a seamless and cohesive user experience throughout the entire customer journey.

Putting It All Together: Creating a Powerful Onboarding Process for Product-Led Companies

To create an effective and personalized product-led onboarding process for your product-led company, consider:

✅ Transitioning from time-based onboarding sequences to product activity-based onboarding emails. This approach ensures that users receive relevant information at the right time, resulting in increased engagement and satisfaction.

✅ Branching users by firmographics to provide a more tailored product-led onboarding

✅ Tracking where in your product-led onboarding users should exit self-serve campaigns and be passed on to sales. 


Advice for Growth

My 4-step enterprise framework for PLG messaging that lands & expands

Anthony Pierri
Fletch PMM

Rolling out a Product-Led Growth (PLG) motion is both a market opportunity and a messaging challenge for most enterprise leaders. On one hand, you have lots of doors to get folks into the product. On the other, convoluted platform messaging makes it hard to understand what the product does. 

Whether your enterprise team needs to rethink its value props or cross-sell more collaboratively, here’s my four-step enterprise framework for creating a bottom-up PLG motion that doesn’t go, well, bottoms up.

1 - When it comes to GTM messaging, think like a startup

Behind every enterprise platform is a killer point solution that put it on the map. As that point solution scales, and a company builds more products, it eventually expands into a platform play. 

By the end, enterprise leaders are left with multiple product lines to sell, a wide range of buyers and product values, and (hopefully) a single all-encompassing platform message that ties it all together. 

When layering in a PLG motion on top, it often fails to thrive for two big reasons:

  • #1. The go-to-market (GTM) messaging is too complicated. Enterprise leaders tend to forget that most folks come in via a point solution (especially in a PLG motion!). They end up overcomplicating their product messaging by making it all-encompassing, which ultimately divorces bottoms-up messaging from the context that buyers need to understand what the product does.

❌ By appealing to everyone, the messaging appeals to no one.

  • #2. It satisfies everyone but no one is excited about. As a company scales, its internal processes start to slow as the number of stakeholders involved grows larger. It’s not unusual for a single piece of messaging to change hands between 60 different stakeholders. When this happens, messaging becomes the lowest common denominator: satisfying every stakeholder yet exciting none of them.

❌ If internal folks aren’t excited about your messaging, why will buyers be?

Infographic showing examples of weak messaging when you combine capabilities

All of this leads to a PLG motion that’s only that much harder to run. If you’re running a PLG motion at a large company, don’t approach it with an enterprise mindset. 

Think about it as a startup selling a point solution that solves a specific problem. Speaking at the right level, with the right business context, is what makes a value proposition compelling for your buyers—not jargony, corporate buzzwords and weird, conglomerate language used by a lot of enterprises today.

Infographic showing the number of unique messaging needed based on the number of use cases

2 - Use marketing content to support your sales cycle 

Sending generic emails and token case studies with an ROI metric isn’t going to get attention from today’s prospective buyers—it’s become far too played out. Getting people’s attention and building their trust will not only take time, but also require you to show value.  

I’m living proof that a content-first strategy builds trust faster and gets more sales than typical outbound tactics. After a brief stint as an SDR—during which I cold-called and cold-emailed to no avail—I flipped completely to creating content for our company. We have folks reaching out to us every single day, thanking us for our helpful content and asking for a sales conversation. I used content as a vehicle to build up that trust, and now they want to know even more about how we can help them.

Think about the level of content and thoughtfulness your enterprise currently takes in its outbound marketing approach: How can you apply that inward to create visual content or quick explainer videos throughout the sales cycle and in customer conversations?

An easy place to start is going one level deeper than generic case studies to create templates that show customers and prospects specific ways to use your product. 

You can also share metadata around how others in their industry use the product and what types of outcomes they’re seeing. These are the types of things that completely change the dynamic of your sales conversations and make people want to proactively reach out to you. 

4 levels of problems solved by Loom

Plus, an added perk for sales reps in large companies is tapping into their big marketing teams with content engines—not becoming the content creators themselves. 

3 - Adjust your sales narrative based on audience, time horizon, and channel

Building on the above, change up your narrative based on who you’re talking to and what they care about. I recommend thinking about this in terms of job level and time horizon. 

For example, the higher up someone is in an organization, the more future-oriented they need to think. Someone lower in the organization focuses on today and tomorrow; mid-level managers think about the current month and quarter; and executive decision-makers plan for next year and those following.

Infographic showing how to adjust your product's benefit messaging with the time horizon of each persona

Working with an individual contributor or end user? 

→ Share templates that help them accomplish what needs to get done today. 

Headed into a conversation with an executive stakeholder? 

→ Talk about the trends coming down the pike and what they should be thinking about as a thought leader in their space. 

Another perk about running PLG at an enterprise is that there are tons of underutilized subject matter experts you can pull in to add even deeper value to these conversations.

Likewise, an additional starting point is tailoring initial sales conversations and content around the door or channel someone came in through: 

“Hey, I noticed you came in through the marketing automation door of our really horizontal platform. Did you know that you can do this? Here’s a template that shows you how.” 

Providing the right value upfront makes it easier to open up a dialogue and then bridge the conversation to other use cases more effectively.

4 - Drive expansions with tight Sales and Product Marketing collaboration

Last, but certainly not least: Getting folks into the product is the first step in what will hopefully be a much longer journey across the platform. This makes a collaborative relationship between sales reps and product marketers table stakes for cross-selling and expansions. 

In an ideal world, these two teams are tightly integrated, with product marketers sharing in-depth customer research, value propositions, and use cases for sales reps to use in their conversations and presentation decks. But in reality, very little back and forth takes place. 

Case in point: I talk to lots of sales leaders at Fortune 500 companies. You’d be surprised at how many still use marketing material that hasn’t been updated in years.

The disconnect between these teams leads to outdated value messaging and missed opportunities for higher sales revenue and larger customer expansions. Closing this gap also makes providing personalized, relevant content to prospects and customers that much easier for Sales. 

In a perfect symbiotic relationship, a sales rep can easily grab enablement materials and value props for any given use case during customer conversations. On the other side, product marketers can use feedback from Sales to continuously update messaging and product materials with what resonates most with folks.

Infographic explaining how sales reps can adjust their value propositions based on the persona

Messaging Checklist for Enterprise PLG:

  • How many stakeholders are currently involved in PLG messaging? How many need to be?
  • Is the messaging for your PLG motion built to sell a specific point solution or an enterprise platform?
  • Have you pinpointed where customers might benefit from marketing content in their journey with your products?
  • Can someone understand your product without any additional context than what’s on your landing page today?
  • Are your use cases and value props generated by product marketers?
  • How easy is it for sales reps to grab sales enablement materials for different use cases?
  • Is Product Marketing incorporating in-depth customer research into decks and slides with talk tracks that Sales can pull from?
  • Have you established a communication channel between sales and product marketing so they can both iterate from the other side’s insights? 

Download this checklist here

More frameworks like this one?

I hope I’ve illustrated the importance of adjusting your messaging and product marketing strategy to support Product-Led Sales at the enterprise level. 

