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.
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.