Being “Product-Led” in 2023 Means Product-Led Sales

Product-led growth is often presented as a silver bullet to hypergrowth. But in reality, many PLG success stories leverage traditional inside sales motions alongside self-service to speed up customer acquisition. This is called product-led sales.

With a panel of experts, we discussed what product-led sales looks like in practice and when B2B SaaS leaders should start baking it into their go-to-market.

Esben Friis-Jensen, Co-Founder at Userflow, Nicholas Mills, President at Pitch, and Seth DeHart, Advisor at PointNine, joined our panel discussion hosted by Sara Archer, VP of Sales at ChartMogul.

Keep these 4 insights in mind as you transition into a product-led sales motion.

4 product-led sales tips:

  1. Use your product as a growth engine and augment it with sales
  2. Transitioning to product-led sales is not for everyone
  3. Find the right mix of self-service and sales acceleration
  4. Re-examine your sales team structure, compensation, and commissions

SaaS shifted to product-led growth, and it’s impacting sales teams

In the past, most companies followed a traditional sales strategy.

Traditionally in sales there was an information asymmetry where the buyer needed access to information to make a decision. A salesperson gated it from them as leverage to then engage them in a sales process. That has gone away.

– Nicholas Mills, President, Pitch

The shift to subscription-based models has changed how a company operates. And it’s impacting sales teams too.

Use your product as a growth engine and augment it with sales

To delight your prospects, make sure they have all the necessary information to make a purchase decision without the need to ever talk to a sales rep: free trials, freemium model, extensive documentation, and product comparisons.

The shift that’s happened is that people have become much more empowered in many companies to actually try things for themselves.

– Nick, Pitch

Once you remove barriers to adoption, people are empowered to try the product.

People are primed to want to experience the product and the value that the product determines for them over the course of that evaluation.

– Sara Archer, VP of Sales, ChartMogul

For SaaS companies, this shift in consumer behavior means adopting a product-led go-to-market strategy and product-led sales.

Complement your product-led motion with sales

In a product-led growth strategy, you’re using the product as your growth engine. However, that doesn’t eradicate the need for sales teams.

If you are a product-led business, product-led sales is what you can add on top of that, to support that process. It’s basically a way to extract more value from your product-led growth model, by adding sales into it.

– Esben Friis-Jensen, Co-Founder, Userflow

So, product-led sales is a sales methodology that focuses on leveraging the product itself as the primary driver of customer acquisition and revenue growth.

According to our panelists, the product-led sales approach means leading with value.

Transitioning to product-led sales is not for everyone

Before you get started transitioning from a sales-led company to product-led, consider if product-led sales is truly the right way to run sales at your company.

Sales-led growth still is a big thing in driving enormous revenue for many companies. (..) And it’s not right for everybody.

– Seth DeHart, Advisor at PointNine

If you’re already successful with your sales-led approach, keep at it.

Also, remember that it’s not “all or nothing”.

Most SaaS businesses should have some kind of a product-led aspect to their business. It’s not binary that you have to go all in on product-led growth or sales-led growth.

– Esben, Userflow

Slack’s successful product-led sales strategy

Some companies experienced massive success with the PLG model, for example, Slack.

Slack’s magic in their use of PLG was that they were landing with software engineers in tech companies that were probably 40 to 50% of the overall company headcounts and very influential. In other sectors, that’s not always the case.

– Nick, Pitch

In PLG companies, the expansion potential depends on how influential and how large that group of advocates is within an organization.

How far can you get with that motion? At what point do you need to layer in a sales-led approach?

Find the right mix of self-service and sales acceleration

In SaaS, the ultimate goal is revenue growth achieved through adoption and retention. But how you get there looks different in each business.

To find the right mix of self-service and sales acceleration, define the jobs to be done that help drive the business goals.

We’re all in the business of building this together. And I think product-led growth and product-led sales combined does a really nice job of orienting people around the success of the product long term.

– Sara, ChartMogul

How to use the product-led approach to convert more users? It’s important to bring teams together around shared goals to deliver more value and interact more closely with users.

In the end, the combination of self-serve product with people gets the buyer and the customer to where they want to go, what they wanna achieve.

