Advice for Sales

6 Steps to Building PLG into Your Current GTM Motion

How can you march towards a long-term PLG vision while getting your team bought-in for the short-term?

Matt Groetelaars

November 15, 2022
·
 min read

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?

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Advice for Sales

6 Steps to Building PLG into Your Current GTM Motion

Matt Groetelaars
|
GTM Operator, Investor & Advisor
|
Scratchpad

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November 15, 2022
ReadTime

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?