How to Boost Account Value Using a Land and Expand Strategy 📈

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Written by
David Levy

A Land and Expand strategy is the gateway to higher-value customer accounts and better relationships. Read this guide to learn how to implement one. 

A strong, multi-threaded customer relationship leads to more opportunities to retain and expand your customers.

Land and expand boosts the ability to widen your footprint in an account and grow average account value without constantly relying on new business. Expansion also boosts one of the most critical SaaS metrics – net dollar retention.

Today we'll cover how you can implement a solid land and expand strategy to close more deals with your current customers. 

Table of contents:

What is a Land and Expand Strategy and Why Does It Work?

A land and expand strategy begins when a sales rep lands a deal with a company. Over time, they develop a relationship built on value creation, trust, and a great customer experience. The sales rep uses this as a foundation to be curious, a strategic thinker for their customer, and to identify new opportunities to add value in the account.

The land and expand strategy is essential because the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while your chance of selling to a new prospect is a measly 5-20%. 

For example, let’s say an account executive signs a company's marketing team to their new ad software. 

Over time, the AE builds a relationship with the CMO and introduces a new analytics module that pairs well with the ad capabilities. 

6 months after implementing the ad software with great results, the CMO recommends the analytics software to the company’s business intelligence director. By month 9, the business intelligence team signs a contract with your company for the analytics module.

This expansion happened because the relationship was nurtured, the rep was asking the right questions and thinking strategically for the customer which opened the door for the CMO to champion the analytics use-case.

Your champion plays a vital role in upselling. They advocate for you internally and can introduce your reps to new business contacts, leading to more sales opportunities.

This is a great approach to a successful land and expand strategy – through developing a strong champion built up by delivering value and exceptional end user experience.

According to Forbes Insights Reports, 74% of customers are at least somewhat prone to buy based on customer experience alone.

And just a 5% increase in customer retention increases profits by 25%-95%.

5 Points to Consider Before Creating Your Land and Expand Playbook 

Your land and expand playbook is a vital tool in your sales model that helps land customers, build relationships, grab referrals, and grow sales. 

1. Customer interviews

Talking to your customers provides invaluable information. The insights from your interviews will help establish and improve your land and expand strategy. 

Aim to get as many customer interviews as possible because you need a good sample size with accurate information.

Customer interviews clarify the customer's:

  • Wants — Product desires, end-goals
  • Needs — Establish use-cases that solve their pain points
  • Identities — Customer demographics
  • Buying behavior — Understand the actions of a serious potential customer 

Ask specific questions to find out why your customer purchased your product. Keep these 6 questions in mind as you write your interview questions: 

  1. What pain were they having? 
  2. Why did they choose you over the competition?
  3. What impact did your solution have on their business?
  4. What use-cases stood out to them?
  5. How do they typically go about buying products or services?
  6. How did their buyer experience contribute to purchasing your product? (speaking with reps, marketing messages, etc.)

Segmentation makes the customer experience more personalized. Segmentation makes firms 60% more likely to understand customer challenges and concerns and 130% more likely to know their intentions.

For instance, you can use the information collected to segment accounts based on: 

  • Industry vertical
  • Ideal use-cases
  • Buyer persona
  • Revenue potential

2. Free trials, tiers, & POC

Does your product offer a trial period or POC? Free trials, tiers, and POCs are opportunities to surface additional use cases for expansion.

For example, SaaS products usually let users see the features they can access in higher tiers — users get dedicated reps to schedule calls, run demos, and explain features and benefits.

You could create a variety of tiers so customers can purchase the level of features they need now with the option to upgrade later.

Then, offer them a free trial or POC period to test drive higher-level tier features.

The big-time benefit of a free trial or POC is giving your customer a glimpse of higher tier features, so when the time comes that they need them, they’re primed for an upsell.

For instance, a mid-market company probably doesn't care about role-based access, SSO, and other security features that enterprise companies typically use. 

But as they grow, they'll start to care about those features, leading to an easy expansion. 

So introducing those features early gets decision-makers thinking ahead. And offering a POC phase when they're ready to level up helps solidify their belief in their need.

Ask these 4 questions to help nail down your approach to free trials and POCs:

  1. How do you want AE's to engage with customers during POCs? (platforms, sales messaging, free vs. paid etc.)
  2. What does the customer journey look like during the POC? (i.e. how many times do you meet with the customer and which resources are involved?)
  3. Which sales enablement tools will be used to help create a successful POC? (i.e. tools that can help with the sales process, objection handling, managing action items, etc)
  4. If a customer is on board with moving forward after the POC, how should reps surface additional use cases to drive future expansions? 

3. Sales messaging

Sales messaging relates to pitches and how reps explain the value of your product. One of the best ways to message your product is through customer stories.

Effective customer stories help the buyer think about the broader applications of your product or service, seeding a future upsell opportunity to strengthen your land and expand strategy.

I recommend adding sales messaging guidelines and relevant customer stories to your sales playbook to ensure that your organization has a uniform approach.