– Nick, Pitch

Re-examine your sales team structure, compensation, and commissions

Product-led growth forces you to rethink organizational structure and skill sets. 

Let’s not beat around the bush anymore. Now, with product-led growth, let’s look at the SaaS organization and let’s simplify it. Let’s look at these organizations, sales, solution, engineering, and customer success. (…) Let’s make it a single organization and have them work together.

– Esben, Userflow

It’s never been as important to work together across roles and teams and have the right people on the job.

Do we need a large team of sellers who need to do that top down, using sales leads, nurturing, mapping, and the organization that has that traditional hunter skill?
Or is it a technical person that’s helping them [customers] set up their trial and troubleshoot and experience the value without any sales?

– Seth, PointNine

Each team might have a different answer to these questions, but those are certainly questions worth asking.

The best salespeople are great at customer success

We have a tendency in SaaS, whenever new things come around, we add a role. And, and that’s kind of what we’re doing now. Product-led sales? Let’s add a person.

– Esben, Userflow

Instead, consider what the key ingredients are that make a salesperson at your company great. A PLS strategy may require you to hire different sales profiles with different skills

The best customer success managers were the ones who could do sales and understood the product fully. And the best salespeople were the ones who could do CS and understand the product fully.

– Esben Userflow

A PLS strategy changes sales incentives

Since, in a product-led model, sales reps are only one piece of the puzzle, and sales is a cross-functional activity in SaaS companies, it’s harder to attribute the success of the sale. It’s much more cross-functional than demos, sales pitches, and direct sales.

So, did individual influence (of a sales rep) matter?

The answer is unclear. For that reason, sales compensation is undergoing major changes.

If you have a commission-driven model, you need to have clear lines on what is a sales qualified lead (SQL) versus a product qualified lead (PQL) and when salespeople step in.

Our panelists have different perspectives on sales commissions.

I think commission models are great, but in this world, I’m not sure they no longer should exist. (..) It’s really the product selling, and it’s you selling, it’s a lot of different things selling. And it makes it hard to allocate commission towards a single person.

– Esben Userflow

Set the right expectations with your sales team

In a business where there are a lot of objectives and changing jobs to be done, set the right expectations for your sales team.

We’re on a quarterly plan, and it gives me a little bit of agility to not lock in compensation that drives the wrong incentives and outcomes for the business.

– Sara, ChartMogul

Set the expectation that you’re gonna be changing the commission structure or you’re gonna be updating it on a quarterly basis. Salespeople tend to hate this change, but as long as it’s part of the culture because we’re learning so fast, I think it just sets the expectation that you’re not locked in.

– Seth, PointNine

Thank you to our panelists

Esben Friis-Jensen, Co-Founder, Userflow


Esben Friis-Jensen is the co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Userflow, a no-code builder for in-app onboarding and surveys, allowing SaaS businesses to be more product-led.

Prior to Userflow, Esben co-founded Cobalt, which today is a 200+ employee company. At Cobalt, Esben was part of a product-led growth initiative and this piqued his interest to go all in and be a co-founder of Userflow, a company in the space.

Nicholas Mills, President, Pitch


Nicholas Mills is the President at Pitch, where he leads the company’s go-to-market efforts.Prior to joining Pitch, Nick led CircleCI’s international expansion, building out operations as EMEA General Manager and a member of the global executive team.

Nick has previously led teams at Stripe, Facebook, and Microsoft, and built a number of earlier-stage startups through to successful exits. He also loves helping founders and startups take their first steps on their own journeys as an early-stage investor, non-exec, and board advisor.

Seth DeHart, Advisor, PointNine


Seth DeHart is a Venture Partner at Point Nine a Berlin-based VC investing in B2B SaaS. In his role at Point Nine, Seth joins startups as a Fractional VP of Sales to help navigate the journey from Founder led sales to a full-time VP Sales hire.

Prior to joining Point Nine, Seth was VP Sales of the Dutch startup Framer. Earlier in his career, he was the first sales hire at SF-based Revinate where he led sales first in the US and then Europe.

Bianca Wilk

Senior Manager, Content and Community & Host of SaaS Open Mic

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