7 minute read · Published April 4, 2024

From usage to upsell – how product & CX can collaborate to maximize revenue from CSQLs

Latest Update May 10, 2024

The constant battle to generate more revenue while keeping customer acquisition costs downs down can feel like a Sisyphean task for SaaS companies. It can be a's a relentless cycle that drains resources and leaves you yearning for a breakthrough.

What if the key to success was already hiding within your company walls? A dedicated group of existing customers, primed and ready to become your biggest advocates? That's the power of the CSQL or Customer Success Qualified Lead.  

In this article, we walk through how product and customer experience teams can collaborate to unlock a hidden revenue stream so you can stop feeling the weight of Sisyphean customer acquisition costs.

CSQL meaning – understanding the CSQL advantage

Imagine your sales funnel as a singles bar. You've got all sorts of hopefuls wandering in, but not all of them are ready to mingle.  

First up is the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This one's spotted your product across the room, maybe checked out your profile – perhaps a website visit. They're intrigued – maybe they’ve downloaded an ebook – but haven't quite gathered the courage to strike up a conversation.  

Then there's the Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). This one's been eyeing you from the bar for a while, maybe even sent you a drink, or in business speak, requested a demo. They're definitely interested, but still need some sweet talk before they head to the dance floor to become a paying customer.  

Finally, we've got the Product Qualified Lead (PQL). This one's already at the bar, grabbed a complimentary drink i.e., a free trial, and maybe even tried out a few dance moves with your features. They've gotten a taste of what you offer, and now it's your job to convince them the whole night – full product experience – is going to be amazing. 

So where does our CSQL fit in this? 

What is a CSQL? 

In our singles bar analogy, the CSQL is the ultimate VIP. They're not just some random person in the crowd; they're a satisfied customer who has already had a fantastic experience. They remember the great conversation (positive interactions with customer success), loved the dance moves (found value in your product), and even left a glowing review for others (positive NPS score). 

Now, the bartender aka your customer success manager notices them hanging back at the bar. This is your golden opportunity! They're already familiar with you, know you're a good catch, and might even be open to exploring a deeper connection like upselling to a premium plan. 

Unlike the MQLs and SQLs who still need some convincing, the CSQL is practically whispering in your ear, "Hey, remember how awesome we were together? Let's do it again but with some extra bells and whistles!" 

 Image illustrating lead qualification funnel including MQL, SQL, PQL & CSQL

While customer acquisition is crucial for any business, it can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor. 

Instead of constantly pushing the boulder of customer acquisition uphill, why not focus on leveraging your existing customer base? According to a report by Subscribed Institute, existing subscribers bring in a whopping 70-80% of a subscription company's revenue

CSQLs are the key to unlocking this hidden potential. They are happy customers who have already experienced the value of your product, making them prime candidates for upsells and further growth within your existing accounts.

What makes CSQLs highly valuable for SaaS companies

  • Targeted intel: Customer success reps live and breathe your customers' needs. They know exactly who's using what and how. This translates to laser-focused upsell opportunities compared to the scattershot approach of marketing.
  • Further down the funnel: CSQLs are already believers. They've experienced the value of your product firsthand. This means less hand-holding and nurturing compared to those earlier-stage leads. Think of them as ready to graduate from training wheels to a shiny new bike.
  • Lifetime value champions: CSQLs are your golden ticket to high lifetime value. They're already using your product, which means they're a perfect fit. Plus, they're more likely to convert on upsells, making them a much more cost-effective source of revenue than chasing down new customers. Think of them as the low-maintenance, high-reward friends you want in your life.

Not only are CSQLs more receptive to upsells, but the conversion rates are significantly higher compared to acquiring new customers. Think about it – the success rate of selling to an existing customer sits comfortably between 60-70%, according to Forbes

This dramatically reduces the investment of time and resources needed to close a deal compared to the gamble of acquiring a completely new customer with a much lower success rate. By focusing on nurturing and upselling CSQLs, you're essentially maximizing your return on investment (ROI) from your existing customer base.

