Product Monetization

The role of inside sales in product-led growth

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-How product-led companies leverage inside sales -Structuring sales to complement PLG -Structuring comp plans to align with the PLG business model -Incentivizing the right behaviors in your sales team -Successfully marrying the different cultures of sales teams & PLG

Anna Talerico:
Hello, let's jump right in to talk about inside sales and product like growth and eight strategies to accelerate your growth with inside sales. Just briefly, I'm Anna Talerico. Recently, I was the COO of Linux Academy, a very product led organization where we introduced significant go-to-market motions, including inside sales and experienced really rapid growth. Linux Academy was acquired by a cloud guru at the end of last year.

Anna Talerico:
I'm also an author at SaaSX.com and I'm SaaS' go-to-market adviser. So I want to jump right in, we've got a lot to cover. And I want to start by just saying, if you think that adding a sales motion into a product led company can mess everything up, you are absolutely right. And so, today we're going to talk about eight ways to not screw it up.

Anna Talerico:
And I'm going to jam a lot in. I know you've got a packed day with the product led summit and a lot of sessions to attend, so we're going to make this short and sweet, and I'm going to go through some pretty meaty concepts pretty quickly. So, let's go right into our first one, but quickly who this session is for is B2B, B2B marketers who already have product market fit.

Anna Talerico:
So, you've got to have product market fit for this stuff to make sense and how you're applying inside sales. A thriving self-service channel or something close to thriving. So you've got a self service channel that's working and that is your primary driver of growth so far. And non-existent or nascent like a brand new inside sales team.

Anna Talerico:
Or an inside sales team that you've started to get stood up and is struggling, which happens a lot the first time that you try to introduce sales into a product led organization. It can be hard for the sales organization to get their footing, and so a lot of the things we're going to talk about today are going to address that.

Anna Talerico:
So without further ado, number one, we're talking about eight strategies, number one, be wary of the standard SaaS inside sales model. And there is a very much like a standard SaaS or software sales motion and it's about marketing generates leads, they throw them over the fence, sales accepts some of those leads, a portion of them.

Anna Talerico:
Those are usually then worked by SDRs or BDRs by calls, emails, et cetera, some portion of those they may contact with and try and qualify to set up appointments for account executives, and then some portion of those go on to be new customers. And it's a really similar motion as well if you're doing a standard outbound motion where you're calling cold leads, so not leads that marketing has generated.

Anna Talerico:
And if you were to line up a hundred SaaS or software type of companies, they're probably all doing some version of this sales motion, the sales model, and that's fine. And there's a portion of your business as a product led company where that can work, and we'll talk about that in a few minutes. But what I always say is you have to be very wary of just coming in, somebody who wants to come into your organization and just apply this model as is, is a big mistake.

Anna Talerico:
Because this model needs to be adapted for product led growth when you've already got product market fit and you've already got a little bit of a flywheel going with your self-service channel. So, know that there's a place for this, but it doesn't just apply across the board as a blanket. And so, it can be applied to parts of the business, but it's going to also get in the way of product led sales if you're not careful.

Anna Talerico:
And that's because there's too much process, it's too formal and it's often not needed to close deals. If you have a self-service channel, you know this, customers are already buying. And so, if you sort of just tried and then all leads are going to go to sales or just all hot hand-raisers are going to go to sales, now you're kind of getting in the way of a customer who just wants to buy, and that's going to be a recurring theme today during the session.

Anna Talerico:
So, the first thing you got to do before you just apply this model is really understand what's going on in a product led organization. How are customers raising their hands to buy today? How are they buying? How are they trying to buy? We'll talk a little bit about that in a minute, too. How much are they buying? How are they paying? Who's buying? Why are they buying?

Anna Talerico:
How are they expanding if they are? Hopefully they are, that's kind of the product lead mantra, right? When do they expand? What leads them to expand? So it's really important to assess this so that you can then adapt the inside sales model to work within what's already happening. And on my next strategies I'll share how to do that, but it's really important to just truly understand how customers are buying today before we go do anything with inside sales.

Anna Talerico:
Second thing you need to do, I think this is something I see a lot in product led organizations, is there's this very narrow definition of self-service and it's very binary. And I think it's very important to expand your definition of self-service. So a lot of times in a product led organization, self-service is like, somebody has to buy with a credit card and we can only let them buy, and it's got to be online, and if it's 10 seats or less, it's one user or 10 users, they can buy online, but as soon as it hits 11, they have to go to an inside sales rep or whatever.

Anna Talerico:
There's just lots of different versions of this, but there's this very black and white narrow definition of self-service. And what I find when you assess what's going on is that there's a lot of ways that users are trying to buy in a very self-service sort of way, but it looks different. And so users are saying things like, "Where can I send my PO? What are your wiring instructions? I need to give my card information over the phone, I can't do it online. I need an invoice before I can pay. Can I send a check?"

