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Everything You Need To Know About Sales-Led GTM Strategy

Everything You Need To Know About Sales-Led Go-To-Market (GTM) Strategy

A sales-led GTM strategy is an approach where the sales team takes the lead in developing and executing the GTM strategy

Why A Sales-Led GTM Strategy Is Needed For SaaS Success

Launching a new product/service, introducing an upgraded one or entering a new market is challenging. Therefore, companies require a full-fledged plan or a go-to-market (GTM) strategy to corner success. A GTM strategy or ‘motion’ tends to vary, though. The critical trigger could be the product itself, its unique users, content/demo or other interesting factors. 

Apple’s iPhones are probably the best example of a near-perfect GTM with a diversified appeal (tech, aesthetics, functionality, you name it, and they have it). However, companies specialising in enterprise tech or SaaS products often stick to hardcore B2B promotion that rarely fails to drum up interest.

When a company adopts a sales-led GTM plan, its sales team remains in charge, developing and executing the go-to-market strategy while keeping in mind the key benchmarks of sales and marketing. Long-term and intense sales campaigns are often required if a product is pretty complex in nature with longish time to value (TTV) and costs more than its counterparts. 

To raise awareness among potential customers, a sales team has to initiate conversations with the target audience, explain the value proposition, foster relationships and walk prospects through the entire experience as and when required. This can be a time-intensive process and may result in fewer sales, but may eventually bring higher profits.

Initially, there has to be a critical collaboration between the GTM strategy planners and the marketing team. They closely work towards pinpointing product USP, identifying the target audience and designing user communication to create the buzz around the product/service. As a report by McKinsey points out, the single channel mindset no longer works for sales and ‘hybrid’ emerges, putting customers at the heart of growth. In essence, the co-ordination need not slacken even when the sales team advances towards deal-closing.       

When sales-led GTM is in focus, a SaaS company’s growth, revenue generation and sticky client base will largely depend on how well its sales team (and all who matter) create a GTM strategy. A strong GTM strategy can help a SaaS company upsell, cross-sell, generate referrals and mitigate product/service launch risks.

Five Use Cases When SaaS Players Need A Sales-Led GTM Strategy

A sales-led GTM motion should be based on extensive market research and a thorough understanding of the current and historical market, customer sentiment and the right positioning of the product/service (value alignment). Here are five key use cases when a sales-led go-to-market strategy can help SaaS businesses. 

  • New product/service launch or upgrade: The successful launch of a new product primarily depends on reaching the right audience on the first go. Therefore, a sales-led GTM strategy should ensure that the value proposition reaches and resonates with its target audience. To achieve this, the sales team must identify the most effective communication channels, messaging tools and sales approach to generate initial traction. This will help accelerate the product’s market penetration. Similarly, when a product/service is upgraded, interactions with existing customers change as well. In such cases, sales-led GTM planners showcase its enhanced features and additional advantages and reposition its offerings, if needed.
  • Upheaval in the competitive landscape: In a technology-driven world, the market is constantly evolving, and so is competition, and so should a sales-led GTM strategy. A previous strategy might have worked previously, but it may not be as effective in another use case. On each occasion, a GTM strategy banking on the sales approach should help assess competitors’ moves, adjust pricing strategies, refine messaging and identify new differentiators to enhance market position.
  • Making sense of pricing ups and downs: A change in pricing may alter the perceived value of a product or even the business as a whole. In a price-sensitive market like India, customers take to substitution when prices soar. Still, big price drops may also have negative connotations such as an ugly tussle for market dominance or a potential drop in quality. However, a sales-led GTM strategy can help balance product/service pricing with the value proposition and personally explain these price changes to existing and potential customers to mitigate change resistance.
  • Business & revenue re-innovation: The right innovation at the right time may transform a company’s business model and its earning components may change drastically. This should reflect in its value promise and revenue structure. A sales-led GTM move can smoothly enable this transition by adjusting all customer-facing processes.
  • Shift in customer behaviour: The sales team should also track changing customer behaviour to draw up an effective GTM strategy. Incorporating these changes in communications and sales processes will sync well with prospects’ preferences and needs.

How A Product-Led GTM Approach Differs From A Sales-Led GTM Strategy

Unlike sales-led GTM functions, a product-led GTM framework primarily relies on a company’s product/s to acquire and retain customers. The sales team is not present for extensive product demos or hand-holding prospects throughout the journey. Instead, potential customers can ‘try and buy’ it when a new product is introduced or the company enters a new market. The underlying concept is simple. The product will drive sales and generate revenues by letting customers engage with it through a freemium model.

Understandably, the product-led go-to-market approach has turned the traditional sales-led GTM strategy on its head, ushering in a more agile business development model in sync with a widespread global reachout. Here is a quick look at how the models differ and their pros and cons.    

Should SaaS Companies Adopt A Mix Of Product-Led And Sales-Led GTM Strategies?

At first, sales-led and product-led go-to-market strategies may seem entirely different, each with specific pros and cons. However, buyers today look for the best of both worlds or a hybrid approach, where both models co-exist and complement each other.  

Many self-serve SaaS companies, primarily depending on a product-led GTM motion, have a sales-driven process to cater to prospects looking for more human interventions before closing a deal. On the other hand, potential customers may initially hold discussions with a sales team for product discovery and in-depth information. But they may still want to control their purchasing journey and close deals at their own pace. A DIY product interface/self-serve model can be beneficial in such cases.

A seamless blending of both models has manifold advantages. On the user/customer side, it can help cover the complex requirements of big enterprises, especially regarding the demonstration and implementation of customised features. A sales-led GTM component also allows companies to utilise the sales team’s strengths in cultivating relationships and driving growth. Small-to-medium businesses exploring SaaS for the first time can benefit from a mixed module, too, due to hands-on product experience and the availability of salespeople ready to answer their queries.      

On the business side, a hybrid GTM strategy can help SaaS companies quickly adapt to market changes, reduce CAC and close deals faster due to tech convenience and human hand-holding. 

However, transitioning from a solely sales-led or product-led GTM strategy to a hybrid approach is gradual. SaaS players need to integrate both components within the growth flywheel and optimise their use to obtain the best possible outcomes. A significant hurdle, especially for sales-led SaaS companies, is quickly introducing a user-friendly self-serve model and ensuring that high-touch sales service is not overused. For product-led companies, it will boil down to putting together a high-performance sales team capable of closing high-value enterprise deals so that companies can steer clear of revenue plateaus. 

Two Tech Giants Thriving On Sales-Led GTM Strategy

IBM’s value-based approach: IBM builds strong connections with key decision-makers and influential figures within its target companies, achieved through an extensive network of sales representatives. These individuals are trained to communicate how IBM’s products and services can bring value and meet enterprise-specific requirements. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is about understanding each client’s unique needs and demonstrating how IBM’s offerings meet those requirements. This builds trust and shows potential customers the relevance and benefits of choosing IBM as their growth partner.

Oracle’s perfect alignment: Oracle adopts a more concentrated approach, especially when dealing with large enterprises. This is done through account-based marketing, handled by key account managers. Oracle’s sales team customises all sales pitches and messaging to align with each prospect’s requirements and challenges perfectly. By doing so, Oracle highlights how its products and services can solve the problems unique to each enterprise. This tailored strategy allows Oracle to showcase its precise value, resulting in a higher success rate in securing deals and partnering with enterprises.