Skip to content

An unsolicited guide to no-cringe cross-sell — from a marketer 

Let me reenact a conversation I had with our dedicated Customer Success Manager at a very well-known intent-based lead generation platform.


CSM: So how are things? We haven’t talked for a few months. How is everything after the acquisition? 

Me: It’s been really busy. We’re going through an exercise to consolidate our tech stack. As a result, we have been reviewing the costs, ROI, and utilization potential of Unnamed Software across the business. Unfortunately, we’ve decided not to renew. 

CSM: Oh… I didn’t see this coming, I’m sorry to hear that. But I invited my colleague on this call to introduce you to some solutions by Partner Software. It’s a great add-on for Unnamed Software. Shall we look at a demo then?

Me: Right... I’m sorry, what just happened?


Look. I’m no customer success or account management expert, and I have no business giving upsell / cross-sell advice. But that has never stopped me before 😅 and I wonder if we could improve the experience. Together. What do you think? 

In the last few years, the tech landscape has shifted significantly with plenty of big acquisitions by giants like Google or Salesforce as well as smaller start-ups and scale-ups. 

After mergers, cross-selling becomes a pivotal part of business strategy. Cross-sell, when done right, is a fantastic way to increase software stickiness, reduce churn, and drive more revenue with less marketing spend.

So, if you work for a multi-SaaS company, you likely have targets related to cross-sell. But how do you hit those targets?

I strongly believe that cross-functional collaboration is the answer to hitting objectives while also delighting customers. 



Why should marketing and customer success collaborate on cross-sell activities?

No one department can succeed on its own in driving revenue. But it’s more than just that. It's a strategic alliance that optimizes resources, taps into customer insights, and propels any brand's unique personality into the market. No wonder why collaboration efforts between CS and marketing keep rising — 17% up just between 2021 and 2022.


1. Increase revenue while reducing marketing costs

In an era when smart spending is paramount, the collaboration between marketing and customer success emerges as a revenue-boosting strategy without breaking the bank. 

Revenue targets are ever-increasing while marketing budgets and teams are becoming smaller. Since it is about 5 times more expensive to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones, it’s a no-brainer to focus on increasing the Customer Lifetime Value or cLTV of existing accounts. 


2. Churn reduction

A recent study looked at the relationship between cross-selling and churn reduction and it found that the SaaS companies with the highest retention rate were the ones that cross-sold their products to about one-third of their customers. The more solutions, features, add-ons you sell to a client, the stickier your product becomes. Cross-sell is the foolproof path to increased Net Revenue Retention or NRR. 

NRR calculation


3. Tech stack availability

B2B marketers love their tech — I know I do — and spend quite a bit of money on it. On average, 19% of company tech spend comes from the marketing department, which is almost 3 times the CSM spend. 🤑

CRM, marketing automation software, buyer intent data, content management — these tools and the knowledge that comes with using them will be helpful to support customer success in scaling cross-sell programs and taking them to the next level. 


4. Feedback loop for agility and iteration

The invaluable customer relationships nurtured by customer success create a feedback loop essential for the agile optimization of cross-sell campaigns. Collaborative efforts enable swift iterations based on real feedback.

Marketers, depending on what they specialize in, can become somewhat removed from direct customer engagement — CSM to the rescue. 


5. Content generation harmony

The symbiotic relationship between marketing and customer success extends to content generation. CS benefits from approved and carefully branded messaging provided by marketing, while marketing can expect a steady flow of impactful customer content like case studies straight from the horse’s mouth. This harmony streamlines content creation, ensuring a unified and compelling brand narrative. 

How to identify and action the ripest opportunities together 👬

Now that we’re on the same page about collaboration benefits, let me share a few tactics that have helped me support customer success teams to spot viable cross-sell opportunities.


Rely on buyer intent data

Proactivity is key. If you offer a suite of integrated solutions, you have a head-start on other providers. It’s usually easier to implement integrated tools than bringing in completely new ones. But if you don’t action buyer intent immediately, and introduce your relevant products, a competitor might swoop in and win part of your customer’s budget. 

Demandbase, G2, and Gartner are all in the business of buyer intent data, and, depending on your budget, they can provide insights into your existing customers’ general web search habits and even software comparison and assessment behavior. 


Rely on your own data

You’re probably collecting tonnes of buyer intent signals yourself without even realizing it. Your software platform, website, email marketing, webinars, etc. all tell a story about your customers’ needs.

If a customer uses your project management software but not the workplace messaging app your partner company developed, if they landed on your blog article with tips to streamline workplace messaging, then it’s likely they aren’t looking for handbags. If your recent newsletter included a short video on the new product suite, people who watched it might have some level of interest in it.

