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 👇
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.’
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.
Use available data to show how this GTM transition will improve core business OKRs that execs care about. Here’s what I mean 👇
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.
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 👇
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
More frameworks like this one?
Follow Calixa to be notified when new expert frameworks and guides are published.