HUB wrote a nice piece on Sales Engineering roles in the new Product Led Growth markets. You can find it here: https://hub.inc/resources/how-does-sales-engineering-evolve-to-support-product-led-growth-plg/
I agree, that regardless of whether the company strategy is Sales Led Growth (SLG) or Product Led Growth (PLG), it’s important to have presales resources to support both strategies. However, companies need to recognize that the hiring, onboarding, training, and ultimately the care and feeding of the presales team is going to be very different between the two strategies, not to mention the titles and reporting structure.
I was fortunate enough to work in a company that decided to implement a dual strategy. When I say fortunate, I had a front-row seat to some of the mistakes that were made. One solution, the more complex one, would continue to follow the SLG strategy and with it, the established presales team was left unchanged.
The second solution that the company developed, which I will classify as the less complicated one, would follow the new PLG strategy. There’s no doubt in my mind that the company was correct in using this strategy for the new solution, after all, it was a solution that was built in a way that could easily take advantage of a PLG strategy. The problems and mistakes came when they didn’t fully recognize and embrace all of the operational nuances that are required to successfully launch the product strategy.
Here are a few of the mistakes and things to avoid that I had the good fortune of witnessing:
Using the existing account teams to generate sales motion: As HUB points out in their article, the PLG strategy requires a change in the presales stages of the funnel. The whole purpose of the PLG strategy is to accelerate customer acquisition and to bring prospects deeper into the sales cycle. If you use the existing account team and don’t enable that team with the education, strategy, and tactics to fully understand the strategy, then they will operate like they always have, ie. Qualify, Present, Demo, etc. This has the opposite of the intended effect, it actually increases the sales cycle, and becomes an impediment to the sale.
Not using the presales team to your advantage: The company where I witnessed this change in strategy assumed that with PLG, the need for a traditional technical presales team was not required. Everything could be led by the product group. I’m here to say, nothing could be further from the truth. Your presales team is highly skilled and can be a valuable resource in your PLG strategy, as long as you enable them to do so. The key here is educating them on the strategy, embracing their skills, and focusing them on the right things to be effective.
Consensus just released a great infographic (https://5932154.fs1.hubspotusercontent-na1.net/hubfs/5932154/Infographics/UnlockingPresales-final.pdf) representing the demand for presales. It doesn’t distinguish between SLG and PLG, but it does provide some interesting statistics;
- There was a 40% increase in demos delivered by presales per week vs. last year
- 30–50% of all demos are unqualified
- and the average time buyers wait for a first demo is 5.6 days
In a PLG strategy, if done right, you will reduce and eliminate these sorts of bottlenecks by getting your presales teams engaged with creating self-service demo content, and engaged much later in the sales cycle after the prospect has self-qualified.
Launching the product too soon: I’m not suggesting that you can’t or shouldn’t launch your product until it’s perfect, no version 1 of any product is going to be perfect. What I am suggesting is that if you are going to launch a product using the PLG strategy, make damn sure that all of the internal operational pieces are in place to support the launch. In an SLG strategy, you could sometimes get away with not having everything in place, knowing that it would take time for the Account teams to generate leads, and qualify prospects. In PLG it’s the opposite. When you launch, the hope is to immediately generate leads and qualified prospects out of the gate.
I find this new world fascinating and regardless of your strategy, I truly believe that presales need to be embraced and “weaponized” properly in order to be successful.