There is an inside sales playbook that many SaaS companies use. And with good reason. It’s a tried and true, time-tested way to sell SaaS. It’s effective and proven. If you work for a B2B SaaS company you probably know this playbook well. It’s some variation of….
BDRs work inbound leads (generated by marketing and thrown over the fence to sales upon some predefined level of warm nurture qualification). SDRs work outbound leads. Both of these groups tee up qualified opportunities for account executives. Account execs may be organized by region, industry, customer segment, company size, or size of prize (SOP). Qualification is based on ideal customer profile + BANT or MEDDIC or some other variation. The sales stages go from qualifying to qualified to demo to evaluation to procurement to close. Sales are done “inside” with little in-person travel needed. Sales cycles are somewhere between 15-90 days. There is a sales tech stack that includes cadence sequencing, call recording, list building and prospecting, CRM, etc.
If you’ve brushed up against SaaS sales, you’ve seen this model. There are variations and customizations based on your company stage, ARPU, and industry. But it all stems from the same core playbook, pioneered at companies like Salesforce.com, where it worked exceptionally well. And continues to work well for thousands upon thousands of SaaS organizations.
Enter product-led growth, where a company isn’t pulled along by sales, and marketing isn’t the only fuel in the engine.
So, how does the SaaS sales model fit into product-led growth?
It fits. But it needs to be applied thoughtfully, and with some tweaks.
First, if the concept of SaaS sales in a product-led growth is new to you…read this fantastic article, “Your product sells itself. Now hire sales.” by Kyle Poyar at OpenView. You’ll learn everything you need to know about why a product-led company needs a sales organization.
Here’s what I have seen work well (in no particular order):
- Find where your customers are trying to buy, and help them buy that way (versus only forcing them into a self-serve credit card sign up or into a sales process). Lean into these alternative paths to purchase and bring down obstacles, versus fighting it. They might be trying to buy in your support desk, or by calling in, or by emailing a PO to your generic company email address because they can’t use a credit card. In true product-led growth customers get really creative trying to buy when your standard channels, like online sign up, don’t work for them. Lean into that and amplify it.
- Learn how to triage leads who are ready to buy and route them to a deal desk person who transacts them, rather than routing them a salesperson. These ‘ready to buy’ leads don’t need a discovery call or a sales process or to jump through your qualification steps, they need to buy. These leads might come in via your support desk, inbound forms or social channels, and say things like, “Where can I send my PO?”, and “I’d like to buy X seats.” Just make the initial sale. And expand them later.
- Focus the bulk of your efforts on expansion. In product-led growth, the customers come to you, they buy and they grow. You don’t need to over-engineer the initial sale so instead, put your focus on what happens after the initial sign up.
- But don’t forget outbound. In product-led growth, it’s easy to have a weak sales muscle and let the flywheel work its magic. But, you do still need sales. And outbound is a great way to bring in the customers who aren’t naturally coming to you. It’s not as efficient as product-led growth but it works, and some of your best customers can come from it. You can also apply an ‘outbound’ motion to existing customers in order to expand the account.
- Have all customer-facing teams tightly matrixed together for coordinating the product-led, sales-assisted motion.
- Simplify everything. Nothing needs to be over-engineered in a product-led growth sales motion. It needs to be just right. It should be aligned with the buyer and how they buy. I’m not a fan of a rigorous process for companies that have a ‘product that sells itself’. Everything you do should be about clearing the path for more of that organic growth, and then supporting it so it continues to expand.
Just let the customers buy
I think the main thing is to get out of the way of product-led growth. The SaaS sales playbook is pretty prescriptive. To make it work in a product-led organization it’s important to get rid of some of the process and prescription about how customers can buy.
More on the SaaS Sales Playbook for Product-Led GrowthRead more thoughts on product-led growth and inside sales here.