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Product-led Sales (PLG CRM)

Another category of data tooling for GTM teams.

Created :  
June 16, 2023
Created :  
May 27, 2021
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Updated :  
September 25, 2023
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2023 Update

Product-led Sales (PLS) is now being replaced with terms like “Revenue Data Platform” and “Revenue Expansion Platform”. These companies don’t wish to position their products as sales tooling which is how I always perceived this category.

2022 Update

The term “PLG CRM” didn’t stick and has now been replaced with “product-led sales or PLS”.

Hightouch Notify is looking a lot like the overlap I was expecting.

Original post from 2021

Today, I’m writing about an emerging category called PLG CRM — a reimagination of the traditional CRM for B2B SaaS companies adopting a Product-led Growth motion.

I’ve also briefly covered how PLG CRM products enable data activation.

What does a PLG CRM do and who’s building it?

It makes data available in a manner that makes it possible to visualize how prospects and customers move through the different stages of the funnel as well as act upon that data by triggering workflows in external tools.

Companies in this space I’m familiar with are Calixa (shut down in 2023), Correlated, HeadsUp, Endgame, and Pocus.

While all of the above are quite new, Sherlock has been trying to solve this problem for a while and deserves a mention here.

What need does a PLG CRM fulfill and for whom?

A PLG CRM is purpose-built for growth, sales, and customer success teams at B2B SaaS companies to view all the interactions of prospects and customers across various channels – both at the user level and the account level.

Teams can build segments of users and accounts based on product data, transactional data, as well as data from support and engagement tools, and then sync the segments to third-party tools to trigger workflows.

Teams can also define custom metrics such as activation to easily see a list of users that have performed key events in the app and are considered as activated.

It is particularly relevant for SaaS companies to see what’s going on at the account level and not just at the user level since it’s not uncommon for one user to belong to multiple accounts.

None of this is possible in traditional CRMs that are not built for companies that have trial users or those on a free plan who are, by definition, neither leads nor customers.

What does a PLG CRM not do?

It’s important to note and rather interesting that PLG CRMs are not trying to replace traditional CRMs and in fact, all PLG CRMs integrate with Salesforce and HubSpot.

Therefore, it is evident that a PLG CRM is meant to augment a traditional CRM by solving specific problems that traditional CRMs are not meant to solve.

It is safe to say that PLG CRM vendors won’t build core CRM features such as creating deals and logging information from meetings or even moving deals down a pipeline.

What are some use cases of a PLG CRM?

Here’s how different teams leverage a PLG CRM:

  • Growth teams set up a workflow to get notified on Slack when users perform the activation event in the app to stay on top of activated accounts
  • Sales teams create a segment of free accounts with 2 users or more to prioritize those accounts in their outreach efforts
  • Customer Success teams segment paid accounts based on user activity to make sure they proactively reach out to the accounts that are least active

How does a PLG CRM enable data activation?

Here’s how I’ve defined data activation in the past:

Data activation is the process of personalizing the customer experience using accurate data in the tools used to acquire, engage, and support customers.

PLG CRMs integrate with CDIs like Segment Connections as well as data warehouses so if the available data is accurate, it can be acted upon or activated in a PLG CRM by triggering workflows in downstream SaaS tools.

It’s worth noting that there is an overlap between some of the capabilities of a PLG CRM and those of a Reverse ETL tool – one that primarily syncs data from a warehouse to downstream tools but also has the ability to trigger workflows.

My verdict?

PLG CRM is a hot new category and I’m excited to see how these companies carve out their space in the modern data stack. I’m particularly keen to see how data teams perceive this category of tools and which teams PLG CRM vendors manage to sell to within an org.

I also expect to see more overlap between them and Reverse ETL tools like Census and Hightouch.

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