Expansion is not a lifecycle phase


A lot of people in SaaS are thinking about up-sales and strategies for how to drive expansion sales on existing accounts.

If you google around you'll find people in the industry arguing that the customer lifecycle has a set of phases that are argued to be "standard"

This is one example (very basic)

customer journey phases illustration one

An onboarding phase makes perfect sense, clearly, it is crucial for success to nail the initial set of actions – in the adoption phase you follow up the users that aren’t using your product and make sure they adopt and love your service.

Expansion argued to be “a phase” in which you expand the account (meaning you have your customer success organization selling new seats/modules/features).

Here is another example of how people might pitch you different phases of a lifecycle:

customer journey phases illustration two

(there is a lot of wrong in the above illustration but we'll leave that for now)

The problem with boxing “expansion” into a phase is that it has no correlation to the real world. That’s not how customer success works. No, expansion is not a lifecycle phase. Here is why:

You don’t have a “phase" in which you suddenly ask your CSMs start “selling”. Sales in customer success is an ongoing thing that happens throughout the subscription period – it’s as natural part of the CSMs role. Customer Success is not a support function, it’s a revenue center and should be treated as such! Selling in customer success happens when you listen to your customers, help them create value for their business and show how new and other modules/seats/features/products you offer helps them solve that specific pain point.

Expansion sales (a.k.a up-sales or cross sales) is a function of the customer success team understanding that their role is to expand and grow their accounts.

We recommend that you think twice before creating a phase in your lifecycle and playbook where you suddenly ask your CMSs to start looking for up-sale opportunities.

Instead, make sure that your CSMs understand that expansion and up-sales are ongoing processes throughout the lifecycle. Put incentives on expansion sales (x% kick back on all up-sales and upgrades)

Be data driven in your approach to identifying up-sale candidates (timing is everything!)

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