Follow Calixa to be notified when new expert frameworks and guides are published, and follow me for weekly visual breakdowns like the images you saw above. 

Advice for Growth

Aligning teams, incentives, & plays for a sales-assist motion

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder

I recently sat down with Shanee Ben-Zur, Chief Marketing & Growth Officer at Crunchbase, to discuss all things PLG, including aligning incentives in a sales-assist motion, the role of growth, and why PLG is key to succeeding during economic uncertainty. 

From her tenure at Crunchbase and early days at Dropbox, spanning pre- and post-IPO, her interest and passion for PLG came on early and strong. 

What types of companies should consider a product-led strategy?

I believe that all companies – even complex technologies - have the potential to embrace PLG. It obviously gets more complicated as products become more technical, but I’ve seen how companies carve out portions of their products to showcase via sandbox environments, freemium, or free trials. Ultimately, you’re trying to get your prospects to experience an a-ha moment with your product before buying so they’ll be more inclined to become customers. 

Think of PLG as a highly cost-efficient demand-generation driver. First-hand experience trying your product is much more powerful than an ebook or webinar.

It’s also a more customer-centric way of selling. Most buyers today do not want to speak to a salesperson until they’ve done all of their due diligence. Some never want to speak to a rep and just want to buy completely independently.

The role of sales has shifted from hard-core selling to providing value, guidance, and offering decision-making support. Salespeople become trusted advisors rather than adversaries. 

As Chief Growth Officer, tell me about this function’s organizational role. 

If we take a step back, there is this old world (pre-PLG) with sales, marketing, and product – and never shall they overlap. Product is building features, marketing is running demand generation campaigns, and sales is selling hard to the leads marketing sends. It’s like a relay race where the baton is passed from one team to the other. 

In our new PLG world, these three teams must work in tandem, jointly connected, and collaborative. And often, there’s a fourth team in the mix, usually with grey lines across teams  – growth. 

For example, I oversee growth at Crunchbase. Growth is both a dedicated role and a dotted line organization that brings together reps from product, eng, marketing, sales, and CS. They all roll up into different leaders, but we come together behind shared revenue goals.

What functional changes and shifts in incentives do you have to make when investing in a sales-assist motion?

Usually, a salesperson's quota is based on how many deals they close, and if they perceive that they're losing deals to something else, whether it's a competitor or an internal lower-price product, that's a threat.

In a PLG world, the self-serve product could be perceived as a threat to quota. So leaders must find ways to align incentives and remove that perceived threat. 

Similarly, in the PLG world, product teams must evolve their remit to include thinking about the entire customer journey and experience. From acquisition to activation and engagement—areas previously thought of as solely marketing and customer success. 

In a PLG world, marketing teams must change their perspective from traditional demand generation like webinars and ebooks to being the connective tissue between product and customer-teams. Helping product understand what UX changes are necessary, aligning lifecycle campaigns to the in-product experience, and aligning demand generation to usage data. The best lead source changes from out in a certain channel to inside the product.

Ultimately, PLG requires every team to change how they think about interacting with prospects and customers. Then leaders have to figure out how to change incentives to actually make people want to behave in that new way.

Why are expansion plays critical in PLG? 

In traditional sales, it’s all about the land. How can you land something really big? And then the expansion is much smaller. But in PLG, this concept is flipped on its head. The land may be small, but the potential for expansion is where the revenue really comes from.

We’ve seen that prioritizing quick lands and expanding overtime is the way to go. PLG allows for faster deal velocity because there isn’t that large upfront deal that takes months to close. Leaving room for sales to run an expansion play typically has a much higher win rate than new logo deals.

It also minimizes revenue leakage. You can either have 100 accounts per year at $100,000 each or 10,000 accounts at $1,000 each—if you lose a few small accounts, the dollars lost and impact on revenue is much less than losing the same number of larger accounts. 

Any advice for PLG teams during this time of economic uncertainty? 

Working at Crunchbase, we’re lucky to have our hands on a lot of data and particularly trends in venture. Some of our latest conclusions based on the market dynamic is not to put all your eggs in one basket – whether that one basket is a particular bank or a particular size of customer or a particular vertical.

If you have a way to create redundancy or hedge your bets, now is a really good time to diversify. And PLG plays very well into this mantra. A self-service product allows you to bring in a lot of different customers. You, of course, need to focus on your ideal customer profile (ICP) and build specific features for those customers, but that doesn't mean adjacent audiences can't get value too.

A good example of this is when LinkedIn first started. It initially targeted engineers, but anyone with a resume realized they could put it up there, and recruiters quickly saw they could recruit for any job. Then marketers realize the data goldmine that was there based on people’s careers and skill sets listed – and then from there, sales found the same value. All to say, LinkedIn was building specific features for a specific profile, but other people could get value from those features leading to a much larger market cap and value to customers. 

If more companies can look at the world in this way, where product is focused on the core ICP, but the GTM teams are a bit broader and test the potential for a horizontal product. You can really start to create more redundancy across the business so that if there is softness in one market (i.e. tech) you still have other markets or verticals that can bolster you. So that it ends up being the ebbs and flows of your business – and at some point, tech will be strong again.

Product Updates

Product Updates: March 2023

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

Hope you had a great end of quarter! At Calixa we’ve had another exciting month – and really appreciate the customer love in this video ❤️ Check out what our team was up to.

🔁 Sync additional lead fields into your CRM

Calixa gives you fine-grained control over which signups to push into the CRM. Now you can add or remove any fields you send along, including:

  • Lead source
  • Onboarding use case (e.g. personal, business)
  • User activation metrics (e.g. paywalls hit)
  • Workspace name

…and much more! Enable your sales team to move faster by keeping leads in your CRM in sync with PQLs in your product.

🔍 View PQLs on LinkedIn

The first impulse when viewing a PQL is often to search for that person’s LinkedIn profile.

Reps can now see the LinkedIn profiles of top users and accounts with just one click. By using enrichment data and keyword search, Calixa quickly finds any user or company for you on LinkedIn to maximize rep productivity. 

🎯 Score PQAs using AI

ICYMI: our recent webinar covered how AI automates hours of data analysis in an instant. Ops and data teams no longer need to manually cobble together score criteria. Sales teams can see what activities make up the score and how to best take action on their PQAs.

Watch the recording below to learn:

  • 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

👉 Learn more about how AI scoring empowers reps.

✏️ Take the PLS survey

We’re surveying product-led companies to uncover exactly how they’re tackling & balancing selling into their self-serve funnel. 

See how your sales process compares to your peers 👉 Take the 3-min survey.

Your input makes it possible for us to answer tough questions like… 

  • What criteria make up your PQL or PQA score?
  • What % increase have you seen in oppty conversion with PQLs?
  • How do your sales reps access product data today? 

🙌 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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read April here 👈

Read February here 👈

Advice for Sales

3 ways AI lead scoring can lift your sales pipeline

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

Experienced sales leaders know how impactful lead prioritization can be on sales efficiency. 

It’s the first line of defense in your sales process. Reps can’t focus their time on bad leads. 