Anna Talerico:
They're often saying this in your support channel by the way. There's lots of different, they might be sending in just random contact us emails or forms. They're often doing a support channel. And I know on the product led growth podcast that West does, he talks a lot about this. Your support channel is really important in product led growth.

Anna Talerico:
We'll talk about that in a minute as well, but your users are usually once you've assessed what's going on, you'll find that people are often trying to buy in different ways than you view self-service. And when we have this very binary view of self-service or rigid rules around it, it can get in the way of users who just want to buy.

Anna Talerico:
So small accounts, business accounts, 10 seats, things like that. We tend to get in their way when we're like, "No, you have nine seats. You've got to go to the website and buy with a credit card." Well, you might be losing those customers. So what you have to do is, get out of the way and let them buy the way that they need and want to buy. So, you've got to create a sales process and a sales methodology for these ready to close leads.

Anna Talerico:
I don't even like to call them ready to close leads, ready to close people. They're just people that want to buy and they don't fit your definition of self-service. There's also ready to expand customers that are like that too. So it's almost like in this product led organization, where then you're layering in inside sales, you have to have two different kinds of sales processes or methodologies.

Anna Talerico:
To say, "These are the leads I'm going to develop to sell to, but I've got these leads and these users, these customers that are ready to buy, what's the process going to be for those?" And it's usually different. Another way to get out of the way and let them buy is matrix sales and support together, so that users who reach out via support can purchase and there's a clear path to the basket for them.

Anna Talerico:
We'll talk a little bit about this in a minute too. One of the things I love to do is use a deal desk sales representative to close those ready to buy incoming hot leads. You don't need to route them to a sales person. If somebody comes in as a lead and they're like, "Hey, where do I send my PO?" They don't need to go to a salesperson.

Anna Talerico:
They shouldn't go to a sales person, just transact them very similar to how you would if they were just buying online. So you kind of need to make this path for users who are ready to buy, but they can't do it online or they're different numbers of seats and things like that.

Anna Talerico:
So it's important to have a sales methodology for those ready to buy people because in a product led company where you have a true flywheel, there's usually a lot of them and you can be leaving money on the table if you don't capitalize on that, so let your customers buy the way that they want to buy, super important, without sending them to some complicated or bloated sales process.

Anna Talerico:
All right, number three, design your organization to maximize organic growth. And what this is, is tightly matrixing sales, customer success, and support because all three of these functions go into landing and expanding customers. It's not simply sales. So people are calling their customer success representative saying, "Hey, I need 20 more seats." People are sending in support tickets and saying, "Hey, where do I send my PO? What are your wiring instructions?"

Anna Talerico:
And if you're not looking and listening for that, you might not see it. And you might think that you are, "Oh, of course support would tell us if somebody wanted wiring instructions." But you'd be surprised how this stuff can get lost and can get buried. So you want these three teams ideally to roll up into the same leadership, go-to-market leadership, and to be working really closely together and collaborating on how do we maximize this?

Anna Talerico:
How do we take advantage of this? How do we not have these very definitive black and white lines between these three functions, but how do we collaborate to work together to let customers buy and let them expand the way they want to and to maximize their growth? So I really believe that this needs to be tightly matrixed.

Anna Talerico:
So yes, you don't need rigid definitions of each three functions, but you do need rules of engagement. What kind of expansion can customer success do? What kind of expansion should sales do? When should support just send wiring instructions versus when do they need to pass the user onto the sales or customer success? And so you do need rules of engagement to define how the three work together, but you need them thinking, acting and moving almost as one team.

Anna Talerico:
Number four, so important, build a world-class expansion sales team. This is what Slack is doing and have done. This is what [inaudible 00:11:06] is doing. These companies that we think of as product led, our success stories, they have inside sales. And one of the things that those companies have done is focus on building a world-class expansion team.

Anna Talerico:
So you want the product to land that first user, and hopefully there's a lot of organic growth and the product continues to land, and 10 seats, and 20 seats and a thousand seats, but you can layer in customer success and sales to assist and accelerate that. So I would say my mantra and I'd love it, if this would be your mantra too, let the product land and sales expand, so you want people that are focused on farming your users.

Anna Talerico:
And we'll talk a little bit about how the SDR role can do that in a minute, but there are some ways to get creative with your roles. And so this is where the inside sales model of standard thing we talked about in number one, doesn't apply because there's just these very specific roles that people have, but in product led growth, we want to get a little creative with some of the roles.

