Using PLG and Sales Led Growth Together to Drive Exponential Results

Katie Stephan
Katie Stephan • Sr. Content Strategist
April 4th, 2024
Estimated read time: 43 minutes, 44 seconds

As an experienced sales and GTM leader, John Eitel has more than witnessed how product-led growth (PLG) has affected the tech and SaaS space in the last few years — he and his teams have been up close and personal with how PLG increased in popularity as a sales strategy.

“I think there was a time of, ‘Everybody should be doing it; why aren’t you doing it?,” he says.

After becoming the It Thing that many organizations adopted quickly — “The pendulum swung maybe a little too far,” John explains — GTM teams are now finding a balance between sales led motions and product led motions to fully optimize adoption and sales of their products.

In this episode of Growth Stage, we interview John, Chief Sales Officer of Demandbase, about his adventures solving exponential growth puzzles within organizations like Canva and others using both PLG and sales-led growth motions. John shares his thoughts on: 

  • The financial benefit of focusing on both.
  • The common struggles organizations face when pursuing both PLG and sales led growth.
  • What success looks like for using both together.
  • Specific tactics you can use to drive value out of both sides of your growth funnel.

If you’re struggling with how to use PLG and sales led growth together, don’t miss this episode of Growth Stage!

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Podcast Full Interview: Audio

Podcast Full Interview: Video


Producer  00:00

This is the Growth Stage podcast. And here’s your host, David Vogelpohl.

David Vogelpohl  00:04

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Growth Stage podcast by FastSpring, where we discuss how SaaS and digital product companies can grow revenue, build meaningful products and increase the value of their businesses. I’m your host, David Vogelpohl. I support the digital product community as part of my role here at FastSpring. And I love to bring the best of the community to you here on the Growth Stage podcast. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about how you can use PLG product lead growth, and sales lead growth together to drive exponential results for your business. And joining us for that conversation is someone who I personally know has a lot of experience this from time we work together in the past, and certainly in this person’s current role. But I like to welcome to Growth Stage. Mr. John Eitel. John, welcome.

John Eitel  00:54

David, thanks for having me on.

David Vogelpohl  00:56

Yeah, so glad to have you here. I know, you and I have been through quite a few adventures on this front. And I’m sure you’ve had plenty of your time there at Demandbase. And I won’t give away too much of the lead here. But really excited about this interview. So for those watching and listening, what John is going to talk about today, really his adventures, solving growth puzzles, with organizations like Canva, Demandbase and others, using both PLG sales, lead growth motions, I’m sorry, PLG, and sales lead growth motions together in order to drive exponential results. So really looking forward to the conversation and digging into this. And I think there’s, you know, this tension there with product lead growth and sales lead growth. And it’s like PLG, supposed to replace Sales Lead growth, but that doesn’t really work in b2b. And so this notion that they should work together, I think, is really powerful. John, to kick it off, I guess I’ll ask you the same question. I asked every question or every guest here on Growth Stage, what was the first thing you bought online?

John Eitel  02:03

Gosh, the first thing I bought online, it’s hard for me to remember back to that, like, it’s so it’s like, you know, kind of like asking about the first time you took a breath, right? It feels like we’ve been doing it for so long. Probably, uh, you know, gosh, maybe was it CDs, I mean, I feel like, you know, maybe maybe that would be out, I think being a big music guy kind of feel like being able to buy music online in an actual non mp3 format, physical, physical disk sent to my, my house, maybe through Columbia House or something like that would probably be like one of my earliest memories of using the internet to buy things. I

David Vogelpohl  02:42

really liked the restraint you had and buying your music back in those days instead of the file sharing. All right, so tell me a little bit about Demandbase and what your role is there.

John Eitel  02:57

Yeah, so Demandbase, you know, has an interesting, I would say, kind of origin story. But, you know, obviously, we started out in, you know, Account Based Marketing, you know, which were really, you know, was tied to, you know, being able to make very targeted, you know, purchases of advertising so that you could go after specific, you know, buyers with messaging that was relevant, and kind of follow them wherever they go on the internet. And, you know, I think it’s a great strategy to be used when you have a very defined, you know, ICP that you’re going after, so if you’re, you’re going after the, you know, 1000 CIOs and the Fortune 1000, right, you can, you can use, you know, use our platform to be able to target them and make sure that, you know, when they went to the internet, they were receiving your messages, you know, prioritized you know, since then we’ve, we’ve taken our DSP and a lot of the tools and power that it gets us to be able to, you know, be able to get intense signals and be able to see like, when people are looking online for you, when they’re searching for your competition may be searching for things that’s, you know, really, you know, relevant to, you know, needs, you can you can help them solve their and then, you know, we took intent and then we added in some acquisitions that we’ve made over the last three or four years and we built this complete you know, it’s a go to market console where sales and marketing now you know, live in work together can action on a lot of these very targeted strategies to be able to meet customers where they are, you know, with the right message at the right time, and make sure that you’re landing things more effectively. And so I do you know, I define it in a lot of ways but it is kind of sales and marketing magic. And that you can be very prescriptive in the way that you you go to market here you can you can land you know, your your, your touch points more effectively, and hopefully win together more effectively, which is the power of what we do.

