Co-Authored Article with Michael Chetner PT2

Michael Chetner

31 JANUARY 2024

Structuring and incentivising Go-To-Market (GTM) teams for Product-Led-Sales 

Michael grew Zoom’s APAC business from $200k+ to triple digit millions in ARR (500x+) and through its IPO. He also scaled the operations and GTM teams at ACANO through an acquisition and rapidly grew Poly’s APAC businesses. 

So, we asked him about structuring GTM teams as companies transition from PLG to Product-Led-Sales:

What tips do you have for B2B SaaS founders and GTM leaders on how to structure GTM teams at different stages of a company’s growth?

We split the sales teams initially across various segments: Online (<10 users), SMB (11-250), Commercial (250-1000) and Majors (1000+). This segmentation was supported by data (both internal & external) that reflected different buying habits and priorities between each of the groupings. It also reflected the channels to market needed for each group and a wide range of sales experience required - from entry level to experienced sales, but also provided a natural internal career pathway. 

We also needed to separate the sales team into 2 distinct motions: 

i) acquisition of new logos, and

ii) the retention and upsell of existing users with an Account Management team. 

This was critical in ensuring the right focused sales activity for each. For acquisition, it was significant outbound activity and responding to leads, and for Account Management it was working with Customer Success to ensure the right balance of training, adoption and building reference accounts to retain and upsell. This was critical in achieving a 70+ NPS and 140% Net Dollar Retention sustained over many years.

As we grew sales teams, I constantly was trying to work out the right balance between acquisition reps and account managers and this evolved, including redeploying both reps and account managers regularly. In the early days, acquisition was key and activity increased naturally for the account management team. Frankly, this is where you are hands on, in the trenches and scrappy but everyone is contributing as there are no rules but with clear priority on fast lead response times to every lead and constant customer touch

What tools and tactics should B2B SaaS founders and GTM leaders be aware of to maintain several vectors of growth and not just rely on Product-Led-Growth (PLG)? 

What goes up, must come down and at some point, leads will reduce as well lead to rep ratios. This is where the inbound/outbound sales motion balance is critical and the focus on continuous sales rep enablement is important. A reliance on inbound PLG leads is dangerous, not only for when volumes decrease but also to ensure reps are properly trained and engaged in developing pipeline based on their outbound activity. We used tools such as Outreach for email sequencing and to monitor rep activity. Zoom also had a native AI solution called SalesIQ which analysed customer interactions to provide key insights, and actions from sales meetings. Recent AI developments has seen rapid improvements to these tools in the last 12 months.

Later on, as the platform developed, it was critical to pivot into cross selling new applications, which is difficult due to the required product knowledge change for sales reps, as well as more technical customer requirements, whilst also seeing the separate acquisition-account management motion lose relevance with a large installed base in place. The need for efficiency at scale especially for the SMB segment was critical e.g.,  improving the online self-serve upgrades & renewals experience.

For APAC, it was also critical to build local presence and language capability, rather than have leads serviced from another time zone or being deprioritised for being "too hard". 

Typically PLG scaleups reach a scale where they need to move upmarket to hit the next level of growth. What does that transition look like and how can scaleups leverage product data to find early champions and penetrate the enterprise?

Moving upmarket was the next priority with high touch sales and presales engineering teams that relied on more traditional Sales Led Growth components. The benefits of PLG derived data – from Data Science teams – here was critical in getting into a large organisation and finding Zoom users registering with their corporate domain. With the trial product, we had pockets of usage across many large organisations. By using usage data, we could isolate which part of the business was using it, target them and understand why they were using it and then search for opportunities to expand within the organisation. This analysis allowed us to tailor our pitch to product owners, procurement and decision makers with qualitative and quantitative data. Fortunately, the main reason for usage of Zoom was frustration with existing products, but it also reflected what the champions and early adopters needed within these organisations to progress a sales cycle. 

Marketing activity focused on SEO, SEM and driving traffic to trailing products. As we progressed upmarket and to a wider platform/cross sell story, marketing activity increased also to target specific industries and verticals to drive MQL with events, campaigns and case studies.