Anna Talerico:
So let the product land and have sales focused on expansion. And we'll talk a little about that in a minute, but I want to first talk about developing your sales muscle with outbound. So this might sound counter to everything else I'm saying, but this goes back to where I said that set standard sales bottle does have a place in product led growth, and it does apply to part of your business.

Anna Talerico:
What happens a lot of times in product led growth is there is a sale. The sales muscle is very weak because customers are ready to buy. Customers are naturally growing. And so we don't have to have exceptional sales skills. And we are just used to sitting and answering the phone and taking orders. And that's just the reality of a true product that has an exceptional product market fit.

Anna Talerico:
And so that's wonderful, but if we don't mythologically also develop our sales muscle with some type of sales program where we are developing customers, what happens if the market shifts? What happens if there's a global pandemic and suddenly our flywheel has disrupted? What happens if there's a competitive shift and now we are left without the skills to actually sell? So this is where it gets into having two sales processes.

Anna Talerico:
You have this sales process for the order taking, "Yes, I'll sign you up. Yes, I'll add another 1,000 seats to your account." But you also have to have another arm almost that is like a rigorous sales arm, where you are doing more traditional things. Maybe you are doing outbound, hold out bound to develop customers that you don't have yet, your ideal customer profiles, you want to target those.

Anna Talerico:
And that can be anywhere from 5,000 customers, you don't have yet, or a 100, the fortune 100, whatever it may be, attacking that differently with different methodologies, different processes, et cetera. And then when you do that and you can get some success and some traction, because developing an outbound program takes time.

Anna Talerico:
It doesn't happen overnight. If you started outbound today, you're going to really see the fruits of that and the maturity of that in 12 to 18 months. I mean, yes, will you land customers before that? Absolutely. But where you're going, "Okay, this is really working." It's going to be 12 to 18 months before you've got a robust pipeline and predictability around that.

Anna Talerico:
So if you don't do this, again, and there's a market shift, there's a pandemic, there is something going on competitively, you're left scrambling and you don't know to sell. And so it's super important that product led organizations still develop sales, a sales method and the sales exercise of sales muscle.

Anna Talerico:
And I would just say, you could almost think about that as two parts of the business, the part that takes orders and does the easier stuff that's driven by the product. And then the stuff that you're actually selling and developing customers that you want. Okay, this is one of my favorites, number six, reinvent the role of SDR.

Anna Talerico:
So in a traditional sales or software, SaaS sales model, the SDRs do one of two things. They call cold leads, outbound cold, outbound, or they call marketing generated leads and that's pretty much it. But in a product led company, there's at least five different kinds of possibilities of SDR roles at least. There is outreach to the marketing generated leads, standard stuff.

Anna Talerico:
There's outreach to cold outbound leads, standard issue stuff. There's outreach to individual business users, so a user that signs up with their business account, but they're one seat, they're one user. There's outreach to decision makers at those user organizations.

Anna Talerico:
And then there's outreach to new divisions and teams within customer organizations. And to do this really well, there's just like ... When you look at a product led organization, oftentimes there's just so much low hanging fruit if you had a SDR specializing in these things, because they're different kinds of motions, they're different talk tracks, there's different communication styles.

Anna Talerico:
There's different things you're doing with each of these buckets, but it's just ripe for the taking. And so just to give you more of like what this looks like, so John Smith attended a webinar, downloaded a white paper, that's it. We've got SDRs who are maybe reaching out to qualify those and book appointments for AEs, that's reaching out to marketing generated leads.

Anna Talerico:
Then maybe we have SDRs working cold outbound leads, right? So Jane Smith, I'm reaching out to Jane Smith who's a decision maker at my ideal customer profile, fortune 100, whatever it may be. Well, the again standard issue SDR stuff. But then what about Sally Specific, who's an individual IT user, she registered with her work email address.

Anna Talerico:
I can reach out to her and I can say, "Hey, are there any of your colleagues who would like to take advantage of this? Hey, would you like me to see if your company will pay for this and we can put your account through?" So there's a way to reach out to that individual. "Hey, do you have any referrals of people I should be talking to inside of your organization?" And oftentimes these individual users, they're your champion. And they are so happy to give you a referral or an introduction or a recommendation of how to grow inside of their company.

Anna Talerico:
But you're not calling them to sell them. You're not calling to say, "Hey, Sally Specific, would you like to buy five more seats?" You're calling in a different way. So it's a different kind of SDR. And then there's outreach to decision makers, right?

Anna Talerico:
So I'm calling Sally Specific's manager, Sally Leader, and she runs the department inside of that very specific company. And I'm reaching out to her to say, "Hey, you've got some people on your team that are using our product, would you like to expand that? And would you like to know more about that?" So again, it's reaching out.