David Vogelpohl  04:43

And what do you do there, John? So I

John Eitel  04:45

am the Chief Sales Officer, which means I lead sales for you know, us globally you know, across you know, all of our different regions and capacities. So, you know, it’s been great to kind of drive build and kind of grow their their their sales right algae are.

David Vogelpohl  05:02

Excellent. Well, that’s really interesting to hear. And I know that, you know, as we think of product led growth, this idea of your ICP and what they experience, you know, you were talking about the personalized advertising, you know, kind of ABM focus follow you around the web. And I know that these same kind of activities play out on the product side. So this dance between how we go to market and how customers and potential customers experience our products. Seems like there’s some interesting overlap there. So earlier, I described briefly product lead growth. I’m just curious, like, what what you think though, what does that mean to you? What is product lead growth?

John Eitel  05:44

Yeah, well, I think I’ve actually had the benefit, and the ability to be a part of some pretty cool, you know, product lead growth stories, David David and I worked together at a company that had elements of product led growth, so that’s probably where I, you know, began kind of my fascination with it, and, you know, went to a company called Canva, and took them through a lot of their, you know, series of kind of growth and expansion into new regions and markets. So I feel like I got a lot of like, I would say, you know, you know, the, the the NBA of kind of doing it in motion here of PLG. But it is, you know, it’s a new way of kind of looking at, you know, how you attract and, you know, kind of grow customers using the product as the hook to be able to get them, you know, into your kind of funnel and being able to use the product ID to drive usage, adoption, expansion, you know, throughout the lifecycle of a customer. So, you know, as opposed to the old kind of, you know, method that which is, you know, your sales lead growth, which we’ll talk about probably next year, you know, really kind of flips things around to use the product is the the entry points to be able to attract, retain and grow customers. Yeah,

David Vogelpohl  06:53

it feels like the promise of it is something akin to build a great product, people will organically be attracted to it, they will sign up for the product on some form, maybe through a free trial. And then that’ll be so amazing that they’ll want to pay. And then after the fact, your in product experiences will be so amazing, that one has been more on more things. And so it’s like this promise of almost like automated acquisition and upgrades I feel like underpins the kind of core value people put forth with PLG. You think that’s a fair way to look at it? Or how might you think of that?

John Eitel  07:29

Yeah, yeah, no, I think it is. And, yeah, I think it’s great to and that it puts you know, puts product at the center of the universe, it doesn’t mean that, you know, any of those things like sales and marketing are less important, you know, but I think it just changes the way that you, you know, embrace these things. And it puts, you know, puts emphasis on, you know, making sure that you’re building a great product, right, if that’s your entry point, that it has to be a great experience, it has to be, you know, something that has some virality to it right, or else this thing doesn’t work or takeoff, I think that’s kind of one of the core tenants. And so, you know, it’s what I really love about it is that you, you build that focus around the products, and then you know, you put the right touch points to kind of enable that customer journey. And it just turns out to be a more effective, you know, probably way for a lot of companies to acquire customers and matches well. So I think the way that the buying behaviors are shifting, right, I think that people want to self serve when they can, you know, they want to, you know, not just hear from you about how great your product is they want to experience it, you know, and so this gives them that ability to be the driver in this situation.

David Vogelpohl  08:35

So it’s kind of like this idea that like good UX, good product experience is always good. And these debates are always funny, like, what’s better, you know, PLG, or sales, like growth, or like human written content versus AI written content? And like, a lot of the times the answer is, what if you mash them both together? Maybe that’s the best answer for the puzzle we’re solving here. And so I feel like that kind of underlying promise of almost like, costless revenue, like your product department is going to generate all your revenue for you, is probably short sighted and coupling that especially with b2b with sales, like growth missions, you know, feels like the winning combination. So now, we’ve kind of established what PLG means to you. What does Sales Lead growth mean to you? Yeah,

John Eitel  09:22

I mean, I think that is the more traditional, you know, version of, you know, basically, you know, sales that that we know, we’ve known historically, and it really is, you know, very much human human driven, right, it’s sales and, you know, marketers, you know, kind of creating the right messaging going to market with the right sales techniques and tactics, you know, it’s largely driven by humans is what I like to say, you know, that’s that that’s the piece that really kind of makes it differentiated from a product like growth strategy.

