Product-Led Fundamentals

What is a Product-Led Sales platform

Learn how a Product-Led Sales platform empowers reps with a new way of selling.

Stephen Moock

March 20, 2023
·
 min read

In today’s B2B buying process, 60% of buyers want to self-educate instead of talking to a sales rep (source: Forrester). This doesn’t mean the “death of the sales rep,” but it does signal a change in the way we sell software – as well as the tools needed by our sales teams.

This blog post covers:

  • Why is sales changing?
  • Why can’t existing tools adapt to this new way of selling?
  • What is a Product-Led Sales platform?
  • How does a PLS platform power your sales motion?
  • Does a PLS platform support CRMs and marketing automation?

By the end, you’ll understand how a PLS platform fits into the modern sales organization.

Sales is changing. Here’s why.

Technology has gotten much easier to use – especially when you compare it to the old days. Clunky and expensive software was almost impossible to “try before you buy,” because it was attached to on-prem hardware or license downloads.

Now that we’ve transitioned onto the cloud and SaaS, people are able to try freemium products without any hassle. Salespeople no longer act as gatekeepers to the product. With Product-Led Growth, users can onboard themselves to discover product features. Welcome to the era of the end user.

Source

As a result, the typical sales motion flips on its head. Traditional sales teams had to pitch to the buyer to get the contract signed. Customers were only able to jump into the product after the deal was closed. Now, reps lead with value and steer users toward success before customers convert or upsell.

👉 Learn more about the differences between sales-led vs product-led.

Product-Led Sales = Buyer-Centric Sales

This new sales motion is known as Product-Led Sales. Product-Led Sales is a GTM strategy where sales teams leverage product usage insights to engage and retain top users. Reps talk to Product Qualified Leads (PQLs), who are the power users that match your Ideal Customer Profile. PQLs convert 5x better than Marketing Qualified Leads that haven’t tried the product (source: Accenture).

There are many benefits to Product-Led Sales:

  • Increased sales efficiency because users self-educate instead of going through disco calls
  • Faster deal velocity because PQLs are already sold on the product
  • Higher customer lifetime value because reps land and expand usage over time

These three benefits align with how top sales teams Prospect, Close, and Grow deals. This motto is key to Calixa’s core mission as a Product-Led Sales platform, which we’ll cover in the later section of this blog.

👉 Learn more about Product-Led Sales (PLS).

The Product-Led Sales challenge: existing tools haven’t kept up

Buying preferences have changed, and it’s dangerous for sales organizations to maintain the status quo. However, there are some roadblocks on the path to establishing a Product-Led Sales motion. These challenges are best visualized as an ascending staircase. 

Challenge #1: no visibility into product usage

Many sales teams struggle to get access to product data. The idea of self-serve, actionable product insights for GTM teams is still quite new. That’s why many companies still rely on ops and data teams to manually pull together weekly reports for sales teams. This report can be in the form of existing tools like spreadsheets, BI dashboards, or custom CRM fields.

Why is this a problem? Data teams are left with a huge backlog of data requests, while sales teams work off of stale data. Reps even get penalized for being curious about their accounts, because it could mean yet another data request. Organizations need to democratize access to product data and prevent data silos in order to run Product-Led Sales.

Challenge #2: too many signups

Let’s say you’ve overcome the first hurdle already. Some companies set up dashboards or integrations that get product data in front of sales reps. When our customer OpenComp started their Product-Led Sales journey, they placed a link to Mixpanel in each Salesforce record. These are all baby steps to establish the bridge between product and sales data. 

Why is this a problem? Giving reps access to product usage is a great start, but the burden of prioritizing accounts still falls on the rep. Without properly defined PQL criteria, reps will often have trouble surfacing the right accounts. They spend countless hours on data analysis instead of selling (Airtable's Director of Sales cautions against this pitfall). That’s why raw product data is not enough. Accounts and users need to be product qualified.

“Prior to Calixa, we had no PQL score,” said Rachael Watton, Director of RevOps at OpenComp. “There was no way to surface users who have done actions that we really care about.”

Challenge #3: difficult to take action between different tools

Some readers who read Challenge #2 are thinking, “That’s easy! I can solve this with a lead scoring tool.” Then you’re left with the final challenge of acting on PQLs. Many reps are left jumping between tabs, because existing tools rarely offer integrated actions.

