MEDDPICC & PLG: An interview with John McMahon

April 11, 2023
MEDDPICC & PLG: An interview with John McMahon
Justin Dignelli

Closing deals is tough. You do everything you can to make sure everything is buttoned up only to get an unpleasant surprise at the last minute. Sound familiar?

That's where MEDDPICC comes in.

In this article, we’re looking at how MEDDPICC, the time-tested enterprise sales framework, can be integrated into a PLG sales process. Who better to guide us than the father of MEDDPICC himself, a 5-time public company CRO, author of The Qualified Sales Leader, and board member of Snowflake and MongoDB, John McMahon.

We’re drawing on insights from our recent conversation with John.

But first, a refresher…


If you're in sales, you've almost certainly heard of MEDDPICC. 

MEDDPICC is a deal qualification framework that helps you find and address risks in a deal to give yourself the best chance of winning.

John suggests thinking of MEDDPICC as a roadmap or checklist that ensures you've considered all the necessary elements to close a deal.

Let’s explore each term:

Metrics: Refers to the quantifiable and measurable value your solution provides to the customer. 

If you're at the highest levels of any organization, you're going to frame whatever your product does in terms of increasing revenues, reducing costs, improving efficiency or reducing risk. If you can't frame it in one of those four ways, then you're not selling at the highest levels and you're not going to do an enterprise-wide deal.

- John McMahon

Economic Buyer: This is the person with ultimate authority in the buying decision.

Decision Criteria: What are the “required capabilities” or the factors the customer considers to decide whether to move forward with your solution?

Decision Process: How do decisions get made at your prospect’s company? Who are the different stakeholders who can sway the final decision one way or the other?

Paper Process: If the Decision Process is how the decision gets made, the Paper Process is how the decision gets enacted. These are the steps that follow the decision process leading to a signed contract, like legal reviews, procurement procedures, and security questionnaires.

Implicate the Pain: This refers to not only identifying the specific pain points your prospect feels by sticking with the status quo but also the negative consequences of those pain points.

Champion: An influential and credible individual within the customer's organization who supports your solution and advocates for it to others.

Competition: Any person or organization competing for the same resources or funds as your solution.

What does MEDDPICC stand for again?

From Lead to Close: Using MEDDPICC to Drive Product-Led Sales

So, does MEDDPICC still have a place in product-led sales? We certainly think so (and John, the sales legend who made it famous, seems to agree).

Let’s take a look at each piece of the framework and discuss how it changes (or stays the same) in product-led sales.


As sellers at product-led companies, we have access to a whole set of product usage data that help us understand how our customers are using the product.

Product-led sales focuses on putting this data to work. John points to how you can expand the successes of your self-service users to win an enterprise-wide deal:

Now you have product usage data so you know what the use case is, you know who the key people are, you know what good looks like. So you can go back to understand what did they do before they started using your product? Now let's talk about how they do it today. Maybe they took steps out of a process, maybe there are fewer people in that process so that it's quicker. All of these small, quantifiable wins are what go into building a cost justification to expand across the organization.

- John McMahon

This data can also be used to gauge your chances of success. 

Let's say you're upselling free users of your company’s note-taking app to the premium plan that costs $199 a month. Users who have only been using the product for a few months might switch to another product rather than pay the fee. But if they've used your platform for a year, they're less likely to jump ship because of the time invested in your app, and switching costs are higher.

Economic Buyer

One thing you likely won’t find in the product: the economic buyer.

Like traditional sellers, product-led sellers can have blind spots when running a deal. Getting to the EB requires you to leverage the information from the product usage data and the insights you gain by developing a relationship with your champion.

Decision Criteria

As with getting to the economic buyer, sussing out a customer’s decision criteria hinges on building a relationship with your champion. 

Jeremy Powers, CRO of Gretel, offers this perspective:

A PLG motion makes identifying a customer’s decision criteria, pain points, and competition easier. If approached the proper way, self-service users can be more forthcoming than traditional prospects. I like to start out by asking for feedback on their experience with Gretel (I sound less like a traditional sales person and more like a product expert). From there, you can get more into their specific project and how they are thinking about the decision. 

- Jeremy Powers, CRO of Gretel

Decision Process

While building rapport with existing users can be a great way to qualify a deal, it has its limitations. Ultimately, the individual users of your product may have little to no visibility into how purchasing decisions are made. That’s why it’s so critical you take the information you learn from your champion and use it to engage with a broader set of stakeholders.

Paper Process

The paper process can be a blessing or a curse in product-led sales.

Sometimes, the need for custom legal terms, stricter availability, or security guarantees creates a compelling reason for customers to purchase via a sales-led channel. Understanding these requirements can help make a case for moving from a free or pay-as-you-go plan to something more custom.

On the other hand, many users may have opted for a self-service plan explicitly to avoid the hassles of internal procurement processes. Understanding this dynamic ensures you won’t have any unpleasant surprises at the end of the quarter.

Implicate the Pain

Identifying pain can be challenging for many sellers coming from a sales-led motion into a product-led one. We often try to identify pain that can be addressed using our solution. 

If you’re trying to expand the footprint of your product to net new teams within an organization, that approach works just fine.

However, suppose you’re running an upsell motion. In that case, your customers already have access to that solution, and your role is to identify the negative consequences of maintaining the status quo.

In many cases, that requires a deeper understanding of your product and its various features.


When you're at the highest levels, you need someone to back up what you just told the decision-maker about the benefits to their company. You need to get somebody to endorse your claims.

- John McMahon

Spotting champions is easier in PLG since you can quickly see who's most active in your product by examining data (using tools like Pace). You can also use insights from their specific usage of your product to build a consultative relationship with potential champions.

As with sales-led motions, your champion likely personally benefits from your product and must be able to influence decisions within their organization.


The mistake sellers in PLG companies make is thinking that because the prospect is already using your product, they aren't considering other options. 

Beyond other vendors, consider less obvious “competitors” like taking the learnings from your product and building a “DIY” version internally.

A reliable framework, updated

In B2B SaaS, there’s a new acronym to learn every other day. Fortunately, MEDDPICC is both a tested framework for derisking deals and just as applicable for product-led sales as it was when John McMahon and his colleagues at PTC coined the term almost 30 years ago.

If you want to hear more of John’s advice from his storied career, check out The Qualified Sales Leader. And If you’re interested in taking your product-led sales practice to the next level, join Pace’s beta.

Thank you to John McMahon and Jeremy Powers for contributing to this post.

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