Chances are, your defense is weak. 

For PLG, this problem is tenfold. Manual scoring simply doesn’t work. Learn why here

AI-based scoring is showcasing much better results for sales teams than human-made lead scoring. It’s time to pass the torch. 

Do you have lots of sign-ups and a limited number of sales reps to convert them? 

Read on. 

This article will explain: 

  • How traditional lead scoring models fail PLG sales teams 
  • How companies like ClickUp and Netlify leverage AI scoring to power their sales motions

Traditional lead scoring fails sales and marketing

Here’s the old (yet very common) way to do lead scoring: 

💡 Marketing or growth comes up with a subjective list of criteria for the score, including firmographics, marketing hand-raisers, unrelated customer data and (maybe) product usage data. 

➕ Weighted points are assigned to leads based on which criteria hold true.

📤 Qualified leads get passed to sales based on a blindly decided threshold (i.e score of 75+).

Example of how traditional lead scoring works

Marketers & Growth folks: Read this article to learn why this process makes no sense for PLG.

4 reasons sales hates your lead scoring process 

1. Reps don’t trust lead scores

Sales doesn’t define the scores. Marketing (or Growth) does. 

Therefore, leads end up representing what marketing thinks are great prospects, not sales. 

It’s not that marketers are clueless as to what makes a great prospect. But sales may have firsthand experience or biases towards which types of leads are worth their time. 

2. Scores have no context


That’s all you get. Now do a bit of research on the account and try to book a meeting. 

Good luck. Here’s an example 👇

Which one of these 2 freemium accounts (below) would you reach out to?  

Both accounts: 

  • Are big enough to justify sales engagement
  • Have a lead score of 75 
  • Have 10 users
  • Created 5 projects 
  • Consulted the same marketing materials 
Examples of  similar accounts and their product milestones over time

Answer: Both. But you reach out with completely different sales narratives.

Sales narrative for account A: They restarted using the product. Ask if their priorities have changed and pitch how your product can help. Perhaps a new decision-maker? Reach out to understand their priorities. 

Sales narrative for account B: They’ve hit success right off the bat. Engage highly active users and understand what they’re trying to achieve. Take the learnings and pitch decision-makers with case studies from similar companies. 

My point: Reps need context to craft a compelling sales narrative. Lead scores rarely come with context. When they do, it’s rarely actionable and comprehensible.

*Hint: it’s why PLG companies are turning to a Product-Led Sales platform

3. Scores as CRM attributes don’t work

“We send product data to our CRM system. Our reps have everything they need!”

The worst thing you can do is waste your sales team’s time by having reps look up every account one by one to decide which ones are worth their time. 

That’s what happens when lead scores live as CRM fields. SDRs can’t see which accounts are top priority without custom reports, which require work and are always outdated. 

Meme of a guy sweating because he needs to decide between 2 bad choices of either opening all CRM records or using outdated reports

4. Scores can’t keep up

Product evolves. Marketing runs a new campaign. Pricing changes.

Sales need leads based on today’s user experience, not last quarter. 

Traditional lead scoring can’t identify high-quality leads as more data comes in and take far too long to catch up.

As lead scores get outdated, reps revert to another means of prioritization: their judgment. Leading to human error and wasted sales activity. 

How Calixa's AI scoring empowers reps

The challenges described above have for a long time been inevitable. Fortunately, technology has caught up. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) can now score leads for your sales teams, and Calixa has the most sophisticated account-scoring model to date. Calixa’s AI-powered account scoring model is used by ClickUp and Netlify to surface & engage leads in pools of millions of users. 

TLDR, how it works:

AI lead scoring is a process that uses machine learning algorithms to sort and prioritize leads. Mainly by leveraging machine learning to find trends, correlations, and hidden patterns between your historical data (firmographics, product usage, marketing signals, etc) and sales outcomes (close rate, revenue, churn rate). 

It finds which set of actions correlates to revenue potential, and flags accounts that showcase similar behavior. It also does the opposite: flag accounts that show behavior that correlates to low potential for revenue. 

Let’s break down 3 ways that AI lead scoring can help your sales team reach goals faster 👇 

1. Prioritizing the right leads

Higher win rates

With Calixa's AI-generated lead scoring system, teams focus on hot leads with the best revenue potential. It’s so accurate and unbiased that it is now the main prioritization method for ClickUp’s team. 

Reps start their day looking at accounts (or workspaces) with a PQA score of 5. And then only reach out to accounts with lower scores if they have the bandwidth to do so. Same applies if they need more leads within a given target audience. 

Using PQL scores to adjust lead flow

Stop chasing bad leads 

According to Sales Insights Lab, at least half of prospects aren’t a good fit for what you’re selling.

AI can flag leads that aren’t worthwhile for sales, although seem great on the surface. 

For example, this account (below) has usage trending up, the company has hundreds of employees, and they’ve even hit paywalls. Ready for sales? Yes! Actually, no!

Account overview of an account with a low AI lead score in Calixa

Here’s why: Most users have registered with personal email addresses, the account has been on the free plan for ages and active users are going down. 

Product signals of an unqualified account in Calixa

Workflow tips

Filter lead or account lists by lead score. This way, the most sales-ready leads can be actioned first, increasing closed-won rates and speed through the sales cycle. 

How to filter accounts by AI lead score in Calixa

In Product-Led Sales (PLS), time-to-lead matters. Set alerts when new leads or accounts have reached a certain lead score (i.e: 4,5), so reps can take action at the perfect time. 

Slack notification a of new PQA from Calixa

2. Personalizing outreach 

Crafting your sales narrative

PQL Signals (powered by Calixa's machine learning) help reps understand factors that make up the score so they can craft the perfect outbound message/cadence. 

Let’s assume that I’m an SDR at Notion and am alerted of a new qualified account (below). 

Looking at PQL signals, it’s clear that:

  • Active users are growing 
  • The account will soon reach the free plan’s limit. 

Knowing this, I can engage decision-makers to offer discounted seat pricing on an annual purchase and pitch the benefits of private team spaces (a business plus feature).  

Without this context, outreach would be generic and most likely wouldn’t generate a meeting. 

Example of product signals that make up a good PQL score in Calixa

Relevant personalization gets more replies

Following up on the Notion example, I can use PQL scoring signals as personalization hooks. 


Because scoring signals tell me what users care about: 

“John, 52 of your colleagues are using Notion to organize their work.  Just this week, 29 lists were created! At this rate, they’ll bust the storage limit pretty quickly. Should we talk about our business plan? Companies like yours have seen tremendous efficiency gains with our private teamspaces.”

Workflow tips

Here’s what a rep would do after having identified a qualified account: 

  1. Click on the account. Review product usage history. 
Screenshot of a product qualified account in Calixa
  1. Head down to PQL Signals and loop up why it’s highly scored. 
Example of signals that make up a good PQL score in Calixa
  1. Craft your message and write down personalization hooks. 
Example of emails written with product data

FYI: This repeatable workflow is called a Playbook. By using Calixa playbooks, reps know EXACTLY what to do when accounts/leads become qualified. 

