Peer-to-Peer Selling: Leveraging Your Customer Voices to Better Sales Enablement in Today’s Sharing Economy

The world is moving to a peer-to-peer selling environment that also now includes the sharing of experiences. Whether it’s finding a good restaurant, choosing a hotel or purchasing a new laptop, reading about other buyers’ experiences is a prerequisite to buying.

Why is it that peer reviews hold so much more power than a vendor simply telling you why they’re so great? It’s quite simple – existing customers have nothing to gain.  For this reason, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, peer recommendations are influencing more than 90 percent of all B-to-B buying decisions. Effective sales teams are turning to peer-to-peer selling as a key technique for closing more deals.

In addition to the credibility factor, other trends are driving the adoption of peer-to-peer selling among B-to-B markets. The growth of the internet and social media has created an explosion of content – from blogs to email blasts and eBooks. All of this information at the buyer’s fingertips is a good thing but can also cause information overload, along with a healthy dose of skepticism. Hearing directly from actual boots-on-the-ground users can help buyers cut through the noise. Plus, most companies now have large groups of people involved with the purchasing decision – often involving C-level executives – who are focused on managing risk in purchasing. The best way to evaluate your potential purchase is to hear out current users’ opinions.

Today, it’s essential for organizations to engage in peer-to-peer selling programs that focus on customer reference, but where do they begin?

The key is to enable customer advocates to easily generate content and provide feedback about your brand through online product reviews; customer success stories in video and print; online chats; online user groups; and social media posts on Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and corporate blogs.

Also consider the following best practices to create an effective customer-advocacy-based selling strategy:

  • Integrate marketing and sales teams. peer-to-peer selling must be a joint initiative between sales and marketing, since both departments bring unique insights and knowledge. Sales teams have greater visibility into the status of key accounts, while marketing is the voice of the company, creating the content and facilitating customer involvement.
  • Invest in the program. To enable effective peer-to-peer selling, companies must be willing to invest in the program, with dedicated staff, budget and technology to support the initiative.
  • Integrate CRM. Companies need to systematize the process through a centralized database of tailored customer reference information. Rather than asking reps to email other salespeople for customer-specific information in an ad hoc manner, the process needs to be streamlined as a key component of the sales cycle.
  • Automate reference management. Adopting an automated system for curating customer content by opportunity, sales cycle stage, and buyer role can facilitate references. It also can provide insights into which content prospects consume and specific details on what is most effective at engaging buyers throughout the sales process.
  • Drive reference efficacy. Select a system and process that drives reference efficacy, making it easy to request, nominate, and track reference availability by type, e.g., speaking engagement, reference call, site visit, at the sales opportunity level. It also should track reference usage and controls to avoid customer burnout and ensure positive relationships with advocates. Whether you’re starting a program from scratch and aren’t sure where to begin, or just need to do some minor tweaking, this robust and interactive planning guide will serve as your checkpoints.
  • Measure the results. Like many sales and marketing programs, peer-to-peer selling enablement is one you can tie directly to the bottom line with metrics like Influenced revenue, referral generation, and reference efficacy.

The saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” comes to mind when it comes to employing customer reference as a key sales strategy. While today’s sales process is driven by the digital age in many ways, what remains most effective is one peer engaging with another, sharing experiences, opinions and advice. Since commerce began, that has been the most powerful selling tool, regardless of the delivery vehicle.

This week’s post is by guest author, Toby Murdock, General Manager at Upland Software, a cloud-based Enterprise Work Management software. Their family of applications enables users to manage their projects, professional workforce, and IT investments; automate document-intensive business processes; and effectively engage with their customers, prospects, and community via the web and mobile technologies.