Guide to Launching Product-led Sales main image
Mar 8, 2023

Guide to Launching Product-led Sales

Minami Rojas

Minami Rojas

5 steps to launch product-led sales from aligning on key goals, identifying signals, operationalizing the strategy, creating the sales playbook, and measuring impact

What is product-led sales?

Product-led sales = product data + sales. Product-led sales (PLS) is a go to market (GTM) motion that enables sales teams with plays based on product data, allowing them to target accounts with existing product usage to generate qualified pipeline and accelerate deal cycles. Unlike the similar acronym PLG, you don’t need to be a product-led growth company to use product data for sales!

This guide walks you through each step you need to take to launch product-led sales for your revenue teams. It highlights different approaches to each step along the way, flags any trade-offs you need to consider, and helps align your internal teams for maximum success.

The steps to launching product-led sales are:

  1. Align on primary revenue KPI
  2. Identify key product signals and accounts for sales
  3. Operationalize for launch
  4. Create sales playbook
  5. Measure success and iterate

Launching a pilot and want some easy template slides?
Make a copy of our template slides to use internally. The slides help explain each step within this guide and include example slides to help communicate your pilot cross-functionally.

But first, why launch product-led sales?

As every company is focusing on efficient growth, sales teams are pushed to be leaner than ever. Layering in product-led sales on top of your existing sales motion helps unlock sales velocity and rep productivity by using product data to uncover qualified pipeline, accelerate deal cycles, and maximize expansion.

Product data shows the highest intent

Data-driven selling is evolving rapidly and product data is the highest intent data revenue teams can access. Product data is:

  • First party: Tells you context on what your users are trying to do and what their pain points are based on what they are actually doing in your product
  • Real-time: Actively changes as people engage, adopt, or disengage with your product so you have the most up-to date information on what’s going on
  • Adaptive: Analyzing product data can give you stronger correlation to intent over time as users engage with your product, unlike firmographic data (Zoominfo), which doesn’t change, and marketing engagement behavior, which can be sporadic across a lifetime.
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Product-led sales solves challenges for both PLG and sales-led teams

Depending on your current sales motion, product-led sales is meant to layer into existing workflows to accelerate sales velocity. Here are common challenges we see in different companies that product-led sales helps solve:

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Step 1: Align on primary revenue KPI

Launching product-led sales is inherently a cross-functional project as it touches data, operations, and sales teams. So before jumping in, it’s important to align on the “why” behind launching product-led sales.

Aligning on the primary revenue focus allows teams to partner behind a common goal, help make faster decisions along the way, and ensure you’re tracking success after launch on the right KPIs.

Common Revenue KPIs

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Focus on one revenue KPI to start

While it may be tempting to see all the above and say, “I want it all!”, make sure to pause and be selective. Each revenue KPI from the above will drive towards different plays, tap into different product signals, be operationalized with different tiger teams, and have different success KPIs.

Focusing on one key area will allow you to rapidly build and launch without getting slowed down.

Trade-off warning 🚨

Trying to tackle more than one revenue KPI as a focus for your initial product-led sales launch could result in:

  • Low sales adoption due to confusion in what play they are supposed to run for what account based on what product data
  • Customer confusion if sales reaches out with the wrong play that does not accurately reflect how the customer is using the product
  • Delayed launch as each KPI requires different data analysis to identify key signals, more operational piping, and usually requires more team involvement

Key questions to answer

  • What is the primary revenue KPI that is driving the interest behind launching product-led sales?
  • Who are the cross-functional teams and people that need to be involved along the way? Oftentimes this can include key players from teams like sales, RevOps, growth/product, and data.
  • Who is the revenue team that will be partnering as the tiger team for launch? Depending on the primary revenue KPI, identify a small team that will be the testing team for launch. Oftentimes this is the commercial or mid-market sales team, sometimes including an SDR team if they help qualify pipeline.

Step 2. Identify key product signals and accounts for sales

Now that you’ve identified the key revenue KPI to focus on, it’s time to identify what product signals matter and which accounts to send to sales.

Identifying key product signals

You want to identify key product signals that indicate an account is likely to close or expand based on historical conversion and product data.  From there you can decide which ICP accounts should be sent to sales based on their usage, and which signals you want to build a product-led sales play around.

There are three levels of maturity you can use to approach identifying the key signals:

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Identifying key product signals is a critical step in building cross-functional trust and buy-in. Make sure to ask your sales team for their insights and feedback on the signals identified as they often have the best context from working with customers & prospects every day!

Filtering accounts for sales

Product signals are key in understanding what usage indicates highest intent, but just because an account has good usage doesn’t mean there’s a large revenue opportunity for sales. It could just be a good self-serve account.

That’s where additionally filtering on which accounts are assigned to sales can be accomplished by a combination of the following ingredients:

  • ICP Fit: Firmographic characteristics of the accounts that indicate it’s within sales territory. Examples: Employee count, HQ location, Company Revenue size, Target Account
  • Size of Prize: Size of prize takes ICP signals one step further and calculates the revenue opportunity of the account using firmographic signals. Examples: Remaining billable seats, Plan tier, % Paid Seat Utilization
  • Product Usage: Product signals identified that indicate highest intent

Below is an example of how Figma uses a combination of ICP Fit and Product signals to prioritize accounts for sales. You can read more in Kyle Poyar’s Guide to Product-led Sales with Jesus Requena.