David Vogelpohl  09:52

And so I think like one of the benefits for me on the SOG side is the benefit of context and adaptability. So in other words, if I’m a prospect, and I’m looking at a product, and I’m going through the sales team and talking maybe to a sales engineer, if it’s like that kind of product, or whatever it is, that I can get a lot more context a lot more quickly. And it makes up for a lot of bad product experiences, right? You’re like, oh, yeah, this is how you do that work your job to be done. And so I feel like that’s one of the strengths of SLG is really to understand that better understand the value, but also understand how configurable the product might be, or how it might fit with your particular use case. And I find that that’s near impossible to replicate in a product context.

John Eitel  10:41


David Vogelpohl  10:42

What do you think about that?

John Eitel  10:43

No, that’s a good comment. I mean, I think like, I put emphasis on, you know, human, you know, for a reason there and chose that word wisely. I think that that’s exactly it, David, that I feel like, you are able to be, uh, you know, be able to smooth the bumpy road of a product experience with humans, right, and the ability to, to gather feedback and be adaptive. And so I think the, the human element is really great there, you know, for certain areas, and I think it, you know, is the way that we’ve always kind of historically done things. And so I think we’ll talk a bit about some of the, the nuances of different strategies, but I would say like, in some places, like, that’s an expectation, right, you know, I think that there’s, you know, there’s a couple of different trends we’re seeing people want to buy, you know, they want to self serve, you know, when they can or buy, you know, without a friction filled experience, right? But then there’s some times where it’s like, well, I want to talk to a human right. And, and so like you, it’s, you know, there’s certain places where I think a sales lead experience has to be there, or has to be a component of it, because I think people, people buy from people, you know, at the end of the day, like that’s, that adage is still true to this day. And I think there’s certain elements that really have an important point of differentiation there.

David Vogelpohl  11:57

Now, there are tensions that emerge within organizations between product teams and sales teams over when PLG should be the focus versus sales lead growth. You talked about self serve, maybe as one example, where a product group might favor self serve motions over say, demo based motions, or at least motions that require a demo, maybe before trial, like that kind of thing. And I think a lot of you tackle this in different ways. Some times there’s big rivalries and lots of tension. Sometimes there’s more of like a working relationship where we’re both trying to improve on both sides. Our time at WP Engine reminded me of that, actually. But what do you think? Like, mean, what are the financial benefits of working together? Like maybe putting your company hat on for a minute instead of your just your sales hat? But like, why, what benefits? Can folks maybe think about or expect if you’re working with them both together? Like why do this?

