Where in the Funnel Should Sales Interact with Customers?

If you’ve read the first few chapters of our guide, you already know that sales teams play a leading role in a product-led growth (PLG) motion. You also know that a top-level salesperson should act as a guiding sherpa to help users solve problems. But how do you find the “sweet spot” — that magical point when sales reaches out just in the nick of time to save the day for the customer?

Many PLG companies think the answer is easy. Just wait for the end of a free trial, swoop up all those leads, wrap them in a bow, and present them to sales, right? Not quite. That’s because there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to user behavior. Going all-in on just one stage of the PLG funnel will only create frustrated sales teams and unsatisfied customers.

To take a deeper dive, let’s look at sales stages inside a brick-and-mortar business and compare them to stages of a PLG funnel.

The Never Approach: The Furniture Store Model

You need a new sofa. You walk into the store. Before you can even see a couch cushion, you’re met by a wall of salespeople. It’s a bad experience for sales reps, who hear “no, thank you” more often than not. Of course, it’s also a miserable experience for customers, especially those who already know what they want to buy.

The same scenario happens in a PLG motion when you send every product sign-up directly to sales. Leads who already know they want to purchase your product will convert quickly, without intervention from sales, so all this early intervention does is create a barrier instead of removing one. And leads who need more time exploring your product through a free trial or freemium model won’t be ready to hear from sales right away, anyway. 

We’ll let Sam Levan, CEO and co-founder of MadKudu, explain why sending product sign-ups directly to sales creates extremely low response rates and demoralizes sales teams. 


There Isn’t a Single ‘Sweet Spot’

We see companies gain the most value from a PLG motion when sales meets potential buyers at three key stages. Continuing our brick-and-mortar analogy (but this time moving inside your favorite clothing store), we find:

The Wanderers

They may know they want to buy a pair of jeans, but they stare at the clothing rack and don’t know where to start. They’re not holding any product, and they’re nowhere near a dressing room. In a store, a sales associate would see the customer’s blank stare and step in, asking about their size, their build, and their needs.

In a PLG motion, a similar up-funnel moment reflects this same touchpoint. It allows salespeople to embrace their role as educators, showing leads how different product features can help them achieve their goals. This interaction can convert incremental customers who would’ve been missed by sales in a pure self-service motion. It also can help convert product-qualified leads (PQLs) into marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or even marketing-qualified accounts (MQAs). See how InVision used MQAs to target the 15% of accounts that generate 90% of revenue.

The Tryer-On-ers

They already found their jeans. Now they’re heading to the fitting room. In a store, the sales associate uses this moment for cross-sells and upsells, saying “this pair might fit better,” or “why not try this shirt with those jeans?”

In a PLG motion, the moment when a user begins engaging regularly with a particular feature of your product is an ideal time to make contact. Sales can help enhance users’ product knowledge and gently nudge them toward subscribing.

The Ready-to-Purchasers

They’ve done their shopping and trying. Now they’re at the cash register. An in-store sales associate uses this chance to maximize upsells with impulse buys strategically placed at the point of sale.

PLG companies replicate this interaction at the end of the free trial. But too many make this their only interaction point. If you capture users just at the end of a free trial, you limit your potential conversion rate and the customer’s lifetime value.

By building your sales funnel to meet these three customer groups at their point of greatest need, you’ll boost customer experience and improve your sales team’s morale. You may even create virality, but we’ll talk about that in another chapter.

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