Sales-assist is a role with many names. These include - success coaches (Hubspot), user operations (Asana), onboarding specialists (Superhuman, Airtable), enterprise advocates (Atlassian) to name a few. Despite the multitude of names these professionals perform a similar set of core functions across product-led organizations. Lets cover the need, the role, the persona and the importance of this increasingly popular role in SaaS today.
The Need - why do we need sales-assist?
The distance between buyers of software and the end-users has been on a steady decline over the last two decades, as the marketing and sales-led motions fell by the wayside, paving the path for product-led trailblazers. While companies like Slack, Dropbox were initial advents of the product-led motion, numerous companies such as Webflow, Copy.ai, Replit etc. have come up in recent times.
While PLG companies, true to their name, take a product-first approach to drive adoption, solve the users pain points and in turn drive revenue for the company, they eventually hit a plateau. Depending on only the product might result in low feedback loops, points of friction for the user, limitations in organization-wide adoption and difficulties in upselling. These issues give rise to the importance of a sales-assist team within an organization. The best of product companies ranging from Zapier to Airtable have built sales teams to scale product adoption and in turn their organization.
The role - what does a sales assist team do?
In layman's terms, the sales-assist team is an enabler to the user journey. They are the human touch in the product-led approach. They play a critical role in easing the product adoption, augmenting the user experience, solving user pain points, gathering feedback, mining PQLs, driving sales and identifying upsell opportunities. Breaking down these functions individually:
- Enabling PLG: On several occasions, the initial use of the product itself (whether trial or freemium) may need a sales push. In some cases, it may be useful to offer a customized trial/freemium offer to enable large opportunities - such as a large organization that may need to transition over from a different tool.
- Augmenting user experience: Sales-assist teams enable user onboarding, solve points of friction and drive use of features that will unlock maximum value for the customers. They play a key support role and ensure user activation and engagement.
- Mining and converting PQLs: Have strong frameworks or products (such as Toplyne) to mine PQLs. At the best PLG companies, the sales-assists teams have a bird’s eye view of PQLs (Product Qualified Leads) and assist their conversion to paid plans. The help close the deals by completing the its last mile - negotiating discounting, providing the optimal offer and enabling relationships
- Driving Sales: True to their name, sales-assist teams identify opportunities for upsell and enterprise expansion. They can also be a key partner in enabling PQLs and power users to transition into product champions within teams and organizations
- Capture feedback loops: Being the closest to the user, the sales-assist team captures feedback and pushes ideas to the product teams. This enables the teams to reduce friction, improve onboarding and unlock greater value for the user. This is critical for driving future growth.
The When - At what point should the sales-assist team get involved
- The Activate Stage - As you guide evaluators to their “Aha” moment where they start to truly realize their needs from the product, evaluators will use in-product help and guided walkthroughs. Amidst these users, there will be some users of critical importance - leaders who are investigating a new product, or a key influencer. Sales-assist should identify these users from their profile details and carefully nurture them through a personalized approach, as these users could be a gateway to large enterprise deals.
- The Adopt Stage - At the adopt stage, beginners are typically looking for the best ways to integrate your product into their workflows and processes. While most users will explore, sales-assist should keep track of users who seem to be stuck for too long with usage dropping off. These users are having trouble identifying the right means to integrate - and sales-assist may want to bring the right technical and product resources on board to enable their transition to regulars.
- The Adore and Advocate Stages - When users reach this stage, sales can actively identify potential candidates for product references, influential users, and eventual conversions to paid/premium plans - which will need some good old-fashioned research, setting up an infrastructure to investigate product-usage data and identify product-qualified leads. Or just use Toplyne.
The Who - the right persona for this role
There is no one-size fits all approach that can be taken when it comes to identifying the right hire for such a role. The persona depends heavily on the product. A developer first or open source product such as MongoDB, Postman or Retool might require a more technical support while relatively less technical products such as Slack, Loom or Calendly might require a less technical, more sales-first (AEs or BDRs) personas to perform this role.
Updated 5 months ago