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.