Apr 15, 2022

Read Time 7 min

Is it magic, or ChurnZero? SalesIntel reveals the secrets of its expansion success.


Have you ever wondered how certain companies know exactly the right moments to reach out with an offer? Sometimes, the outreach is so spot-on and intuitive, you don’t even realize you’re being pitched. As acclaimed mentalist Tony Corinda said, “Good timing is invisible. Bad timing sticks out a mile.”

Like a magician flexing their psychic power, pinpointing the most ideal time to present your customer with an expansion opportunity can’t be left to intuition. It must be a well-orchestrated act.

But knowing when customers are primed for expansion isn’t always obvious. If your Customer Success (CS) teams doesn’t possess ESP, you need tools to identify a customer’s buying signals, usage behavior, and ROI to break the endless cycle of trial and error with your expansion outreach.

The science – ahem, magic – of a perfectly timed expansion offer is something Chelsea Madden, vice president of CS at SalesIntel, knows well. SalesIntel is a leading sales intelligence platform and B2B contact data provider. On the heels of the company’s explosive growth, Chelsea stood up its first CS function and grew the team from one to 13 in just 18 months. As the team expanded, so too did the need for automated, scalable processes and engagements.

Leading CS at a company that lives and breathes data, Chelsea understands the importance of a holistic customer view to drive expansion opportunities. That’s why SalesIntel partnered with ChurnZero to build a more connected, data-driven customer experience. Since using ChurnZero and growing their expansion focus, SalesIntel has increased its net retention by 133% quarter over quarter.

How did Chelsea and her team achieve these phenomenal results? And how can you apply the same strategies to your own expansion pathways?

1. Use ChurnZero plays to increase license-based upsells

Many SaaS businesses use a pricing model based on license count. Customers pay for licenses upfront before they can use the product. Therefore, they’re more likely to be conservative with the number of licenses they initially purchase out of precaution. They don’t want to risk buying additional seats without proof of ROI in case they go unused. While this controlled approach paves the way for expansion tied to existing use cases, it doesn’t allow other teams, who may use the product differently, to sample the product and realize its value firsthand.

That’s why Chelsea advocates for allowing customers to grant access to your product without barriers. Unrestricted access creates buzz (think: watercooler talk), eases change management, and promotes adoption. It also makes your product sticky; if other departments depend on it, it’s harder to rip and replace it without a few tears. The customer’s ROI grows with the number of people who see value from the product.

Once customers use and love your product, you can broach the topic of payment for additional licenses. But to use this strategy, you need to know exactly when to reach out to your customer – enter ChurnZero Plays. Here’s how SalesIntel uses ChurnZero to track license usage and automate actions based on those metrics with their license-based play.

1. Create a license utilization segment for active (paid and/or freemium) accounts with 100% or more utilization in the last 90 days.

2. Build an alert for the segment that notifies CSMs (and their manager) when an account enters the segment.

3. Set up a play for the segment. Upon a customer’s entry into the segment – which again, occurs when they’ve exceeded their number of contracted users – configure the Play to email the customer with either a request to schedule an executive business review (EBR) to discuss their usage (i.e., the overage) or with a notification of their overage and a request to pay. If the team hasn’t yet exceeded their license utilization, set the Play to trigger when consistent usage is achieved.

“With this Play, CSMs can go into an EBR and say, ‘Did you know that you’re at 190% of your license utilization? Your team is averaging 45 minutes a day in our product. These are your power users and this is what they do,’” says Chelsea.

Always discuss the customer’s usage and ROI before addressing the seats as part of the expansion. For newer customer relationships, Chelsea recommends using an EBR to raise the topic of payment. But once the relationship is strong enough, you can easily use an email in its place. If a customer decides not to purchase the additional seats that they’re currently using for free, you can remove their access to them.

For SalesIntel, this play has accounted for 27% of their overall expansion growth. “It comes full circle,” says Chelsea. “It’s a value-add for the customer because you aren’t asking for more money on day one.” Instead, expansion conversations are based on a customer’s realized value, which is more persuasive than even the best sales pitch.

2. Use ChurnZero usage data and SalesIntel Intent data to improve cross-sells

Compared to other sources of expansion revenue, license utilization is a simple strategy. It focuses on one variable: licenses (albeit qualified by usage). But prioritizing accounts for cross-sell outreach becomes trickier without additional buying signals.

The easiest way to orient and refine your cross-selling targeting is with usage data and intent data. Usage data tells you what users do in your product, and for how long. Intent data shows you who is researching products and services that you and your competitors sell. By pairing these datapoints, your CS team can focus their efforts on high-probability expansion opportunities.

“I like intent data because it allows you to triangulate and see exactly who is showing that buying purchasing behavior,” says Chelsea.

