Account expansion is hard, right? Maybe not.

Hilary Riley, VP of Partner Success at Mainstay, has a more strategic approach to account expansion – it is all about working a mutual success plan.

“You have to make sure you regularly go back up to the balcony and take a 10,000-foot point of view to understand the goals and outcomes your partner is driving toward,” Hilary explains.

“What is it they are looking to accomplish this year?”

The success plan is really about finding common ground for the partnership. It has to be mutual and agreed on. And, then it has to be revisited regularly to continue to ensure alignment.

For Hilary, the success plan is the foundation of good account management work and she has three key rules to make the plan a success. I recently spoke to Hilary to learn more.

1) Make it a Living Document 📆

The development of a good Success Plan starts with sales even before an organization becomes a client and it continues to evolve throughout a customer relationship.

Hilary’s team takes information from the sales process to build the success plan:

  • Why are they purchasing our product?
  • What are their goals and objectives?

“We want that common ground to be there starting from the initial onboarding, so we start with a clear focus on what they are trying to solve for,” Hilary says. “And, then the success plan needs to be a living document throughout the entire relationship.

At Mainstay, they do a Strategic Program Review three times a year to ensure they’re still aligned on the partner’s objectives and goals. Some even meet on a monthly basis.

She explains: “We bring that success plan back to life each time to ensure:

  1. we are still aligned on these objectives and goals
  2. determine if there are some updates or changes that need to be made.”

2) Come Back to Customer Pain 🤕

One of the most important factors that make the success plan an actual success is that they always go back to the initial partner challenges.

“It’s really the homework that we need to do at the outset of a relationship,” Hilary explains.

As the Mainstay team prepares for Program Reviews, they go back to the partner’s success plan, analyze product usage, and work to continue to engage with their pain points.

“We enable our team to take a consultative approach to solve those challenges and address the pain points. Those are the buying signals.”

When they achieve success in one department, there’s then the opportunity for expansion to other departments.

“It’s really just that consistent observation of how they’re utilizing our product, what type of results they are seeing, and having ongoing conversations to keep that value in front of them so that we are able to identify expansion opportunities together.”

3) Speak to Customer Value💰

A perennial issue across all PSR teams is how to get a senior economic buyer back into the conversation after an initial partnership is forged. Expansions usually cannot happen without that senior economic buyer.

Hilary points to strategies her team uses to mitigate this issue.

Build a relationship with the economic buyer – pre-contract. 

The success manager is introduced to that economic buyer or sponsor, while they’re still at the table during the buying process so that they don’t lose sight of that relationship. Involving and introducing the partner success manager sooner helps them hear the economic buyer’s goals and build a direct relationship.

Continuing to keep the original sales team member engaged in the partnership.

The sales team member participates in at least one or two of the strategic program reviews. This helps to foster cross collaboration between the PSM and the sales team, and provide a broader, more complete view of the customer’s pain and goals.

Having a regular touchpoint with the executive sponsor enables them to speak to their value.

Hilary adds: “You’ve got to go back up to the top of the balcony because that’s where that executive sponsor is typically sitting – right there, sitting at that balcony view.”

Hilary concludes that success with expansions is about the right blend of due diligence and research, good discovery, and consistent communication.

Those habits should make expansions easier for all of us!