Why is this a problem? Going back to our customer Opencomp, their original approach made the assumption that sales reps would (1) look for that link in Salesforce, (2) click the link and navigate to Mixpanel, and then (3) have a worthwhile insight and then jump back into Salesforce to take an action. “It was a manual process with disparate systems,” Rachael said. Sales teams need streamlined workflows to increase rep efficiency and deal velocity.

The Product-Led Sales challenge isn’t trivial. You can level up step-by-step, but most companies have not reached the top of these stairs. Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel (or staircase)!

Calixa has tackled each of these steps as our product has matured. The next section goes over what our team has built out – and how a purpose-built Product-Led Sales platform can help you.

What is a Product-Led Sales platform?

A Product-Led Sales platform helps reps find and act on PQLs to turn your self-serve funnel into a predictable revenue engine. It enables data-driven targeting and conversations, sales efficiency, and higher deal conversion.

But with an already bloated stack of tools, why do sales teams need a purpose-built PLS solution? Here are three key differentiators of a dedicated Product-Led Sales platform.

1. Unlock customer insights

As mentioned, organizations need to democratize data access. Product data is no longer just for product managers. Support messages are no longer just for customer success reps. So on and so forth. 

A customer 360 view has never been more important than in a product-led motion. Without one, the customer is actually more well-informed of their product usage than the rep they speak with. They’ve already taken the time to get to know your product. Now, it’s your turn to get to know them!

Product-Led Sales platforms integrate all of your data into a single comprehensive view. This is usually shown in a dashboard – but some teams prefer to directly sync into CRMs

This single view of customer activity lets reps see usage spikes, support tickets, payments, etc. and act accordingly. Sales teams are no longer blocked by a backlog of data requests or stuck with static and outdated product activity. Whether reps care about the user journey or account workspaces, a PLS platform enables your team to easily get timely data and customer context.

2. Surface PQLs

Once you have basic usage metrics and customer data, it’s time to prioritize leads. This is where PLS platforms truly shine. They analyze the product signals of users in your Ideal Customer Profile, and specialize in finding PQLs with the best potential for conversion/upsell (or highest risk of churn).

Product-Led Sales platforms help you create and iterate on PQL criteria. This can be done using simple scoring or AI-powered prospecting. Sales teams can try scoring PQLs based on human intuition and assumptions to start, but AI can spot predictive signals that the human eye misses. It’s important for mature PLS functions to adopt AI.

Calixa has heavily invested in building AI. Our team has early foundational experience in Product-Led Sales tooling at Twilio and built Sift’s AI fraud detection. Sales teams can run multiple ML models per sales motion (free-to-paid, paid-to-enterprise, etc) to increase PQL conversion.

3. Automate sales workflows

Our work isn’t done after surfacing PQLs. Product-Led Sales isn’t only about finding PQLs – the next step is to efficiently act on them.

Product-Led Sales platforms consolidate rep actions for greater efficiency. Reps can take action or trigger automated workflows into downstream tools, such as an Outreach sequence, Salesforce opportunity, or Slack alert. Orchestrating these workflows helps save valuable rep time.

Calixa offers playbooks that let reps can see what actions to take based on product activity. Whether you’re using a free-to-paid playbook or upsell playbook, it’s important to know exactly how to act on a PQL to drive revenue.

👉 Learn more about how to choose a Product-Led Sales platform.

Powering your sales motion

Now that we’ve gone over the core capabilities, let’s see what a Product-Led Sales platform looks like in practice. Calixa enables reps to be more efficient in three key areas of your sales motion. This covers the entire customer lifecycle, from the first sales touch to CS-managed account growth.

Prospect

Many GTM teams start their morning in Calixa to identify PQLs. Calixa makes it easy to use product usage and customer fit data to prioritize top users and accounts. All reps need to do is check into their inbox to ensure opportunities don’t fall into the cracks. Once they see a promising lead, reps can add users to email cadences with one click of a button – or automate this process entirely.

Netlify has a 50% daily time saving when prospecting by using Calixa. They consolidated their prospecting tools from 7 down to just 2, which increases rep efficiency & conversion rate.

