Introduction to product led growth (PLG) and product led sales (PLS)

The traditional way to grow your business is through sales. You acquire leads using tactics like cold outreach and emails. Your sales reps go and convert those leads into sales, growing your business.

This is a classic top-down sales motion. It’s how software companies have always sold their products. You find key decision makers, qualify them, then sell to them.

But today, SaaS companies on the bleeding edge are adopting product-led go-to markets to grow their user base. We’ll talk about the two main approaches - product-led growth and product-led sales - today.

What’s product-led growth?

Product-led growth is a bottom-up sales motion market where self-serve users drive growth. The idea is simple.

You make it easy for end users - not organizational decision-makers - to try a product. You make the product good and incentivize referrals. As users get value out of your product, they bring on other users, growing your business.

With a pure PLG approach, there’s no need for sales. Growth is baked into the product. Customers sign up for trials, buy subscriptions, and drive sales without your involvement.

In B2B software, an example of product-led growth everyone knows comes from Gmail. They offered a free, beautiful email service with a huge amount of storage to everyone and the rest is history.

A non-software example is Zara. Their clothes are inexpensive, stylish, and easily available. The product sells itself; the brand does no marketing and is immensely successful anyway.

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What are product-led sales?

Product-led sales (PLS) is an approach that combines the benefits of a great product with traditional top-down sales.

Like with PLG, an excellent product is essential for driving growth. Users love it, spread the word, and increase awareness, conversion, and growth. However, in a PLS approach, there's also a sales team that finds and converts leads into customers.

This helps accelerate sales and sell directly to key decision-makers. SDRs, account executives, and others can also work with self-serve users to increase upsells, cross-sells, and renewals.

Brands like Zoom and Slack started with PLG but ended up hiring sales teams. They are classic examples of PLS. The same applies to most PLG companies who use sales teams despite also having strong PLG funnels.

What are the benefits of using PLG and PLS?

Rapid growth

PLG and PLS rely on product usage to drive growth. This lets you sell a virtually unlimited number of subscriptions quickly. PLG and PLS make exponential growth possible, which is how they put so many products in hypergrowth.

A better product

Product-led approaches require a smaller investment in sales. This gives you more resources to work on your product. There’s also a stronger incentive to make your product incredible in order to grow your product’s usage. All of this leads to better software.  

Lower customer acquisition costs

When your product attracts and retains customers by itself, there’s no need to spend as much on sales or marketing.

Higher conversion and retention rates

PLS strategies use experimentation, data, and iteration to create better user and customer experiences. This increases customer satisfaction, increasing conversion rates while reducing churn.

Challenges of using PLG and PLS

Product-led approaches have their own drawbacks. Here are some of the main ones.

New ways of thinking

Shifting from focusing on sales to focusing on the actual product is difficult (read more here). You need new skill sets, new attitudes, and maybe even new team members to succeed. Some organizations can’t (or won’t) make the effort to change.

Measuring success

It can be hard to determine if a product-led approach is working. Metrics like user engagement, satisfaction, and retention are harder to measure than total sales made. This can be a problem, because a product-led go-to-market is  reliant on data.

Developing a winning product is hard

Developing a winning product is challenging. It requires a strong product development team and support from other departments like marketing and customer success. Iteration and data analysis are often involved.

How to measure the success of your PLG strategy


Two key KPIs for acquisition are lead-gen conversion rate and referral rate. The first measures how many people sign up as leads after seeing your offer.

The second, referral rate, tells you how many users refer new users to your SaaS product. This is a key metric in PLG, since you’re relying on self-serve users to drive growth for you.

Product usage

To grow effectively with PLG, you need a healthy number of users. KPIs like monthly active users (MAU) and churn rate are important here, letting you know how many people use your SaaS product.


Are users finishing their trials or quitting midway? How many people are buying your upsells, cross-sells, or core subscriptions? Trial conversion rate and time to value are two key KPIs to keep an eye on here.

How to measure the success of your PLG strategy

You don’t have to switch from sales-led growth to PLG and PLS immediately. But here are some ways to use PLG and PLS tactics whatever your go-tomarket is.

Offer a free product version

Offer a time or feature-limited trial. Make it easy for end users to adopt your product. This is a staple of any PLG go-to market. If you’re not sure what to offer for free, look at what the competition is doing or think about what makes prospects love your product.

Have a strong customer-facing team

With product-led approaches, users drive growth. For this to work, you need users to be happy - and you need to understand their wants and needs. The best way to do this is with a strong customer-facing team.

Quality education, support, and troubleshooting are key. Roles like customer support and customer success help retain customers and get referrals. They also give you insights into which features to add, how to drive referrals, etc

Maximize product-market fit

You are relying on your product to sell itself, so make it valuable to your target audience. Study user preferences and industry trends; experiment and collect data; analyze and iterate. The more you tailor your offer to your users, the better.

Simplify the onboarding process

Make it easy for users to try your product, then buy it once they need it. Make it easy to sign up; educate users so they get value from your product; streamline the purchase process. The easier it is to join and succeed as a user, the more growth you’ll see.

Run a referral program

Word-of-mouth marketing is essential to PLG and PLS. Encourage users to refer friends and colleagues in exchange for incentives like discounts or free upgrades.. A well-known example is Dropbox, who gave users extra storage for every referral.

Make the most of your PLG and PLS Strategy

Salesbricks makes it easy to execute your PLG strategy. Our platform lets you run free trials, create self-serve SaaS quotes that convert users, and more.

Price, quote, convert, and invoice your customers easier than ever before. Focus less on processes and more on developing a product that drives sales and growth.

To see what we can do for you, book a free demo today!