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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.