Product-led Growth

What to expect from a PLG CRM in a hybrid SLG/PLG environment

Yves Delongie
Yves Delongie
July 26, 2023
What to expect from a PLG CRM in a hybrid SLG/PLG environment

Why started building a PLG ‘CRM’

In 2019, my co-founder and I had a vision to create a company that would help businesses gain a better understanding of their customer journey. This idea gave birth to journ(e), reflecting our mission. Initially, we focused on monitoring website behavior, including acquisition channels and campaigns, to identify the most effective strategies leading to long-term customers.

As we progressed, a SaaS customer approached us with a request to incorporate specific SaaS elements like dynamic-URL app screens, events, and user- and account data. They emphasized the value of understanding how people interact with a SaaS platform, enabling predictions about future actions such as potential purchases, the need for more licenses, or even the risk of churn.

About six months later, we stumbled upon an article from OpenView, a Boston-based VC, which introduced us to the proper marketing name for our platform: "a Product-Led Growth (PLG) platform." Some others referred to it as a 'PLG CRM.'

However, at, we are not particularly fond of using the term 'CRM' as it tends to be closely associated with traditional sales-led motions. This conflicts with our commitment to providing insights and solutions beyond the conventional CRM model, empowering businesses to embrace Product-Led Growth and derive deeper understanding from customer interactions with their platforms.

Why would you need a PLG CRM, on top of a traditional CRM?

What exactly is the purpose of a CRM? According to Salesforce, CRMs are designed to "manage all your company's relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers."

The term used is CRM, not LRM (Lead Relationship Management), which begs the question of why today's CRMs seem to be focused on pre-sale activities. The conventional structure typically revolves around the initial call, followed by subsequent interactions, until the customer signs up. After this point, a traditional CRM often lacks crucial product data that could indicate the customer's health post-sale, hampering the identification of upsell opportunities based on usage.

Thankfully, there's a solution in the form of PLG CRMs, which deliver on the promise of managing the entire customer relationship. A PLG CRM is essentially any CRM that contains detailed information about how a customer uses the product and is designed around the product journey rather than the sales journey. This way, product usage data becomes instrumental in determining the customer's stage, rather than just the number of calls they've had with the sales team.

There are several key benefits of using PLG CRMs. Firstly, they uncover more qualified leads by recognizing customers who may already be using the product but have had no interactions with the sales team or made a purchase yet. These Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) are valuable and often overlooked in traditional CRM setups.

Secondly, PLG CRMs offer automated and reliable reporting. Unlike typical CRMs that require manual data input from Sales, Customer Support, or Customer Success teams, PLG CRMs leverage existing product data to infer each customer's stage accurately. This ensures that Revenue Operations (RevOps) always has an up-to-date picture of the sales funnel, enhancing predictability and forecasting, as product data acts as a leading indicator. Moreover, PLG CRMs enable proactive churn reduction by identifying customers with lower activity levels and facilitating outreach to re-engage them.

Example: HubSpot enriched with live PLG scores and signals (left); and with specific PLG-tailored tasks (right) being generated by

Who in your company should use a PLG CRM? How is it used in a mixed SLG/PLG environment?

In your company, it's essential that all departments, including marketing, success, support, and product, have access to a PLG CRM, not just the sales team. Unlike traditional approaches, PLG requires a shift in the role of Customer Success, which should now be involved in the pre-sale process from the moment a customer signs up for the product, guiding them through onboarding and beyond.

To manage this effectively, two distinct pipelines should be established: the "Sales Assisted" pipeline and the "Self-Serve" pipeline. The majority of customers will fall into the Self-Serve pipeline, where they can independently use the product and receive automated assistance along the way. The ownership of the "Self-Serve" pipeline is recommended to be shared between the Customer Success and Product teams. Additionally, the Product or Marketing departments can oversee this pipeline on an aggregate basis, while the Customer Success team can handle it on an individual and personalized level by assisting customers through onboarding and addressing specific issues.

The Sales Assisted pipeline, on the other hand, caters to customers who require additional support in understanding the product, such as Enterprise clients preferring demos or users needing assistance with setup. The Sales team should take ownership of this pipeline. Importantly, customers in the Self-Serve pipeline should always have the option to engage with the Sales team if they have any sales-related queries, like pricing questions.

