How to Pair Sales and Self-Service for Maximum Impact

June 10, 2020

Sales and product led growth (PLG) don’t mix, right? Wrong.

The best PLG businesses have a dirty secret: They all have sales teams. In fact, they’re doubling down on these teams.

But that doesn’t mean their unit economics are going to get any less attractive, or that they’ll build their sales team at the same pace that their lead volume increases.

How are the best companies doing this? Focus. We used to want to build a big funnel to give our sales team plenty of leads—but many of the experts I spoke with from InVision, Wistia, HubSpot and more told me that they’re “splitting the funnel,” or narrowing it, to keep their teams laser-focused on the leads that make sense for their business.

I just finished a project with an OpenView portfolio company that wanted help identifying ways to keep their sales team focused on the best accounts coming through their free tool. During the course of the work, I consulted with experts and pretended to be a lead in order to shape some findings that I’d now like to share with the community.

But first, some quick key takeaways:

  1. Be selective. It’s shocking how few leads these companies are actually assigning sales resources to. We’re talking sub-50%, usually much less. I can relate to young and hungry startups that want to talk to every single user who fills out that “try now” form, and I encourage them to keep up the hustle, but there’s a point in every company’s journey to scale where you need to start prioritizing outreach. I hope the benchmarks I shared in the deck point you in the right direction.
  2. Give users a chance to find value. Reducing friction in the product and letting users find value prior to a paywall are some of the pillars of PLG. So why would you intercept these discovery moments for the user with a call from a BDR? Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s a major shift for some sales organizations. My suggestion: Wait for a user to return to the product (nearly 40% don’t!) before you start calling them.
  3. Tailor how you talk to your most qualified leads. If you have a user who makes it through your newly-selective funnel, make sure that first conversation with sales doesn’t fall flat. This type of selling (with a freemium or free-trial) product can’t be a hard sell with old-school tactics. 100% of the sales leads that I interviewed called their teams “consultative sellers.”

I invite you to check out my findings, best practices and suggestions in the SlideShare below and then rethink how you’re applying sales resources at your own organization. I hope this helps provide some guidance, and I’d love to know how your organization does this—or which companies you admire who do this well. Reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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VP of Growth<br>OpenView

Sam Richard is VP of Growth at OpenView, helping our portfolio accelerate top-line growth through establishing best practices and processes to support product led growth. At OpenView, Sam works closely with portfolio leadership teams to discover and implement the most impactful strategies for growth, including onboarding and retention optimization, expansion strategy, funnel optimization and channel/partner strategy.