9 Smart Ways to Apply PLG Concepts to Your Sales-Led Software Business
It’s easy to recognize the impact that product-led motions have had on enterprise-software businesses in the last five years: the fast, almost B2C-like distribution of technology; the viral effect of expanding usage; and the reduction of human-driven sales cycles inside your company, which free up valuable resources.
But what about those companies that started with, and still have, a sales-led model? Can they apply some of the learnings from the PLM/PLG movement as well? My view is, absolutely. This is an active discussion right now inside many sales-first organizations, and yes, concepts from the PLG movement can be effective in these companies!
Let’s assume you’re a classic enterprise-software company with a sales-led motion and people-led implementation. We’ll further assume you’ve explored the idea of re-architecting or re-building your product and, in that process, eliminated pure PLG as an option.
Now we can dive into how, specifically, to apply some PLG concepts to your company.
1. Offer a “product lite” version.
Companies that can’t change their product into a full PLG offering frequently consider offering a lighter-weight version. This could be a unique feature or a limited version of your product.
The idea is to make this offering juicy enough that a user wants it, downloads it, and uses it. If they use it, that means they’re deriving value from it by definition. If they derive value, you can create some ceiling where users eventually encounter some tension point, prompting them to reach out and explore the full paid product you offer.
With this product-light approach, you’ve built a Trojan horse into your product, and free users become the seeds of paid growth.
2. Create a PLG-like customer experience.
Tools from companies like Amplitude* and Pendo* help companies understand their users’ behavior and drive user adoption within the product. And they do this without re-architecting the product.
This is powerful, because if you can build your product with self-service guides and walk-throughs, you can create a PLG-like motion – same product, but a new and improved experience for your users makes your sales lifts lighter. Now you’re mimicking the PLG product experience and without any code changes!
Plus you can potentially eliminate, or at least reduce, dependency on a customer-success onboarding team.
This approach provides a great initial experience in using your product and reduces your customers’ time to ramp and onboard.
3. Try weekly one-to-many web demos.
Do you sell your product in a transactional sale, i.e. 30-60 days? Does it always involve a demo or two? Instead of doing 1:1 demos for every customer (especially the higher velocity buyer), another increasingly popular option today is to do weekly webinars.
Look at your AEs’ calendars and see how many demos per week they’re doing. If the sales team is launching 30+ demos per week, consider publishing a weekly calendar of live, one-to-many demos. Maybe you do a demo on Tuesday and Thursday that covers the key use cases your product solves and key components of the product. In addition to publishing the weekly webinar, you can also shift your SDR team to funnel leads to the weekly webinar as the next step of the education process.
Many buyers prefer this because it’s Iower-friction than scheduling a 1:1 demo. Instead of going through the SDR qualification call, to then get passed to an AE/SE who then re-qualifies the lead, and then finally get the demo, the prospect receives what they want almost immediately. And after this session if they express a desire to learn more, or get a 1:1 demo, you’ve just advanced someone down the funnel.
And don’t forget your CS team. Many first “onboarding calls” cover the same basic setup, navigation, and basics, so you can consider applying the weekly live webinar concept here as well.
The win: you just performed the same demo you’d do for a single buyer across a larger group, saving hours of selling time.
4. Fast-track your best calls-to-action (CTAs).
Another trending idea is to look at your best converting website call-to-action, often the “Get a Demo” button, and eliminate the SDR from the process. If “Get a Demo” is indeed your best converting CTA, it means your buyer is highly interested or more educated than a normal buyer. They’re leaning in and they know by filling out the demo form that you are going to 1) place them in a nurture sequence, 2) have an SDR call them, and 3) start engaging with a sales rep.
You can fast-track this motivated buyer by eliminating step 2. You add them to a nurture track and have your best skilled professional do the qualification. Think about the unproductive time lost in scheduling the SDR, the SDR doing the qual work, and then scheduling the AE meeting. All for someone who really just wants to speak with an AE anyway.
Fast-tracking your best CTA can reduce your average sales cycle by two to three days.
