The Right Staff Skills for Successful Up-selling

I recently published a blog post which outlined seven requirements for successful up-selling. Based on the sources quoted in that blog, SaaS providers who are successful at up-selling have lower selling costs for those up-sells and higher growth rates. Intuitively up-sells are easier sales because they are to existing customers and therefore less expensive and can help accelerate growth and this is also supported by facts.

In this blog I’ll cover the second requirement, that the you have people with the right skills to do the up-selling

Whether the staff doing the up-selling is an account manager in sales or a customer success professional or some combination, the team or individual needs to have the following key skills:

  • Communication Skills

Excellent communication skills are a baseline requirement for anyone that is trying to persuade a customer to buy or use more of your product. Listening and the ability to communicate with all levels and organizations within a customer company are often the two areas that are potentially lacking.

  • Ability to acquire Customer Knowledge

To successfully identify an up-sell opportunity the staff involved needs to have an excellent understanding of the customer. Customer knowledge is much more than knowing the names of customer staff.

The staff needs to be able to define not only the formal organization but also the informal one and understand how the informal organization works. They need to have the kind of relationship where they can have discussions about the implications of business direction changes, organization changes, business goals, risks and opportunities. To get the right kind of information these need to be at all levels within the customer organization from staff using the product to the C suite.

  • Product Knowledge

The staff that is doing the up-selling must have the background and interest to understand your product and what problems it solves and what opportunities it can help your customer capitalize on. The knowledge does not need to be deep technical knowledge although typically at least some technical knowledge is required. However, deep business knowledge is almost always required. For example, customer success staff at some accounting software companies are required to have an accounting degree.

  • Problem Solving Skills

The desire to discover and solve problems is a skill that is not necessarily easily taught. It is often associated with creativity, inquisitiveness, empathy and perseverance. With a good understanding of the customer and their problems, product knowledge these skills help to actually figure out potential solutions from the customer’s perspective.

  • Account Planning

Getting customer information is important but the ability to sort through that to identify what is important and where the opportunities are for up-selling your product. Will that new business location mean more people to use your product? Will that staff reduction mean that the product enhancing features of your product become more important? Does opening a new market provide new opportunities?

Account planning, the ability and focus to turn the above information and knowledge into value based opportunities for your customer is critical. This requires an attention to detail and follow up to capitalize and execute the opportunities identified.

If your staff that is doing the up-selling have the communication skills, ability to acquire customer knowledge, knowledge about your product, problem solving skills and account planning skills then you have the key skills needed for successful up-selling.

– Paul –


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