Does the CS team own the Upsell/Cross opportunity?

Scott Hair
Scott Hair Member Posts: 9 Seeker
Second Anniversary 5 Comments Photogenic Name Dropper
I'm new to the forum and I'm sure this question has been asked by others.  I'm curious to learn from other SaaS based subscription software companies as to whether or not their CS team owns the upsell/cross-sell opportunity along with securing the existing renewal?  Or does the CS team perform lead generation then pass the upsell/cross-sell over to sales?  

If the later, how successful have you been and what are the pros/cons that you've experienced?   

If you can provide a little background on your company as context to your response, that would be great -  Company Size (Annual Revenue, Employees, CS team), Renewal Rate, Years in Market.  Market materity/competitive landscape are drivers that I see in determining the vision for CS.

Thank you in advance for your response!


  • Brad Dye
    Brad Dye Member Posts: 1 Navigator
    edited August 2021
    In my experience, it can be either. One of the more interesting (frustrating) parts of being in the interview process for a CSM position is that 5 different companies will give you 5 different descriptions of what a CSM role means for them. Some companies put the role in Operations versus Sales. And many companies are still evolving their roles to figure out what works best for them, up to and including scaling back the role altogether.

    Most recently, I owned renewals and uncovered everything else for the sales role. On paper, this makes perfect sense, allowing me to focus on the more strategic conversations and relationship, while not having to manage the transaction (important - still involved, still present). In practice, when swim lanes are not clearly defined, a CSM can get stuck doing a lot of the heavy lifting for very little contribution to their variable. When it works, and the sales team works as a team, it's great.

    I like the model of the CSM owning existing pillar/existing product sales. For example, if the same named department is adding users, it doesn't make sense for the CSM to not handle the transaction.  Completely agree about market maturity and competitive landscape.

    The good news is if you are looking for a particular flavor of the CSM role, it exists somewhere. 

    $175MM/1200EEs/25-30 CSMs at the time I was involved(?), 90%, 36 years in market place
  • Scott Hair
    Scott Hair Member Posts: 9 Seeker
    Second Anniversary 5 Comments Photogenic Name Dropper
    edited August 2021
    Thank you Brad.   I agree if it's an expansion of licenses for an existing product/service, there's no need to pass that along to the sales team.  Majority of time those are direct inbound engagements and don't involve a traditional full sales cycle.   I like you have seen different variations of the role and if the vision of the CS team isn't in alignment from the top down, which can be problematic.
  • Andreas Knoefel
    Andreas Knoefel Member Posts: 74 Expert
    edited August 2021
    The short answer is YES, the Upsell.

    The long answer is comparing Champions with an avg 28% higher NRR to all others and see what are their distinctive behaviors. Among several others is owning the renewal, expansion, upsell. I am running an annual CSPI benchmark and am preparing a series of micro-podcasts where I will share facts. Stay tuned for that.

    One exception of note was presented by @Jay Nathan and @Boaz Maor for enterprise deals with complex legal and procurement procedures. Your AE plowed already a path through the customer's bureaucratic corporate jungle. Not leveraging  that existing knowledge and skill set of how to circumvent their red tape doesn't make sense.

    The other exception is cross-sell. That is a whole new set of players that the CS team has no relationship with. Your AE knows better how to connect the dots for a new audience, an awesome skill to have (and lacking in most CSM's).

    The major challenge is always that Sales wants to pick all the raisins: They are by nature very good at presenting their case ( aka polishing the t...), and have a long history of a seat at the executive table, a position CS fights for in many companies.
  • Mark Flanagan
    Mark Flanagan Member Posts: 26 Expert
    edited August 2021
    Hi Scott. I want to begin by reinforcing how important it is for Sales and CS to be working together as a team. If it's being done properly, the customer's objectives and expectations are clearly understood as the onboarding and training take place. From that point, CS owns the relationship with the customer through the initial renewal and longer-term retention. CS should then notify Sales of any new revenue opportunities and Sales should be responsible for closing that sale, keeping CS in the loop through the process. Once the new sale has been closed, CS is again responsible for onboarding, training, renewal, and longer-term retention.