Sales-led growth is dying.
Product-led growth is trending at an all-time high, but the symptoms of its impending downfall are already materializing.
Customer-led growth is the revolution that we have been missing, and it’s already here.
Beyond the software industry, customer-centric thinking is widespread. Companies that are synonymous with unparalleled levels of success — think Apple and Amazon — emphasize the crucial nature of this to their performance.
Yet across SaaS, our discussions oscillate between “product-led” or “sales-led.”
We forget the most important group — the customer.
Customer-led buying is the process of giving your customers a choice in how they want to buy your software — and proactively giving them the tools they need to be efficient, confident, and successful.
The sales-led process made sense decades ago — buyers were unfamiliar with and even a little apprehensive of technology. The approach was just as much about selling a specific product as it was about education and training and demystifying this whole new world of software.
This was a huge advantage for the sales teams. They spent significant time with their customers and hooked them on the dream of the product (even if it often didn’t really fulfill it). Customers would make a choice based on these promises and sign themselves up for years of the product — even if it barely met their needs.
In the early 2010s, this changed. Cloud applications became commonplace. People had been using computers, the internet, and software for most of their lives already.
Industry standards were created: Users recognized the cog icon as settings, three horizontal lines as the menu, and a magnifying glass as search. They simply didn’t require the same level of education anymore. The software experience had become intuitive.
Product-led growth became the hot new thing a few years later. The movement recognized the changing landscape of software buying and capitalized on these new conditions — PLG facilitated the self-exploration of products. Companies such as Slack, Figma, and Dropbox exploded, and their teams credited much of their success to a PLG approach.
PLG has become the primary focus for SaaS companies everywhere.
The fastest growing SaaS companies in recent years have largely been product-led. PLG is revered throughout our industry. Moving to a PLG motion is a key part of the CEO agenda for legacy SaaS companies — so it’s the solution to what I’m talking about, right?
Bluntly. No. Or at least — by itself, no.
Product-led experiences as they exist today are restricted — only a finite number of companies have successfully deployed this approach.
All this, and software buyers are still unhappy.
Their options suck.
Would you rather be in a strictly controlled process where you have no say? Or flounder with an empty product that is hard to get started with?
Customers dread buying software. It’s not their day job. It is time-consuming, uninformative, and at the end of it, they still feel like they’re throwing a dart at a target blindfolded.
The sales-led process is drawn out, with unending yet seemingly pointless meetings across vendors. Months in, customers still hardly know what they have learned.
At least with product-led, you get to play with the product. But typically it’s a shell, and it ultimately tells you very little about what it’ll mean for your company.
Oh, and this is repeated 3–5 times across each vendor the customer had shortlisted.
All of the buzz says you need to be PLG to be successful. Yet PLG companies are now starting to take on sales teams as they have moved upmarket.
PLG or sales-led alone doesn’t work. They need to merge and become customer-led.
The customer-led experience actively combines the best of both sales-led and PLG — it’s an efficient sales cycle that provides value to both the customer and vendor throughout the process, significantly faster than ever before.
Ultimately, this is simply about taking the best of both the sales-led and product-led experiences and putting the customer back in control. As we have learned time and again from other industries, this is what not only drives sales but higher retention rates than competitors.
Tl;dr: It’s not just good for customers. It’s great for SaaS vendors too.
Faster deal cycles, higher conversion rates, larger deal sizes, lower churn, lower cost of acquisition, and overall better profitability metrics. All the metrics that sales teams care about… and all the data we have already seen.
When sellers enable buyers to go customer-led through a platform like TestBox, they convert at an average of 41-52.3% of the time. That’s a 25%-100% higher win rate than our customers had before TestBox. They also buy faster and are happier with their experience, meaning greater loyalty, faster time to value, and lower churn.
When software buying is designed around the customer experience, everybody wins. Confident buyers convert faster and are more willing to commit to larger deals. They know that this is the right product for them, and they inherently understand the value.
For too long, our industry has operated in an environment of skepticism. Buyers worry about what they’re being sold. Vendors worry the deal will disappear any minute. Customer-led buying re-establishes trust. Vendors can create even deeper and longer-lasting relationships with their customers.
This whole thesis is the reason that I started TestBox. And now we have the data to prove it. Today, we are already:
Customer-led. It’s already here.
Start testing and comparing how software could help your team in seconds.
Oh and did we mention it’s free? Because it is.
Schedule a demo below and let us show you how TestBox is helping companies like Zendesk, CallRail, Alyce, and more do just that.