How product and customer teams can identify CSQLs together

CSQLs exist within your existing customer base – and this spells a huge opportunity for your product and customer experience teams to come together to unlock their potential. Here are some ways to start qualifying leads as CSQLS:

Use of welcome screens to collect info during onboarding

Gathering intel on customer needs on day one can be quite valuable to understand how your customer intends to use your product, what their goals are, and what kind of challenges they face. This sets the stage for personalized upsell opportunities later down the line. 

Imagine upsells that feel less like a sales pitch and more like the perfect solution to a problem they mentioned during onboarding. If you’re leveraging the power of self-service onboarding, you can make use of the welcome screens during the process to gather key info. 

Tracking product usage and behavior

By monitoring user behavior, product managers and product marketing managers can identify features that valuable customers might be overlooking. 

Are there functionalities gathering dust despite their potential? This is where the magic happens – these underutilized features become prime upsell opportunities. You can highlight how additional functionalities address untapped needs, essentially offering them the missing puzzle piece to their success.

Turning happy customers into upsell opportunities with NPS surveys

Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys are more than just a popularity contest for your product. Regularly sending them out allows you to gauge customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Here is an example of an NPS survey created using CommandBar, an AI-based user assistance platform. 

Screenshot of an NPS survey created with CommandBar, an AI-powered user assistance platform

Positive responses are gold – they can help identify potential CSQLs who are ripe for upselling. But don't ignore the negative feedback! It highlights areas for improvement and can spark ideas for upsell solutions that address those very pain points. Think of it as a two-way street – you get valuable insights, and they get a product that better fits their needs.

Segmenting customers for tailored upsells

Not all customers are created equal, and their upsell journeys shouldn't be either. Here's where customer segmentation comes in. By dividing your customer base based on usage patterns, industry, or company size, you can craft targeted upsell messaging. 

Imagine sending laser-focused in-app nudges or prompts that resonate with each customer's specific needs. This personalized approach makes them feel valued and much more likely to convert.

Strategies product and customer success teams can use to drive revenue

Identifying CSQLs is just the first act. To turn them into revenue generators, product and CX teams need to harmonize their efforts. Here's how they can work together:

Setting up nudges that don't nag

In-app messages and checklists are like that friend who “pops” up at the right time to offer you a helpful tip or suggestion to get your job done. By integrating nudges or contextual checklists within the product flow, you can highlight premium features relevant to the customer's current activity. No more bombarding users with irrelevant in-app notifications or upsells that just create noise.

Here’s what a non-intrusive checklist that prompts users to try out different platform features, created using CommandBar, looks like. 

Screenshot of in-app checklist created with CommandBar to guide users through platform features

Give your customers a taste of the good life

Think of this as giving out free samples at the grocery store, but for software. Offering limited-time trials of premium features allows CSQLs to experience the added value firsthand before committing to a purchase. This "try before you buy" approach builds confidence and demonstrates the true power of your upgrade options.

Make your CSQLs friends with benefits

Happy customers are your best salespeople. Reward existing customers who refer colleagues within their organization with loyalty points or discounts. This leverages the power of trust and can unlock new upsell opportunities within existing accounts. Plus, it's a win-win – they get rewarded and you get a potential new power user.

Test the art of the gentle FOMO

A little healthy fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a powerful motivator. Create a sense of urgency with limited-time discounts for upgrades. This incentivizes CSQLs to take advantage of the upsell offer before the window closes. But remember, keep it genuine – limited-time deals should be just that, limited-time, not a permanent fixture.

From Sisyphean struggle to strategic upselling

It is critical to remember that when it comes to your existing customers, you’re not forcing an upgrade, you’re offering them an evolution. 

Using a data-driven approach, targeted communication, and enticing offers, product and customer success teams can work together to unlock the full potential of your existing customer base and create a sustainable path to revenue growth while keeping customer acquisition costs down. 

Copy icon
X logo
LinkedIn logo

Zero fluff.

Our stories 🤝 your inbox

Email Icon

Up Next

Customers annoyed with you? You’re annoyed with them? Why a customer experience manager is key to SaaS success

Never miss another
fabulous article.

Weekly digest in your inbox.

Email Icon
Continue Reading

Up Next

Harnessing the power of LangChain: A deep dive into five innovative projects

Read Now

What's hot