Why “product-led sales” means rethinking outdated sales strategies
Widespread internet coverage and extensive social media use mean that individuals around the world can discover products and share them with others in new ways. For tech-minded companies, this means the ability to reach new audiences. However, it is also driving a need to rethink traditional sales strategies and replace them with newer, product-led approaches.
What are product-led sales?
“Product-led sales” refers to the notion that you let your product do some of the selling for itself. You give users the ability to try your product for free and discover how useful it can be in achieving their goals. Then, once they realize how valuable your product is, you sell them a subscription, additional features and so on. Essentially, you are letting the product deal with the “cold calling” part of the traditional sales process. It’s about being product-led vs market-led.
Free trials are a great way to let users experience your product, with a view to the user handing over their cash in order to continue using the product once the free trial runs out. Freemium models – where you provide the basic product for free, but charge for more advanced features – are also a great way to feed your product-led sales pipeline. In fact, OpenView’s 2020 Product Benchmarks Report found that freemium models convert 25% more customers without sales than free trials do.
Does this mean getting rid of your sales team completely? No, absolutely not. Market-led vs product-led just means rethinking what your team needs to do and how to engage with customers differently.
Product-led growth vs sales
When you rely on your product to help sell itself by enabling users to discover its quality and value, you still need a sales strategy in place. After all, you need users to discover your product in the first place and then make that jump from using the product for free to paying for it. This is key to understanding the difference between a product-led vs a sales-led strategy.
The online sales world is hugely competitive, so you need to find a way to get your product in front of those who will try it and then hopefully pay for it. This means your sales team needs to focus on discoverability and engagement. Customers can discover your product in multiple ways online, including through blog posts, comparison sites, news and magazine articles, review sites and of course your own website. Conversations and recommendations on social media can also have a big impact on the number of people discovering a product (particularly if you have an effective strategy), as can pay-per-click advertising. While you may not need a traditional office full of people making cold calls, you will need a dynamic, fast-moving content and outreach team.
Letting your documentation do the talking
In addition to an outstanding content team, you will need to think about your product documentation. People who want to try a product for themselves need a resource to help them do so. This means your product documentation needs to be easy to navigate if it is to support sales-led growth. It also needs to help users overcome any challenges that they may face while trialling your product. If users face challenges and can’t easily overcome them, you will quickly lose them to a competitor.
Taking your product across international borders
Enabling users to discover your product online provides plenty of scope for selling it across international borders. Both free trials and freemium models can be rolled out across international markets as part of a product-led strategy with relative ease.
However, doing so requires you to put some thought into your multilingual strategy. That means engaging with a translation service to help deliver content in multiple languages as part of your content/sales strategy and also to support the production of documentation in multiple languages.
Let’s say you want to launch your product in Germany. After all, Germany has major tech leadership ambitions. It is Europe’s largest economy and plans to invest 3.5% of its gross domestic product in research and innovation by 2025. The perfect environment for your product to slot into and maximise the enthusiasm for innovation.
You’ll need to start with some fundamental questions. How much does a German translation cost? Knowing this will be core to your approach. The answer depends on the nature of your content (German translation services for specialist medical content will cost more, for example) and on any additional services you need (such as localization).
The quality of the English-to-German translation service you use should of course be a priority. Be sure to use a service with native German translators to ensure your translated documents are word-perfect. After all, the quality of your German document translation will reflect on the quality of your product, at least in consumers’ eyes.
What is a good translator for German? Regarding quality and finding an accurate German translator, it’s important to choose human translation professionals. Machine translation may be fast and free, but it doesn’t yet match the nuance and quality that human translators can provide. So be sure to use German translation services that use professional translators to deliver your content.
Providing multilingual customer service
You also need to put some thought into delivering customer service in other languages. While some users will be happy relying on your documentation while trialling your product, others will want to pick up the phone or connect with you via email or a chat service. Again, the easier you make it for your users while they are trialling your products, the more likely they are to purchase it.
This is at the core of product-led sales. You let the product do the talking, but you also back it up with a robust approach to discover enablement and customer success. Your team is there to support users to get the best out of your product – because in doing so they will be keen to pay to continue using it. That doesn’t mean cutting your sales team out of your process – just focusing the team on different activities than a traditional sales team would undertake. It’s an approach that is fundamental to the sales-led vs product-led debate. If done well, it can deliver truly impressive sales figures.