How to Accelerate Sales with User Onboarding

Written by: Ty Magnin Ty Magnin 

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For many product people, “sales” can be a bad word. In their minds, if you focus your attention building a product that solves a serious problem people have in a great way, you don't need sales people at all, right?

The bad rep of sales comes to a large extent from its associating it with sleazy “snake oil” techniques and spammy emails like this masterpiece:

user onboarding sales email
The big secret is that it doesn't have to be one or the other.

We're used to thinking about user onboarding and sales as two completely separate things that don't play well together. In reality, combining the two can make you much more effective in acquiring new users.

First, the onboarding flow of your product gives you a chance to achieve a great experience that makes a product “fly off the shelves.” This is especially important for self-serve SaaS products where the team doesn't have the resources to talk to every new user and make sure they understand how to use the product.

Moreover, sales is still a super valuable department that works great for many companies. The downside to it is that it's highly resource-intensive—you need reps to reach out to customers, schedule calls, run demos, etc. By using the onboarding flow to enable your sales team, you can equip them with better information, point them to those people who are most worthy of their time, and help them close more sales faster.

Segment: Get higher quality leads with Predictive Lead Scoring

For technical products like Segment, providing hands-on help to new users is often essential to success. However, these teams also face the challenge of finding the most cost-effective and scalable way to do this.

Segment has developed a great way to reduce friction at sign-up and make sure salespeople on the team are talking to the best prospects. Instead of pushing new users through a lengthy signup flow, the company uses Clearbit to pull data on users, which it then feeds it into Madkudu, a predictive lead scoring tool.

Users who qualify as high-value prospects in this process see an additional checkbox during signup asking them if they would like to receive help getting set up:

user onboarding lead scoringQualifying users before they see the product and allowing them to opt into a call allows Segment to focus their resources on working with customers who are most likely to succeed with their product.

The results Segment has achieved by switching to this approach show its benefits:

  • By simplifying and automating the signup process, the company increased signups by 20%.
  • It gets clear data which allows it to send personalized emails with better content leading to more requests for demos by new users.
  • Score leads more accurately has also increased the number of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) the company gets.

Appcues: Increase sales demos with in-app messages

Product demos are one of the most convincing tools for selling software, and as a result sales teams are always on the lookout to increase their numbers.

Most products try to engage users through email, and we were no exception to this approach. However, we were really struggling with the success of our email campaigns, and no matter what tests we ran or how we tried to optimize our campaigns, nothing seemed to move the needle.

Then we realized that we weren't targeting our users in the right environment. The best place to engage the users of any product is while they're using it. That's when we decided to experiment with an in-app message delivered during the free trial process, right as users were experiencing the value of the app for the first time.

We used the message to invite users to ask questions and get on a call with a sales rep:

user onboarding slideout appcuesTo make this tactic even more productive, we specifically target Product Qualified Leads (or PQLs) with these messages. We look for product triggers, i.e. user actions that typically signal a possibility of conversion. To give you an idea, here are some of the actions we use to define leads that are product qualified:

  • Embed code is installed
  • Invited a user
  • Published a set of flows in Appcues

Using this combination of tactics has allowed us to boost the number of monthly sales demos we get from the product by 50%:

user onboarding graphIn addition, we not only have a longer list of customers to talk to, but our sales team is also not wasting time talking to the users who aren't likely to become long-term customers.

Customer.io: Higher conversion to paid accounts with concierge onboarding

The onboarding flow is not just a great opportunity to identify potential high-value customers, but also to start educating and supporting them so that they realize the value of your product as quickly as possible. Getting users to an “Aha!” moment sooner means higher conversion and retention, both of which add up over time:

user onboarding retentionSource

Customer.io discovered the benefits of this approach to conversion when they ran an A/B test in which they emailed 400 new users two days after signup offering half of them to get on a call to help them get started with using the product.

Before the call, the team tries to get new users to send examples of emails they want to send so they can integrate their data into the tool and give them personalized tips based on their goals. In general, Customer.io has found that the most successful conversations end up with a clear path forward that includes a list of to-do's and a reason to get in touch with that customer again.

In the test, Customer.io users who received the offer for concierge onboarding were almost twice as likely to become paying customers compared to those who didn't:

user onboarding conciergeThe results of this process are lower compared to the long-term Customer.io conversion rate to paid accounts of 6%, but conversion happens much quicker than the usual 60 to 90 days. The team believes that concierge onboarding helps them shorten that time and get people to discover the value of the product faster. During these calls, the team has been able to:

  • Address any remaining objections to paying.
  • Increase trust in the product and the company.
  • Give people time-saving tips specific to their use of the product.

This tactic can be used even more productively if applied to high-value leads who are best positioned to take advantage of your product. The example of Segment showed us how this can be achieved by qualifying leads before they even see the product.

Converting a new customer starts with onboarding

Don't be afraid to use every interaction with customers to prepare for that critical moment when they'll make a split-second decision whether to start paying you to use your product or not.

The user onboarding flow is a great opportunity to learn about your audience and motivate them to talk to you. That combination arms your sales team to excel in their work and close more deals for your company. Without any snake oil involved.

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