Become the customer’s trusted advisor
A great customer success manager doesn’t just see themselves as someone who’s supposed to help customers get results from their solutions. They want to help their customers get results—period.
“My guiding principle is to make sure I’m the trusted advisor, not just for the tool we offer but for the customer’s business.” - Nick Brown, Senior CSM
As a trusted advisor, you should be learning as much as you can about the customers’ industry, unique challenges, and big goals. Major growth in your career should come from research into your customers’ industries, not just standard professional development. So make sure you’re consuming the type of content your customers do.
Turn customers into advocates to create cross-selling opportunities
One of the best cross-selling opportunities is to sell your solution to a different department at the same company.
The customer success team uses Proposify’s proposal software almost as much as our sales team does (even though sellers are our main target audience). Our CSMs use it for kickoff decks and presenting growth options. So, we know firsthand that if one department is successful with your tool, another one can be too. After a sales team has gotten success from our product, we often pitch to the CSM team within the same company.
“Customer advocacy is a huge white space opportunity to grow cross-selling opportunities. Don’t underestimate the value your CSMs can bring your org in the form of building loyal customers and advocates within your existing customer base.” - Jasper Goodwin, Customer Success Team Manager
If you know the account has a department that could benefit from your solution, ask your customer what they know about that department’s processes. Share how similar teams are getting results. Your customer’s responses will let you know when it’s time to ask for an introduction.
Never force an expansion
Whether you’re looking to grow the number of seats within a department or connect with a new department, one thing’s for sure: don’t force it.
“If it’s the wrong time to expand, I’m going to be the first to tell you. The timing is so important when it comes to keeping that role of trusted advisor. I think to myself, if this was my money would I feel comfortable spending more right now?” - Nick Brown, Senior CSM
If the client hasn’t yet fully realized the value they want out of your solution, your pitch will come off as a money grab. Only present growth options or ask for an intro to another department when you’re sure the client has met or (preferably) exceeded their initial goals.
Focus on lifetime customer value over current quotas
When you don’t rush, you allow yourself to play the long game.
Healthy businesses prioritize the lifetime value of their customers over quick gains. This is especially true when it comes to expansions.
To bring this theory into practice, make sure you’re checking your intentions at the door. What are you hoping to achieve with your next customer meeting? Make sure you’re solving their problems, not just trying to pitch the next deal.
“Revenue is the result of engagement, not the purpose of engagement. Don’t go into a discussion with a customer thinking about selling a product or service. Instead, walk through their business challenges and problems. Otherwise, you’re solving a problem for yourself, not for the customer.” - Jasper Goodwin, Customer Success Team Manager
You can learn more about how we structure and incentivize our CS team to own SaaS upsells here.
Use data to find expansion signals
There are a lot of different signals you can use to discover if a customer is ready to expand with your solution
Here are some of the best:
Account growth - If you notice that an account keeps adding users here and there, you can check to see what their growth plans are. Offer them savings on bulk seats and include better training add-ons with the pitch.
NPS ratings - High NPS ratings can be a great sign that a customer is ready to expand, but you’ll want to match those high scores with other intent signals and your knowledge of the customer because NPS ratings aren’t enough to say that now’s the best time. You can strategically request NPS ratings after users have engaged with your product to a certain extent (so you’re not collecting that data too soon).
Product usage data - Product analytics help you discover which accounts are most likely to be achieving real results. Talk with your product team and look at the usage data of your best customers to discover the right metrics to track continuously. You’re not just looking for the number of logins, but deep product usage, such as integrations or continued engagement with more advanced features.
Wondering if the client’s ready? Always trust your gut
Data can be helpful, but it’s not the end all be all.
CSMs are the eyes and ears of your customer base. They know the details of the customers’ goals, the implementation challenges, and how well their expectations have been met.
So when you’re wondering whether now’s a good time to upsell or cross-sell, don’t worry too much about the data. Data’s great for finding opportunities you didn’t know existed, but your knowledge of the customer should be your biggest resource.
“Some teams are over-inundated with data and get analysis paralysis by looking at too many signals. What does the CSM have to say based on their experiences and knowledge of all the nuances of this account? Their opinion is usually the best signal you could have.” - Jasper Goodwin, Customer Success Team Manager
Do the hard work it takes to make a pilot successful
It’s common for customers to agree to try a new solution with a small number of people, maybe 10 to 20% of the potential total users. This tees you up for a big win—or a major disappointment.
Winning a major expansion takes a ton of work. That might look like additional training, integration assistance, asset or template creation, etc.
Make sure you have enough internal resources so that every CSM can give big opportunities the attention they deserve.
“When you know you have a big expansion opportunity, you need to go above and beyond. We grew one customer account from 60 to 380 seats. For the pilot group, we offered more training than usual and created self-serve assets and resources so they would succeed.” - Nick Brown, Senior CSM
No hacks, just devotion to the customer. (That’s better than any playbook.)