Product-led vs sales-led vs marketing-led: Which one is best for your business?

December 16, 2021
Fred Melanson
8 min
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In business as much as in sports or arts, we look up to leaders.

We look at them in admiration. We analyze them to understand what they're doing differently. What makes them stand out from the crowd.

Every quarterback wants to throw like Tom Brady. Every singer wants to sing like Adele. Every soccer player wants to be Lionel Messi. Every painter wants creativity like Picasso.

The same thing goes for business.

Everyone wants to be like Slack, or Zoom, or Tesla.

We carefully watch what the best are doing, in hopes of applying the same tactics to bring our companies to new heights.

So you might be part of a sales-led organization right now that is facing off against a product-led competitor.

And choosing the wrong growth motion SaaS companies can be the difference between winning and losing the battle.

This article describes the main 3 growth strategies used in SaaS today (product-led, sales-led, marketing-led) and helps you figure out which is best for your business, along with real-life examples and ways to merge multiple growth models together (i.e product-led sales).

product-led-sales-ebook

1.What Is a Growth Motion?

2.What Is Product-Led Growth?

3.What Is Sales-Led Growth?

4.What Is Marketing-Led Growth?

5.What Is Product-Led Sales?

6.Conclusion

What Is a Growth Motion?

A growth motion is a strategy that helps achieve distribution in the market by impacting:

what is growth motion

So we'll describe the 3 main growth motions by how they affect acquisition, retention and monetization, along with examples 🙂

Let's dive in 👇

What Is Product-Led Growth?

Product-led growth is when the product itself is responsible for acquiring, retaining and monetizing customers.

what is product led growth

Acquisition

Examples of product-led companies and their acquisition:

typeform product led growth

Retention

Examples of product-led companies and their customer retention:

docsend retention

Monetization

Examples of how product-led companies grow paying customers:

product led growth example

Who should use product-led growth for rapid growth?

Who should not use product-led growth?

What Is Sales-Led Growth?

Sales and customer success teams engage with prospects/customers in order to drive acquisitions, retention and revenue.

sales led growth

Acquisition

Examples of how sales-led companies drive customer acquisition:

sales led growth acquisition example

Retention

Example of how sales-led saas businesses retain existing customers:

sales led growth retention example

Monetization

Example of how sales-led saas businesses monetize leads:

When should you use SLG?

Who should not use SLG?

What Is Marketing-Led Growth?

Your marketing engages prospects/customers in order to drive acquisitions, retention and revenue.

what is marketing led growth

Acquisition

Examples of how marketing-led companies drive customer acquisition:

hubspot marketing led growth example

Retention

Examples of how marketing-led companies drive retention:

marketing led growth example

Monetization

Examples of how marketing-led companies drive paid conversions:

marketing led growth example

When should you use MLG?

Who should not use MLG?

*Although ABM would be a great add-on to your sales motion in this case.

Mix-and-match

Now, you can very well mix the various growth motions described above, depending on your product, business, and market.

For example, you can be marketing-led for acquisition, sales/success-led for retention and product-led for monetization!

Which company fits that description: Hubspot!

One hybrid that has been REALLY popular, is product-led sales.

What Is Product-Led Sales?

Product-led sales is a combination of product-led growth and sales-led growth.

product-led-sales-ebook

Concretely, it's when you assist your product-led motions with sales execution.

what is product led sales

It's very powerful if executed correctly. In fact, most product-led growth companies adopt product-led sales at some point in their lifecycle.

Good examples of companies that adopted product-led sales are Slack, Figma, Zoom, Lemlist & Miro.

product led sales quote

How Can You Add Product-Led Tactics To Your Sales Or Marketing-Led Motion?

Marketing materials to answer sales objections

How your sales team gets involved?

Engage product-qualified leads who fit your ideal customer profile.

Use marketing engagement insights to prioritize accounts in the sales funnel.

Send case studies to product users who send expansion signals in how they use the product.

Collaborate with product marketing to send meeting nudges through the customer experience.

Send contextual emails through the product-led funnel to provide a killer self-service experience.

Collaborate with success teams to help users who need to go through internal hurdles to get to value in the product.

Connect with free trial users on social media and in communities, to drive them closer to starting the sales cycle.

Adjust the sales cycle to where people are in the product, or how they engage with marketing material.

Recap: Product led vs sales led vs marketing-led

Your company's growth motion can make or break your business when it comes to outpacing the competition.

So choose wisely. And look at what the best are doing.

Many of the fastest-growing software companies adopt hybrid models.

The key is the test and iterate until you find what generates the most predictable, sustainable, and defensible results. Always measure success and aim for company-wide alignment.

We hope this article helped you understand the differences and got you one step closer to building a model that'll bring your business to new heights!

Hope this helped :)

Fred