John Eitel  12:55

Yeah, well, I think, you know, it varies, you know, by by company, you know, space product, right? I think there are lots of reasons to think about this. And I think you mentioned, you know, my background is a puzzle solver. And I’ve been, you know, said that a few times, but I think that’s what I enjoy about what I get to do, because I think you have to be able to be a you know, sales, or go to market kind of puzzle solver or problem solver to figure out like, what is the right thing. And I think that the interesting thing is, I think a lot of folks think of this decision as very binary, like you have to do one or the other, you know, you know, or, you know, or else and I think that there is you know, a place for combining, you know, these things, there’s a place to think about like timing of when to use one over the other, you know, there’s all those things that kind of play in and so I think like my advice always is, as someone who mentors and advisors, many, many companies in the, you know, PLG, SLG, PLS, you know, kind of insert TLA here, we’re all it is that you have to be, you know, adaptive, and you have to be able to look at these things in lots of different ways. And I think, you know, just using my Canva experience, as a, you know, kind of a bit of a story around that, even to David was, you know, when I was brought in, like Canva grew, you know, for their first six years of their company, five years with a company without a sales team, they grow with all product led growth, they were largely in consumer and I think, you know, consumer can can get by doing that, that motion, and it’s a very beautiful, efficient thing. But they found that people were starting to take their product to work, right, like, kind of like Dropbox started the shop and enterprises Canva onto the show up and enterprises as well. And so, you know, they tried to use PLG to attack the enterprise solely on its own and they found quickly that, you know, is great for getting entry points and PLG can can be this this perfect way for us to get our toe in the door. You know, but we eventually found out was that there was like stall points where, you know, we found that lots of companies of 1020 employees would pull out a credit card I’d sign up overnight to use Canva. And, you know, there was a belief that, you know, gosh, if we go to bed and wake up tomorrow at 20, we’ll be 40. And then it’ll be 60. And they never really kind of grew beyond those stall points once we define them. And the reason and rationale for that was that, you know, they were being used largely in a very departmental manner. So if they wanted to expand outside of the department, it meant that we’d have to probably engage procurement and meant that we probably have to engage security to make sure that we are compliant with their standards, we would probably have to tip some radars because I think a lot of these folks have actually done this just kind of going rogue with departmental expenditures that they can make on their own. You know, and so it meant that we were gonna have to raise the visibility on this in the right ways to be able to go from 20 users to 1000s of users at these big companies. And so that was when it was really important for them to think about, like, when do you bring in this augment augmentation strategy of sales? Like growth? And how do we leverage it in the white right way? And that’s my commentary about this being a very binary thing. And I think sometimes people are like, okay, good. So are we gonna flip all the way to Sales Lead growth, and it’s like, no, like, you know, we need to think about, you know, the elements of each and how to use them in the right ways. And so when we built the sales team on top of the product, lead growth strategy, you know, it was fun to think about, like, okay, not everybody gets a sales experience, like, let’s still let people self serve, let’s let people get interest, let’s let people start to use the platform. And then when they get near to this, like stall point, like, let’s make sure that we inserted a sales resource at that time to say like, we’d like to talk to you about expanding your use case with us, let’s talk to you about how we can, you know, begin to develop our relationship together and work together in a more meaningful way. And that was when we would bring in the sales resource. And so it became very much complementary, you know, with a lot of other pieces that we kind of layered in more and more over time, and it was fun to kind of crack that puzzle and mature that that organization, but that was a lot of it. It was again, like finding that that right kind of tipping point of balance and when to insert, you know which strategy at the right time.

David Vogelpohl  17:06

Yeah, so that balance it sounds like is the key there in thinking about through the stories and examples you just provided? It sounded like one financial benefit of that approach is new ARR acquisition, right. In the case of Canva, you were talking about how layering in the Sales Lead growth on top of the PLG. You could leverage the PLG for this entry points. And then Sales Lead growth expand across departments. So you’re you’re you’re opening up bigger customers with higher MRR it sounded Of course, like that would then equate to more ARPU, which, you know, dippin for most businesses is going to be a positive driver of your valuation. And then you also talked a lot about upgrades there. And this is being really influenced it sounds like by the ARPU, in other words, lower ARPU transactions are less likely to be sales assistant, higher ARPU, ones are more likely. And with those self serve smaller accounts, there might be an enterprise upgrade, they’re sitting around, that’s, you’re not going to get 20,000 of MRR or something from a CTA in a product page. Right. And that is, am I getting that? Right?

John Eitel  18:21

Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. So yeah, I think the, you know, the key elements are, you know, there are some definite financial implications of like, when to use one over the other, you know, acquiring customers obviously, feels like the easiest, you know, least expensive way to acquire customers, but there’s also elements of like, you know, growth that can be unlocked by putting a sales lead strategy in place over that.

David Vogelpohl  18:44

Yeah. Okay, that makes a ton of sense. And I know you’ve worked at a few words that have leveraged PLG. And obviously, your perspective isn’t limited to your own experiences. But But do you find most orgs favor investments in one or the other? Like are people addicted to PLG? And so they’re just trying to make everything PLG? Have you seen that they’ve been blended? Or? I’m sure depends on the company, but like, what are your observations there?

John Eitel  19:09

Yeah, there’s a lot going on. And I think, you know, it is a, you know, it’s an interesting topic to bring up, I would say, obviously, like, consumer, for sure. Like, I think consumer really drove a lot of the success of PLG. And then it started to move into these new kinds of contexts of b2b. And I think that’s been, you know, fun to see, you know, over the last few years to like PLG really saw a rise and there was a lot of great stories around it, like the Calendlys, the Dropboxes, you know, the Miros of the world. You know, Canva’s, you know, all these great stories that started to come up. And so, you know, I would often get people asking for advice on like, How and when do we bring this in? And so I would say like, I think there was this, like, started with consumer moved into the b2b context. I think there was a time of like, everybody should be doing it, why aren’t you doing it? And I think that It settled out a little bit in that, you know, it’s not so extreme of like everybody should do it, why shouldn’t we do it now. And it’s it’s back to some sort of reality, which is, which is great. I think that’s the good thing about like balance. And like when things get out of control, the pendulum swung kind of a little, maybe a little too far. But it’s now back to the middle. And I do believe that everybody should have some element of it in their kind of playbook or strategy. There’s lots of different ways to use it in different kind of contexts. And so it’s not again, not that very binary, like, you know, we’ve got to go all in on it and bet the farm, it’s like, let’s place it in the right place to drive the right impact here.