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Difference between a score and product signals

PQA and PQL scores are highly popular today, but it’s key to understand when to use a score vs when to use product signals. For more on these terms, read Elena Verna’s guide on how to use PQAs and PQLs in product-led sales.

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Trade-off warning 🚨

Just building a score methodology doesn’t give the sales team the actual data they need to launch personalized plays. Prioritize the actual signals.

Step 3. Operationalize for launch

Now you know what data is important and how sales will use it, it’s time to map how this will actually come to life. To operationalize for likelihood of adoption, it’s important to consider the following:

  • What Account and Contacts fields are needed
  • Determine when data refreshes
  • Layering into current sales workflow
  • Operationalizing for a pilot vs a roll-out

What Account and Contacts fields are needed

Based on key signals and accounts identified in Step 2, create a sheet that outlines each field that needs to be created and/or synced. Here’s an example:

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Our recommendation is to:

  • Make sure all fields are added at the Account level
  • Then make sure you’re creating contacts for the following:
    • Buyer (based off title, may or may not be in product)
    • Admin (based on product role / permissions)
    • Power users (based on product usage)

Determine when data refreshes

Another key decision when operationalizing is to determine if the data will be static or dynamic.

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Our recommendation is that for a pilot, static data may be viable but dynamic data is the best way to ensure data accuracy thus sales trust.

Layering into current sales workflow

Mapping into how your team works today is also key to adoption. Most sales teams either work off a set of accounts or new leads or both.

Below outlines how reps would use product data in either of those flows:

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Accounts are the recommended approach

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Trade-off warning 🚨

Leads or PQLs alone won’t paint the full picture for a sales team, prioritize driving data at the account level so they are armed with more context.

Operationalizing for a pilot vs a roll-out

Oftentimes, we want to quickly test and iterate before operationalizing a full product-led sales workflow. Here are four levels of operationalizing from pilot to full roll-out:

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Step 4. Create sales playbook

Sales enablement and training is a critical step in launching product-led sales. The key to a successful launch is adoption, and building a playbook that helps enable your team to understand what they are looking at, why it’s important, and more importantly what it means about the account is critical.

Core pieces of a product-led sales playbook

Surprise! Some of these common sections of a product-led sales playbook may sound familiar already based on steps we’ve already covered 😀

  1. The revenue goal and motion
  2. Key product signals and pain points
  3. Personas and buying party
  4. Discovery and objections
  5. The sales workflow

Building Key product signals one-pager

Within your playbook should contain one key slide - the product signals one-pager that the reps can use to quickly compare what’s going on in their account and what it means for how they can engage. This should include:

  • The product signal
  • The user behavior it defines
  • Related pain point for the account
  • Any recommended action a rep should take

Here’s an example of what this could look like:

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Split sales team to test with

In order to measure the impact of product data for your sales team, you want to create a control group within your sales teams. There are two ways you can approach this:

  1. Pre vs. Post: Track metrics for the same set of reps before and after launching product-led sales. This is most effective when you’re able to quickly and fully transition to the new approach. The longer it takes and the more piecemeal the adoption curve, the more muddled the ability to measure the impact. And one last callout - make sure to account for seasonality, which can heavily distort this type of analysis.
  2. Split Team: Split the team into two groups. Have only one set of reps use the product data and measure the difference in performance between the two. If doing this, make sure you’re splitting a team that is responsible for the same segment and type of accounts (ie split Commercial team in half, don’t compare Commercial vs Enterprise)

Enablement is ongoing

“When you roll out, make sure the training is ongoing. It takes time for new reps to learn the details of how to use a tool or incorporate the narrative into their own style. Open office hours, and get a recurring spot in your sales all-hands to update and refresh materials.”

Jesus Requena
PLG expert from Figma and Hex

Step 5. Measure success and iterate

Congratulations, now you are ready to launch!

What KPIs to measure for success

Once you have launched, you want to ensure that your investment into product-led sales is driving the outcome you want.

Make sure to measure this over a specific time frame, at least 1-3 months. Depending on your sales cycle, you may only see impact to the leading indicators (Activity to Opp rate, and Opp Creation) vs. lagging indicators (Win Rate, Revenue).

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As you get more mature, there are more metrics you can look at such as stage conversion rates, deal cycles, # of interactions, ASP, etc. to help fine tune your motion.

Feedback loops and iteration

You want to keep iterating and improving after launch, so here are core questions you can ask your sales team to drive feedback loops:

  1. Are they using the product data? Is there anything within the existing sales process that is keeping them from using it?
  2. Does the team understand the product data? Is there any more enablement or trust that needs to be built?
  3. Does the team have the right data points? What signals are or are not effective in their outreach? Are there other product signals that you’re learning about that should be incorporated?

You did it!

Congratulations, you’ve made it through the guide and hopefully have a better understanding of each step to launching product-led sales.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, fear not, that’s why we built Endgame. Endgame helps you run product-led sales by taking the operational work of each step off your plate and letting you focus on driving cross-functional alignment and success.

Interested in learning more? Request a demo of Endgame today!