Why is product-led sales so challenging? Are you really doing a product-led growth motion or just looking at different reports?
Sam Levan and Sasha Samoilov discuss how MOPs can utilize a maturity model to align teams, drive change, and combine meaning insights from product and sales
Sam Levan is the Co-Founder and CEO of MadKudu, helping the best B2B Demand Gen and Marketing Ops teams to understand and grow the value of their funnel using data and science (but no magic). He is passionate about helping GTM teams make data and operations their unfair advantage.
Sasha Samoilov is a Marketing & Revenue Operations Consultant with MadKudu. He is a capable marketing operations advisor with nine-plus years of combined marketing experience, building growth engines, and working with big data to drive operational change. He has seen his fair share of tech and data stacks.
Sasha loves taking big picture GTM strategies and condensing ideas into analogies that help build a story around data and move the business forward.
(Sasha) There’s this hot topic in the space that you've been seeing about the difference between what’s being talked about on the GTM side of things versus what’s actually being implemented and done.
This is more under the context of product-led sales motion and product-led sales thought leadership. What have you been seeing?
(Sam) That's a bit of a pet peeve on that side because a lot of people are talking about product-led growth and specifically product-led sales. It’s a challenging motion to make. Sales and marketing alignment has been a challenge for more than 20 years. It’s still not solved today. We’re talking about alignment between two organizations: sales and marketing.
Product-led sales means you have product and you have marketing. You often have data too. Add in a CS team. It’s an alignment that’s a lot more complex.
Not that long ago I was on a call having a conversation with a CMO, who described some of the account-based bottom up motion that they were implementing right in the company. But the sales team that I was also in touch with at that company with was not really clear about what they had today or where things were going. There was no real buy-in.
Product was excited. Marketing was trying to get things done. Then there’s the sales team: kind of behind. That leaves marketing operations left in the middle with no clear direction of what to do and why to do that.
We end up talking about technical things with Operations. The opportunity here is how to elevate the conversation? How do we create alignment and working with our customers? I’ve seen some people in that space who are very good at creating that alignment from a Marketing Operation perspective. The thing that they have in common is being very clear as to where they are today in the organizations.
They know where they want to be ultimately, but also the steps to get there. That’s where this maturity ladder came into place. Where can we take that kind of best practice and quantify it a little bit, create a semantic and have it shared with our customers.
How can MOPs start with alignment and getting buy-in from the other teams before getting into the “How?”
(Sasha) I know that from an ops perspective, as operators get into the “how” very quickly. We very much are used to getting a request, trying to solve it, and trying to execute on it quickly. As folks want to move from this “task taker” mentality to strategy and helping to define some of these motions around product-led growth, product-led sales, where do you see as the first startthat ops can help in this conversation?
(Sam) Things have changed from always being mostly admin to analyst, where you create reports, forecasts, and attribution. Then moving from analyst to architect with figuring out how we put different pieces of technologies together. And architect now to becoming leaders.
A challenge for Ops teams is make sure you start with the alignment, with getting momentum and buy-in from the other teams before getting into the “how,” because that's a natural place to go I've never met an operations team that has a ton of time on their hands, a ton of staff, too many resources, or looking for new projects to work on. There are a lot of fires ,you’re in reactive mode.
Sometimes you must slow down to go faster. Step number one is not about building something quick and small. It’s really about what you’re trying to achieve. Where are you now? What's a realistic, next step that people are aligned on?
How can the maturity model be used to drive alignment in product-led sales?
(Sasha) What actions are you doing and how do you drive alignment? How do you connect all these pieces to make it into the big picture? Can you describe each of these maturity steps at a high level? Give us a good idea what to expect from these.
(Sam) The maturity ladder has proven to be a great framework to start conversations and align different teams. We use it internally with our customers and with MOPs. It has five levels, starting with level zero.
Level zero is starting without having anything. It starts with having a product-led sales motion, but no product data in Salesforce whatsoever. A lot of the teams we talk to are in this situation. They are starting a PLS motion, or they have one, but sales is treating a product lead the same way they treat the MQLs. So very little context, zero data.
Level one means you have some BI reports. That’ll be Looker, Periscope, or Tableau, where most of the product data reside in a Snowflake, Redshift, or other data warehouse. Often, the product team comes and say, oh, we want to do product-led sales. We already have a lot of dashboards and intelligence. Let's just make that available to the sales team. Level one is where sales has access to some information about accounts, but it lives in a BI tool.
Level two is really about now having the data available in Salesforce, often it’s just a few fields. That’s aggregate data from the data warehouse and product usage and making it available in Salesforce. That could be number of active users in the past seven days, like the number of invites that have been sent, or sometimes some engagement metrics on an account or a person.
