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Identifying upsell opportunities: A two-step process for account managers


If existing customers are the biggest source of future revenue for b2b companies, expanding the revenue from existing customers establishes a new pathway to growth. What can be done though to accurately determine which customers are viable upsell candidates?

To accomplish this account managers should follow a two-step process:

  • First, collect all necessary data about your customers
  • Second, go beyond the data and use an account review to understand what your customers really think

Be aware of your customers’ circumstances

The first step is to discover your customers’ loyalty using feedback surveys to better understand the needs of each account. Not all accounts are necessarily happy with your product, and as such upsell opportunities are really not a possibility. Determining which accounts need rescuing and problem resolution rather than a new feature will help narrow down the search.

However, while loyalty is a good starting off point for determining upsell eligibility, it is not a given that all loyal accounts will be open to upselling. Many customers may not have the finances, some will not have the need and others will not see the advantage of adding new features.

To understand your customers better, compare your customers against each other. For instance, do you have a large set of customers who may be in the same industry/market, or are a similar size or use your product to resolve or meet a particular need? If so, do some of these customers spend big with you and others less so?

What is it then that is causing the difference in spending? Is it simply that the lower spending companies are unaware of the benefits of a larger product package, or maybe there are particular conditions that limit their capacity to be big spenders.

There is a lot you can learn about customers - have they recently run into financial hardship?

Be aware of what is happening to your customers. Did some just get a new round of funding, were taken over by a cash filled company or just undergo a hiring spree. Conversely, if you know the company has undergone a cost-cutting endeavor or has had a bad financial year, then this is an indicator that they will not likely be open to spending more on your product.

Going through this process gives account managers valuable information, particularly in understanding which accounts are not eligible for upselling. However, of those that still remain it is still not a given that they can be upsold.

Account reviews are not about selling but about listening

Here we come to the account review, a process in which an account manager and customer meet to discuss the products and services that are being provided.

And while this is a process that is about creating value for each customer and not about upselling. It helps account managers understand who their customers are, why they buy, the nature of their current and future pain points, and as such their future growth potential.

During an account review one should discuss and aim to understand the following:

  • What was it that initially drove the customer to buy your product?
  • Why do they continue to do business with you?
  • How is the product directly helping the customer?

These positive areas of focus though are just the beginning of the process. For although it adds valuable insight, understanding a customer’s upsell eligibility is also determined by listening to a customer’s concerns and objections.

To do this, look to address the following topics in an account review:

  • What has kept the customer from buying more? Find out directly what it is that has so far limited them from buying a larger package. Some of these reasons, such as financial constraints may be difficult to overcome while others, like not seeing the advantage of new add-ons, will be easier.
  • How much did pricing factor into their initial purchase decision? Similar to the point above, but important to specifically address in an account review. For, if pricing was a significant concern, then upselling might not be a possibility.
  • Are they choosing competitors to fulfill a need that your product line can also address? If so, why?
  • What features does the customer think the product lacks or would like to see changed? This opens up the discussion within an account review to upselling or even cross-sell opportunities. Maybe the customer is unaware that you do offer such features, or in other cases new features or add-ons can be specifically built for the customer requesting it.

Who is coming to the account review?

To understand how likely it is an account can be upsold, it is critical to have key account individuals on the customers side present in such a review

Is there someone missing from the account review that really should be there?

Do not include everyone from end-users right up to each decision maker in the account review. While you may have initially surveyed a large group to determine the health of an account and segment them into different strategies, an account review needs only those that help to understand an account’s success.

Which individuals within an account have an overarching view of your product, understanding both functional and performance issues? Take note: Depending on the importance of your product to a customer it can be difficult to get decision makers involved in such meetings, however always strive to have them present.

Lastly, it is easy to carry out an account review with just one key contact (simple to organize and converse), but this provides little insight into a customer’s capacity to be upsold. Aim to have two to three key account individuals within the meeting, as it removes the bias a single voice creates and helps to pinpoint what it is a company really needs.

The account review is just the beginning

It may seem contradictory but determining which clients are open to upselling is not about selling, it is not about pitching new products or new price offerings. It is first and foremost about listening to your customers and standing in their shoes, to understand what value you can deliver to improve their overall experience.

Account reviews will most likely not end in an upsell, and they probably shouldn’t most of the time, but what they do is help account managers determine the growth potential of customers. They begin a conversation with the customer to help develop any opportunities that may have been presented.

Next Up: 40 B2B NPS Benchmarks for 2022 and B2B NPS revenue guide

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