These datapoints also create a baseline. They give you a point of comparison when a customer increases their product usage or search activity on signifying topics (competitors, partners, etc.) over their standard.

For example, a customer has actively researched “data-driven sales” for the last year, but, for whatever reason, last week their consumption spiked 80%. They’re also heavy users of an integration that one of your additional products optimizes. By knowing a customer’s usage behavior and when they binge on topics of interest, a CSM can reach out with a highly tailored message presenting the best offer at the ideal time.

SalesIntel uses a land-and-expand model, so expansion opportunities are a primary focus of the CS team. In the example below, Chelsea walks us through the four-step process in which SalesIntel uses ChurnZero and their own product (Intent Data) to identify cross-sell opportunities for their new product, Data Enrichment.

1. Identify cross-sell opportunities via Intent Data. In SalesIntel, run a search for contacts who are actively researching topics related to the cross-sell (Data Enrichment). To begin the search, add intent topics related to Data Enrichment, such as competitors or pain points that the product solves. In this example, our search results show 48 customers who meet the search criteria. Save the search and run it every Monday to get the previous week’s surge data. Export the search results.

2. Identify new contacts who match the ideal customer profile. Create a task in ChurnZero to add and map contacts tied to any missing or newly discovered personas or role types from SalesIntel to its respective account in ChurnZero.

3. Create a segment in ChurnZero for the cross-sell opportunity. Upload the exported list of 48 accounts to the segment. As a reminder, this list includes contacts from accounts that have no Data Enrichment credits (i.e., accounts that qualify for the cross-sell opportunity). Going forward, update this saved segment with new contacts.

4. Add the segment to a play for cross-sell opportunities in ChurnZero. In this example, SalesIntel’s play includes four customer touchpoints: email, in-app communication, phone, and follow-up email. It has a goal (also known as exit criteria) so that when an account completes the goal (i.e., purchases Data Enrichment credits), they are automatically removed from the Play. Additionally, they have a Play step to tag accounts. When accounts get added to the Play, ChurnZero automatically tags them as “expansion.” This tag informs other ChurnZero users that an account has an active expansion opportunity open. This is helpful context for the team and other departments to have before impromptu meetings, scheduled EBRs, or support calls with tagged accounts.

This Play allows SalesIntel to schedule more EBRs and calls to talk about their product line with not only their main points of contact on an account, but also with other stakeholders in the organization. “Every Monday, the Customer Success team does this exact workflow,” says Chelsea. “It takes five minutes.”

Since launching the Play, approximately 50% of SalesIntel’s expansion revenue comes from cross-sells. “It’s the second highest revenue-generating tool that we have for off-cycle expansions,” says Chelsea.

Though this example is based off SalesIntel’s use case, you can easily modify and apply their four-step process to your own expansion pathways.

3. Use ChurnZero reporting to strengthen sticky feature adoption

A customer’s use of a product’s sticky features serves as a gateway to adoption and subsequent expansion. But even the stickiest feature won’t drive usage if it doesn’t help a customer achieve their goal.

That’s why a customer’s desired outcome must inform every part of their journey. In this example, we share how SalesIntel uses ChurnZero reporting to identify customer goals and personalize the customer experience at scale.

SalesIntel created a “new user welcome” Play, which kicks off with a welcome email to the customer. While most SaaS businesses send a welcome email; the SalesIntel team’s use of metrics from that email make this a strategy worth sharing (and borrowing). By thoughtfully including topical URLs and ChurnZero click reporting, they turned a standard welcome email into a trove of customer insight.

The team uses the links within the welcome email to define training webinar topics. If a customer clicks on link A, the CSM knows topic A is of top interest to them. Going forward, the CSM tailors all communications to that customer to only be relevant to topic A. Using ChurnZero, the CSM also monitors the customer’s usage to make sure their expressed interests and use case align with their product behavior. If not, the CSM can adjust their engagements or the customer’s actions as needed.

By driving adoption to sticky features with ChurnZero, SalesIntel grew their share of expansion revenue for sticky feature adoption to 38%.

The magic is in the details (and data)

SalesIntel’s story proves that CS teams can develop a sixth sense for expansion opportunities with good data and thoughtful automation. The team saw quarterly retention growth by using ChurnZero, analyzing data points, identifying the right opportunities at the right time, and acting on those opportunities.

They say a good CSM never reveals their secrets; but sometimes, the secrets are too good to keep all to yourself. A special thanks to SalesIntel for sharing their favorite tricks and strategies to identify and operationalize expansion opportunities using ChurnZero.

Want to learn how other CS teams use ChurnZero? We pull back the curtain on how ChurnZero drinks its own champagne in our blog, “A day in the life of a CSM using ChurnZero.”


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