You might already have lead scoring for funnel progress and qualification, and you could also introduce lead scoring to highlight cross-sell opportunities based on the signals above. 


Rely on your Sales & CS teams

I’ve never attended a Quarterly Business Review or any other customer success catch-up that didn’t start or end with small talk. Instead of discussing the weather, what if your reps tried to learn something new about the client? What are they up to that week? What challenges are they facing? What technologies drove them mad that morning?

The rep might observe software the customer uses or doesn’t use and ask questions about their experience — even if you don’t follow it up with a pitch immediately.

“I see you’re using Calendly for your public calendar. How do you like it?” – I can imagine a HubSpot CSM asking, to see if they should recommend using HubSpot’s built-in scheduler. 

Then marketing and CSM can collaborate on organizing the feedback and creating useful cross-sell content. Eventually, you will have enough content and customer knowledge to build automated journeys and show the right content at the right time to the right person. 

So even if the account’s manager decides not to do a direct pitch on the call, a softer nurturing approach can still be triggered. 


Rely on competitor data

Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of competitor-targeted, guerrilla campaigns: they are hard, can result in retaliation, and are often expensive considering the success rate. However, when you already have a foot in the door with one of your software solutions, it makes sense to try. Land and expand. 

Business leaders tend to like the idea of reducing the number of suppliers and merging tech: this usually keeps costs lower and IT happy. If you use Salesforce CRM, you might look at Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Pardot to replace HubSpot — I would never, OG HubSpot fan here. 😉 

Use this to your advantage and research your existing customers’ tech stack. Cognism and many other data houses offer tools for this. You likely already have objection handling content for your biggest competitors so it shouldn’t take long to repurpose this content into land and expand materials. 


Let’s put it into practice

So how do you actually do stuff that supports the CSM team and cross-sell objectives? 💡 Here’s some practical advice to get your creative juices flowing… 


G2 buyer intent data example

Use G2 to track what your top clients are looking for. Upload your key account list and set up alerts for keywords or competitors of your different product suites. 

G2 buyer intent data

G2 buyer intent data

Let’s say you’re flagship product is project management software but you’re partnering with a workspace chat and messaging app. If your customer is looking at Slack or Microsoft Teams, you need to be alerted to get to the client first. 


Gather intent signals with webinars

I love product demo webinars and they work exceptionally well with cross-sell initiatives. Webinars offer plenty of opportunities to identify buyer intent and follow up leads with great reasons-to-call. 

You can chat with customers and understand what problems they are hoping to solve with your newly introduced product. You can lead the conversation to both educate and learn about the users. Plus, with the help of downloadables and popups that most webinar software tools offer, you can gather even more buyer intent signals. Polls are particularly effective for qualification purposes. 

You should also consider bringing multiple user groups together. Project management software evangelists can serve as on-demand social proof and might convince the workplace chat app’s users to extend their trust — and vice-versa. 


Automated intent nurturing

Identifying cross-sell leads based on behavior is a big step forward but if you’re anything like me, you’ll immediately want to automate the nurture process too. At least the parts that can be… 

So your customer displayed behavior on your website, newsletter, or webinar that tells you they are interested in an add-on. Use the lead scoring you had set up for picking out these users as the trigger for your marketing automation flow. 

A key account triggered your G2 alert? G2 has so many drag-and-drop integrations — go nuts! 🐿️ Trigger a Slack notification in a dedicated channel for CSM follow-up and maybe raise a Salesforce task too! Then pop the account into a LinkedIn Matched Audience for retargeting, just to be sure they get your comms one way or another. 

Make it easy for your customer-facing colleagues to record buyer intent. Add a checkbox or dropdown selector in Salesforce (or whatever CRM they use) to capture what solutions the client might also be interested in. If your marketing automation is integrated with this tool, simply use the information to trigger a workflow with nurturing emails or other actions. 

Nobody loves doing repetitive manual tasks. And it’s 2024 — we don’t have to. 



It’s a wrap 💝

I guess what I’m trying to say in ~2,000 words is this…

My friend in customer success: turn to marketing for help. We’d love to generate more revenue and reduce churn — without spending more marketing budget. 

My peer in marketing: you need to know more about the customers and follow their journey beyond Attract and Engage — so you can help delight. It’s a flywheel, not a funnel. 

If you both prioritize your customers’ intent and needs over the internal cross-sell push, targets will be met, C-level will be happy, and we might even learn something new during the process. 

Share your thoughts...