Close

Calixa not only helps you find who to talk to – it  also equips your team with key data points so they can enter every conversation with confidence. Your team gets a full picture of how accounts are using your product. This reveals the champions and key usage patterns that let reps run the right closing play.

Opencomp has seen a 15% quarter over quarter increase in PQL conversion. We’ve even seen customers that generate a $1M+ deal using Calixa (not even exaggerating 😉).

Grow

After closing a deal, many companies leverage Calixa to uncover expansion opportunities. Reps get alerted of usage spikes so that they can increase the lifetime value of customers. They’ll not only understand which accounts are growing fastest – they can even view the growing workspaces within a company.

“Calixa is the PLG dashboard for our sales and CS team. We use it daily to track usage and identify opportunities,” said Ido Cohen, Co-founder & CEO at Loadmill. Since using Calixa, our customers have seen up to a 1.6x increase in book of business managed per CSM.

How does a PLS platform work with your CRM and marketing automation?

If you’re interested in using a Product-Led Sales platform, you’re likely wondering how it fits into your tech stack. Calixa works well with your existing tools.

Our platform has a native integration with your CRM. It not only draws from the CRM as a data source, but it can easily push insights bi-directionally into your CRM. Whether you want to enrich the CRM with PQL scores, journey milestones, or just basic usage metrics, CRM Sync has you covered. Reps can also take advantage of our Chrome Extension to see Calixa’s insights and search box alongside the CRM.

Marketers can also take advantage of Calixa to run self-serve nurture campaigns within marketing automation tools. A user who isn’t ready for a sales touch today can still turn into a PQL tomorrow. Calixa can automatically add top users to campaigns in Marketo, HubSpot, and Salesforce.

Get started with a PLS platform

There’s lots more to learn about a Product-Led Sales platform. As a product-led company, we believe the best way is to try things out for yourself.

It’s easy to get up and running on our PLS platform. Many sales teams find deals within days. “In 3 days of using Calixa, a rep booked 4 calls from PQLs we would have otherwise missed,” said Brandon Ness, Director of Sales at Jasper.

Sign up today or book a demo.

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Product-Led Fundamentals

What is a Product-Led Sales platform

Learn how a Product-Led Sales platform empowers reps with a new way of selling.

Stephen Moock
|
Head of Sales and Success
|
Calixa

Your PLG roundup in 5 minutes.

March 20, 2023
ReadTime

In today’s B2B buying process, 60% of buyers want to self-educate instead of talking to a sales rep (source: Forrester). This doesn’t mean the “death of the sales rep,” but it does signal a change in the way we sell software – as well as the tools needed by our sales teams.

This blog post covers:

  • Why is sales changing?
  • Why can’t existing tools adapt to this new way of selling?
  • What is a Product-Led Sales platform?
  • How does a PLS platform power your sales motion?
  • Does a PLS platform support CRMs and marketing automation?

By the end, you’ll understand how a PLS platform fits into the modern sales organization.

Sales is changing. Here’s why.

Technology has gotten much easier to use – especially when you compare it to the old days. Clunky and expensive software was almost impossible to “try before you buy,” because it was attached to on-prem hardware or license downloads.

Now that we’ve transitioned onto the cloud and SaaS, people are able to try freemium products without any hassle. Salespeople no longer act as gatekeepers to the product. With Product-Led Growth, users can onboard themselves to discover product features. Welcome to the era of the end user.

Source

As a result, the typical sales motion flips on its head. Traditional sales teams had to pitch to the buyer to get the contract signed. Customers were only able to jump into the product after the deal was closed. Now, reps lead with value and steer users toward success before customers convert or upsell.

👉 Learn more about the differences between sales-led vs product-led.

Product-Led Sales = Buyer-Centric Sales

This new sales motion is known as Product-Led Sales. Product-Led Sales is a GTM strategy where sales teams leverage product usage insights to engage and retain top users. Reps talk to Product Qualified Leads (PQLs), who are the power users that match your Ideal Customer Profile. PQLs convert 5x better than Marketing Qualified Leads that haven’t tried the product (source: Accenture).

