What is a PLG CRM?

A PLG CRM is a tool to help SaaS companies manage their accounts, contacts, and opportunities in a dynamic, real-time way. It takes some of the concepts of a traditional CRM, which were reliant on data input to accurately forecast deals and replaces them with real data from product usage and other sources.

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PLG CRM is a term we first ran into from a post by Astasia Myers at Redpoint Ventures. In her post, Product-Led Growth (PLG) CRM — A Primer, she describes the problem in much the same ways we do:

Why does PLG require new sales tooling? Existing CRMs like Salesforce do a great job as a source of truth for prospective and existing customers’ information, sales engagement history, opportunity tracking, and governance. They don’t give GTM teams visibility into free plans, trial, or non-paying users. Traditional CRMs don’t capture information about product usage and user journeys before payment. This information is crucial for sales reps trying to identify signals of whether a person or account is ready to convert. Without this information it is hard for sales reps to prioritize leads. Traditional CRMs also don’t help sales reps understand the next best action to win an account. We’ve heard some PLG companies have already felt the pain and have built internal solutions using Segment and Looker to solve the problem. A modern PLG-focused CRM is needed.

While we believe the problem goes beyond PLG companies, this is very much aligned with our vision to give everyone in an organization the ability to drive growth. What makes Variance different is two big things:

  1. It was built for everyone: most data tools were built for people who can write SQL. Even the ones that claim they're simpler still require a pretty strong understanding of what's there and how it works. Variance is different. We're doing the hard work of translating the data into the language of sales. All you have to do is follow the accounts and contacts you care about.
  2. It's about action, not analysis: you surely already have a BI tool (or three) laying around. They're great, but they're fundamentally designed to look backward and understand trends and changes. Our goal is to make all that same data operational in the moment: allowing you to take actions when your prospects and customers do. Big prospect just invite three new users onto the platform? Reach out. Mid-size customer just check out the pricing page? Good time to drop a text.

Why do we need a new CRM

Why is it time for a new approach to CRM? To set the stage, here’s a paragraph from a recent Harvard Business Review piece on the need to streamline B2B sales:

Vendors of customer relationship management (CRM) technology have built a $60 billion global industry around such problems. Every major B2B company invests millions each year in sales technologies, yet 62% of 167 companies surveyed recently by Bain & Company said the return on their investment fell short of expectations. What companies hoped would be an intelligent CRM system ends up being used as a simple accounting and workflow management system.

Any of us who have spent any amount of time with CRM can relate to that. But, unfortunately, too many CRM systems are little more than a dumb database that you have to fight with salespeople to keep updated. 

It’s been that way for too long, and something’s got to give. When I think about the problem, three big themes emerge:

  1. CRM was built with the expectation of salespeople updating fields. The days of sales data being updated by people are thankfully mostly behind us. Salespeople are often the most expensive employees in the organization, and lots of work has been done—not to mention a vast ecosystem of tools that have been built—to offload the data entry problem of CRM. The issue is that as those tools (think ZoomInfo and Gong) have grown, the strategic role of the CRM has shifted.
  2. CRM is currently too limited in how it defines a customer. For the most part, it’s a pre-sales tool used to track people and companies that have been identified as leads through to their first purchase. Unfortunately, this misses out on lots of actions in the pre-lead stages, and, particularly in a PLG world, most of the revenue growth happens after the initial purchase.
  3. CRM is currently too limited in how it defines an opportunity and the stages those opportunities move through. Anyone who has worked in a subscription business can attest to just how unsatisfying the CRM opportunity model is for renewals and upsells, which blew a big hole in the side of CRM as software companies sought out better answers. But then PLG adds a whole new layer, with many companies moving to volume-based pricing where it is nearly impossible to define a specific opportunity and close date.

How is the Variance approach different?

Most of the other companies working in this space are focused on providing scores and other aggregate data to help with lead qualification. While we believe that's important, and have the ability to sync with your CRM, our focus is much more on empowering everyone in the organization to drive growth. We think the people on the front-line, whether in sales, success, marketing, or product, can all help grow customers if they had better and simpler access to data.

Our app revolves around simple concepts like Following and Streams that makes it easy to access all your customer data in real-time. What's more, Variance is deeply integrated with Slack, to put all your data right where you work.

Everything you need, right where you need it

Get in Touch

Whether you're a PLG company or not, we'd love to talk to you. You can dig into our Docs, check out our blog, or just reach out. We are adding new customers to our early access program every day. If you'd like to try out Variance or check our our on-demand demo, just click below.👇

Try Variance—the leading PLG CRM

Join other top SaaS companies that use Variance to power PQLs.
Get Started 🎉