First off, I don’t believe in upselling.

You know who upsells? Car dealers with safety coatings. Electronics stores with extended warranties. Contractors that are billing per diems. Upselling is a transactional approach to what growth agencies like ours are really trying to do – build lasting value in our business relationships.

This may not be the best way to start a post about upselling techniques, but in all my years of Customer Success, first as a CSM, and then as a leader, I’ve never once felt like I upsold a customer. In SaaS and consulting, we should always be focused on the relationship with our clients and the raison d’etre for that engagement.

If we really want to do that, we need to train our CSMs to focus relentlessly on doing three things:

  1. Align on the customer’s true objectives
  2. Consistently deliver value to the client
  3. Provide expert guidance along the way

If you’re thinking that none of this sounds like upselling, you’re right – but the outcomes from making each of these a priority are: greater retention, higher NPS, and (of course) expansion dollars.

Let’s take these one at a time.


Achieve Strategic Alignment

If you don’t know how the customer defines success, you won’t be able to deliver value and your advice will fall on deaf ears. Starting from Day One, it’s critical that you stay in tune with what the customer expects from their engagement with you. If you can’t clearly state this from the beginning, you’ll struggle to create a stable relationship and won’t be able to proceed to the next stage.


Deliver Value

This is the core reason why customers will engage with you. They’re looking to you to solve a problem they have. If you aren’t solving that problem, you aren’t delivering value. If there’s no value in your first engagement, your customer has no reason to expand their footprint with you. Delivering value is the first step to building the case for expansion.


Provide Guidance

Unless you’re in the unique position of being in a monopolistic industry, you have competition. Technology has shifted power from sellers to buyers and customers have more power than ever before. Customers are looking to vendors to provide more than base levels of service, and if you can’t deliver, then your customer will look elsewhere.

Your team needs to be finding ways to elevate the customer’s experience and become trusted experts in their eyes. By educating your customer, you increase trust and (you guessed it) deliver additional value to the relationship, making them more inclined to continue doing business with you and consider expanding that relationship.


So, When Should You Use Upselling Techniques?

Taken together, these three guiding principles will arm your CSM’s with the knowledge to know WHEN to upsell their customers. Ask each of the following three questions, in order, and you will know if the timing is right to engage your customer in an upsell conversation:

  1. Do we agree on what success looks like?
  2. Have we delivered value to the customer?
  3. Does the customer trust us and see us as valued advisors?

Once you can confidently answer ‘yes’ to each of these questions, it’s time to turn your attention to the HOW of upselling. We’ll cover how to upsell in a follow-up piece later this month, so make sure to check back!

Remember: Upselling isn’t so much a set of techniques as it is arriving at a state where asking the right questions results in the customer wanting to deepen their relationship with you.