What Is Product-Led Sales?

February 27, 2024


For years, experts have warned about traditional B2B sales approaches becoming obsolete. Users and decision-makers want a leaner process with earlier access to features, and drawn-out funnels aren’t cutting it anymore.

Forward-thinking companies, especially in the B2B space, are embracing new sales strategies that lead with products and users—namely, product-led sales. 

Two of the four biggest ways B2B companies will differentiate themselves in 2024 are directly related to product-led sales: reimagining engagement and empowering self-service.

When asked, our CEO had this to say about PLS benefits to look forward to:

The revenue teams (marketing, sales, and customer success) should all benefit from being able to identify real-time buying pattern matches, which will generate pipeline and increase close rates.

- Chris Fezza

Product-Led Sales 101

Product-led sales is an extension of product-led growth (PLG) and an essential component of any go-to-market strategy.

In pure product-led companies, there is often no sales team or minimal effort put into sales. The thinking is that the product sells itself, and users are given free access through trials and freemium pricing models. 

In a product-led sales approach, the same mentality of products being the selling point is there, but salespeople try to reach out to customers.

A misconception about PLS is that a seller needs to be involved and actively trying to sell to every product user or team administrator. This can insert friction into the journey, which undermines the whole joy of a product-led approach. Additionally, it may be very expensive for a company to run this way. We suggest doing the math so that sellers only focus their time on product users that fit their ICP.

- Chris Fezza

User engagement with products through trial periods is closely monitored, and targeted outreach optimizes upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Another way to understand product-led sales is to compare it against other approaches organizations might take instead.

Source: OpenView Partners

Product-Led vs Sales-Led Strategies

Here’s how a seamless product-led strategy stacks up to a sales-led approach:

  • Product-led strategies: Users and decision-makers have access to the product or select features before much, if any, outreach by a sales team. Their satisfaction qualifies them, at which point sales reaches out, speeding up the sales cycle.
  • Sales-led strategies: Decision-makers contact or are contacted by sales teams that walk them through how a product works, handle objections and create pitches. Once a deal is struck, companies gain access to the product.

Product-Led Sales vs B2B Sales

In a product-led sales environment, customer trials are key to generating product-qualified leads. The focus is primarily on individual users’ ability to self-support, and sales teams closely monitor behavior at the user level to qualify leads and determine the right time and way to reach out.

In other B2B sales approaches, there is much more focus on team dynamics. A sales rep reaches out to decision-makers only, and the ways that entire teams could use products are analyzed instead of how individuals use them.

Key Traits of a Product-Led Sales Strategy

According to McKinsey, product-led sales is a natural outgrowth of a product-led growth strategy, but few companies have truly mastered the sales side of things.

An effective product-led sales approach often features characteristics like:

  • A reputation for strong sales assistance and support
  • Clear rules of engagement to personalize outreach
  • Healthy friction that produces useful insights
  • An emphasis on product qualification

Regardless of how outwardly product-focused a company is, incorporating some or all of these traits into the sales process and PLS strategy will help them reap the benefits of PLG and create a successful product-led sales motion.

Benefits of Product-Led Growth

Product-led growth has taken over the B2B world, especially for SaaS companies. Per one 2022 study, 58% of SaaS firms had a PLG strategy, and an overwhelming majority (91%) planned on increasing their investment in PLG.

Two reasons PLG is so widespread include how it centers the customers and their experiences, optimizing engagement, retention, and cost efficiency.

A product-led sales approach is one of the best ways to reap the benefits of PLG. 

Customer-Facing PLG Benefits

First and foremost, PLG strategies reduce friction for the customer, streamlining the customer journey. Rather than needing to speak with a representative or wade through a lengthy back-and-forth, paid customers are put in the driver's seat and test out the product at their desired speed.

This freedom means that rather than being guided through a demo, there are multiple paths open to them. In full-feature free trials, customers can begin developing workflows with the product before buying it.

Business-Side PLG Benefits

PLG’s benefits for customers turn into boons for the company by:

  • Illustrating customer needs: Understanding what customers want in practice, rather than what they might want in theory, helps segmentation
  • Enabling value-first propositions: Prioritizing problem-solving for enterprise customers demonstrates the unique, long-term value a company provides
  • Maximizing cost efficiency: Sales teams and sales reps can focus their attention on clients with the highest likelihood of conversion, reducing customer acquisition costs

Using a product-led sales approach and embracing a product-led culture is a win-win for all parties because it realizes the promise of PLG, aligning customer satisfaction with revenue and business outcomes. 

Using this framework of data architecture and integration in a PLS model is extremely effective because it respects both the corporate hierarchies of business accounts, with the product flexibilities of having multiple workspaces for different teams or business units."

- Chris Fezza

Using the Product to Drive Revenue Growth

One reason product-led sales is so effective is that it takes the best elements of product-led growth and combines them with the best that sales have to offer. It’s more widely applicable than a pure PLG strategy because, for most companies, it’s not feasible to scale with no resources allocated to sales. Instead, product-led sales empower firms to drive sales through products, helping them sell themselves and acquire qualified leads.

The result is a lean, efficient sales engine that supercharges revenue growth through targeted outreach to the most qualified leads possible—already-happy users.

Implement Effective Product-Led Sales

There are good reasons why many SaaS and related B2B companies have moved away from traditional sales funnels and into more product-led strategies.

Greater customer satisfaction leads to targeted outreach and more frequent, efficient conversions.

If you’re considering a switch for your business, Operatus’ product-led consulting services can help empower your customers so that you can reap the rewards of products that sell themselves.

The Operatus approach to properly architecting PLS in your CRM has been refined over years and with some of the top companies in SaaS. Our focus is on creating a more productive selling process, through delivering a scalable product to CRM integration architecture that has been proven to work."

- Chris Fezza

Get in touch to learn more about product-led sales and PLG more broadly.