Big news! We've raised money to empower sales teams at product-led companies. Learn more

The new wave of selling 🌊

by Brendan Short
Tuesday, October 12, 2021

We've raised our first round of funding to empower sales teams at product-led companies. 🌊

Most companies make a fundraising announcement in hopes to create a spike in website traffic, gain some followers on social, and ideally get a bunch of new sign-ups. It’s free marketing, great branding for future hires and investors, and hey, it’s a nice thing to send home to Mom, who still doesn’t really understand what “SaaS Startup” means, no matter how many “How I Built This” episodes she listens to (sorry @mom, love you!).

The problem with this trend (IMHO) is that it can feel a bit self-serving. Many companies say that they are here to serve the customer. But a fundraising announcement doesn’t always read in a way that is adding value to the customer. I believe this is broken.

So, I'm going to try something different with this announcement. My goal with the next 800 words is to humbly pass along some learnings from the 150+ calls my co-founders and I have had over the last few months, in hopes to share helpful information that you can take action on today. If you're on the frontlines trying to figure out how to build the product-led sales motion at your company, you can skip to the next section, where I hope there is a bit of information that's helpful to you and your teammates. And I'd love to hear from you: what are you learning that's working?

If you want to read about our fundraise, check out the four bullet points below (likely just other investors 👀 and our competitors 👋) —

  • Our round came together very quickly, as we began full-time on Groundswell in August, started the fundraise in September, and were fully closed within weeks.
  • Village Global led the round. Erik Torenberg started On Deck, and that's where Nick, Hari and I met. So it was fitting when they showed interest in investing via his fund, Village Global. We had incredible conversations with amazing investors, but this was a no-brainer fit for the lead investor for our first round of funding.
  • Raaid Hossain, my former boss, also participated through his fund, PIF.vc. GTMfund also gave us their vote of confidence in our vision. And we were also able to bring on board some incredible angel investors who are GTM leaders from leading SaaS companies such as Slack, Docusign, Typeform, Snowflake, Zendesk, Workato, and many others.
  • We'll use the funds to make our first full-time hires, bring the initial product to market, and validate the hypothesis we've come to have deep conviction around. If you know an incredible engineer, we'd love to talk with them — more on that towards the end of this post.

Alright, let’s dive in...

Try before you buy is here to stay.

Freemium, PLG, bottom-up, etc. There is a lot of content on this topic (here, here, and here) — they do a great job explaining and quantifying the importance of this new GTM motion. We aren’t going to spend any time convincing you it’s the right move for your business. Instead, we want to share our learnings in talking with 150+ folks on the front lines, who already have successfully implemented a product-led sales motion, and are actively improving it today.

Buyers are using products before ever engaging with sales reps. I observed this first-hand last year, while I was working at Zoom. The problem is, the tools for sellers have not kept up to meet buyers where they're at, in their new way of buying.

We believe that the future wave of selling is consultative and adds value in every interaction. We don’t want cold emails to random prospects. We want to help facilitate more efficient interactions between buyers and sellers. This world is better for both buyers and sellers.

Below are the top four lessons we’ve learned so far in talking with the top leaders at companies who are navigating the complexities of having both a bottom-up (PLG) and top-down (Enterprise sales) motion.

Learning #1 - Key Stakeholders

Who should own this project at your company?

Operationalizing a product-led motion for your revenue team requires many stakeholders. It’s different for every company, and there is no “right way” to build this out internally. So if you’re struggling to know how to do it, take rest in knowing, you’re not alone. Here’s what we have seen.

You'll need an "Admin" or a quarterback. You'll need end users to execute on what the admin sets up. You'll likely need an executive sponsor for the project. And finally, you'll need support from product and a salesforce admin.

