Advice for Sales

5 Sales Leaders Share How Product-Led Sales Drives Revenue

The role of salespeople at top product-led companies

Joanna Huang

May 9, 2022
·
5
 min read

In the past few months, we've had the pleasure of chatting with revenue leaders from Airtable, Webflow, Mixpanel, Plaid, and Contentful. One question consistently comes up in these interviews:

What is the role of salespeople in a product-led world?

We can't help but explore this in more detail. Modern SaaS products are able to attract, nurture, retain, and—some would say—sell to users. It is highly scalable and efficient. How can sales teams add value to this modern buying experience?

At this point, we think we've found some answers. Below are key ways these five product-led sales teams discover and act on new untapped revenue.

Offer Guidance

Product-led sales reps prioritize user success and product adoption. They're product educators who assist users on specific goals. After all, even products with world-class user experiences have sales friction.

"I hear ‘it must be so easy' all the time. It must sell itself, because all these folks are already using the product. There's definitely a misconception that customers come in, already in love with the product just from getting that free usage, and that they're ready to upgrade without any help. But buyers like a human connection. They want that sales rep to come in and help consult with them on the product.

I always say to my customers, my job is to make sure you're on the best plan for your business needs. Having a sales rep guiding you through the process can help uncover a better plan for an organization, whether it's because of security, scale, or dedicated support."

–Katie Cascino, Account Executive at Webflow - Read the full interview

Sometimes the sales friction is regarding pricing and what plan is best for them, or it could be uncertainty around gated features they can't access. Other times, users are looking for inspiration around use cases.

"A big part of my job is to educate the customer on the possibilities. It's helping to build the vision together and letting them dream a little bigger."

–Meredith Doty, Account Executive at Contentful - Read the full interview

The next step is to map these use cases to features. If team collaboration is a priority, sales reps articulate which features of the team plan enable effective teamwork. Salespeople thrive at bridging the gap between business goals and product solutions. Product education is a major way salespeople add value, not friction, to the product-led motion. The best sales mantra is to focus on helping.

"One of our core principles on the team is ABH: Always Be Helping. It's a play on the old sales adage ABC: Always Be Closing."

–Emerald Maravilla, New Business Lead at Plaid -
Read the full interview

Product-led sales teams smooth out bumps in the road to accelerate customer adoption and satisfaction.

Lead Organizational Buy-In

As products move upmarket, selling becomes more complex. Salespeople take on a highly strategic partnership role that requires navigating multiple stakeholders—including end users, the executive sponsor, finance, legal, IT and security.

"We believe that great Growth AEs are world-class business partners.

That's not lip service. We are really tough on the organization and on ourselves to be incredibly good at understanding who we're talking to: what they care about, what the business case is, what the business is trying to do long-term and short-term, and how we can impact it."

–Sam Werboff, Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable -
Read the full interview

Salespeople work with users to generate organizational buy-in together. Users need a strong business case to be properly equipped for internal selling. While a product-led motion does generate initial buy-in, crafting that strategic business case is still hard work.

"I think the beauty of PLG is you can use product-led growth to build a customer base, and then when the time is right—for example, what I'm doing at Webflow now—we bring in reps to help users increase their value through a broader deployment.

It takes a village to craft a business case to get these enterprise organizations using our enterprise-tier product."

–Katie Cascino, Account Executive at Webflow -
Read the full interview

The value proposition that landed users on the self-serve plan is very different from the business case for enterprise plans. Higher paid plans allow users to unlock additional features, integrations, and usage—while benefiting the organization with security and custom SLA's. It's incredibly important to articulate these differences.

"It typically is a pretty big jump from the credit card plan to the invoice plan. With the Enterprise tier, you have to be more strategic. That's why customers buy through the sales rep.

What I'm finding is the buyer of the credit card plan is not usually going to be the buyer of the enterprise plan. So you've got to be able to spider web through the organization and do some digging to uncover a larger use case. Just upselling them for the project that they need the credit card plan for is not the play."

