Sales-led growth (SLG) has long been hailed as the go-to strategy for high-growth companies, excelling at revenue generation and informing product decisions. In contrast, product-led growth (PLG) focuses on viral adoption and user reach. While these approaches differ, both are highly effective.

The question of whether a startup should deploy a sales-led or product-led strategy often arises. The reality is that both are essential. Understanding the trade-offs is crucial for Go-To-Market (GTM) teams. Here’s how to successfully implement both SLG and PLG approaches.

Step 1: Understand Your Audience: Practitioners and Buyers

To deploy both growth models, you must first understand the personas of both practitioners and buyers. Then you need to collect proof points of successful outcomes with existing customers adjacent to the buyer’s vertical and current state to build credibility.

  1. Conduct in-depth research into your target audience: To truly understand your target audience, it is important to conduct deep research, beyond demographics. Look into their pain points, motivations, and behaviors, and identify what drives them to make a purchase or adopt a product. This information can be gathered through surveys, interviews, and online analytics tools. With this data, you can create detailed buyer and user persona profiles that reflect your target audience.

  2. Personalize your approach: Use the insights gathered from your research to tailor your messaging, content, and outreach strategies so they resonate with each persona. For example, create targeted content that addresses their specific pain points or offers solutions to their unique challenges. Use personalized calls-to-action that nudge users to explore the product further or schedule a demo. Personalizing your approach can increase engagement, build trust, and ultimately convert more prospects into satisfied customers.

Understanding your ideal customer profile and personas is crucial for GTM teams to tailor the product experience and sales process to best fit the user and buyer journeys.

Step 2: Build a Blended GTM Strategy That Serves Both Users and Buyers

Invest in PLG self-service experiences and communities while building an enterprise sales machine. Tailor your approach based on how each persona discovers your solution and what value it unlocks for them.

For Users:

  • Foster organic awareness through authentic content
  • Implement a smooth self-service process tailored to users’ technical needs
  • Interact with users based on their product journey

A smooth self-service process lets the user experience the product and may lead to interaction with the sales team as they ask further questions and develop buy-in, or could lead directly to conversion into a paying customer. When interacting with the user persona it is important to pay attention to where they are coming from and what they are doing with the product. Remember that a user wants to lead this process, and if you push them too hard, you may lose them. In this scenario, seek to be helpful and interact in the context of where the user is within their product journey. 

For Buyers:

  • Leverage user champions to bring in buyers
  • Approach buyers with a sales-led engagement
  • Run a structured sales process, including discovery and product demos

By contrast, the buyer persona can typically be targeted through enterprise marketing methodologies. A buyer is typically brought in by a user who can champion the product from their own experience. They may have responded to cold outreach or paid marketing efforts. In this engagement model, buyers are typically looking for a meeting. Approaching them with a sales-led engagement is not only acceptable but also often appreciated, because the buyer wants to be efficient with their resources. 

By taking these actions, you will effectively build a blended GTM strategy that serves both users and buyers, resulting in a smooth and well-understood sales process.

Step 3: Drive Success Through Education and Communication

Although a hybrid PLG and SLG framework can drive great results, it can be difficult for teams to balance these two motions to maximize their impact. It’s important to develop best practices and teach your sellers to recognize and manage interactions contextually. 

To put this into action and avoid pitfalls:

  1. Be aware of persona preferences, and use context and tone to be relevant and trusted 
  2. Establish strong habits around A/B testing conversion rates in the PLG motion. Test the effectiveness of the self-service workflow weekly, and look for qualitative user feedback. They will leave it on the community pages, X, and your chat systems. 


In today’s economy, software buyers are under pressure to prove the ROI of SaaS purchases. Understanding buyer and user alignment is crucial for creating champions for your product, increasing revenue, and minimizing churn. Sales-led or product-led? You need both.