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How Sales Teams Can Use a Customer Success Platform To Increase Upsells

Sales can leverage the Customer Success Platforms (in addition to CRMs) to spot customer expansion opportunities.
Stefan Palios
August 25, 2022

​​Every company is looking to increase upsells and net revenue retention, but they often run into challenges like customer health, difficulty identifying customers that are upsell-ready, or a lack of helpful data.

Thankfully, all these problems can be solved with the right platform—a customer success platform (or “CSP”), to be specific. Done right, a CSP will help you with customer retention, reducing revenue churn, and increasing overall customer lifetime value.

Just as sales lives in a CRM system, customer success lives in a CSP. And with the right integrations and processes in place, the company’s CSP can serve as a goldmine for customer expansion opportunities.

To be specific, there are four things sales leaders need in place to increase upsells, referral revenue, cross-sells, and retention rate past any commission clawback periods with a customer success platform.

1. Start off on the right foot by creating seamless sales to customer success handover

The best way to  increase gross revenue through upsells is to give a fantastic onboarding experience. And to get that done, you need a sales handoff document.

In short, a sales handoff document ensures a smooth transition from sales to customer success by outlining three key things:

Communication: Within a handoff document, sales can outline the key points they communicated, the use cases they discussed, and any random notes that CS might find helpful to pick the relationship up easily.

Education and readiness: Sales teams can highlight any concerns a customer brought up during the sales process, especially around product use and training, so the CSM can customize onboarding to that customer’s needs. The handoff document can also include notes on any customizations or configurations unique to this customer.

Planning: The handoff document will give CS the foundation they need to build a success plan for the customer. Ideally, a high level version was communicated during the sales process (and if it wasn’t, it becomes an opportunity for CS to help sales with the next one). But even if it wasn’t, CS can pick up the slack and ensure every customer knows the plan going forward. Done right, this will encourage product adoption and feature usage while anticipating—and solving—problems before they become irritated support tickets.

All of this is in service of getting your customers to see value from your product and decrease customer acquisition and expansion costs in the long run. When customers get value quickly, you're not only protecting your revenue retention rate, but sales can more easily reach back out (in collaboration with a CSM) to suggest an upsell.

There’s also the risk of commission clawbacks if this isn’t managed properly. As more teams implement a system where sales will lose commission if the customer churns quickly, salespeople have to care about customer fit and customer success.

2. Use CS data to align pitches to the customers’ goals

The only sustainable way to grow monthly recurring revenue with a client—whether upselling or cross-selling  other products—is by aligning it to their needs. No SaaS business (truly, no business at all) can increase net dollar retention without solving customer needs. This is where customer success data becomes incredibly valuable.

You’ll want to look specifically for data-driven opportunities, something some companies call Customer Success Qualified Leads (CSQL).

  • Current and previous support tickets.
  • Product usage data.
  • Onboarding KPIs and performance metrics.
  • Notes from previous conversations with your team.

If you have a customer success operations team, they can often produce these reports for you (or build dashboards within your customer success platform). When these data points suggest a client is ready for upsell, CS can easily tag sales into the conversation to book a call from a warm re-intro. This data-informed motion will help with net revenue retention rate across the board, with higher gross revenue from upsells and increased overall customer retention. 

3. Event-based upsell motions

Where tracking customer data is a micro approach to upsells, event-based opportunities take a macro lens in an effort to increase net retention rate.

Significant external events: If a customer raises a large fundraising round or announces significant hiring, for example, it might be a great time to talk about expanding more seats to cover the new employees.

Positive feedback: If a business review goes well, for instance, you could broach the topic of an upsell, either to help more of their team or to suggest a new feature if you’ve got one coming down the pipeline.

When customers see value: When your customer finally reaches the key goal or accomplishment your platform promises, book a call with them to see what the next goal is (and if that goal might require more of your product).

Ideally, you’ll be able to spot these moments in a customer success platform (CSP) that gives a central view of your customer. Regardless, when these events happen, sales and CS can collaborate to reach out to a customer.

4. Use existing customer stories and result to sell outcomes instead of features

Prospective customers trust other customers. So instead of sales extolling the virtues of your product, share customer stories internally to inform high quality sales renewal strategies.

Broadly speaking, the customer success team should highlight case studies and customer stories that answer key obstacles in the sales process (PS: ask sales if you’re not sure). At a high level, this is typically a mix of the following:

  • Product value: Does the product do what it claims?
  • Team and support: Does the team (you!) support customers when they need it?
  • Credibility markers: Do you have big name customers, security protocols, or other markers that matter to your industry?

If CS has stories demonstrating these proof points, sales can leverage them in new sales and upsells. What's even better is that good case studies can also help reduce revenue churn. When a customer is nearly at the point of canceling their contract, a good case study can show them a new opportunity and new way to get value from your platform.

PS, if you’re curious about how to structure a case study, here’s how Catalyst does it: Key success metrics, story highlights, then an in-depth story with the customer challenge, decision to choose our platform, and the impact or benefit they received. We then focus titles on the key benefit they got that another customer might want to receive. 

Here’s an example of one case study: How Bringg Achieved a 25-Point NPS Increase While Scaling with Catalyst.

Upsells start with a customer success platform

Customers fundamentally want their problem solved. But in order to solve their problem, they need to feel heard, listened to, and understood by the individuals there to help them (that’s you!). While your product or service will ultimately do the heavy lifting, your job is to build a trusting relationship so your customer never worries about coming to you with a challenge—after all, you are there to help them.

Creating a lasting relationship requires a lot of understanding. And when you add in business metrics, the data can be overwhelming. That’s where a customer success platform truly shines—centralizing all the data you need about a customer so you can quickly access it, digest it, then add the touch of human connection that’s so essential to building trust and expanding accounts.

Check out the customer success platform that’s easy to customize and use, Catalyst.

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