SaaS companies and buyers are well aware of ways the flywheel model has changed go-to-market strategies. Companies leveraging this bottoms-up approach focus on the end user experience, which has meant they’re less likely to employ sales-led or marketing-led tactics. Virality and scale are the foundation of the flywheel model, and product-led growth has emerged as the most complementary go-to-market strategy.
Product led growth companies orient everything around the end user, with the expectation that this dogged attention to the user experience will lead to greater growth. The product drives their go-to-market tactics, first as a means of efficient customer acquisition and conversion, and later as a pipeline for upsell and expansion.
“We’re trying to build our organization through the lens of making sure that each decision we make hinges on what’s truly best for the customer. Our team’s goal is to shorten the time to value, whether that first customer touchpoint is with sales, support or success. There’s no single cycle or journey the customer has to follow. Our team orients themselves as a single entity around what’s best for the customer and meets each individual where they are.” – Liat Bycel, VP of Customer Engagement at Airtable
Companies that are singularly focused on the end user experience are increasingly making the decision to group all customer-facing teams, including Sales, Customer Success, and Support, under the same organization. This allows them to optimize the user journey across both product and human touch points, as well as build a customer-first culture across all teams. As you’d expect, the role and mindsets of each team needs to shift as a result of this new go-to-market strategy and restructuring.
A consultative approach to sales
Product led growth companies lean on virality and scale to acquire new users, and look to build a pipeline of potential customers through freemium or trial offerings. Sales reps at these companies transition from driving product awareness, to consulting with prospects on how their product can deliver value. As a result, these reps share qualities and behaviors usually ascribed to Customer Success teams- being product experts, increasing adoption, and understanding their customer’s use case.
“In essence, our sales approach isn’t that different from our customer success approach. In both cases, we’re just helping people get the most out of our products. It’s just that one group helps existing customers and one group helps prospects.” – Chris Savage, CEO at Wistia
Users on a freemium or trial subscription are all potential sales leads. By tracking in-product actions sales teams can proactively reach out to users who are using key elements of your product. These Product Qualified Leads (PQL) are more likely to convert than a Sales or Marketing qualified lead because these users have already experienced meaningful value from your product.
Embracing product led growth doesn’t just change who sales reps interact with, it requires a shift in how they approach the sales process. The ongoing emphasis on the end user experience means sales needs to avoid aggressive tactics and a directives to hit their quota at all cost. Companies have a few ways to compensate for these tendencies- some don’t pay their sales reps commissions (Typeform), others cultivate a culture of honesty even if it means telling prospects that their product isn’t a good fit (Receptive).
Building customer relationships
“Bringing sales and customers success under one customer engagement umbrella has allowed us to align our objectives more closely, which in turn makes it possible to deliver a more seamless customer experience. In this model, customer success is empowered to own the customer relationship throughout the entire journey rather than having to hand it off at certain stages. Our CSMs… focus not only on adoption, expansion and retention, but also on working closely with their counterparts in sales to ensure that there’s strong alignment when it comes time for renewal and other critical junctures in the relationship.” Liat Bycel, VP of Customer Engagement at Airtable
When a user converts they’re introduced to a dedicated Customer Success Manager. CSMs build customer relationships on a foundation of product and industry knowledge, a deep understanding of their customer’s goals and objectives, and a focus on delivering consistent value. SaaS companies are only successful if they retain users long term, which means Sales and Customer Success need to own shared objectives aligned with shaping a positive customer experience.
“We only give [our sales team] credit for the revenue we bring in if the customer is still paying after two months. As a result, our Sales team and the rest of our Customer Success team are all working to achieve the same outcomes – which removes a lot of the typical friction companies get between their CS and Sales departments.” – David Apple, former GM of the U.S. & VP of Customer Success at Typeform
Making users feel like more than a ticket
The first touch point a user has with your company is likely to be through the Support team. No one talks to more of your users, more often, than Support. Support teams have an opportunity to drive valuable interactions and make meaningful connections. Users shouldn’t feel like just a ticket, they should feel like they’re having a 1:1 conversation with someone who is capable of helping them resolve their issue, and has been given a mandate to go the extra mile.
“Customer happiness, engagement, loyalty and feedback can be influenced by support more than any other function of your business. In an era when unhappy customers can swiftly dent your reputation and have plenty of alternatives to choose from, it’s critical that you get customer support right.” – Kaitlin Pettersen, Global Director of Customer Support at Intercom
At product led growth companies support isn’t seen as a group of people working through a ticket queue, it’s viewed as a critical component of the end user experience- and as a result, growth.