For a practical example, let's consider how we separate our Self-Serve and Sales Assisted Pipeline. Customers in the Self-Serve category receive automated lifecycle emails and can choose to interact with sales at their convenience.

It's worth noting that the success of this approach relies on customers being able to enter the product self-serve, which is a fundamental requirement for genuine PLG. The key question to ask is whether customers can derive value from the product without needing direct interaction with the sales team. Keep in mind that not the entire product needs to be self-serve, but there should be enough self-serve features for customers to experience some value independently.

What are typical PLG CRM features?

In a PLG company, it is crucial to provide interfaces for each team to gain insights into how customers are using the product. This empowers teams to take appropriate actions based on these insights. The required interfaces include:

  1. Product Interaction View: An overview of all interactions a customer engages in while using the product.
  2. Marketing Interaction View: A clear representation of all marketing interactions a customer has before and after converting.
  3. Customer Account Breakdown: For B2B scenarios, a breakdown of the customer account by individual users associated with the account.

It is vital that each of these views not only provides valuable information but also allows teams to take immediate action on customers. This could include functionalities like sending an email, issuing a refund, or adjusting allowances as necessary.

Which 1st party data should a PLG CRM track?

Let's revisit the initial question that sparked this discussion: Why do we track calls in a traditional CRM? The answer lies in understanding customer intent. The focus is on identifying customers who display intent, as they are more likely to convert. But how do we achieve this in a PLG (Product-Led Growth) environment?

Intent is a nuanced aspect and requires a method to quantify it. This is where health scoring comes into play. To navigate the potentially overwhelming self-serve funnel, it's essential for Sales (e.g., an SDR) to qualify leads as they enter the system and prioritize them accordingly.

Health, conversion, expansion, and churn scoring should leverage both product data and publicly available information about the lead. For instance, customers who frequently use the product for high-value use cases are likely to have a strong intent to make a purchase. Additionally, enriched data from sources like Clearbit or Datagma can provide valuable insights into the size of the company and its industry, contributing to better lead scoring.

For efficient lead scoring models, the ideal place to perform calculations is within which houses all customer data, including billing and product usage information. ensures a comprehensive approach to health scoring and facilitates effective decision-making in a PLG-focused environment.

Should you buy a PLG CRM if not planning to abandon your traditional CRMs?

Specialized PLG CRMs like are not designed to replace your existing CRMs. Instead, they offer a convenient way to perform out-of-the-box analysis without relying on a dedicated data team. The valuable metrics generated by these PLG CRMs can be directly used to take action, or they can be seamlessly integrated with traditional CRMs such as Salesforce, HubSpot, Pipedrive, ZOHO and others, providing broader visibility to the entire sales and CS teams.

In cases where you are heavily invested in your current CRM and transitioning to a new tool might be challenging, you have the option to extend your existing CRM to achieve an 80% solution. While remains a superior long-term PLG solution, it might not be immediately suitable for your sales organization as a stand-alone tool. Your pre-sales CRM (e.g. HubSpot), post-sales CRM (e.g. Intercom), and marketing CRM (e.g. can all start embodying PLG features if connected to and incorporating product usage data.

They then can utilize this data to drive workflows throughout the whole customer journey.

Conclusion: How to transition from SLG to PLG, using a PLG CRM?

The transition flow from only using a traditional CRM to adding a PLG CRM, follows a gradual evolution of the transition of GTM strategy:

  1. Pure Sales-Led: Initially, the CRM holds no information about leads and customer activities on the platform. Sales departments rely on meeting-oriented sales processes.
  2. Sales-Led Product-Assisted: Usage indicators are integrated into the traditional CRM, enabling sales departments to prioritize outreach and close deals more efficiently using the available data.
  3. Product-Led Sales-Assisted: The sales process is further automated by incorporating health, conversion, expansion, and churn scoring alongside PLG signals and cohorts. Sales departments intervene only when prompted by the PLG platform. They receive tasks in their traditional CRM (from their PLG CRM) with context on why and how to engage with a lead. Traditional sales outreach continues alongside the PLG motion.
  4. Pure Product-Led: In this stage, all sales processes are fully automated, and sales departments only engage with customers when specifically requested to do so. There are no additional sales workflows.

To learn more about transforming your CRM into a PLG CRM, create your account today. Experience firsthand how your traditional CRM will evolve into a cutting-edge 21st-century SaaS engagement platform, equipped to handle your PLG or hybrid SLG/PLG motion.

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