to know about success
stories and place a great deal of stock in the opportunity to
speak with other customers. Customer
references are particularly valued by customers who feel they
are almost at the point of making a decision but want to make “just
one last check” to validate that they’re making the right choice.
They think your product or service is the right one but want
some final assurance.
After all, they’re the ones on the line if your product
or service is a miserable failure. They want to speak
with someone who was already taken the risk of working with
an unfamiliar product or company, not be the one to take the initial
important and they should always be in the back of a sales professional’s
head. How do you know when a customer may be willing to be a great
reference for your company?
feedback following the delivery of a product or service
strong enough relationship
forged from months/years of positive experiences
unsolicited thank you call or e-mail
from a colleague based on a positive discussion with a reference
Seek to build
up a list of references for your company. These references can be
subdivided by product or service or can simply provide a “character”
reference for those customers who want to know more about working
with you or your company. When looking to build a pool of references,
be sure to follow these guidelines:
· Maintain an Active Relationship
– Avoid using a stale account that hasn’t worked with you in years.
Customers want to speak with companies who have had recent experiences.
Use customers who can detail a recent
success story or who can point to a long track record of success.
It is also crucial to know if a reference is still ingood standing.
If a client is mad at you about something, leave them off the list.
· Build a List from Various
Industries and Geographies – Try to gather
references from as many industries as possible. Most prospects
may not be picky as to what company they’ll speak to. Others may
ask for customers in particular parts of the country or industries.
Clearly, you can’t cover all the bases but make you have a healthy
mix in case a requirement does come up.
· Don’t Overload Your References
– Try to share the wealth among your references. If a client has
agreed to speak with
prospects, don’t overwhelm them with calls. Do what you can
to rotate references so as to not ruin a relationship. The best
thing to do is to not give out a reference name unless it is the
last step of the decision- makingprocess.
· Don’t Publish a Reference
List for Customers to Call – This is asking for it.
They may hound your references. Selectively distribute reference
names as they are very important and should not be shared with everyone.
· Check Before They Call
– Even if a client once gave you permission, it is courteous to
first check before giving out their name. They will appreciate
it and you will also be able to tell them why a prospect is calling.
In many cases, they will seek to tailor their message
based on the client’s needs.
Lastly, if a
client was overjoyed with you but isn’t willing to act as a reference,
at a minimum, ask if they will send you a testimonial
letter. Most will be glad to oblige.