There are many benefits to Product-Led Sales:

  • Increased sales efficiency because users self-educate instead of going through disco calls
  • Faster deal velocity because PQLs are already sold on the product
  • Higher customer lifetime value because reps land and expand usage over time

These three benefits align with how top sales teams Prospect, Close, and Grow deals. This motto is key to Calixa’s core mission as a Product-Led Sales platform, which we’ll cover in the later section of this blog.

👉 Learn more about Product-Led Sales (PLS).

The Product-Led Sales challenge: existing tools haven’t kept up

Buying preferences have changed, and it’s dangerous for sales organizations to maintain the status quo. However, there are some roadblocks on the path to establishing a Product-Led Sales motion. These challenges are best visualized as an ascending staircase. 

Challenge #1: no visibility into product usage

Many sales teams struggle to get access to product data. The idea of self-serve, actionable product insights for GTM teams is still quite new. That’s why many companies still rely on ops and data teams to manually pull together weekly reports for sales teams. This report can be in the form of existing tools like spreadsheets, BI dashboards, or custom CRM fields.

Why is this a problem? Data teams are left with a huge backlog of data requests, while sales teams work off of stale data. Reps even get penalized for being curious about their accounts, because it could mean yet another data request. Organizations need to democratize access to product data and prevent data silos in order to run Product-Led Sales.

Challenge #2: too many signups

Let’s say you’ve overcome the first hurdle already. Some companies set up dashboards or integrations that get product data in front of sales reps. When our customer OpenComp started their Product-Led Sales journey, they placed a link to Mixpanel in each Salesforce record. These are all baby steps to establish the bridge between product and sales data. 

Why is this a problem? Giving reps access to product usage is a great start, but the burden of prioritizing accounts still falls on the rep. Without properly defined PQL criteria, reps will often have trouble surfacing the right accounts. They spend countless hours on data analysis instead of selling (Airtable's Director of Sales cautions against this pitfall). That’s why raw product data is not enough. Accounts and users need to be product qualified.

“Prior to Calixa, we had no PQL score,” said Rachael Watton, Director of RevOps at OpenComp. “There was no way to surface users who have done actions that we really care about.”

Challenge #3: difficult to take action between different tools

Some readers who read Challenge #2 are thinking, “That’s easy! I can solve this with a lead scoring tool.” Then you’re left with the final challenge of acting on PQLs. Many reps are left jumping between tabs, because existing tools rarely offer integrated actions.

Why is this a problem? Going back to our customer Opencomp, their original approach made the assumption that sales reps would (1) look for that link in Salesforce, (2) click the link and navigate to Mixpanel, and then (3) have a worthwhile insight and then jump back into Salesforce to take an action. “It was a manual process with disparate systems,” Rachael said. Sales teams need streamlined workflows to increase rep efficiency and deal velocity.

The Product-Led Sales challenge isn’t trivial. You can level up step-by-step, but most companies have not reached the top of these stairs. Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel (or staircase)!

Calixa has tackled each of these steps as our product has matured. The next section goes over what our team has built out – and how a purpose-built Product-Led Sales platform can help you.

What is a Product-Led Sales platform?

A Product-Led Sales platform helps reps find and act on PQLs to turn your self-serve funnel into a predictable revenue engine. It enables data-driven targeting and conversations, sales efficiency, and higher deal conversion.

But with an already bloated stack of tools, why do sales teams need a purpose-built PLS solution? Here are three key differentiators of a dedicated Product-Led Sales platform.

1. Unlock customer insights

As mentioned, organizations need to democratize data access. Product data is no longer just for product managers. Support messages are no longer just for customer success reps. So on and so forth. 

A customer 360 view has never been more important than in a product-led motion. Without one, the customer is actually more well-informed of their product usage than the rep they speak with. They’ve already taken the time to get to know your product. Now, it’s your turn to get to know them!

Product-Led Sales platforms integrate all of your data into a single comprehensive view. This is usually shown in a dashboard – but some teams prefer to directly sync into CRMs

This single view of customer activity lets reps see usage spikes, support tickets, payments, etc. and act accordingly. Sales teams are no longer blocked by a backlog of data requests or stuck with static and outdated product activity. Whether reps care about the user journey or account workspaces, a PLS platform enables your team to easily get timely data and customer context.