David Vogelpohl  20:39

You know, it’s funny, the examples you gave, we are often in these kinds of conversations, talk about b2b and b2c. And the reality is, especially for the mid market, a lot of that b2b is a self serve motion, right? If you’re buying Canva, for your three salespeople at your small law firm, or I mean, our law firm has salespeople that I don’t know insurance firm or something like that, then credit card transaction online makes all the sense in the world, right, and I never gonna upgrade that much. So like, let’s just do it that way. But, you know, as my org gets bigger, and my needs get more complex, I probably need to talk to somebody about that. And that’s where sales lead growth comes in. And, you know, it’s funny, because I think one trend I’ve noticed is a trend towards trying to make that b2b process easier for folks, even as simple as like the transaction or payment can be very complicated for sales teams, and, you know, custom systems created to support all that funky ways to create invoices and send out places for people to enter their credit card for sales assistant transaction. Do you ever get jealous of the ease of how PLG is kind of just like go through, click a button, and pay? Maybe Demandbase has that really well built out or something? So I just curious, like, from the ground level, do you think those sales lead growth motions could be easier and more intuitive for the reps and the prospects 100%.

John Eitel  22:07

And I do think like, you know, there’s lots of times where you feel tension between the different, you know, kind of models and versions and things like that, but I think like the world is all going to easier transactions and easier to do business with and easier to, you know, to do the things that we want to do more effectively. And so, I think PLG probably PLG, you know, being relatively new means that these companies, you know, were built in the last, you know, kind of decade. And so I think they’ve got the benefit of modernization and building for, you know, the right foundation for scale. And so I do think that that is something that they’ve got going for them. And I think we can all learn and model from, you know, I think that’s, you know, even if you’ve been in business for 20 years, I think we should be all looking at our processes and thinking of ways to like make it easier and more efficient to do business. And I think there’s, there’s a, there was a maybe a, you know, belief that’s changed, or maybe a misbelief that we had that, you know, you had to, you know, gate contents, or you had to add friction in the system, right? Like, let’s get content, like, let’s make them talk to a salesperson like because that’s, that’s where the value is, you know, and I think that pendulum is shifting now where it’s like, let’s also make it really easy for them just to do things they want to do, and not make their life more complicated. But I think if they want to also be able to talk to it and you know, real person, like let’s fast track them to that experience, too, right, and being able to provide both. And so I like that I think actually, even in past worlds, like ones you and I’ve worked in, like, I think we should be looking at that, from like, legal perspective, like we were, you know, heavily in you know, invested in making it really easy to like, make our terms easy to accept and click through, right. And it was like, let’s just, you know, not overly complicated, let’s not drop a binder on somebody, let’s, you know, put in the right protections for the business, but make it easy for people to just say, okay, I can I can agree to this, even the biggest companies in the world, right? And then it’s like, okay, you we means we can use less legal resources, it means we can slow down transactions, or the we can speed up transactions, we have transactions, yeah, is when we’ve historically slowed them down. And I think that’s just a good example of where we should be looking for these pockets of efficiency, you know, it would not only make us better as businesses, but it would probably make customer experience buying from us even better.

David Vogelpohl  24:25

Yeah, cuz like as a buyer, you’re thinking like not only am I gonna have to have multiple meetings, and then I’m going through his sales team, but I’m also going to have a complicated transaction on some level. And, you know, obviously for teams that work for companies that haven’t figured that process out on the back end very well. That means probably cramming a bunch of transaction admin time at the end of the month, like you’re trying to get deals close like these can be very disruptive not just for the prospects but for the sales teams themselves. In your experience, working with product teams, and you know the sales teams, you relating what what are some common tensions that arise? Like, one example might be I don’t know, like the product team figures out the free trial process really, really well. And now there’s people that are self serving, instead of going through a sales team, have you ever had to deal with, like, quota attainment issues are like Target changes? Like? Or maybe there’s other tensions that you think are more relevant, but how do you think about those tensions?

