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The Easiest Way to Identify Upsell Opportunities

How to Create Cross-Selling and Upselling Strategies for B2B Customers

We all know it’s far cheaper and easier to upsell an existing B2B customer than to generate new leads, but identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities can be a challenge for partners. To identify those opportunities, you have to meet your clients where they are and intimately know their business needs.

The easiest way to get to know your customers’ goals? A business review.

Before knowing where to plug in, you have to sit down to talk to your customers and understand their business strategies. The first time you undertake a business review process might be intimidating, but it’s easy when you have a template to follow. Luckily, we’ve got one for you.

B2B Customer Discovery

Hopefully, you’ve laid the groundwork for a more in-depth engagement upfront when you’ve just signed the customer. In your initial meetings, it’s critical to get foundational information.

“Either a partner starts talking about your brand to an end user, or the end user asks about your brand to the partner,” says Rick Van Den Bosch on the Partner Channel Podcast. “I think that all ties down to partner engagement, so you can make sure more partners start talking about you or partner marketing, where you make sure that more end users ask about you.”

1. Identify your contacts and get an org chart

Make sure you know the people you’ll be interacting with directly and those who will be influencers on your proposed strategies. Sure, you’ve gotten to know whoever is in charge of tech, but the odds are that finance, operations, sales, and/or marketing will have a say in where tech dollars should be spent.

2. Align client goals with your objectives

You should understand how your customer’s expectations are (or are not) in sync with your capabilities. If you’re an MSP with an SLA for regular data backups, clearly outline (on paper) the type of data you’re backing up, any applicable regulations, cybersecurity insurance requirements, how quickly the customer has to be back up and running after an incident, and so forth. This conversation will lay the groundwork for the KPIs you’ll be measuring in the future.

3. Solicit partnership success stories

What has success with a technology provider looked like in the past? What behaviors would they like you to emulate? Where did a provider fall short, and how would you have mitigated that problem? Understand what success looks like for the customer so you can work toward that in the future.

4. Identify unresolved issues

Don’t just look at the mess that the last tech provider left in their wake that you’ll  have to clean up. What other problems can you solve within the customer’s business? Look at unresolved systems, processes, and strategies that touch technology such as CRM migrations, marketing automation platform implementations, or ERP integrations. Here’s your first identified opportunity to upsell.

5. Lay out timelines

It’s important to know when they expect what to be done so that you can consistently measure against that metric as the engagement progresses. If you’re ahead or behind schedule, everyone needs to know. No one likes to be surprised by delays.

6. Lay out KPIs

Here’s an example that won’t  work: An MSP takes on a small client who wants to hand over everything tech-related and have you take care of it. While that might sound like a straightforward assignment, it never works out that way. Don’t ever skip nailing down the exact metrics you’ll want to track throughout the engagement.

Ultimate goal of service provider

The Annual Business Review With Customers

Business reviews come in two flavors: annual and quarterly. If you execute your customer discovery right, the ABR will flow naturally. And if you do the annual business review right, your quarterly reviews will be short, sweet, and productive. The ABR is where you become intimately familiar with your client’s business, and it should take no less than one hour, two if you can swing it. Here’s what it should accomplish:

1. Lay out business objectives

The only way to deepen a customer relationship is to make sure that you’re right there alongside them as they scale and grow, helping them accomplish their goals. What are their ultimate goals? Where do they want to be in five years? Maybe they eventually want to move into another vertical, for instance. Do you have (or can you gain) expertise in that industry to help them get there?

2. Review goals of the past

Whether this is your first annual review with the client or not, you need to know what’s outstanding from last year that you’ll need to wrap up or what goals have been accomplished that you can check off your list.

3. Set top three business goals for the coming year

Get granular. Is it to gain 30 new logos? Land an enterprise account? Launch a new product or service? Implement new systems? Outlining these in detail will help you keep track of how the client is progressing toward those goals and, once again, where you can plug in to help them get there.

4. Who has what responsibility?

All too often, customers like to pin the blame for a delayed project on the service provider. The only way to keep this from happening is to outline who has to do what to move the effort forward from the beginning. If the goal is to integrate the CRM and a marketing automation platform, but they haven’t hired anyone to manage those platforms, there’s only so much you can do. Outline what needs to happen at each step to get to where you both want to go.

Then, and this is important, have both you and the client physically sign off on the plan. Putting your John Hancocks on the strategy will keep both sides accountable.

The QBR From Customers’ Perspectives

If you’ve done the annual business review right, and you’re quickly checking in with your clients monthly to get or provide updates, then the QBR should be a breeze. Follow the below  template for productive conversations that naturally reveal upselling/cross-selling opportunities.

