5 Ways to Drive Growth with Super-Targeted Upsells

*Editors Note: Guest post by Lincoln Murphy, the Customer Success Evangelist at Gainsight.

Now, we know that presenting the right offer to the right person at the right time is the key to efficient sales. Obviously, sales can be made without all of that being true, but the likelihood of successfully closing the sale goes down as you move further away from that ideal situation.

But just like in the initial sale, when it comes to upsells, timing is everything. Since every customer achieves success with our product at their own pace, knowing the ideal time to present an offer to a customer is just as important as knowing what offer to present.

Given that, here are 5 ways to Drive Growth with Super-Targeted Upsells

1. Be Clear On What Success Means to your Customer

You must know what “success” means to the customer in the context of what your product offers, not just at a high-level but at every phase of the customer lifecycle. Identify what success looks like to your ideal customer, specific market segments, and cohorts of potential customers. Determine what they are trying to achieve with your product that will create both a valuable experience and deliver the desired outcome. Measure how successful they are with your product so that you learn what success looks like for your customers.

2. Set “Success” Goals With Your Customers

Once you know what success “looks like” for your customers, get your customers to agree to the success definition. Set goals with each customer and come to an agreement on their specific success measurements. If you know their goals, then you will know if they are on their way to reaching those goals, if they’re straying from those goals, if those goals change, or if they far exceed those goals. Once you fully understand where they are on the pathway to success, you will know when it is appropriate to make an upsell offer.

3. Benchmark Where Your Customers Start

It’s great to know where you want to go and the goals you want to achieve, but if you do not know where you are starting from, achieving your goals will be difficult. Sometimes it’s good to know how fast others got from Point A to Point B, so where it makes sense or is possible, include benchmark data from other customers or from third-party sources (a mix of the two is nice).

Refer back to the benchmark statistics to show customers where they are at in comparison and to show them how they are progressing. If a customer is not progressing fast enough toward their stated goals, it may be time to escalate the issue internally.

4. Identify Success Milestones for your Customers

The conventional thinking of upsell opportunities is that they should be surfaced with customers at specific time intervals. A better way to look at upsell opportunities is to identify “success milestones” while mapping out a proper customer lifecycle diagram.

Examples include: adding more capacity, using new add-ons, buying more seats. Use the “success milestones” to ensure that your customer is on their way to achieving their goals and being successful with your product. While not every milestone will be an upsell opportunity, some will, and leveraging the relationship between success and upsell will enable you to make offers at the right time for the customer.

5. Make the Offer!

If you have built your relationship with a customer on a mutually identified definition of success and moved them along the path to achieving success, you will come to a point where an upsell makes sense. At that time, the customer is in a very good position to say yes to the upsell opportunity presented to them.

You just have to ask for the sale, though. You actually have to make the offer.

This should be obvious, but I feel compelled to point out that the number one reason upsells fail to occur – and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) stays low – is that the vendor fails to offer upsell opportunities at all.

Whether you have a Customer Success Manager (CSM) that tosses these upsell opportunities over to a salesperson to close, or the system presents the admin with an in-app message, simply asking for the sale will do wonders in your quest to close more business. Since you combined an upsell sequence with your customer’s success milestones, upsell conversations should be non-events that happen without much pushback, resistance, or negotiation.

As you work with them to map out their path to success, you can address those “success milestones” that have associated upsells and say “this is when most of our customers invite Finance into the product” or “this is when our 3D module becomes relevant for most of our customers” and get them to acknowledge that. All you’re doing at this point is getting them to see that there is more to your product and understand how they can benefit. When the ask comes later, it will not be out of the blue.

Honestly, if you do just those things – and nothing more – you’ll rapidly accelerate your CLV growth.


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Lincoln Murphy is founder of Sixteen Ventures, a consultancy helping companies accelerate growth through Customer Success. He’s a prolific writer and international speaker on Growth and Customer Success.

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