John Eitel  25:25

Yeah, I mean, I think like, you know, as you’re going through change, there is always going to be tension, right. And anytime you’re evolving or adapting a strategy, there’ll be tension, you know, with the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things. And, you know, the beauty is always in how you navigate those, when I remember even, you know, with you and I working together in the past with what we kind of had our elements of PLG on which was self serve for our customers, right, we had that that constant debate of like, is the sales lead cannibalizing the self serve, right, and, you know, vice versa, right. And so I think, like, that’s, that’s always one that you’re, you know, want to be make sure, make sure you’re mindful of, and that you’re not, you know, feeding one, you know, stuff that would naturally just kind of flow through another, etc, and taking from one to make make one look better. And so I think that’s, like, kind of step one is like, how do you make sure that you’re not cannibalizing, you know, one for the other there, I think, you know, it can, but we had a lot of, you know, kind of even more kind of scaled nuances and that they’d never had a sales team before. So building this whole sales team from scratch was, was in way kind of like a, an introduction of kind of a whole new thing. And again, a greenfield motion, and, you know, we had to be able to think about like, when do you put a sales resource on some of these customers, and again, you know, if your that your example of the three person Insurance Agency, right, that just bought for their sales team, and they’re probably never going to grow their original insurance, you know, firm of 1010 people, right? Probably don’t want to have a seller ever touch that, right. And so like making sure that you have like, hard and fast rules of like, what a sales experience is and what it isn’t, and make sure that you don’t deviate from them. And so, you know, we define that really to say that, hey, our enterprise offering, which was what our sales lead, you know, group focused on was, how do we bring Canada into b2b, we wouldn’t go after that 10 person group, because we knew that three people would always probably be three people, regardless if we talked to them for hours or weeks, right. And so really trying to focus your resources up market, and we targeted kind of the mid market all the way up to the biggest brands in the world there. And so that was kind of a, you know, our first kind of, like, hard and fast rule of like, let’s make sure that, you know, we don’t overburden, you know, kind of people with talking to sales, let’s make sure we use the sales resources on the accounts that matter. And that was really helpful. Like, there’s, you know, there’s two sides of the tension as well, like, if you’ve always been PLG, you know, and you’ve gotten, you know, really addicted to that, you know, ability to acquire customers, you know, affordably and easily, you know, there was a lot of like conversations I have with the with the CFO of like, do we really need a sales team? Like, do we really need, you know, this? Could we just make a few tweaks to the product, and we wouldn’t need a sales team? Right, you know, and so, you have to be kind of, like, comfortable with having those conversations when going through this, you know, evolution there. And so, you know, it was it was it was a good healthy tension, I would say and a good dialogue that we were always having, and it was, you know, also I would say, largely, you know, stepped through and that I was like, I’m not going to overuse that we’re not going to overpay salespeople to touch customers that don’t need that touch, like, let’s put them on the ones that matter. Else prove that they do matter, right? And like, are we able to move these customers from, you know, a 40 person stall point, like I described of like, you know, departmental usage to 1000s of users? How do we take them from kind of like a very kind of, you know, nascent entry points to an employee, it’s ELA, where everybody in the company gets access to it, and they see it in their, you know, as, as a software package that’s supplied by their employer. And that’s a that’s a whole different motion versus, you know, pulling out a credit card to sign up.

David Vogelpohl  29:01

Yeah, that’s really interesting. You know, I think from the ruleset perspective, it sounds like a really clever way to help alleviate some of those tensions in terms of like, when sales will focus on prospect or a customer for upgrades. And when they won’t, you know, and it’s funny because it’s easy to sit back on like an interview like this and breakout or abacus and say, well just go with the thing that makes the most money for the company, right? But the reality is, you have teams on the ground, you have quotas to hit. And so one of the things that really kind of bugs me I feel in business are things I call invisible lines, where we make some sort of attribution line within the business to give credit to this group or that group for this, that or the other. But the reality is the sales team wouldn’t sell anything and the product team wouldn’t have anybody using their products, particularly on this bigger customer side without some form of selling effort. And so FastSpring We follow the product lead sales philosophy, really where We look at our product and how it can support our sales funnels. So it might be a CTA that has a chili Piper link in it to schedule time with the sales engineers or something like that. Do you have any examples of when you felt product and the sales team have worked really well together on something from your past?