3. Improving sales efficiency 

Automate cadences in high-velocity segments

If your business has a high sign-up volume and low average revenue per user (ARPU), involving sales reps can be unsustainable. 

Calixa's account scores can be leveraged to trigger automated workflows. 

It ⤵️

  • Saves reps’ time manually adding users to cadences. 
  • Focuses efforts on users who show buying interest. 
Screenshot of automations in Calixa

Learn how to build automated sales workflows from product data.

Feedback loops

Trust in scoring models removes distractions and eliminates the need for interpretation. It is developed through great feedback loops with reps who use it. 

In Calixa, reps can rate each lead to make sure that it stays relevant to their needs. 

PQL score feedback in Calixa

Always improving

Finally, AI scores change as new revenue data comes in (as shown below). 

This way, sales can focus on what they do best: understand, engage, & help customers. 

Venn diagram showing what goes into AI scoring updates

Ready to add an AI lead scoring model to your sales motion?

You made it!

I hope that I’ve illustrated how powerful AI lead-scoring models can be for your sales pipeline & process. 

Setting up Calixa's AI lead scoring model isn’t complicated or expensive.

Here’s what to do: 

  • Sign up to Calixa for free 
  • Connect data sources to Calixa 
  • Book a call with a PLS expert 
  • Get your model up in running in a few days. No coding or data team required. 
  • Watch more deals get closed by your sales team 🚀
Product-Led Fundamentals

Build vs buy: Product-Led Sales platform

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

With Product-Led Sales as a new category, many companies wonder whether they should buy a tool or build something in-house to support new rep workflows. Reps need a way to see product insights, prioritize top accounts, and take efficient action to close deals. 

So what does it take to build out these capabilities – and is it worth doing it yourself?

For starters, our founding team did build an internal tool at Twilio (called Monkey 🐵). We soon realized it was a huge pain to have to rebuild this at every company. We’ve also spoken to customers who did have internal tools prior to buying our platform, which we’ll cover in this blog.

We are obviously a bit biased, but there’s a reason many of the most successful PLG companies have realized PLS requires a platform, not a set of homegrown tools. Let’s go back to where it all started.

To build, or not to build!

It’s widely accepted that the fastest growing SaaS companies leverage both top-down sales and bottom-up adoption to drive revenue. Product-Led Sales creates a bridge between the two, and is consequently climbing in popularity. 

Activating a PLS motion comes with 3 distinct hurdles: 

  • Challenge #1: no visibility into product usage
  • Challenge #2: impossible to prioritize signups
  • Challenge #3: difficult to take action between different tools

When deciding whether to build, it’s important to determine if you’re able to have full coverage of these key areas. Most teams like to leverage existing tools to solve these challenges.

Existing tools landscape

Existing tools that aim to solve the PLS challenge fall into three buckets: visibility, scoring, automation

Spreadsheets, dashboards, product analytics tools, and CRM integrations (or reverse ETL) can provide visibility. Lead scoring tools can prioritize signups. Workflow automation platforms can minimize tab jumping between tools.

Product usage visibility

Lead scoring

  • MadKudu, 6sense

Workflow automation

You’ll notice there are far more tools in the first bucket than the last two. That’s because Challenge #2 and #3 are more sophisticated than Challenge #1. PQL scoring and actions are typically harder to build for. Lack of actionable PQL workflows is a common problem experienced by many sales teams.

Steps illustrating the common product-led sales challenge

Biggest in-house pitfall

Fair warning before you build anything – the pattern we’ve seen with many teams is that their in-house tools aren’t actionable enough. Most approaches to building internally consist of dashboards or CRM integrations to push product data in front of sales teams. But bringing product and CRM data together is just the bare minimum. 

These internal solutions usually lack the ability to have:

  • PQL signals and insights instead of raw data
  • Proactive alerts instead of passive dashboards
  • Automated workflows into downstream tools

A Product-Led Sales platform needs to be actionable and proactive, instead of static and passive. Keep this in mind before building, otherwise the benefit to sales is greatly reduced. The next section explores the top ways people build for Product-Led Sales.

Five approaches for in-house – and what it takes

After chatting with hundreds of product-led companies, we’ve uncovered five common approaches to building in-house. These approaches are ranked in order of low investment to high investment needed from technical teams.

The amount of impact you ultimately have on the sales org depends on the level of commitment and resources you dedicate to building and maintaining the solution. You get out what you put in.

How in-house solutions to PLS stack up against adoption and technical overhead

1. Product analytics tools

Sales team adoption: low

Technical team overhead: low

Here’s the lowest-effort solution to giving reps access to product data. Simply share the login credentials to product analytics tools like Mixpanel and Amplitude. Problem solved?

Not exactly. This solution has the lowest adoption by sales teams, because you’re essentially having them work inside a platform built for product teams. Without a sales-centric view, it’s common to involve developers to help digest product analytics data for GTM purposes. Reps are tasked with hours of data analysis instead of actual selling.

As Erin Tran, Co-founder at Hookdeck and a Mixpanel user shared with us: “There's a real gap between product analytics and the action needed to move people along the sales funnel.” 

👉 Learn more about Calixa’s integrations with Mixpanel and Amplitude.

2. Spreadsheets

Sales team adoption: medium low

Technical team overhead: medium low

Many companies decide that since PLS is a priority, data teams should cater to sales teams more. Spreadsheets allow data teams to curate the specific accounts and product metrics reps care about.

The drawback is that there’s still a slower time to value. Sales orgs that depend on a data team usually lose weeks of time for data requests – eliminating any chance of speed-to-lead. Even worse, requests are often ignored because data resources are expensive and not dedicated to sales.

Netlify previously used an in-house data team for sales, but switched to Calixa to reduce the wait time.

3. BI dashboards

Sales team adoption: medium high

Technical team overhead: medium high

If product analytics tools are too technical and spreadsheets too slow, what about BI dashboards? Companies build dashboards in Looker, Mode, or Tableau to offer a better dynamic view for sales teams.

While there’s some progress compared to the previous two solutions, it’s still just a view. Reps will dig around for insights and then must leave the tool to take action. Working off of dashboards is very manual, since there’s no way to update records and kick off sequences. This hurts sales efficiency.

Instead of adding a BI tool to their tech stack, Opencomp went from juggling 5 tools down to 2 with Calixa. 

4. CRM integrations

Sales team adoption: medium high

Technical team overhead: medium high

To reduce context-switching, some teams decide to pipe product data directly into the CRM. This can be done through custom integrations or reverse ETL solutions. Reps can then see CRM fields that have product usage insights about their accounts – and create an opportunity right then and there.

The main issue here is that CRMs are not typically built to handle product data. For example, it is tricky to plug in data about team workspaces into a rigid Company/Contact hierarchy. If reps cannot see dozens of workspaces inside of a single enterprise account, they’ve missed out on potential revenue in their account base.

Calixa built Flexible Account Models to solve this problem. But for teams building in-house, having mismatched account models between the product and CRM could very well become a sales blindspot.