2. Surface PQLs

Once you have basic usage metrics and customer data, it’s time to prioritize leads. This is where PLS platforms truly shine. They analyze the product signals of users in your Ideal Customer Profile, and specialize in finding PQLs with the best potential for conversion/upsell (or highest risk of churn).

Product-Led Sales platforms help you create and iterate on PQL criteria. This can be done using simple scoring or AI-powered prospecting. Sales teams can try scoring PQLs based on human intuition and assumptions to start, but AI can spot predictive signals that the human eye misses. It’s important for mature PLS functions to adopt AI.

Calixa has heavily invested in building AI. Our team has early foundational experience in Product-Led Sales tooling at Twilio and built Sift’s AI fraud detection. Sales teams can run multiple ML models per sales motion (free-to-paid, paid-to-enterprise, etc) to increase PQL conversion.

3. Automate sales workflows

Our work isn’t done after surfacing PQLs. Product-Led Sales isn’t only about finding PQLs – the next step is to efficiently act on them.

Product-Led Sales platforms consolidate rep actions for greater efficiency. Reps can take action or trigger automated workflows into downstream tools, such as an Outreach sequence, Salesforce opportunity, or Slack alert. Orchestrating these workflows helps save valuable rep time.

Calixa offers playbooks that let reps can see what actions to take based on product activity. Whether you’re using a free-to-paid playbook or upsell playbook, it’s important to know exactly how to act on a PQL to drive revenue.

👉 Learn more about how to choose a Product-Led Sales platform.

Powering your sales motion

Now that we’ve gone over the core capabilities, let’s see what a Product-Led Sales platform looks like in practice. Calixa enables reps to be more efficient in three key areas of your sales motion. This covers the entire customer lifecycle, from the first sales touch to CS-managed account growth.

Prospect

Many GTM teams start their morning in Calixa to identify PQLs. Calixa makes it easy to use product usage and customer fit data to prioritize top users and accounts. All reps need to do is check into their inbox to ensure opportunities don’t fall into the cracks. Once they see a promising lead, reps can add users to email cadences with one click of a button – or automate this process entirely.

Netlify has a 50% daily time saving when prospecting by using Calixa. They consolidated their prospecting tools from 7 down to just 2, which increases rep efficiency & conversion rate.

Close

Calixa not only helps you find who to talk to – it  also equips your team with key data points so they can enter every conversation with confidence. Your team gets a full picture of how accounts are using your product. This reveals the champions and key usage patterns that let reps run the right closing play.

Opencomp has seen a 15% quarter over quarter increase in PQL conversion. We’ve even seen customers that generate a $1M+ deal using Calixa (not even exaggerating 😉).

Grow

After closing a deal, many companies leverage Calixa to uncover expansion opportunities. Reps get alerted of usage spikes so that they can increase the lifetime value of customers. They’ll not only understand which accounts are growing fastest – they can even view the growing workspaces within a company.

“Calixa is the PLG dashboard for our sales and CS team. We use it daily to track usage and identify opportunities,” said Ido Cohen, Co-founder & CEO at Loadmill. Since using Calixa, our customers have seen up to a 1.6x increase in book of business managed per CSM.

How does a PLS platform work with your CRM and marketing automation?

If you’re interested in using a Product-Led Sales platform, you’re likely wondering how it fits into your tech stack. Calixa works well with your existing tools.

Our platform has a native integration with your CRM. It not only draws from the CRM as a data source, but it can easily push insights bi-directionally into your CRM. Whether you want to enrich the CRM with PQL scores, journey milestones, or just basic usage metrics, CRM Sync has you covered. Reps can also take advantage of our Chrome Extension to see Calixa’s insights and search box alongside the CRM.

Marketers can also take advantage of Calixa to run self-serve nurture campaigns within marketing automation tools. A user who isn’t ready for a sales touch today can still turn into a PQL tomorrow. Calixa can automatically add top users to campaigns in Marketo, HubSpot, and Salesforce.

Get started with a PLS platform

There’s lots more to learn about a Product-Led Sales platform. As a product-led company, we believe the best way is to try things out for yourself.

It’s easy to get up and running on our PLS platform. Many sales teams find deals within days. “In 3 days of using Calixa, a rep booked 4 calls from PQLs we would have otherwise missed,” said Brandon Ness, Director of Sales at Jasper.

Sign up today or book a demo.