5 BS myths that are holding you back from sales-led growth

Aug 13, 2023
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Getting discouraged by what you see on social and even in books about product-led growth (PLG) and sales-led transitions?

If you find yourself constantly saying "I'm doing that, but nothing seems to be working..." I have good news: Some of the advice you're getting from sales gurus is based on myths or, at best, based on anecdotal evidence.

When is popular PLG advice useful?

Some of the common PLG tips are myths, and other pieces of "crucial advice" just aren't relevant to your business, even if they're in the most famous and frequently referenced books on product-led growth.

Blue-collar industries like construction, plumbing, and electrical companies are out in the world doing business b2c, or business-to-consumer, they still rely on century-old sales leadership skills. While "white-collar" industries, like SaaS businesses, are often selling B2B (business-to-business).

To further complicate the situation, 90% of SaaS businesses are actually more like B2B2B. The sales leadership skills need at a business that serves other businesses, which also service other businesses are totally different. Another way to look at it is: "tech2tech." Think of how Zapier sells to Zoom who sells to Hubspot.

Anyone who's built a company on product-led growth there's 99% chance they're focusing on SMBs (often VSBs, very small businesses), where their monthly average MRR is $100 to $150, maybe $250.

Their process is tight: market to prospects > onboard them > activate a trial > they convert on their own > they become a customer. If this is done without any human intervention, it is true product-led growth.

For these companies, much of what you've heard about PLG method, and their sales leadership skills, works. These are what those gurus' books are based on.

What few gurus and their books go into, however, is the ROI segmentation of the customers they're acquiring. The majority of totally product-led growth companies cater to smaller brands, the SMB market. They might deploy another modern strategy known as the "land and expand" strategy, which comes after PLG has done its thing.

When you're selling into the SMB segment, you can get away with a 100% PLG strategy, but to attract and sell to larger customers, there needs to be a personalized approach to suit their needs.

Your tech business should outgrow PLG

If you run a tech business and you're not selling tech2tech, where we're talking about product-led growth and going upstream [selling into bigger customers], you need to understand sales-led growth (SLG) and its mechanisms.

Before I dive into the sales leadership skills needed for this method, a couple of clarifications:

  • "Big business" means customers above the SMB threshold, often referred to as "mid-market" and "Enterprise".

  • I highly recommend and urge you to create your own definitions of these criteria, as all businesses are different. Please don't apply an industry standard to your non-standard business.

Now, you want to get from that SMB product-led growth into larger markets, i.e. selling upstream and into bigger segments, right? 

When you're selling into the SMB segment, you can get away with a 100% PLG strategy, but to attract and sell to larger customers, there needs to be a personalized approach to suit their needs.

Here are a few things you need to know for an SLG strategy:

  1. You do not have to instantly jump into outbound.

  2. Get rid of the limiting belief that if you have trials coming in, (your PLG leads), you shouldn't move a muscle until they become a customer.

  3. Recognize that your product or engineering people don't have a sales or go-to-market mindset. And that's OK. For this, you either need new sales input, or those PLG people need a mindset shift.

Now you're in the right mental space to actually 10x your growth, as the clickbait articles promise, do the opposite of these myths:

Myth #1

Sales-led means cold outbound.

"OMG, I have to figure out how to dial a phone. I've gotta get a bunch of SDRs, BDRs, I gotta call lists..."

NO! Measure your inbound trial leads and asset downloads. All those people are prospects, but some need a nudge. Especially, the larger ones.

Myth #2

Sales is a necessary evil. 

Going from the very SMB, full self-service process into selling into higher price deals, requires knowing exactly who you're selling to. Sales leaders know this, they do this every day. We know what a good MQL looks like. Hire someone to do the work to sell into your high-value ICP.

Myth #3

If you have PLG, you don't need sales.

This is true if you are happy in Little League. If you want to go pro, optimize your sales approach to attract people who'll bring in the highest ROI. The best way to do that is to use the information they give you on the forms, then use it to gauge potential ROI and assign sales to high-value leads.

Here's a hint: You might need to optimize your forms, to include data like # of seats, users, or minutes uploaded...


Myth #4

There's no need to tier MQLs.

This is going to make SLG a nightmare, so if you're still against sales-led, definitely listen to this BS advice. But again, want to see the big bucks rolling in: Define the potential ROI of companies that match your ideal customer profile, and segment within that. Tier 1 MQLs are your highest potential ROI leads, Tier 3 is still an ideal customer, but SMB.

Myth #5

If they're not using your tech, they're not your ideal customer.

Money left on the table, people.

Now you've tiered the leads, outreach is a piece of cake: The sales team reach out to T1s instantly, not when they finish their trial or start using it. Call them right away and run an actual sales process, do a discovery call, open up an opportunity, give them a demo, and help them through the rest of the trial. When you do this, you own the narrative and they have a much higher likelihood of converting.

If you take nothing else away from this myth-busting blog, just know:

A gigantic boost in revenue is going to come when you stop waiting for your T1 MQLs to activate or become a "PQL". I'm happy to advise you on ways to succeed in SLG though, to make sure your team transitions smoothly. 

For anyone who likes this topic and wants to learn more, there's a sales leadership podcast called Selling SaaS that gives even more insight from great minds in the sales community, listen here.

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