👉 Learn more about Calixa’s integrations with Salesforce, HubSpot, Census, or Hightouch.

5. Custom tools

Sales team adoption: potentially high

Technical team overhead: extremely high

Obviously we can’t generalize on a custom tool. We can assume that if the project is well-executed and actively maintained, then sales teams will greatly benefit from using it. But that’s a big assumption to make!

It takes a highly-involved technical team to build and maintain a custom tool. So the first thing to overcome is lack of dedicated resources. For most technical orgs, building an internal tool for sales is never the top priority. They can easily kick the can so that a 6 month project becomes 2 years. You can’t really blame them, because successful companies don’t want to waste time building internal tools.

Even after you’ve secured the resources, there’s still risk. Building a PLS platform is non-trivial as it comes with a steep learning curve and ongoing maintenance. As people get pulled off the project or leave the company, all that hard-earned tribal knowledge gets lost – and the tool can no longer iterate and improve.

Common objections to adopting a PLS platform

Sometimes, companies are hesitant to involve a vendor because they believe certain things must be exclusively dealt with themselves. The top three concerns we see are around data ownership, data complexity, and overall strategy.

Our data team wants complete ownership

No data team wants to be reliant on a third party for data operations. It’s worth noting that Calixa still gives data teams control over their data. They won’t lose access. In fact, features like Property and Metrics Manager might even offer them greater control than before! Calixa lets data teams focus on more impactful projects instead of one-off data requests.

Our data is too complex for vendors

Another concern is whether the vendor can handle your data. Calixa offers Flexible Account Models and easily works with custom CRM objects. We adapt on our end to ingest any type of metric, and we partner with our customers to ensure their data is clean and usable.

We’re still figuring out our product-led strategy

It’s normal to delay purchasing a tool when you’re unsure how you’ll use it. Calixa’s entire sales team (Stephen, Kevin, and Jacob) has been in the trenches and spent years selling in a product-led environment. We offer consultative guidance from actual PLS people.

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

Benefits of buying 

Best-in-class software 

Let’s say we give 2 handymen a task:

Build the best treehouse possible in a month.

The first handymen only focuses on the treehouse, while the second is instructed to also build an outdoor kitchen, dig up an outdoor pool, do the gardening, install new grass, etc. 

Who do you think will build the nicest treehouse? 

The same applies to software. Buying makes sure that you have the very best solution for your needs. Because people working on it spend 100% of their time and energy on making it as great as it can be

Free up your team’s time 

You want your team to focus on your business’s core offering, not internal edge uses. The opportunity cost of 

Image a cavemen dragging a cartwheel with broken wheels because they're too busy to accept ne wheels

Satisfy all use cases 

The MoSCoW framework consists of four categories: 

  • Must-haves: Non-negotiable features
  • Should-haves: Important features
  • Could-haves: Nice-to-have features
  • Will-not-haves: Lower priority features

Buying software from the 3rd party guarantees that you not only get must-haves, but should-haves and could-haves as well. Your team may not be aware of high-quality features that aren’t part of the main feature set, yet heavily affect the efficiency of your process if in your team’s hands. 


After factoring in the cost of the initial build, support, bug fixes, upgrades, and keeping up with market trends, it’s no surprise that Gallup reports one in six IT projects have an average cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of almost 70%.

Adaptability & connectivity 

Third party software will improve over time and keep up with upcoming tools in your stack (through integrations), whereas built solutions won’t. 

The inability to pivot a solution fast is itself an opportunity cost as the limitations of your in-house platform could compromise the desire to turn disruptive change .

Final considerations

There’s one big topic we’ve barely scratched the surface on in this blog: AI. Majority of the companies we’ve recently surveyed say they lack the in-house expertise needed to create AI-Powered Prospecting. It’s another big reason to consider Calixa over building in-house, which we’ll cover in future blogs.

If you’re using an in-house solution or have already started building one, don’t get too entrenched in the way things have always been done. Existing tools might look convenient, but it’s a mistake to fall for the sunk cost fallacy.

Calixa helps you realize the full potential of your PLS motion – while freeing up bandwidth for your technical teams to do what they excel at.

Ready to start a buying decision? Sign up today or book a demo.

Advice for Growth

What I learned by rolling out a PLG motion in a 15-year-old product

Jenn Steele

On the market for 15 years, Kissmetrics is by no means a new product nor was it built for the self-serve journey. Rolling out a free trial four months after I joined the company in 2022, it didn’t take long to see that running a Product-Led Growth (PLG) motion in an older product was anything but easy

Here are six lessons I’ve learned, along with practical guidance for other PLG leaders wrestling with similar restraints inside their older products 👇

1. Don’t run a PLG motion unless you have a reason to

If you’re debating whether to build a free trial or layer a PLG motion onto your product, make sure you have a good reason to. No matter the company or tool, a PLG motion isn’t something you can randomly throw against the wall just to see if it’ll stick. Running a PLG motion, and running it well, requires a lot of planning, patience, and commitment. 

This is especially true for an older product or a smaller company that can only take on one big bet at a time. At Kissmetrics, we converted our entire team to support the PLG motion—because the upside of our “why” outweighs any downside of potential risks. 

For us, our decision was based on market opportunity: Our biggest competitor is Google Analytics, which is forcing its customers to transition to a new product version, Google Analytics 4, in July. Since it won’t be a quick (or easy!) transition for Google customers to make, we expect folks will become frustrated and search for alternative tools.

To get ahead of things, and to compete with a free product head on, we built a free offering to let folks try out Kissmetrics, which has led to a massive uptick in the people evaluating our tool. 

2. Narrow the barriers across the user experience

Working with an older product, the challenge we have isn’t a lack of awareness or low sign-up volumes. (On the contrary, I get 100s of sign-ups each month!)

It’s that getting a PLG motion to work in an older product feels a bit like playing Whac-A-Mole:

Where are they getting stuck now?

What’s happening?

How do we fix it? 

For example, we’ll see 15% of folks implement the JavaScript on their website and never come back. Why? Did they lose interest in the tool? Find something different? Run into product friction? What can we improve to get them back?

Because unlike newer tools built for self service, Kissmetrics was designed for a guided onboarding experience, which inevitably leads to quirks within the self-service flow. In this way, it’s less about removing giant roadblocks in the product and more about narrowing the barriers so users can do what you want them to. 

Early on, this meant optimizing areas along the onboarding journey to deliver more value for our free trialers. For example, we axed a pop-up that required folks to immediately configure their domain name and time zone—this is something that can be done later on if they decide to add a second domain to track. 

We also used to drop new trialers into a blank instance, which made it hard to figure out what steps to take or reports to build. To remedy this, we created pre-built reports to show them the art of the possible inside the product. By narrowing these types of barriers, and helping folks experience value by creating a metric or report early on, you can drive faster momentum and stickiness inside your product. 

3. Evaluate (and then adjust!) the length of your free trial

The length of your free trial is something you should evaluate on a regular basis. Right now, Kissmetrics offers users a 30-day free trial, but I’ve been debating shrinking it down to 21 days.