For example, a Fortune 100 bank won't resonate with the customer story of a Series B retail company you worked with (and vice versa)

Relevance is key.

Getting sales messaging polished before creating your land and expand blueprint makes identifying what's helping or hurting upsells easier. 

4. Support for product scalability 

Your product should be built with scalability in mind which encompasses everything you need to support your customers across all segments  — this includes everything from your infrastructure handling increasing amounts of usage, to supporting SAML integrations to roles and permissions. 

Product scalability could also mean supporting global data centers so EMEA and APAC customers can host data locally to appease regulatory concerns around GDPR.

Articulating technical features through customer wins or business value to your customer will significantly increase your ability to land and expand. 

To ensure you have the customer wins and value at your fingertips, consider creating technical product cards and customer win cards within Aircover to dynamically surface them in-meeting.

Sales enablement can assist in gathering the intel and train your sellers on when and how to leverage the cards in their customer meetings.

5. Land and expand KPIs

Establishing land and expand KPIs helps measure your strategy.

These KPIs keep track of each quarter: 

  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) — Measures the total revenue your company can expect from a single customer. Consider how expanding into a new business unit, a new product release, or increased usage of your existing toolset can increase this.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) - This is the money invested across sales and marketing to acquire a customer. Comparing your LTV:CAC ratio can give you key insights into your business. If an ideal ratio is 3:1, a 1:1 ratio means you could be spending too much, while a 6:1 ratio could mean you are missing out on business. This all trickles down to how much more or less you should be investing into your land and expand strategy.
  • Customer Churn Rates — At what rate are customers not renewing their contracts? What can be done to lessen this ratio? Which use-cases will keep them as customers?
  • Customer Renewal Rates — How often are customers extending their relationship with your company/product? How can your land and expand strategy strengthen this?
  • Net Dollar Retention — While looking at a cohort of customers, is net revenue growing or shrinking over a specific period of time? By expanding accounts, you can grow your NDR >100%; in other words, you are starting off with more money in that quarter/year than the year before, all without bringing on new customers. Top tier SaaS companies, like ServiceNow, have an NDR of >130%.
  • Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) — Is the average user spending more with your organization than in past quarters since implementing your land and expand blueprint?
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS ) — Are more customers recommending your product after gaining value from it or receiving exceptional customer service? 
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) — Is customer satisfaction increasing after you expand your customers? Why or why not?

A Land and Expand Strategy Blueprint for Long-Term Growth

Long-term growth is essential to the success of your company. Building a land and expand strategy blueprint paves the road for the future of your business.

1. Think long term so the customer can too

Land and expand begins with long-term, strategic thinking to grow the account.

Customers may think of your product for 1 specific use case but applying a long-term approach opens their eyes to additional areas your product can add value.

Create a plan for how reps should be supporting prospects and existing customers — address these 3 areas in your plan: 

  1. Access to customer relationship-building tools like:
  • Intent data and customer segmentation tools: gain information on who is looking for your product and service, and create segments of users to target
  • In-meeting Aircover Cards to give sellers and customer success access to the latest customer wins, discovery questions, and relationship notes to help drive an expansion strategy
  1. Enablement sessions on taking an account-based selling approach – having sales and marketing work closely together to target high-value companies – providing more “aircover” to land and expand your key accounts.
  1. Aggregating customer stories to support prospects and customers — customer stories will help them think more broadly about your product and convey what may be a technical offering into real business value. Ensuring these stories are easily consumable by sales and available where/when the seller needs them is key to this strategy. 

Here's an example of a  customer story that helps seed an additional use case down the line:

"This reminds me of Company B (similar to your prospect’s company). They were experiencing something very similar which led them to get started with us. They soon realized we may be able to help with (tangentially related pain point/goal/initiative), and now we are supporting them on (insert other use case) across multiple lines-of-business.

Thanks to a relevant customer story, your prospect starts thinking about other areas you can help their business.

2. Keep up with stakeholders 

Know your stakeholders to ensure you're spending your time with the people that can have an impact on moving your deal forward.

Use sales enablement tools to help you with your approach — Aircover's People Insights provides you a single pane of glass live in your virtual meeting to see more information on who you are speaking with, and helps you store and share notes on different stakeholders to avoid losing nuanced information. 

Accessing information live in a meeting this way is helpful, especially if your rep manages multiple external stakeholders (e.g.Champion, Evaluator, Influencer Decision Maker, etc.) and is looping in other internal stakeholders (solutions engineer, manager, subject matter experts (SME), etc.) to help out in the deal. Now the sales rep can orchestrate the meeting more effectively because all of their supporting resources will have access to in-meeting, real-time information on the prospects. 

The small details kept about customer stakeholders involved in the deal can help tailor your future communications with other parts of the company.

Bigger deals often require VP or C-level approval, so it makes sense for sellers to know:

  • Who they are
  • What's essential for their organization 
  • What they value
  • Their vision for their organization
  • Who and how you currently work with their teams

By understanding what is important to your buyer, you can be a greater resource to them through the products and services you offer.