John Eitel  30:20

Yeah, no, that’s a it’s a great, great reference to the invisible lines theory. I think that’s actually something I, you know, I felt that I haven’t heard that way. So I think that’s really cool. Yeah, no, I think that’s the key too, I think that’s, you know, as I advise others about like going through this journey, you know, I think you have to be heavily partnered with products and more so than any place I’ve ever been, like, I think like, you know, sales and product always have, I think, a kindred relationship, and that they, you know, feedback flows both ways, and one owns the product, one owns the customer relationship, you know, the connection has to be strong, but I think we really thought about it in a, you know, kind of three concentric circles model of like, you know, sales, marketing and product all together, you know, working on these things. And I think that that’s something that comes with companies going through this evolution is like, realizing that we’re all equally you know, kind of in this together. And, you know, that’s so important to establish that early. And so I’d say like, that’s something that I’ve seen and sensed and felt work. I think like, it means once you kind of make that shift, and you really build that strong foundation, you know, you have to have the telemetry in place to be able to see customer behaviors better understand, like, when insert those sales, you know, kind of touch points. And I think if you’re working on this in the right way, in the right, you know, sophisticated organization like product will define that with you and help get set and move those lines occasionally to with each others where, you know, we started to spot like these customers, we are using Canva, as an example, Canva is a design tool for everyday people. And so we knew that basically, if someone joins, you know, at a big company, and, you know, that was a great sign. So that was like, kind of like the tip, tip of the, like, beginning of the conversation, if we saw them, create, you know, 15 to 20 designs in a month. Like, that was another great sign if we saw them inviting people to join a team with them, you know, another great sign, right? So then we knew, Okay, those are the things that needed to happen again, before a salesperson got involved, you know, so it was like, okay, you know, we were getting a lot of this great telemetry from the product organization. You know, it’s great for me to think about almost, you know, like, you would have done SDR, it’s like, okay, well, how do I nurture them through that before I get a salesperson involved, because if a salesperson doesn’t get involved till, you know, 40, people have joined a team at Microsoft to use the product, right? Like, I want to speed up that journey, right. And so we created this, you know, kind of Canva coach model, but it was like, you know, someone who, you know, would work with those customers, when they hit a couple of those thresholds, and be able to, you know, be able to say, let me do a training for your team, like, let me help create 20 templates to complement the 20 you just already built, like, you probably want a corporate presentation, you want business cards you want you know, employee signatures, like let me show you how to do those really quickly and build your brand kit. So again, like we were able to kind of think about this baton passing back and forth, you know, between product and sales and like, augmented with the right people. And so I think that was something that was really, you know, fun to see and kind of get that validation on. And we met regularly, we were always adapting together. And I think that’s the key to is like, you don’t kind of set those invisible lines and then like wait for things to kind of work naturally, you have to like, test measure, test again, and reassess. And that’s where we have to kind of be very fluid in that since I think there was there was a lot of great examples, I think the product or you know, was was a major part of their DNA at Canva, who obviously it’s a it’s a product and design company that was you know, you know, graded at PLG. And so they have that DNA, you know, mastered, I think me coming in with my teams being layered on top was kind of fun to be like, you know, this new, you know, kind of superpower for them to kind of layer in and, you know, allow me to kind of tap into.

David Vogelpohl  34:05

That’s awesome. That’s so cool to have that experience to kind of coming into it on top of that strong PLG org. And you know, I think, you know, when I feels like when a lot of people think about, well, how can product help sales, it usually has to do with like layering some sort of CTA and some sort of product or, potentially, of course, changing the way a product works to make it more sellable. Like that kind of thing. And I think the piece that doesn’t get as much attention, which is what you hit on was just access to data usage data thresholds. And of course, a good PLG group is going to be thinking about like, Okay, well when they’ve almost use all their I don’t know Canva thingies; we’re going to show them a adoption to upgrade their plan, you know, self serve and portal or something like that. But it could be usage or it could be behavioral, like you said number of users like that kind of thing. That paints a picture that wait a minute, maybe If someone should have a conversation with these folks and make sure they’re getting the best value out of our products, they’re connecting with sales. It’s an unsung part of how product can support sales. I feel. I don’t know, what do you think, John?