Part of my reasoning behind this is based on the speed of implementation when working cross-functionally. But mostly, it’s that throwing people into a month-long trial leaves me working with an eight-week sales process. 

In other words, a spike in demo requests and free trials in mid-March won't close until May. Quite frankly, my product isn’t expensive enough to drag the sales cycle out for two months, especially given today’s economic conditions.

To evaluate trial performance metrics and figure out the ideal length to offer, we’re leaning into our own analytics in Kissmetrics, which measures both website and product data. B

ecause I can see what actions our free trialers are taking inside the product (and when), I can analyze the potential impacts of trimming the trial by a week.

Looking inside your own product, what timeframes do you see the biggest drop-offs in usage or activity? Do people need more or less nurturing in your product? Would reducing (or expanding) your trial positively or negatively impact on the deal cycle?

4. Dig into your data to uncover new selling insights

In a similar vein, consider what other data you have at your disposal to uncover new insights and enhance the sales motion. For us, pulling data such as referral traffic from Kissmetrics helped us identify new buyer behaviors, as well as validate different parts of the sales cycle. 

For example, Sales recently noticed that the demo requests coming from Google Analytics users seemingly doubled over the past few months. Digging into our web traffic data in Kissmetrics, I looked into the referral sites for both our demo requests and scheduled demos. 

Sure enough, my sales team was right—100% of the folks who scheduled demos with us in that time frame had previously visited the “Google Analytics vs. Kissmetrics” page. Whereas before, more than 50% had not looked at that page prior to scheduling a demo. 

These types of insights can be used to enhance your highest-traffic webpages, drive more focused marketing activities or campaigns, or prioritize what leads sales reps should be reaching out to.

5. Consider what other stakeholders still need your support

More often than not, one person can’t get to value alone in an older product. At Kissmetrics, our free trial lets business folks track some website behavior without any coding, but more complex scenarios, such as tracking in-product behavior or multiple web properties, requires engineering support.

This is also where we’ve historically seen the biggest stalls in the onboarding process, as well as in our free trial. 

I recently had an a-ha! moment when thinking about the onboarding experience from an engineering perspective. Our knowledge base has no shortage of context documentation and technical guides, however; we didn’t have a simple one-pager outlining the three basic steps Engineering needs to take to set up the product.

Up until now, they’ve had to dig through documentation in our knowledge base to scope out the work themselves. 

Consider what other stakeholders are traditionally involved in helping your primary user unlock value from your product. Are there opportunities to provide them better support or product enablement?

For us, giving marketers a one-pager to send to their engineering team turned out to be a simple win for remediating long-standing friction in our onboarding process.

6. Lean into sales to cover the early bumps and bruises 

Finally, don’t be afraid to bring your sales team in early on to smooth out any rough parts. Since we have the advantage of using Kissmetrics to see what folks are doing inside our product, we can look at our active users, or those getting stuck at known areas of friction, to prioritize who Sales should reach out to. While we may reach out to folks a bit earlier than other PLG teams, we do so because we know the experience is still a bit bumpy and it gives us an opportunity to provide more value. 

In terms of sales resources, we run light with one sales rep who’s taking point. Because he deals with all of the trials—which requires a ton of work—I comp him the same regardless of where the sale comes in from or whether he touched it directly. The way I see it, we’re early in our PLG journey, and still determining what a product-qualified lead actually looks like for us, so I want him to make money while he helps me figure it out. 

Will Kissmetrics continue its PLG motion with a free trial? 

Right now, I don’t have a definitive answer. Honestly, there are still so many bumps in the trial process, I’m not sure whether we’ve had anything “real” and powerful for users to play with yet to prove it’s a huge value-add. 

But as we dig into more and more trial data and keep smoothing out the bumps and bruises, we’ll iterate and evolve our findings. Luckily, we have a lot of data to draw a conclusion from. 

And for now that trial will stay up and running….but will not be something stagnant – a ‘set and forget’ offer. We’ll either eventually do it well or scale it back.

More frameworks like this one?

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Product-Led Fundamentals

Human vs AI Lead Scoring: Which is Better for Your Sales Pipeline?

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

Tried using a printed map lately? 

Why on earth would you when you can enter a location on your phone and know exactly when and where to turn?  

The same applies to manual lead scoring versus AI scoring. You can try to guess which data points correlate to revenue potential, or let AI tell you exactly what they are. 

Relying on humans to score revenue opportunities may have worked a decade ago, but it’s not working for product-led growth. 

There’s a new sheriff in town: artificial intelligence (AI). And no, not ChatGPT. 

Using artificial intelligence to score leads helps your team find opportunities that humans can’t see, and deprioritize the ones wasting your team’s time. 

Early results of implementing AI scoring models show a lift in net new generated pipeline and a productivity boost for revenue teams. 

This article showcases:

  • How human scoring hurts revenue. 
  • Differences between human and AI scoring.
  • How AI lead models work.
  • Real examples from PLG companies who’ve implemented AI-based scoring models.  

Already know human based scoring is no good? Jump ahead and see what AI scoring can do!

The old way of scoring leads

Most of us fall into this category. 

First, marketing comes up with a list of criteria for scoring leads and accounts. Criteria come from gut instincts, persona documentation, and subjective interpretation of customer behavior. 

For sales-led companies, criteria might look like these (aka MQLs):

  • Attended webinar
  • Title is VP+
  • Function is Sales 
  • Visited our website 6 times 
  • Downloaded a whitepaper 

For PLG companies, the same may apply, but the focus shifts toward product data (aka PQLs): 

  • Logged into product 5x in past 2 weeks 
  • Invited 2 users 
  • Uploaded 5 documents (if you were Dropbox, for example)
  • Tried a premium feature 

Once the criteria are known, marketing (or sales leaders) assign a weight, in the form of points, to each of them. 

Based on how many are true for any given lead, an arbitrary “lead score” (usually out of 100) is compiled. 

When scores jump above a blindly agreed-upon threshold, leads get passed to sales through a custom CRM field or via alerts (email or Slack). 

For example: “all leads that have a score above 75 need to be acted on by SDRs”.

The untold problem here is that scores are passed, but the context is not. 

According to Ryan Milligan, Senior Director of Rev Ops at Quotapath: 

“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.”

Here’s why this needs to stop 👇

Problems with human scoring

PLG has too much data 

Picture this: You’re playing follow the cup. 

A ball is placed under one of 3 red cups. The gamemaster starts moving them around for a while and you need to keep track of the cup with the ball. 

Now imagine the same game with 1000 cups and 5 balls. That’s what it's like to score leads in a product-led motion. 

PLG exponentially increases the amount of data factored into the score for 2 reasons:

1. It adds 1 more layer of complexity to the weighting formula. 

Scoring used to be a 2D world:  ICP data + marketing data. 

With PLG, scoring becomes 3D: ICP data + marketing data + product usage data. 

Rubik cube representing lead scoring in PLG

Also, correlations between a signal and the lead’s intent to purchase aren’t as clear as requesting a demo. There are more users and accounts to sift through, lots of noise, and relevant trends that are out of sight. 