Tips for increasing sales efficiency and time to value

Through Michael’s career, he successfully sold startup products to a range of businesses of different sizes and sectors. The biggest test for startups is getting their products into the hands of customer advocates and proving value quickly. We asked Michael:

What are your tips on increasing sales efficiency and shortening sales cycle particularly in the context of a PLG company? 

The focus on existing usage data is critical. High priority would be given to those organisations where there was high free usage with a low number of paid accounts. When there was clear virality and validation of the product, we moved fast to qualify and quantify this information, and then get in front of key decision makers / solution owners. For example, the advocates would likely be paid users inviting others, and were key in identifying solution owners and decision makers.

A good qualification process is key. Once we engaged with a solution owner, usually a CIO - they either 

i) embraced the information from digital change advocates and progressed a wider deployment or

ii) disqualified deployment and shut down usage. 

Therefore, advocates (e.g. change agents, early adopters etc.) were key in ensuring adoption from customer solution owners. 

The importance of acquiring local logos was also critical as it quickly provided validation and credibility in future pipeline development. By nature, these first local customers are experimental, innovative change agents and are also usually the ones to provide honest feedback. The use of these logos help build credibility for other prospects on what your product stands for eg. focus on tech/fin services reflect innovation, security etc. These early customers also want to be on the growth journey, are genuinely interested, and will be the most valuable advocates. By the same token, personal follow up with customers that churn is critical in early product development. 

We also had great success focusing on local, tech start ups as they reflected similar values and culture to Zoom, and they needed tools like Zoom to grow quickly – the likes of Canva, Atlassian, GO1, Grab, Safety Culture to name a few really helped our local growth. Once we moved into the Enterprise, we won NAB as a key early adopter customer which provided validation and credibility within that target financial services vertical.

In many cases our biggest advocates were CEOs of customers who were using Zoom based on invites from other early adopter CEO users and wondering why their own experience wasn't the same with their current products. Not only does this validate the reach of PLG even to the CEO as a user, but also the importance of the speed and reach needed to penetrate prospects, using data to accelerate usage and adoption with the right advocates - and in many cases where there was resistance internally. 

Another critical success factor was the Zoom CEO and founder, Eric Yuan, personally reaching out to CEOs.It was important for sales to engage him as much as possible as a successful prospecting tool. The focus on personal reach by CEO/founder/executives for early customers in each market was critical.

Lastly, the importance of getting your first sales hires from within the industry early cannot be understated. Knowing where to look and finding the right advocates can provide quick wins and logos to start the acquisition journey.

What incentives should be set for Go-To-Market teams in a product led sales strategy? How can Product teams help GTM teams with closing large deals or accelerating sales velocity?

Sales rewards in a PLG strategy needs to not only focus on net new revenue and logos only. The focus is on upsell and cross sell too. The importance of customer success teams (post sales) to ensure a full lifecycle is maintained and for retention and upsell can’t be understated. CS is a critical part of GTM. Online also must be considered in terms of promotions, SEM etc. within the broader web marketing strategy.

When acquiring customers, SPIFFs/bonuses related to contract terms and new logos are important and incentivise sales people accordingly. These can be multipliers or separate cash components. For prospects, the ability to extend trials easily, and to a large user group is important - as is an aggressive competitive buyout program to increase sales velocity . Acquiring customers early and quickly with the right incentives both for sales people and for prospects – especially when the product experience is superior to your competitors - becomes invaluable for the long term journey. In many cases customers don’t know what they don’t know, so making it easy to use the product with no risk  through e.g. free trials becomes critical.


We hope you found Michael’s thoughts on product led sales as insightful as we did.

🚨 OIF and AWS for startups Workshop with Michael Chetner 🚨

Off the back of this article we're thrilled to be hosting a workshop with Michael and the AWS for startups team for your chance to pick his brains on some of the most sought-after topics

Date: Thursday 22nd February

Time: 5pm - 7pm AEST

Location: AWS Offices - Level 8, 2 Market St, Sydney 2000