Existing accounts have the highest potential for growth.
So why don’t salespeople build more business with them?
They’re super busy and over-committed to finding new business.
Enter Customer Success – the person or people who can maximize business with existing customers. They hold the key to growth, according to research from Gartner.
Here’s why: Product or service performance doesn’t have a significant impact on customers’ decision to buy more. Aggressive selling doesn’t. And – surprisingly – exceeding customer expectations doesn’t impact their decision to buy again much.
But when customers are confident in the people who helped them – salespeople, Customer Success reps and any other support pros – they’re 11% more likely to buy more. When the sales team creates “customer improvement” – giving a critical, unique perspective that helps customers succeed – they’re 48% more likely to buy more.
“Exceeding customer expectations through service doesn’t increase their likelihood to increase buying,” says Scott Collins, VP at Gartner. “But ‘customer improvement’ does increase the likelihood to buy.”
Growth can’t exist with an anti-shrinkage approach
But many sales teams manage accounts with an anti-shrinkage mindset that looks like this:
- A focus on retention. Yes, retention is the root of growing business. But most sales organizations focus 91% of their growth efforts on retaining customers and treat actual growth as an afterthought.
- A misaligned appetite for risk. Most organizations don’t want to rock the boat. They’d rather set less risky targets than shoot for major growth and lose existing clients who aren’t willing to grow along the way.
- Dominant service-first strategy. They think service is the best way to grow business, not recognizing the potential in “customer improvement.”
Instead, sales teams want to switch to a growth approach like this:
- Attention to growth. While no customers want a hard sell after they’ve just bought, every selling cycle should include steps or a timely process for post-sale growth.
- A healthy appetite for risk. Growth is often spurred by creativity and risk. Sales leaders, market experts, and finance executives can work together to build healthy risk options.
- Focus on customer improvement. Customer service is a reactive sport. Customer improvement is a proactive strategy. More post-sale interactions should be intentional, valuable and a step toward growth.
Where Customer Success fits
The Customer Success role may be a little different at every organization, but those in it ideally bridge the gap between sales and support. They’re more proactive than customer service, but not as aggressive as salespeople. In that position, they can help grow business within established relationships.
Customer Success can boost growth in existing accounts with a “proactive, prescriptive set of activities you deliver to your clients,” Says Lee Salz, author of Sales Differentiation: 19 Powerful Strategies to Win More Deals at the Price You Want. “These are the actions you take to provide meaningful value to your clients beyond what you sell.”
Once you’ve delivered what customers expect (remember, exceeding expectations doesn’t necessarily lead to growth) and demonstrated that you’ve contributed to a “customer improvement,” you have three key opportunities for growth in an account:
- Renewal. You can encourage renewal before it’s up and for longer terms.
- Expansion. You can get customers to expand contracts, so they get more value for their investment.
- New role. You can work with customers who’ve experienced success to refer you, speak to other prospects or spread the word about you in their networks to increase growth.
Unlock growth in existing accounts
With those three opportunities in mind, here are eight tips to effectively unlock growth in existing accounts:
- Choose the right accounts. Two-thirds of sales leaders feel they should generate at least 25% more from key accounts, a RAIN Group study. Not all accounts. Some customers have greater opportunity for growth. Customer Success pros are in the position to identify those. You establish the criteria for growth potential – company size, location, relationship level, open-minded buyer. Or it could be as simple as having Customer Success pros ask customers they worked with during the sales cycle if they’re interested in engaging in a more strategic relationship.
- Know your full suite. Salespeople may be the go-to technical experts, but customer success can build business by intimately knowing their full line of products and services. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of everything, but Customer Success pros need a deep understanding of the needs that each solution fulfills. That way, when they identify an opportunity for growth, they can bring in the expert to delve into the specifics.
- Know the customers’ business and agenda. Customer Success professionals may not have the in-depth conversations with customers that uncover business and strategic agendas. But they should be able to review those kinds of conversations when salespeople have them. If salespeople keep notes in your software solution (and they should), Customer Success pros can review those to see and understand corporate priorities, big hurdles, new goals and key players. Then they can match those with a valuable solution that customers might be willing to invest in more.
- Be a consultant. Customer Success managers may have fewer conversations with customers than salespeople do, but they need to approach every chat as a consultation focused on customers’ goals. As they understand more about customers’ businesses, and share insight and value-added solutions, they strengthen the relationship – a key to helping salespeople grow the account.
- Partner to make strategic offers. Unlocking growth in existing accounts takes more than contacting buyers and introducing complementary products or services. You need a strategic plan that involves salespeople and Customer Success managers. Strategic offers need to be customized for each account. Regularly schedule sessions to brainstorm ways to bring additional value to the key accounts you’ve already identified.
- Be aware. Competitors often sweep in and steal existing business (and the potential growth) because they showed your customers a shiny spin on a product or service you offer. Customers get interested because they either forgot or didn’t know you had it, too, because you didn’t remind them. That’s why it’s vital for Customer Success managers to share – through email, social media, personal calls or customizable marketing messages – valuable news (not sales pitches) about your solutions.
- Share relevant information. Salz suggests giving your growth accounts a regular diet of valuable information such as white papers and industry reports. The key is to make them relevant by analyzing the papers and explaining how the information might affect their business and your recommendations for next actions. Also invite key accounts to participate on advisory boards or focus groups, where they can engage with your experts and fellow customers to share insight and pick up valuable information.
- Build a process. None of this can be left to chance. Sales operations need a specific process to grow existing accounts. It’s not just an addendum to your sales cycle. It keeps the cycle in motion. Like all the other points in the cycle, Customer Success pros need calculated actions, checks and balances to make it happen. Put the process in your sales software. Regularly review it to eliminate glitches that lead to lost opportunities, and change it to stay current with customers’ needs.