Level three is where things get interesting. We call that data driven, driven prioritization. Now we’re talking about actionability of the data. The sellers use the product data to prioritize which account to spend time on when to reach out. That means really matching the people in the accounts to the engagement that they have. That's where the real PLS motion starts.
There is a maturity Level four. We don’t see anyone there yet, but it's great to have kind of an aspiration at where things can be and could be, which is really about what we call like data enlightenment, where everyone from the top, like CMOs, CEOs, VP sales, all the way to anyone in the organization. The sellers and customer facing teams are using data to drive decisions and the type of engagement that they have with customers. So that's really like thinking beyond just like sales and marketing. It’s talking about CS, forecasting, KPIs and those kinds of things.
Who should be the owners of driving change in GTM strategies?
(Sasha) As we think about folks moving up between the different levels and their go to market strategy, who should be the owners over driving some of these changes?
(Sam) It’s a mess out there right now. You see strong opinions all over the place about how Product should own the product-led growth and maybe product-led sales. Some people say it's okay to start with marketing and then move to product later. Everybody’s trying to figure it out and every company can be different. I’m not seeing a strong consensus even with our customers with opinions of whether there’s a recipe that works all the time.
Marketing Ops likes to have control. They want to do things perfectly. Even if you don’t have control, you have influence. The maturity ladder can help with that influence. It’s making sure there is alignment with the CMO or the leaders of the organization around where you want to go.
I get on calls where I ask where do we want to go? What are the objectives? Why are we doing it? And it’s not very clear across teams. They all have different stories. Ops has 100% control of asking these questions and defining the steps of how to get there. That level of conversation with a clear where and asking why first, and then influencing the how is within the ops.
How can you position and use data to understand friction points for buyers, and determine where your go-to market needs accelerators?
(Sasha) A way to think about MOPs is the the feedback loops that you could draw out.
If you start with no product data the major feedback loops is between marketing and sales. Determining quality to move the business forward from a revenue perspective and a pipeline perspective.
That’s where you start off before getting to level two, where we're really introducing this notion of now Product is really kind of in the mix. Now you have some go-to market motion, a golf team, a marketing team, or however you want to structure it. You have the sellers doing the facilitation of buyer journeys and getting customers into the funnel. Now you have this new department with a unique kind of product. Otherwise, if your product roadmap stalls out or you're not tracking the right things from these two conditions, then your feedback loop is broken.
You want a feedback loop from Product with what's on the roadmap to what customers are seeing from a friction point from a buyer journey. As you move from level two to level three of the maturity ladder, you see more of the executive level come into feedback loops. CS also starts coming in from the post sales process from an upsell perspective.
As you think about moving to a PLS motion where not only have you landed the customer, and now you want to upsell them to higher tier plans, more enterprise plans, more licenses and so forth. Now more parties are involved than just sales in its totality. As you get to kind of level four of the maturity ladder, you have many feedback loops and your feedback loops across almost every team and your business.
Businesses now think from finance perspective. How do you properly forecast? How do you properly set the right expectations externally to your board to CEO, or whoever it is? On the flip side, how do you go to market? How do you better sell? How do you better position? You’re using data throughout all that to understand where buyers are having friction points and where your go-to market needs.
How can you pair traditional segmentation strategies around the firmographic, demographic, and behavioral of your product?
(Sasha) If a lot of folks are at Level two on the maturity ladder, they're past that phase of “I have no product data.” What are your thoughts about pairing traditional segmentation strategies around the firmographic, demographic, and behavioral of your product?
We're getting a little bit into the “how,” but for folks trying to think about this from a perspective of, “This is a great framework. I've done some of those groundworks and this aligning now as an ops person, what do I do next? How do I actually take some of the insights I'm getting from product data from the signals I get from the sellers and the go to market motion. How do I combine those in a meaningful way?”
(Sam) Let’s talk about the “how.” It’s important to not always be too conceptual. It’s important to have a co-development partner in sales. Often, it’s the head of SDRs. That’s usually a good place to start. They have very strong goals. They're very smart and sharp. They can move fast. That’s my recommendation: find that partner on the sales side that you can experiment and work with. If you start from the seller's perspective and the customer journey, that’s where the fit or the behaviors can be a tool to help you be relevant and to add value in that customer journey.
As for a sales talk track, too many times we look at the data that we have, we look at what segment we can create instead of looking at pain points and where they are in their journey. Based on the data that you have; how can you find a proxy of that persona of those pain points? That’s really starting from the sales and finding the bridge between the data.