2. More users = more data

When you open up your funnel to freemiums or free trials, you inherently get more users, thus more leads. 

Consequently, all 3 layers of your scoring model will have to factor in more data overall. 

Graph with rubik cubes representing the increase in data as more users sign up to a product

Inability to analyze large data sets

Humans are great at many things.

Finding trends & correlations in a sea of ever-changing data points is not one of them. 

At a certain scale, traditional scoring systems inherently start to fail because we humans don’t have the ability to find imperceptible trends.

What humans are good at and what AI is good at

We are unconsciously (or consciously) bias

Humans have biases. Growth and marketing folks most likely have biases concerning which criteria they see as most useful for sales and how much to prioritize that signal in the model. Sales reps have biased toward the leads they receive from the model and who they consider a good fit. 

You may think, for example, that fintech accounts are great prospects. Perhaps because you have one flagship fintech company as a customer. But one success does not mean repeatable, scalable success. 

Illustration explaining lead biases

These biases might not correlate to potential revenue yet weigh heavily in your scoring model

Manual scores don’t adapt to new data

“But wait! I have a data science team!” 

Fair enough. Until you ship a new product update, change your onboarding, update pricing plans, or rename tables in your warehouse. 

Data teams CAN find trends…but in fixed data sets! Updating the model as the customer experience changes is almost impossible at scale

Iterating manual scores takes way too long 

Furthermore, teams responsible for making use of the score, like sales and marketing, don’t control what goes into it. Communication needs to be incredibly efficient between sales and growth/data for tactical feedback to be factored into scoring updates. Even then, the workload on your data team is massive.

Let’s assume that I haven’t yet convinced you of the inability of your data team to build relevant scores for sales. It still takes weeks, if not months, for data teams to build or iterate upon adequate scoring models.

Result: By the time your model is ready to go live, it’s outdated. 

Human-generated lead scores have horrible consequences on pipeline health and sales efficiency. Here’s exactly how it’s chipping away at your revenue 👇

Impacts of human lead scoring

Good opportunities never surfaced

One of the unavoidable consequences of having thousands, if not millions of users is that some of them fall through the cracks. 

A recent Beacons case study found that the company used Calixa’s AI lead scoring model to surface the top 15% of users and drive upsells. Before implementing the model, the majority of upsell opportunities were unrealized because sales would blindly cherry-pick the ones to focus on. 

Reps focus on bad opportunities 

On the surface, some leads might look good: Company X has hundreds of employees, lead has checked your pricing page, and used the product a lot. 

Chances are, they want to stay on your free plan forever and have no intention to convert, or don’t have approval from their boss to use your product. 

Scores aren’t used at all

It happens more often than not. 

Step 1: Data & growth teams spend countless hours building a model. 

Step 2: The model doesn’t produce great results.

Step 3: Sales activate their “this is useless” switch. 

Step 4: They start viewing scoring alerts as noise. 

Step 5: The score becomes a custom attribute that no one checks on CRM records. 

meme with Uno cards showing how reps dislike using manual lead scores

AI to the rescue! Introducing the new superpower behind fast-growing PLG companies 👇

How AI lead scoring works 

For decades, marketing passed over an arbitrary score to sales, leading to reps losing trust in scoring altogether. Calixa opens that black box and gives sales what they need to find, engage and close the right opportunities.

TLDR? Watch this webinar on How to score PQLs & PQAs using AI 👇

Data to lead in seconds

Calixa’s AI-Powered Prospecting examines all your data sources (firmographic, product, intent, etc.) and trains the model to identify predictive data signals that correlate with your ideal customer. 

Instead of painstakingly building a model with in-house resources, you can leverage Calixa’s ML expertise and decade of ML experience.

No need for any overhead from ops and data teams.

Calixa's ML scoring infrastructure

Curious about AI for lead generation? Read this 👈

Finding correlations between data and revenue

AI finds hidden buying signals that would have been impossible to find manually. It then weighs the impact that each signal has on each account’s score. 

Signal examples (out of thousands of possibilities): 

  • Your best-paying customers used feature A a total number of X times within their first 7 days of signing up. 
  • Opening and resolving 3 support tickets within the first 30 days correlates to an expansion opportunity.
  • Account with over Y employees in the finance industry should be considered for a conversion opportunity if they surpass 10 users during their free trial. 

The model takes out human error by taking an unbiased look at what REALLY drives sales potential, and improves upon itself as new conversion events happen. 

How Calixa's AI model is trained

Always learning

The advantage of AI is that the model gets smarter over time. The scoring model will continually adapt to the attributes and trends of your existing customers as your product and business change.

Every action reps take trains the model to understand which deals lead to closed won, so it can constantly optimize scores to fine-tune your revenue engine.

How AI scoring models improve

Giving reps the context they need to act

Context is key to advancing a deal. Instead of typical generic outreach, reps can look at what data points led to a high PQL or PQA score and use that information to craft the perfect sales narrative. 

Calixa provides an easily digestible overview of what the lead has done that makes it qualified for sales, so reps can quickly understand WHY and HOW they should reach out.

A Calixa dashboard with product qualified leads

Instant adjustments to lead flow

Need more leads? Or want to test to see if a secondary product action actually is more meaningful than you first assumed? 

There are 2 common scenarios with human-made scoring gone wrong: 

1. Sales have too many leads, can’t focus, and discard them as noise. 

2. Scoring doesn’t find enough leads and pipeline gen falls short. 

With Calixa, GTM teams can compare how PQLs/PQAs with different product signals respond to sales, and tweak the model accordingly.

Revenue teams using Calixa can easily and self-sufficiently broaden and narrow the scope of the scoring model to adjust lead flow or test new assumptions. 

Adjustments to the model can be done without being gated by ops or data. No more waiting for a quarter or 2 in between iterations. 

Result? Reps get quality opportunities in front of them, understand how to approach leads in seconds, and have better quality conversations. 

How Netlify drives revenue with Calixa’s AI scoring model

Using ML scores to prioritize outreach 

Netlify’s sales teams use Calixa to find sales opportunities in their existing user base. With 100,000s of signups a month, it’s easy for Netlify reps to get lost in a sea of data. Not knowing which product data points matter. 

Filtering account lists with ML (below) helps them go from insight to action.

Based on the reps' bandwidth, accounts can be filtered based on their PQA score, so the strongest accounts are prioritized first. 

AI-generated product qualified accounts

AI finds sales-ready leads that humans would overlook

Below is an example of an account that has a PQL score of 5, meaning that its revenue potential is high. 

If you look at the surface of this account (below), usage is trending down. Prospects seem to be disengaging with the product. An account such as this one may often be overlooked or deprioritized by sales reps.  

Example of an account in Calixa

In this case, overall usage is misleading.

First, a high proportion of the account’s total users are active. Second, key features are being utilized. As you can see below, docs created and storage used are both up.

The AI model has evaluated that they heavily impact revenue potential, so although overall usage is down, relevant usage is up! 

Reps can use this context to craft their sales pitch in a way to resonates with the right decision-makers at the account. Without the help of AI, this account might have never been touched by sales and potential revenue would have been left on the table.

