Lead flow is core to any successful PLS motion. But navigating the complexities of maintaining steady volumes, separating signals from noise, and delegating leads across the proper funnels is anything but easy—especially when feeding the right leads to Sales. When leads don’t add value, or a sales rep doesn’t add value back, it wastes time, money, and resources. Here are three overlooked slip-ups that can hinder sales performance–and how to avoid making them.
Slip-up #1: Sending all your best leads to Sales
Back in my enterprise sales days at a previous company, we used website behavior data to understand where and how to engage with visitors. I find that its overarching principle is aking to how PLS leaders leverage product behavior: using data to figure out who Sales should talk to and why. While it might go without saying that the “who” is a critical PLS insight, the significance of understanding the “why” also can’t be understated.
I’ll give you an example: Freshbooks is a popular accounting platform that pulls in a substantial amount of sign-ups each month. It’s a robust offering, so folks have no shortage of actions to take in the platform, such as tracking mileage, capturing expenses, and creating, sending, and paying invoices. What this means for the PLS motion is tons of data to uncover high intent signals and leads.
When I first started building out our motion, I wanted to understand our best leads so we could pass them along to Sales. We used an AI/ML algorithm to calculate the probability of someone upgrading and what their expected lifetime value would be. The more we learned about our best leads, the clearer it became that our best leads weren’t necessarily the right leads for Sales.
This is where the “why” comes into play. We found that our best leads were going to convert with or without support from Sales. Sending them to the sales team would be throwing commission money at reps when our self-serve motion would suffice. Instead, we shifted our mindset to focus on the value that sales reps can provide and what users would benefit most from their outreach. We couple this with various A/B tests and sales tactics to help us understand what moves the needles most.
Slip-up #2: Measuring customers by the same success metrics
Another sneaky slip-up are the nuances between success and failure, as is often the case with metrics that appear identical yet represent opposite stories. For example, my favorite example Freshbooks user is the part-time piano teacher who uses the platform to send a single monthly invoice—a success! On the other end: a medium-sized accounting firm sending one monthly invoice—a fail.
From a cloud accounting perspective, there’s also a difference between a consultant who sends a monthly invoice for $15k and one sending 100 invoices for $150. While they both net $15k in sales, they represent two different user profiles from invoicing and cost perspectives. Point being, how you define success depends on who you’re talking to. It also changes as your product matures and evolves. Delineating between success and failure requires clear differentiation between different combinations of users, firmographics, usage, and intent signals—not to mention, regular validation.
At the end of a free trial, we model product signals to compare behaviors of people who upgraded vs. those who didn’t. We link these insights up with firmographic data, combining variables like business size, industry, and industry type, and then validate it with the information submitted during sign up. For example, were invoices charged by project or were they actually sent for individual orders? This helps us better understand our different users, how they use Freshbooks, and the best way to measure their success.
Slip-up #3: Not aligning lead quantity to lead quality
Any seasoned PLS leader will tell you navigating fluctuations in lead flow is crucial to sales success. They will also tell you that this is much easier said than done, especially when it comes to sourcing quality leads during seasonal demand swings. Case in point: Business in the UK is virtually dead in August, and Marketing cuts its spend. Yet my sales reps still carry the same quotas, which means they need the same number of leads to reach out to as in other months.
So, we need to make sure our reps have a fair chance regardless of seasonal dips. Here, we might dip deeper into our sign-up pool, for example giving sales reps the top 15% of sign-ups in August instead of 10%. Sales reps have the same quantity of leads as they usually do but at a lower quality, because we pulled them from deeper into the trialer pool. In this scenario, I need to make up for quality with quantity, sending them 110 leads in August instead of the regular 100. In this way, the Sales reps can carry their assigned quotas as we stabilize lead flows during periods of high seasonality.
Like any sales leader, I always hope that more leads means more revenue but as most know that isn’t the case. With a product-led motion, it’s about making the most of the high intent leads you’re provided — remember they’re not new to the product, just to you as a point of contact.
- Sending all leads to sales isn’t the goal. Optimizing LTV:CAC is.
- Act on signals within their context. Be helpful, not salesy.
- Adjust lead flow throughout the year if you’d like to keep quota attainment stable.