Creating a PreSales Organization to Support the Product-Led Growth Motion

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Product-led growth (PLG), the process of putting the product at the center of the buying journey, has excellent benefits for organizations looking to easily set up their sales and product strategy. That said, this approach to acquiring customers is often quite lengthy, and may not work when teams do not approach it correctly. As solutions become more and more complex, it is critical that product-led organizations put the product front and center to allow potential customers the ability to self-learn about what the company offers. However, sometimes customers need a little guidance. 

In order to solve for the customer, businesses with complex solutions need to implement a light PreSales touch to bring these complex solutions to life. 

Think of PLG for complex solutions like a self-driving car. Although we’ve taken huge leaps toward fully autonomous vehicles, the technology isn’t there yet. Because of this, we still need to keep our hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road while we finalize the technology.

Now, how do self-driving cars relate to a light PreSales touch? Well, implementing it is vital to solve for those complex problems: 

  • The PLG motion takes a long time to convert—the data is still light but the average sales cycle is longer than rep-led motions.
  • PLG by itself doesn’t effectively answer customer questions. The product is never perfect, and buyers often have questions that need to be answered before they’re ready to make a purchase. 
  • Buyers these days want to experiment with products and learn on their own. They are 57 percent to 70 percent of the way through their buying research before they talk to a salesperson. 
  • Buyers of these complex solutions have technical questions, but they want easy ways to engage with businesses to get them answered. 

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How to solve PLG’s problems 

There are many ways to create organizational structures to support this motion. One example is HubSpot, which is utilizing Inbound Success Coaches (ISCs) to accelerate the PLG motion. These ISCs are reactive (not proactive) to customer needs. They help answer technical questions for prospects, highlight the value of the product, and shepherd the buyer through the buying process. 

The ISC is a trusted adviser for the prospect. After all, PLG doesn’t mean you need to let the buyer answer all their own questions and find their way to the decision to purchase. Instead, you’re letting the product sell itself by allowing potential buyers to evaluate it on their own timeline. When you have a complex product, having someone to guide prospects through the PLG process can enhance that experience. 

Some organizations may argue that the ISC is a sales engineer. Not exactly. In this HubSpot scenario, sales engineers play a big part in the PLG motion, but in an indirect way. The sales engineer’s role is to create prepackaged content, build micro-demos, share knowledge with the ISC team through a PreSales knowledge base, and support them behind the scenes. Both teams are working seamlessly together to make PLG work for their buyers. 


What PLG success looks like 

When you first launch your PLG motion, you may not be sure what the steps in the sales process should look like. Take a reactive, support-oriented motion that leads with, “How can we help you?” instead of “Buy now!” 

For instance, perhaps you offer customers a free version of your product or a pilot program, and are having trouble getting those users to the next step—upgrading to a paid or premium version. Automate onboarding processes, make it easy for those users to contact support if they need help (chat pop-ups and forms are a simple way to do this), then have a customer success rep get in touch to solve any issues the customer is having. This assisted process drives them to see the value from the product faster and more clearly. They get to use the product more effectively, and you’re able to uncover where the process pain points are and help them buy when they’re ready. 

This PLG path looks like support, coaching and education with that light human touch rather than a classic sales approach or a totally hands-off PLG motion. 

To go back to the self-driving car analogy, many products are too complex for users to jump in and see the full value without any guidance. That’s not a flaw—it’s just that the product has many features and facets, and users are busy people with lots of other tasks to handle. They don’t have weeks to poke around into everything the product does. 

So instead of simply handing them the keys to this high-powered vehicle and hoping they get where they’re going as they figure it out themselves, provide just enough guidance when they need it. They get where they’re going more effectively, but they’re still in charge of the process at the end of the day and can get as much or as little help from customer success and their PreSales partners as they like. 


Key takeaways 

The key to success for complex solutions using a PLG motion is adding in a light human touch. That combination of effective automation and high-quality service provides a clear path to nonlinear growth as it allows your buyers to buy in the way they prefer and your PreSales organization to scale their services effectively. Let your product lead the way, and see where this model can take you. 

Channing Ferrer is the Chief Revenue Officer for Built In, a fast-growing SaaS company that is helping millions of tech professionals to learn, grow and build their career. He is a proven Chief Revenue Officer and go-to-market leader. He has extensive experience developing and growing international teams, implementing processes & systems across global technology companies. Prior to Built In, Ferrer served as the VP of Global Sales Strategy, Operations and Sales Acceleration for nearly 6 years at HubSpot. Here he was tasked with leading Sales Strategy, Operations, Enablement, PreSales and building specialized sales roles like the Inbound Success Coaches (ISCs), outbound oriented demand (BDRs) and other Sales Specialists. He helped HubSpot grow from $200 million to $1.5 billion in revenue and oversaw close to 500 people. 

In addition, he has had extensive sales leadership and sales operations experience across several technology companies including Acquia, C2FO and S&P Capital IQ where he played a critical role in helping S&P Capital IQ scale to be a $1 billion revenue company.

James Kaikis is the co-founder of the PreSales Collective (PSC), the largest global community for PreSales professionals with over 17,000 members worldwide, and PreSales Academy (PSA), a reskilling program that provides provide the underrepresented with access to highly sought after Sales Engineering careers in the booming tech industry. Driven by his passion for helping others and his own experience in customer engagement and solution engineering at companies like Showpad and Salesforce, James created PSC to provide resources and opportunities for networking and mentorship to individuals in PreSales roles.  

About PreSales Collective

PreSales Collective (PSC) was developed with the mission to elevate the role of PreSales in organizations worldwide. PSC provides resources, mentorships, and networking opportunities for its global community of PreSales professionals, including sales engineers and solutions consultants. With a membership of over 17,000, PreSales Collective supports professional development for individuals in PreSales roles so they can have long, impactful careers.

  • Originally published January 24, 2022