How to make customer support your lead generation goldmine


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As a busy Customer Success Manager (CSM), don’t you wish you had an extra pair of hands to help with upselling?

It’s hard to meet ambitious cross-sell and upsell numbers when you’re focused on keeping your book of customers engaged and productive. If only you had someone else who spoke to your customers and could generate some of the leads you need.

And yet, you do. It’s your customer support team. They speak to customers as frequently as you do, or, if there’s an issue, more so. They know your customer’s challenges, and the products and features they’re using—or not using—to address them. In fact, they’re uniquely positioned to uncover expansion leads.

For example, support knows specific details, such as when customers exceed their license count. They can easily gauge a customer’s awareness of new products and features. Customers who are wary of sales pitches don’t put up the same barriers when talking to support. In the context of a support call, an upsell conversation feels like problem-solving, not a sale.

So why not team up with support to generate leads and new revenue?

It won’t work for every company. But, if you’re in a SaaS or subscription business that offers customers the flexibility to purchase upgrades and add-ons, it could work for you—if you know and follow these essential guidelines.

1: Support has a different skillset. Play to their strengths.

Your support people are conscientious. They love to help. They’re always busy, and thrive on resolving specific, goal-oriented challenges. So please, do not just ask them to go out and generate leads.

Instead, identify a specific product or feature to sell, and create a focused campaign that enlists support’s help. If your product or feature catalog is complex, make sure to focus your support team on one or two lead types. The goal could be to sell additional licenses, or to introduce a specific new feature. If that new feature has a marketing or product marketing campaign that’s easily packaged for support to use, even better.

By keeping the focus narrow, you’ll make it easier for support to engage with confidence and generate the wins that people excited.

2: Give support the training and talking points to succeed.

Many companies overlook training support on new products in their rush to enable marketing, sales, and Customer Success. This means you’ll need to get support up to speed on what you’re asking them to sell. You want your support team to keep an eye or ear out for whatever you want them to upsell. If it’s a complimentary add on product, think through what events or issues might be something support can spot. For instance, if you are selling an HR platform, how is the customer paying their people? Is it through a completely different system?

Your ideal trainer is a good sales development rep (SDR). Support doesn’t need comprehensive sales training, as they’re not closing deals. However, they need to understand what they’re selling, what it does for the customer, and how to talk about it.

Because support teams are used to working from scripts, a loose talk track is a good idea. It should include one or two relevant, yes-no questions that enable someone to key in on the customers’ answers and where to go from there.

While support teams know their customers, it is always good practice to remind them when it’s not a good time to poke for leads. If a customer is highly escalated or frustrated, solve their problem first before delving into any lead generating questions.

3: Keep the workflow simple, streamlined, and straightforward.

Will support send leads to specific CSMs, or will there be a single Slack channel for CSMs to review them? Can you streamline the process with a platform integration that unites your support and Customer Success data?

Whatever your process, ensure that every support person knows what to do, where the handover to Customer Success happens, and how you’ll follow up. If support goes out on a limb to generate leads that aren’t acted on, it’ll be the last time they do it. CSMs should own the follow-up, ideally, through a sales level agreement (SLA) and a prompt timeline for engaging with every qualified lead.

4: Be considerate with incentives and recognition.

Frontline support reps understand the right and wrong time to approach a customer with a topic. Don’t compromise that discretion—and by extension, your customer experience—by tying lead generation directly to compensation.

Instead, make it a quarterly contest with a sales performance incentive fund (SPIFF) and keep it fun with leaderboards, prizes, and shout-outs. Your aim is to create a challenge that complements support’s work of helping customers and gets them excited. They’re already in the business of solving problems, but if they can solve one appropriately with a sale that generates revenue, so much the better.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of recognition. Supports’ skills and talents often go under-appreciated. It’s a tough job, and customers rarely call to say what a good time they’re having with your product. If you can steer an initiative that drives not only revenue but also recognition for your support team and their work, you’re on your way to creating something sustainable for the future.


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