Anna Talerico:
And then there's new divisions, so maybe I sold into to IT teams, but I want to go sell into marketing and HR, whatever it may be. So these are very specific SDR kinds of functions and motions that you can exploit and use. And what you just want to make sure you do is carefully consider who and how, you don't need to reach out in a salesy way. Cold outbound to customers you don't have is a very different kind of outreach and communication and cadence than calling individual users to ask for a referral, so you have to almost specialize with your SDRs, but it wouldn't be thinking who's reaching out.

Anna Talerico:
Who does sales reach out to versus who does customer success reach out to? How are you reaching out? Are you asking for a referral? Are you just nurturing them for organic growth? Are you maybe going top down? Product led growth is usually bottom up, a user buys and then somebody else in their organization starts using it and starts using it, and then now it's 1,000 seats.

Anna Talerico:
And that's a bottom up motion where a user chooses you and it takes a while before the company chooses you, so you can also layer in a top down where you're calling, almost cold calling into the leadership of those user businesses. And it's a magical thing in product led growth when you get a top down sales motion and a bottom up sales motion, and then truly the company is choosing you, not just the users.

Anna Talerico:
So anyway, you got to as you think about how you're going to get creative with the SDR roles and who's doing what you need to just be thoughtful and mindful of how you reach out and what you want to do, establish a relationship, ask for referral, et cetera, it's different, but so much low hanging fruit in your user base. Okay, just two more things, one, number seven, be thoughtful about your sales compensation.

Anna Talerico:
So in sales comp, you get what you incentivize, right? So one big thing, so there are people that write and talk about product led growth, and they say, "Well, salespeople in a product led organization shouldn't even be commissioned. The product selling itself, they're just assisting customers. They shouldn't get commissioned for that." And I won't say that I'm that extreme. I think an organization needs true professional salespeople and they're not going to work without commission. But I think that what you want to do is be mindful about what you commission.

Anna Talerico:
So there is no reason to, in our expanded definition of self-service, pay commission on a lead that calls in to say, "Where are the wiring instructions? I have a PO for 10 seats." We should not be comping that with commission. And so it doesn't need to go to a commission sales rep, it needs to go to that deal desk role that I talked about. So be careful that you're not paying commission on these slam dunk customers who just literally are calling in and placing an order, so you want to route those leads.

Anna Talerico:
You also want to think about structuring your sales team for expansion, building your world-class expansion team, so you're thinking farmers not hunters. So you want to incentivize account growth significantly, both with your customer success team and with your sales team.

Anna Talerico:
And then you just create rules of engagement for the two teams, like who owns what. Maybe CS owns reactive expansion, when the customer calls and wants to expand, versus sales is responsible for growing the account by calling in and doing some of those motions we talked about earlier. But you're going to get what you incentivize and there's no reason to commission deals that are ready to close.

Anna Talerico:
And then if outbound is important, if what I said about you need to have a sales muscle is important to use strategically, compensate that really well. That's hard work to say, "Here's 100 target accounts. I'm going to go after and get them." That's hard work. And you want to maybe incentivize that differently too. So get what you incentivize, just be careful. And then last but not least, I don't have a lot to say about this other than let this be your mantra.

Anna Talerico:
Think product led and sales assisted, so you want your product to close and then you want sales to expand. We've talked about that. Let the product land and let sales expand, but also you just want to figure out how can you help customers buy and not get in the way. I use this silly basketball image of like, don't get in the way of that.

Anna Talerico:
But really, I would say it's like a speeding car. It's going down the racetrack, don't get in the way of the car. It's already happening. How can we smooth the road to help the car go faster? Because it's already happening. So get out of the way. And in product led sales assisted, just really to recap quickly, you're not applying the standard sales model.

Anna Talerico:
You're being mindful and assessing what's already going on and amplifying that. You're going to change and expand your definition of self-service sales, build a world-class expansion sales team, consider developing your sales muscle without [inaudible 00:23:19] you never know when things are going to change and you're going to need it.

Anna Talerico:
Reinvent and get creative with the role of the SDR. Tightly matrix sales, customer success and support super important. They should be operating almost as one team and be mindful and thoughtful of sales compensation. So, that is it. We jammed a lot in if you'd like to hear more about things like this. I blog@SaaSX.com, so feel free to subscribe or just get in touch if you have any questions or thoughts or want to talk about this more you can find me on Twitter @AnnaTalerico. So thank you guys so much.

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Gretchen Duhaime
Anna Talerico
Operating Partner of Arthur Ventures
As a SaaS entrepreneur with two strategic exits, I love to build & scale technology companies. At Arthur Ventures, I focus on capital-efficient go-to-market strategies across sales, marketing, and customer success for our portfolio companies. As a SaaS entrepreneur with two strategic exits, I love to build & scale technology companies.