Most decision-makers are long-term thinkers and want to partner with someone on board with their vision.

3. Land: offer the initial product or use-case 

Landing a new customer is based on value and trust between the seller and the buyer.

These factors shape your customer's first impression of your organization and influence the likelihood and timing of future opportunities with their organization.

As your prospect is evaluating their options, offer a free trial as a proof-of-concept to help them realize value more quickly and drive deal momentum.

During the trial, your prospect will likely be evaluating multiple options, and your competitors will be doing their best to create uncertainty about your product.

And one of the best resources to combat this is via competitive battlecards

Competitive battlecards cover:

  • How you win vs. the competition
  • Where the competition excels vs. your offering
  • How your product differs from competitors
  • Case studies that support your product over the competition 
  • Questions the seller can ask to intentionally surface areas your product is better, “landmine questions”

If created correctly, your AEs can use the bite-size information found on battlecards while they are in-meeting to handle objections from the customer that were likely influenced by your competition.

Once you’ve landed the customer, you’ve got to know how to upsell or cross-sell new use-cases.

4. Expand: introduce new-use cases 

After landing the customer with the original use-case to help them solve their needs, it’s time to see where the expansion opportunities are.

Here are ways to pinpoint them for your land and expand sales model:

  • Asking thoughtful discovery questions about the state of their business, upcoming initiatives, and any challenges they are having
  • Reviewing customer wins from a similar segment of customers
  • Details from conversations with stakeholders (i.e., step #2)
  • Go-to-market on the state of the business from your research 

These 5 strategies deliver expansion information effectively:

  1. Value-added touch points via email, phone, text, and social media channels.
  2. Connect your customer with other internal stakeholders – for example, your product team – to provide your customer with confidence in the direction of your company, as well as connecting roadmap with future use cases that will add value to the customer.
  3. Create incentive programs for your current buyers to advocate for you internally.
  4. Host “lunch and learn” sessions to share knowledge across multiple buyer roles.
  5. Form customer advisory boards to create champions behind your new use case. 

As I stated earlier, take advantage of customer stories to naturally convey how your product benefits the customer's business.

Research shows that a customer's brain only lights up in 2 areas when a rep speaks with facts, data, and analysis.

But when a rep paints a picture by mentioning people, places, experiences, and anecdotes – brain activity is triggered in 7 areas.

Stories are proven to be:

  • Easier to remember 
  • More engaging 
  • More relatable

But 1 of the biggest challenges with customer stories is their susceptibility to tribal knowledge. 

In other words, reps know the stories from their deals and keep them to themselves or they are documented in difficult-to-find places.

Fix this problem by giving AEs customer stories at their fingertips using Aircover's in-meeting cards that bring up customer stories in an organized and concise manner. 

5. Build champions 

Your champions advocate for your product and help you do the selling internally.

A Harvard Business Review study found that referred customers have 18% more loyalty than those acquired by other means. Plus, the lifetime value of a new referral customer is 16% higher than your average customer.

But how do you get champions to be consistent with referrals? 

I've found that incentives motivate champions to connect you with people they know — try these incentives to encourage champions to get the ball rolling:

  • Referral program — using a sending platform for gift giving when a champion refers 'X' amount of business (gift cards, company swag, etc.)
  • Customer loyalty programs: free or increased usage 
  • Referral discounts 
  • Elevate that person: include them on a customer advisory board 

6. Track land and expand KPIs

Tracking your KPIs ensures that your land and expand strategy upgrades your sales process and increases revenue.

I mentioned these KPIs earlier:

  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Customer Churn Rates
  • Customer Renewal Rates
  • Net Dollar Retention (NDR)
  • Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Establishing quarterly reviews of your numbers will help you make the necessary tweaks. 

For example, if the customer churn rate is higher than initially thought, you can gain customer feedback on recommended support models, feature improvements, and pricing adjustments.

You can then brief your product and engineering team on the customer feedback that’ll eventually lead to changes to increase stickiness with customers.

Sometimes a high churn rate is due to unmet expectations. 

To fix this, ensure your reps are asking the right questions during the sales process to qualify out buyers that are looking for something different than what you can provide. You can do this by creating a structured list of scoping questions that need to be covered before a deal reaches a certain stage in the sales process. 

A Final Wrap-Up: What Your Land and Expand Playbook Needs for It to Work 

A land and expand strategy increases key KPIs such as net dollar retention and customer lifetime value by establishing stronger customer relationships.

Referral incentives, product scalability, and sales messaging support a successful land and expand blueprint.

Referrals come from a stellar product, excellent customer relationships, and consistently adding value to the buyer and their organization.

For that reason, Aircover established a sales enablement tool to help your AEs track stakeholders, share valuable deal insights, and increase sales effectiveness across every stage of the buying journey.

Get early access to Aircover's data-driven platform to keep sellers on track with customer information!