1. Recap wins and misses

What’s gone well? Where did either you or the client fall short in the strategic goals you outlined in the QBR? What’s behind or ahead of schedule?

2. Talk about rearview-mirror metrics

Take a glance at previous quarters to ensure you’re tracking toward your goals. Did you meet or exceed SLAs? Provide first call resolutions at the help desk? Successfully complete a cloud migration? What objectives have you reached, and which are you still working toward?

3. Discuss open projects

Quick and easy, since you’ve had monthly check-ins. Where are you in the strategic goals you outlined together? Behind or ahead of schedule? Both should be recognized.

4. See if business objectives have changed

Nothing is static in business, including annual goals and strategies. What’s changed since the ABR? You need to know to pinpoint your upsell opportunities.

5. Complete the QBR scorecard

At the close of the ABR, map out the goals you want to hit in the year, and then track them quarterly in a scorecard. Lay out what’s happened each quarter to advance those goals, and give each a score like ABC or red, yellow, green to show at a glance where you are in each initiative. That transparency is something your clients will appreciate.

6. Ask about pain points

Are they satisfied with how quickly you respond to help tickets? Have there been any customer complaints? What can be improved in the relationship?

7. Sign off

Just like the ABR, you and the client should sign off on the QBR to hold everyone accountable. Then close it out and move on.

For additional guidance, utilize our free QBR PPT presentation template.

Additional Ways to Maximize B2B Upsell Opportunities

  • Upgrade your sales and marketing materials around specific capabilities – Collect feedback from channel partners and Direct Sales about the effectiveness of various materials. More specifically, are they easy to understand? Do they make compelling points about which customers care? Is there another method or medium for presenting the details that would better grab viewers’ attention? Are resources like battle cards up-to-date? Gathering informed answers to such questions will help you identify which materials need a refresh.
  • Invest in training partners and Direct Sales about new product capabilities and packages – People will naturally stick to the talking points with which they’re most comfortable. Therefore, if your team and partners aren’t familiar with new technology changes, they won’t push hard to upsell it to customers. Therefore, introduce new training and opportunities for Q&A; consider even offering a small reward to partners who complete the lessons in a timely manner. 
  • Reassess potential barriers to upselling customers – If your team’s efforts to upsell customers are met with resistance, it may be worth considering why. While it could be an issue with how the value is communicated, the problem may also lie elsewhere. Perhaps the leap from a smaller to a larger technology package is too drastic a change, suggesting that an intermediate solution would be of greater interest. Or perhaps pricing is too high, or customers simply don’t desire what you’re trying to upsell. When considering such possibilities, don’t rush to conclusions. Instead, test theories when possible and collect first-hand input from Sales and customers.
  • Offer customers free trials – When walking by a fudge store, we often see employees offering free samples of the chocolate. The goal is to entice pedestrians with a no-strings-attached sweet bite, whetting their appetite for an entire fudge brick. And who of us hasn’t fallen for this trick at least once? Apply this same concept to upselling current customers—let them temporarily experience firsthand how your new technology or expanded package can benefit their business. When the trial-run is over, they can have added confidence that they’ll get their money’s worth out of your upsell opportunity.

Takeaways About B2B Cross Selling & Upselling Techniques

There is no way to upsell or cross-sell a customer to the best of your ability if you don’t know how you can plug into their short- and long-term business strategy. You have tons of expertise. Why wouldn’t you want to know where else you can bring it to bear? The ultimate goal of a service provider should be to become a technology consultant, not just “the tech people.” Get to know your customer’s business intimately. Know where they’re going, when they want to be there, and where there are gaps that you can fill. After that, identifying upselling opportunities is easy breezy.

  1. Business reviews are the best way to keep track of an engagement and ensure the customer is satisfied. It’s hard to upsell a client who’s unhappy with what you’re providing. You can’t deepen a customer relationship if they churn.
  2. Keep track of your upsell opportunities the same way you’d track a new lead. Register them in the relevant PRMs. Guide them through the pipeline. Know where you need enablement from vendors and what that enablement should be. 
  3. The goal is to make QBRs short and sweet, so invest time up front in the annual business review to lay out goals, KPIs, and strategies.

Additional Reading to Assist With Identifying Upselling Opportunities

Opportunities to upsell B2B customers don’t happen in a vacuum. They require happy clientele, well-trained Sales and Customer Success teams, and strategically shaped multi-level offerings. The following articles can help shape your partner program so participants are primed to upsell on your behalf.

Ali Spiric
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