–Meredith Doty, Account Executive at Contentful -
Read the full interview

Salespeople are key to helping users roll out their product throughout the organization. However many of your users may already love the product, sales teams must be there to address fundamental questions around security and high-level questions around return on investment.

Build Trust

As deal sizes increase, buyers want a human connection. They'd like to see the people behind the product before signing a large commitment.

Sales teams earn trust through long-term customer relationships. Especially within SaaS, buyers aren't here to make a one-time transaction. Customers will only stick around if every sales conversation adds value rather than extracts it.

"It's not selling at all costs. Our goal is to land that customer and make them happy in the process. It's okay to not extract all the revenue possible in the first sale. We know that once we land them, their usage will grow. You need to be thinking long-term."

–Dan McKnight, Director of Sales for North America at Mixpanel -
Read the full interview

There's no replacement for human-to-human relationships. Value-driven narratives ensure customers know you're here to help. Great sales teams use product signals to consistently drive value.

Closing Thoughts

In this product-led age, people are amazed that users still talk to sales. There's a common misconception that everything—including sales—can be done in-product.

Product-led sales practitioners know nothing is further from the truth.

"I think it's really dangerous to say that the product sells itself.

It might sell itself for an amount that is much less than if a human was involved. It might sell itself in a way that's not healthy long-term. It might sell itself and churn six months later.

PLG to me is sales. They're one and the same. The marriage between product-led and sales-led is really important.

Product-led is a data point, but it's still a sales lead. We are still the ones driving the conversations around revenue for the business."

–Sam Werboff, Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable -
Read the full interview

Sales teams are a value-add at product-led companies. They marry top-down and bottom-up motions to fully reach and monetize an organization's addressable market.

Next, let's take a look at what product-led sales actually is.

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Advice for Sales

5 Sales Leaders Share How Product-Led Sales Drives Revenue

The role of salespeople at top product-led companies

Joanna Huang
|
Product Marketer
|
Calixa
High Intent Logo

Your PLG roundup in 5 minutes.

May 9, 2022
ReadTime

In the past few months, we've had the pleasure of chatting with revenue leaders from Airtable, Webflow, Mixpanel, Plaid, and Contentful. One question consistently comes up in these interviews:

What is the role of salespeople in a product-led world?

We can't help but explore this in more detail. Modern SaaS products are able to attract, nurture, retain, and—some would say—sell to users. It is highly scalable and efficient. How can sales teams add value to this modern buying experience?

At this point, we think we've found some answers. Below are key ways these five product-led sales teams discover and act on new untapped revenue.

Offer Guidance

Product-led sales reps prioritize user success and product adoption. They're product educators who assist users on specific goals. After all, even products with world-class user experiences have sales friction.

"I hear ‘it must be so easy' all the time. It must sell itself, because all these folks are already using the product. There's definitely a misconception that customers come in, already in love with the product just from getting that free usage, and that they're ready to upgrade without any help. But buyers like a human connection. They want that sales rep to come in and help consult with them on the product.

I always say to my customers, my job is to make sure you're on the best plan for your business needs. Having a sales rep guiding you through the process can help uncover a better plan for an organization, whether it's because of security, scale, or dedicated support."

–Katie Cascino, Account Executive at Webflow - Read the full interview

Sometimes the sales friction is regarding pricing and what plan is best for them, or it could be uncertainty around gated features they can't access. Other times, users are looking for inspiration around use cases.

"A big part of my job is to educate the customer on the possibilities. It's helping to build the vision together and letting them dream a little bigger."

–Meredith Doty, Account Executive at Contentful - Read the full interview

The next step is to map these use cases to features. If team collaboration is a priority, sales reps articulate which features of the team plan enable effective teamwork. Salespeople thrive at bridging the gap between business goals and product solutions. Product education is a major way salespeople add value, not friction, to the product-led motion. The best sales mantra is to focus on helping.