AI-generated product qualified leads

Avoiding false positives

On the contrary, some accounts (like the one below) should be left alone even though reps have a natural tendency to throw themselves at it. 

From an initial sales analysis of this account, things seem great. Usage is up, the company has hundreds of employees, and they’ve even hit paywalls!

Don’t be fooled.

Example of an account dashboard in Calixa

Digging into the PQL scoring context, we uncover that most users have registered with personal email addresses, the account has been on the free plan for ages and active users are going down. 

For a sales rep, this translates into spending efforts on an account that most likely has the intention of staying on the free plan forever.

Even if the company is of decent size, account executives should wait until there are more buying signals before engaging. 

Conditions negatively affecting a bad product qualified account in Calixa

How to get your AI lead model

Hopefully, I illustrated how manual scoring can hurt your sales pipeline, and the incredible potential of AI scoring to find the right leads for your reps and get the context they need to drive more sales conversations. 

Setting up a Calixa's AI scoring model isn’t complicated nor expensive. Here’s what to do: 

  1. Sign up to Calixa for free 
  2. Connect data sources to Calixa 
  3. Book a call with a PLS expert 
  4. Get your model up in running in a few days. No coding or data team required. 
  5. Watch deals come falling down 🚀
Product-Led Fundamentals

What is a Product-Led Sales platform

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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.


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.


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.


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 😉).


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

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

Product Updates: February 2023

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

🥳 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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read March here 👈

Read January here 👈

Advice for Sales

Lessons I learned from a six-year PLS journey

Dan Wardle
VP, Revenue

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

HubSpot’s Framework - How to Get Sales Buy-In for PLG - David Barron

David Barron
Global Director of Sales

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. 


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!


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 ✌️

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Advice for Growth

5 defining characteristics of a successful PLG motion

Steve Boone
Former RVP of Sales at 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.

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How To

How to choose a Product-Led Sales platform

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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

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

Gijs Bos
Senior Sales Director

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

Guide: How to make bottom-up sales work internally

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

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


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. 


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?”


✅“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. 

PLG Sales: How To Build An Enterprise Account Consolidation Play

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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

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

Riley Harbour
Head of Business Development

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.


How to build an upsell and expansion playbook

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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

Product Updates: January 2023

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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 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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read February here 👈

Read December here 👈

Product Updates

Introducing CRM Sync for Salesforce

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

New to Calixa? Sign up today.

Advice for Growth

9 ways sales reps use product data to book meetings

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

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? 


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!


How to build a free-to-paid conversion playbook

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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.

👉 Access all PLS resources.

Watch the full webinar

Product-Led Fundamentals

Practical framework to finding & monetizing PQLs

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

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. 


  • 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.


  • 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. 


  • 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. 


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. 


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. 


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.” 


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. 


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

Why PQLs reign king over MQLs

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing

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.


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

Experimenting with product signals across the PLS cycle

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing

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

Product Updates: December 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read January here 👈

Read November here 👈

Product Updates

Building for Product-Led Sales: 2022 Recap

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

7 trade secrets from a first-time PLG founder

Alex Kracov
CEO and Co-Founder

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

Product Updates: November 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read December here 👈

Read October here 👈

Advice for Sales

Combining top-down sales with a bottom-up PLG motion

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder

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

Uncover PQLs with Multi-Level Filtering

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

4 ways to accelerate your PLS motion with free tools

Kevin Tate
Chief Marketing Officer

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

6 Steps to Building PLG into Your Current GTM Motion

Matt Groetelaars
GTM Operator, Investor & Advisor

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

Product Updates: October 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read September here 👈

Read November here 👈

Product Updates

Orchestrate Your Product-Led GTM Motion at Scale

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

4 tips for building a dedicated growth function

Jordan Woods
Growth Advisor
Formerly @ FullStory,, and

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,, and 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

Product-led vs sales-led: Simple way to choose, get going, and win.

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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


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


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


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 👇


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


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. 


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:


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.


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


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

Introducing Flexible Account Models for Product-Led Companies

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

New to Calixa? Sign up today.

Product-Led Fundamentals

The Battle of the Business Models: Sales-Led vs. Product-Led

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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:, 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

Enabling PLG: Skills to hone & where to focus

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing

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

AI Can Fill Your Pipeline - AI For Sales Prospecting

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

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:

Want to learn more about AI for lead scoring? Read this 👈

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

Mindset matters: Driving efficient growth with PLG

Phil Corson
Director of Product Growth

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

Getting started with Product-Led Sales: Priorities, skills, pricing

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder

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

Product Updates: September 2022

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read October here 👈

Read August here 👈

Advice for RevOps

Break Inefficient Product-Led Sales habits with 3 easy fixes

Ryan Milligan
Senior Director of Revenue Operations

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

THE Best HubSpot Chrome Extension For Sales Reps | Why + How to Install

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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.

👉 Learn more about Calixa's HubSpot integration.

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

(2023) Product-Led Growth: What Is It and Why All This Hype?

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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

Driving Community-Led Growth at HubSpot

Eric Peters
Product Lead

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.

Further reading:

Product Updates

New Automated Workflow: Add to Outreach and Salesloft

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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.

👉 Learn more about Calixa's Outreach and Salesloft integrations.

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

PLG + Sales - How to Build Your Sales Team

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

Product Updates: August 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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.

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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

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Advice for Sales

5 Product-Led Sales strategies we used at HubSpot

David Barron
Global Director of Sales

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

Calixa Chrome Extension for Salesforce

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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. 

👉 Learn more about Calixa's Salesforce integration.

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

Best Modern GTM Tech Stack According to Experts

Cassie Pallesen
Head of Marketing

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

How to Efficiently Act on PQLs with Calixa

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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 hover over 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

How I Learned to Sell to End Users

Kevin Krom
Product-Led Sales

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

Scale Your Product-Led Sales with Playbook Automation System

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

How To Set Up a PLG Motion From Scratch and Measure Success

David Ly Khim
Growth Leader
Formerly @, 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 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

Product Updates: July 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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 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 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.


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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read August here 👈

Read November here 👈

Advice for Growth

5 ways to boost conversions with PQL marketing

Fred Melanson
Head of Content

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

Guide to the Types of Free Plans for SaaS

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

Why we built it: AI-Powered Prospecting

Thomas Schiavone
CEO and Co-founder

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. Over is the time of relying on humans for things such as lead scoring! 

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

If you have feedback for me, just shoot me a note at  I’d love to chat.

Product Updates

Introducing AI-Powered Prospecting for Product-Led Sales

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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

You can't rely on humans for lead scoring anymore! 

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 to join our beta program.

Product Updates

Product Updates: June 2022

Stephen Moock
Head of Sales and Success

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. ✌️

Missed our latest product updates?

Read July here 👈

Read May here 👈

Advice for Sales

My Largest Deals Come from Freemium Users

Kevin Krom
Product-Led Sales

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

How Product-Led Sales Recession-Proofs Your Revenue

Joanna Huang
Product Marketer

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 frag