Satisfied customers willing to serve as references for your new prospects often make the difference between winning and losing the sale. Getting and keeping those references, however, is a challenging and time-consuming job.
Does this sound like a typical scenario in your company? You get an S.O.S. email at 5:00 p.m., blasted out to 20 people asking for a customer willing to serve as a reference. Oh, and the salesperson needs to get the information to the prospect first thing in the morning. A chain of email continues until noon two days later, when the prospect finally receives the reference information. If only there was a better way.
Satisfied customers willing to serve as references for your new prospects often make the difference between winning and losing the sale. Getting and keeping those references, however, is a challenging and time-consuming job. While critical to the success of sales, this responsibility often falls into the lap of marketing and product management professionals who may not be as close to the individual customers as their sales representatives.
There is a better way. These seven strategies help you avoid the stressful and unproductive customer reference scramble. Using this approach, you can systematically acquire and retain customer references that will help grow the company, increase the bottom line, and build credibility and brand equity.
Ask for a reference. It is vital to have a process and communications in place for Sales to ask customers to provide a reference, and then make it easy for Sales to nominate customers who agree.
Surprisingly, many companies simply don’t ask customers to serve as references. Sometimes, sales representatives want to protect their customers by not asking for “favors.” Other times, it’s not top-of-mind or encouraged internally. Or there’s no process in place to make asking for references easy and worthwhile.
In truth, customers are often the best spokespeople—even the best salespeople—a company has. Oftentimes, the customer is flattered to speak of his or her expertise and experience with your product.
Set up a consistent and easy process to make asking for the reference a top-of-mind and painless process for sales.
Broach the subject by including reference language in the final negotiations of a deal.
Designate a marketing specialist to work with sales representatives on opportunities to secure new references.
Keep track of the sales representatives who contribute references, and make their contributions known to others.
Joshua Horwitz worked in marketing for several software companies in the late 1990s and quickly learned many companies struggle when it comes to leveraging customer references during the sales cycle. In 2003, he founded Boulder Logic. Companies with complex products and selling cycles rely on Boulder Logic for an easy-to-deploy, highly customizable enterprise solution that can be integrated into existing environments.