"One of our core principles on the team is ABH: Always Be Helping. It's a play on the old sales adage ABC: Always Be Closing."

–Emerald Maravilla, New Business Lead at Plaid -
Read the full interview

Product-led sales teams smooth out bumps in the road to accelerate customer adoption and satisfaction.

Lead Organizational Buy-In

As products move upmarket, selling becomes more complex. Salespeople take on a highly strategic partnership role that requires navigating multiple stakeholders—including end users, the executive sponsor, finance, legal, IT and security.

"We believe that great Growth AEs are world-class business partners.

That's not lip service. We are really tough on the organization and on ourselves to be incredibly good at understanding who we're talking to: what they care about, what the business case is, what the business is trying to do long-term and short-term, and how we can impact it."

–Sam Werboff, Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable -
Read the full interview

Salespeople work with users to generate organizational buy-in together. Users need a strong business case to be properly equipped for internal selling. While a product-led motion does generate initial buy-in, crafting that strategic business case is still hard work.

"I think the beauty of PLG is you can use product-led growth to build a customer base, and then when the time is right—for example, what I'm doing at Webflow now—we bring in reps to help users increase their value through a broader deployment.

It takes a village to craft a business case to get these enterprise organizations using our enterprise-tier product."

–Katie Cascino, Account Executive at Webflow -
Read the full interview

The value proposition that landed users on the self-serve plan is very different from the business case for enterprise plans. Higher paid plans allow users to unlock additional features, integrations, and usage—while benefiting the organization with security and custom SLA's. It's incredibly important to articulate these differences.

"It typically is a pretty big jump from the credit card plan to the invoice plan. With the Enterprise tier, you have to be more strategic. That's why customers buy through the sales rep.

What I'm finding is the buyer of the credit card plan is not usually going to be the buyer of the enterprise plan. So you've got to be able to spider web through the organization and do some digging to uncover a larger use case. Just upselling them for the project that they need the credit card plan for is not the play."

–Meredith Doty, Account Executive at Contentful -
Read the full interview

Salespeople are key to helping users roll out their product throughout the organization. However many of your users may already love the product, sales teams must be there to address fundamental questions around security and high-level questions around return on investment.

Build Trust

As deal sizes increase, buyers want a human connection. They'd like to see the people behind the product before signing a large commitment.

Sales teams earn trust through long-term customer relationships. Especially within SaaS, buyers aren't here to make a one-time transaction. Customers will only stick around if every sales conversation adds value rather than extracts it.

"It's not selling at all costs. Our goal is to land that customer and make them happy in the process. It's okay to not extract all the revenue possible in the first sale. We know that once we land them, their usage will grow. You need to be thinking long-term."

–Dan McKnight, Director of Sales for North America at Mixpanel -
Read the full interview

There's no replacement for human-to-human relationships. Value-driven narratives ensure customers know you're here to help. Great sales teams use product signals to consistently drive value.

Closing Thoughts

In this product-led age, people are amazed that users still talk to sales. There's a common misconception that everything—including sales—can be done in-product.

Product-led sales practitioners know nothing is further from the truth.

"I think it's really dangerous to say that the product sells itself.

It might sell itself for an amount that is much less than if a human was involved. It might sell itself in a way that's not healthy long-term. It might sell itself and churn six months later.

PLG to me is sales. They're one and the same. The marriage between product-led and sales-led is really important.

Product-led is a data point, but it's still a sales lead. We are still the ones driving the conversations around revenue for the business."

–Sam Werboff, Head of Expansion Sales at Airtable -
Read the full interview

Sales teams are a value-add at product-led companies. They marry top-down and bottom-up motions to fully reach and monetize an organization's addressable market.

Next, let's take a look at what product-led sales actually is.

Joanna Huang

Product Marketer

,

Calixa

Joanna is interested in how product-led growth impacts the future of B2B companies. She's launched various marketing initiatives at Workato, TIBCO, and Madrona Venture Group. She joined Calixa after researching tools to combine product and sales insights for her everyday work.

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