John Eitel  35:14

Yeah, no, I mean, I’m smiling too. And I think like, back to the adapting piece, and I think that’s what’s really great about your podcast, David is that, you know, it’s, it is truly a constantly evolving, developing, you know, concept that we’re working through, it’s going continuously getting better, I think all the things that have been done, you know, are great to learn from you get to stand on the shoulders of giants and learn from their mistakes and, you know, get get access to that. I’m, you know, one of the things that kind of even, you know, was interesting for me was, you know, you talk about like product product qualified leads PQ ELLs is something that kind of comes out too, as you think about a sales lead motion coming in. And I would say like, one of the things we quickly learned in Canva. Two is that the concept of, you know, product qualified leads didn’t necessarily work if we transition from a consumer, SMB to this enterprise context, and I’ll explain that a little bit better. But I think the, you know, the neat thing was that, you know, 40 people who signed up at Microsoft, you know, did it probably unbeknownst to their boss, or their boss’s boss, and probably just said, Hey, I need to do my job. And this is an easier way to do it. So I need this tool. And so they went out and bought it there. But you know, when, when you think about them as a product, qualified lead, like going to sell to them, like, when we reached out, they’re like, Please don’t tell my boss, like, if my boss finds out and asked me to, like, shut this off, I call the shadow as soon as they shadow IT purchase. So they’re like, yeah, like, we love the tool, you know, it helps me be successful. But please don’t tell anybody. It’s like, okay, I get it. Like, I don’t want to blow up your situation here, I get it. And what we ended up trying to realize was, when they get to that kind of 40 person, kind of momentum stall plan area, it becomes more of a product qualified accounts. And that was the, you know, the thought of like, okay, if you’re gonna, you know, now prospect into the CMO, you know, you’re gonna call them, you know, now at this point, and you’re going to call, you know, a couple clicks ahead of the team that’s even using it right, so you can reach out to them. And again, not to blow them up and, and call it their usage. But just to say, look, I think we’ve got a tool that can really help you. Here’s how we’re helping other companies in your space. This is what the the advantages that they see from it, and why you might be a good fit for it. And then it becomes actually a kind of flipped with a situation because oftentimes, whenever I’m being sold to, you know, my first reaction is like, do I have time, money and resources to implement a new tool right now, like everybody’s thinking from that concept, hopefully, as a business owner, and so they’d be like, yeah, it’s gonna be really hard to adopt. I don’t know if my teams would get on board. And it’s like, well, that’s great that you brought that up, we actually know that there’s a team internally that started to use it. And we’d love to make them you kind of a champion in this process, and really kind of showcase their usage. So you make them the hero in the story. And it really, you’re gonna change the way that we kind of, you know, went to went to market and were able to kind of, you know, crack the code of how do you break out of the business unit and go through a larger part of the part of the organization?

David Vogelpohl  38:08

Yeah, such an attractive, yet tricky part of having a b2b product with more of a PLG, or self serve motion, and trying to surface it into these broader accounts with the bigger org, and not making us getting someone in trouble for circumventing it. Or I could imagine the CMO being like, why is HR using Canva to create creative for our company like that should be, you know, our official way, like that kind of thing. But it’s such a big opportunity. But yeah, obviously a really tricky dance there. Yeah.

John Eitel  38:45

Well, last comment, as I talked, I’m sure you get a lot of folks saying this on your show. And, you know, I’d say like, I talked to a lot of my peers at the time and continued and like, the tricky dance is absolutely right. Like you nailed it. I felt like my sellers, at one point, were like, Hey, I’m just going to email the CMO and say that there’s a team of 40 people using it. And like that turned into like, Hey, let me forget it and shut this down. I was like, yeah, the art of the dance was an important thing there and that you had to think about, like, you know, let’s make them two heroes in this story. Let’s bring them to the forefront at the end of the of the sales pitch, not at the beginning. You know, and like, let’s use them as a as a way to be able to get traction and momentum early and highlight that there’s a need, you know, to have a solution like ours in place.

David Vogelpohl  39:29

Well, that may be your most valuable tip of the podcast, John, because that’s not an easy one to solve for. But thank you so much for joining today. And this has been really informative. I really appreciate it, John. Yeah.

John Eitel  39:41

Likewise, David, great to reconnect with an old friend and yeah, excited to talk shop anytime, and had a great time on the show today, so thanks. Excellent.

David Vogelpohl  39:50

If you’d like to learn more about what John is up to, you can check him out on LinkedIn or visit Thanks, everyone, for joining us. For the Growth Stage podcast if you’d like to learn more about FastSpring and how we can help you sell globally, and keep your engineering team focused on your products, visit Thanks everyone for joining and enjoy the rest of your day.

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Katie Stephan

Katie Stephan

Katie Stephan is the Senior Content Strategist at FastSpring. Besides her extensive marketing experience, she has an MFA in creative nonfiction writing and has served her local communities as a college writing instructor.

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