5. Enable buyers to schedule their own demos.
This is the absolute handing over the reins to the buyer – allowing the buyer to dictate when they want a demo. This approach is growing in popularity: The prospect clicks the “Get a Demo” button, they see a calendar and can select their choice of demo time. No more forms to email back and forth; they simply pick their timeslot, fill out their contact info, and get an invite sent to their calendar. Tools like Chili Piper and Calendly are frequently used to streamline this process for the buyer and generate a high-quality lead for the seller.
The win: Prospects showing buying intent reduce both the scheduling work and qualifying steps out of your cycle.
6. Make a buyer-directed product tour.
Okay, so you’ve determined that re-architecting your product is too heavy a lift. And you’ve decided that digital-adoption tools still require the user to get hands-on with your platform. The next idea to consider is a product tour. A product tour introduces a buyer-directed story on your website. The operative element is the buyer drives where they want to go, without the need to have a human leading them. Companies like Reprise, Tolstoy, and Tourial are creating technologies that help you build this.
The challenge with simple website navigation is that you don’t get to show your best side, meaning you can’t help the buyer learn in the best possible way. But with a product tour, you create an interactive walk-through of your product, with motion, video, and audio included. The best part for the seller: Instead of screen shots of your product, you’re inside your actual product. And the best part for the buyer: no bossy salesperson trying to extract info from them.
I often get asked what the difference is between this kind of tour and a classic video tour. They’re definitely close relatives, but a video tour is a single-flow recording where all the buyer can do is stop and start. In a product tour, you can build the flow and allow the viewer to choose forks in the road and select what they’re most interested in. You can also do interesting things like letting buyers go through the product tour ungated, but upon returning to the site, gate the process. This is a great qualifier for someone displaying buying intent.
Product tours offer a low-friction way to experience the product.
7. Give buyers multiple calls-to-action on your website.
I love when I visit a website and see motion and multiple calls to action. Those sites feel fresh and modern to me. But more importantly, they are meeting their prospects where they want to buy.
My ideal site starts with the basic website navigation. Then a conversational tool like Drift or Intercom. Then a product tour. Next a sign up for a weekly webinar. And then a “Get a Demo” button. And super extra credit is when the company offers you an experience to download the product.
No matter what stage of buying I’m at, you’ve offered me a path that fits my process. Plus you’ve created multiple reasons for return visits to your site.
8. Switch up your SDR reporting structure.
A growing pattern I’m seeing is that inbound and outbound SDRs have different reporting lines. Specifically, inbound SDRs now report to marketing and outbound SDRs to sales. This makes tremendous sense, as the inbound motion is so closely tied to core demand-gen activities. You may as well have those SDRs measured and paid on the efficacy of marketing.
Outbound, on the other hand, is closely aligned to your sales team, where you have target lists and customer accounts defined. You’re picking your customers with outbound, whereas inbound flow is picking you.
Changing up your SDR reporting can be a real win. Focus drives results, and when you focus these teams, the result is more revenue.
9. Display your lowest-tier anchor pricing online to connect the dots to value.
Back in 2007-2009, putting your price list on the website was considered edgy. A few years later, open pricing became expected. The situation now seems all over the place – most sites have a “pricing” tab, but when you click it, usually all you see is packaging tiers without specific prices attached.
PLG sites think about pricing differently. Since their “lead off” product is often free, they tend to show what the first tier of paid looks like. This lets the buyer connect the dots between the free version and a paid version immediately.
If you don’t have a free version, but have the standard tiering price concept, consider displaying at least your lowest-tier, anchor pricing to educate your buyer and let them start creating the connection to value. This approach puts buyers in control and allows them to start assigning value to your product.
Overall, PLG offers many benefits to enterprise software companies: easier distribution, viral growth, and low/no-cost sales and implementation. One of PLG’s most attractive point is its velocity. The PLG experience typically sounds like this: I went to a site, downloaded the product, and I’m now using it. No contracts, no pricing, and no humans.
The ideas shared here are designed to increase your velocity to a PLG-like pace and reap considerable benefits for your organization.