  1. Admin (RevOps/Growth/Product): define metrics and thresholds that matter for the business
  2. End users (AEs/SDRs): execute "sales plays" based on the insights that the Admin configures
  3. Executive sponsor (CRO/CMO): decide who owns the project and drive towards strategic outcomes
  4. Product (supporting role): keys to product data in the warehouse or customer data platform
  5. Salesforce admin (supporting role): create the relevant custom fields in Salesforce

Learning #2 - Current Solutions

How are companies solving this today?

There are four ways folks are putting product usage data into the hands of sales reps today:

  1. Analytics
  2. BI Tools
  3. Reverse ETL
  4. DIY

Many companies have built a DIY solution, either using internal engineering resources, or by patching together multiple tools.

Learning #3 - Best Practices

At this point, you’re probably thinking “okay, so how do I build this the right way?”

The unfortunate reality is, we have yet to see a flawlessly executed system. After all, if this was a solved problem we wouldn't be dedicating the next decade+ of our lives to build out a solution for it. There are a few companies that are close. But we wouldn’t exist if we didn’t think there needed to be a standalone solution in the market. With that said, there are a few key learnings that the best-in-class PLG companies have in common, that we wanted to share today.

  1. Get all the stakeholders in the room together, and aligned.
  2. Know your key metrics (ie: Activation, AHA moment, PQLs)
  3. Tight feedback loops (both ways!) between the “Admin” (ie: RevOps) and “End User” (ie: AEs)

The process usually takes about three months, several stakeholders internally across departments, and can be expensive.

Learning #4 - A Few Contrarian Things we have Come to Believe

How is Groundswell different than other solutions on the market?

There was one slide in our investor deck that I almost didn’t include, but it ended up being a favorite. I am including it here because I think it may help customers evaluate software to help them operationalize their product-led sales Go-to-market motion:

Our Asks

Hopefully, we’ve earned the right to make a few asks. Here they are, very explicitly:

Hiring

We’re actively hiring — if you are interested in this space, and want to build a very meaningful business, or if you know someone that fits this mold, please reach out to me, Nick or Hari.

Customer Feedback

We’re actively working with folks from the best-in-class product-led sales companies (Figma, Loom, Hopin, Amplitude, Dooly, etc.) to help better support them and build out their dream solution. If you are at a company that has product-led sales, please reach out to me, Nick or Hari.

Say Hello

If this was helpful, or if you have any feedback (positive, neutral, or negative!), please reach out to me. I’m always looking to improve, and feedback is invaluable to me. Also, if you just want to acknowledge that you read this, say hello 👋 — we'd love to hear from you!

Thank you

I'd be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to thank the folks who have helped us already, with feedback, fundraising, and laughs.

Erik Torenberg and Lucas Bagno have been fantastic to work with, and the serendipity was palpable from our first conversation, given Nick, Hari, and I met at On Deck — we're very excited to partner with Village Global on this journey. Max Altschuler and the GTMfund have been incredibly helpful already. Thank you also to Raaid Hossain, Lars Nielsson, Mike Liller, Jon Natkins, Franciska Dethlefsen, Katie Jane Bailey, Nik Atrey, Steven Broudy, Andrew Riesenfeld, Brad Smith, Aaron Grunfeld, Kyle Williams, Greg Meyer, Karan Singh, Topher Haddad, Aaron Bailey, Sterling Montes, and so many more. Building a company can be lonely at times — your support means more than you know.

Alright, Oscar speech over — the music is playing me off the stage.

__________

Today is Day 1.

But we plan to be on this journey for the next 15+ years.

So don’t be a stranger.

✌️

-Brendan (Nick and Hari)

Co-founder & CEO, Groundswell 🌊

PS - if you’re a founder or aspiring founder, subscribe to my personal weekly newsletter, where I openly journal about things I’m learning along the way (ie: finding co-founders, customer discovery, fundraising, first employee equity). Or better yet, come work with us and learn first-hand! I’m tremendously grateful for founders who have given me tons of advice to get me to where I am today, so I genuinely want to pay that forward.