PLG vs Product-led Sales - How is PLS Different

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    Home / Growth / PLG vs Product-led Sales - How is PLS Different

    We've been obsessed with product-led growth for the few years we left behind.

    And, of course, we still stay undefeated about how important it is. (Suck it, non-believers) 

    But now that we are more familiar with product-led growth, we find ourselves exploring more and more parts and intricacies of it.

    From product-led customer service, product-led marketing, and product-led onboarding to product-led sales, we find ways to optimize business processes using but one major actor: the product.

    Still, among all those subcategories of PLG, product-led sales has been getting a bigger phenomenon. The question today is: is there a difference between product-led growth and product-led sales? And what is the difference exactly?

    Well, let's find out.

    what is plg

    What Is Product-led Growth?

    Product-led growth is a business approach that focuses all its business arsenal - the marketing team, sales team, the product team, the customer service team, etc. - on the product itself. With a freemium option and free trials, businesses let end-users experience their products before making a purchase, thus delivering value directly and more easily. Essentially, product-led growth is the lifeblood of a strategy that depends on product-qualified leads. 

    How does a PLG strategy work?

    As we discussed above, a PLG strategy depends on the early-stage product usage of the potential user base. To make this happen, a PLG strategy that is aware of the pain points of traditional approaches to the customer experience is necessary.

    The fundamental problem with the customer experience as we know it is that there is no product experience whatsoever - interacting with the product is rare, let alone hands-on experience. These two processes, customer experience and product experience, often take place separately and often with the former happening first.

    The difference that product-led companies present is that customer journeys come to include a sales and market strategy that puts priority onto a product-qualified lead rather than a sales-qualified one.

    Of course, such a strategy would require careful consideration of a company's customer base, ideal customer profile, product-market fit, and other growth strategies that may or may not work better for the company in question.

    Still, where we are with the product-led environment and in the product-led era, PLG is a winning strategy.

    what is product-led sales

    What Is Product-led Sales?

    Product-led sales is the go-to sales strategy for product-led companies or companies that want to switch to a product-led sales strategy. PLS is currently one of the best sales models to reduce a business' customer acquisition cost and increase conversion rate and retention rate while also being one of the most actionable departments of a product-led mindset. The most recognizable trait of a product-led sales approach is the use of a freemium model

    When there are quite a lot of marketing-led companies and sales-led companies out there like HubSpot with its heavily marketing-focused approach and Intercom with Avengers type of sales reps, a product-led strategy for your sales team might not be your top priority.

    Because obviously, the goal is to adopt the most fitting method for your business.

    But for many SaaS companies out there, and especially the small to mid-market businesses, product-led sales can be a breath of fresh air. 

    How so?

    How does Product-led Sales work?

    At its ore PLG has one main motto: "all you need to grow is your product and the spotlight you're going to put on it."

    It is pretty much the same for product-led sales: Your best salesperson is your product.

    Compared to a sales-led approach, the product-led sales funnel works in a way less complicated manner. For the former, there are lots and lots of steps, from reaching out to prospective customers, having a call with them, presentations, demos, to pricing meetings, and more.

    The product-led sales funnel, on the other hand, has more flavor to it 😋

    While attracting customers at the top of the funnel can work similarly, in a well-established PLS funnel, the tireless meetings with the prospects are decreased to an ideal of zero to one. The potential customers are left to their own devices to use the product and decide for themselves.

    Speaking of being left to one's own devices...

    Even if you are a product-led business, would you really want to leave your potential buyers to their own devices on your product?

    It is easy enough to feel like an anxious parent with a toddler doing something for the first time when you can't get your sales reps involved in their first experience.

    Your sales team when it's that one clueless prospect using the tool for the first time like 🫣

    What about leaving your buyers to more capable hands, then?

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    When such is the case, we can say that PLS also drives products and developers to offer value way ahead and prove to buyers it is worth it.

    But hey, back to the matter at hand. The big question is:

    Are PLG and PLS different?

    The answer is *drumrolls* yes.

    And no.

    Product-led growth and product-led sales basically have a mild chicken and egg situation. If you don't use product-led sales, you can't fully strive for product-led growth; and if you don't adopt a product-led growth approach, product-led sales might be a hard-to-deal-with endeavor.

    So, trying to distinguish PLG and PLS is kind of like trying to say a chicken and egg aren't the same things. They are, and also they are not.

    But hey, this doesn't mean we won't try.

    Let's talk about all the ways product-led sales and product-led growth are different!

    1- PLG is the main ideology, PLS is a part of it

    As is no secret, and as I have already mentioned above, product-led growth is a whole business ideology towards more meaningful experiences for customers, more meaningful products, and more meaningful growth. 

    On the other hand, product-led sales is a great enabler and enjoyer of this approach. Better experiences and products make experiences and products more marketable, and selling better experiences and products means more money for even better ones. 

    2- PLG is a mindset, PLS is a process

    On the macro level, PLG appears mostly as a mindset that we use to refer to the better processes used to highlight the product, one of which being the process of product-led sales. 

    We might also say that PLS too is a mindset, with its freemium model policy and advocacy for product experience. Still, then we would be forgetting that these are essentially all inside the PLG mindset, as is PLS.

    3- PLG is qualitative, PLS is quantitative

    As I said just now, PLS is closer to being a process than PLG, which makes it more prone to having concrete data and quantitative materials.

    PLG, on the other hand, can also produce quantitative data, but it has a more significant impact on all things qualitative, from the understanding of employees on how things should work to the success of a product-led business.

    4- PLG inbound, PLS is outbound

    Exactly how it sounds.

    PLG is the motivation, the pep talk, the change you give your employees. All its processes are essentially inbound; growth itself is an inbound phenomenon.

    Meanwhile, PLS has everything to do with the experiences and the behavior of customers. Just like sales itself, it deals way more with the outside than the inside.

    PLG is inbound; PLS is outbound.

    5- PLG is worth it, so it PLS

    I can easily go on and on and on about how PLG can change your entire business if your structure is fit for it. Naturally, PLG brings along PLS, and the results are fantastic.

    It might be a chicken and egg situation, but it's way less mind-boggling and way more profitable. So, don't forget to check out our pieces on product-led growth and product-led sales!

    To wrap up...

    After all, product-led growth and product-led sales are not so different.

    In fact, nothing we use to enhance customer success or better customer experiences is ever so different.

    We just want growth, and we want to do it in the best way possible for the customers. Hope you can too.

    Now go out there and implement that PLG approach.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is a PLG motion?

    A PLG motion is a business model prominent, especially in the SaaS market. According to the mindset of this business model, the primary selling point of a product should be, before anything else, the product itself. 

    What does PLG stand for in business?

    PLG stands for product-led growth, which is a business mindset designed to put the importance and highlight on the product itself in a business, regardless of the size. 

    What is the main difference between Product-led Growth and Product-led Sales?

    The main difference between product-led growth and product-led sales is that the former is the main business model while the latter is a department of the former. PLS constitutes one of the processes of PLG.

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