Remote Selling has become an important focus for every sales organization. Digital sales technologies, by default, are what enables remote selling. In this interview series, we ask executives at leading salestech companies to describe how their customers are leveraging technology, what metrics are now possible, and more.
Q: What are your customers doing to adapt to - or leverage - the trend towards distributed sales teams and remote selling?
David: Having a central, searchable source of customer references is even more important when salespeople and marketers are working remotely. Walking to a teammate’s cube down the hall isn’t an option. Tribal knowledge needs to be consolidated and accessible at any time, day or night.
Q: How should users of Customer Reference Management platforms measure the impact?
David: Customer references validate all the marketing and sales messaging from a company. Their experiences are more relatable and credible. The primary goal of a customer reference program is to enable the use of highly relevant customer advocates in the vast majority of, in the case of sales, opportunities. Advocates smooth out hitches in the sales cycle, avert discount discussions, and boost win rates. Higher win rates translate to revenue influenced, which is the primary metric used by most reference programs.
Q: What steps can Customer Reference Management users take to best facilitate their prospects’ decision-making given that interactions are likely remote?
David: Customer experiences and successes should be prevalent in digital marketing, social media, PR and events. By the time a buyer engages with a salesperson, they should already understand how customers are winning with your solution; the value proposition.
Q: What are one or two examples of how a customer is using your solution in surprising ways.
David: Existing clients need to share best practices with one another. Customer success managers need to find existing customer advocates with specific attributes, not for sales purposes, but to connect like companies to learn from each other.
Q: How can customer reference conversations be most effective when given virtually?
David: Most customer reference activities are phone calls. That part hasn’t changed. However, customer references are not all created equally. Salespeople need to be able to search on a variety of criteria in order to present the best matched customers. A good customer reference solution supports detailed searches.
Q: At what stage in the sales cycle should sellers offer customer references?
David: Customer references come in many forms. Short form videos, written case studies, quotes and reviews (e.g., TrustRadius), are perfect for early-stage prospects. Statistic-heavy (e.g., ROI studies), recorded presentations and industry composite case studies make sense in the middle. And finally, reference calls and site visits support later stage prospects. There’s no stage that doesn’t benefit, but the forms of references differ.
Q: What is the impact on organizations that implement a customer reference management program?
David: First, there is a huge productivity gain and a reduction in frustration among those who need references on a daily basis. The conventional “hunting” process is a poor use of time, and often unsuccessful. Centralized data that is searchable changes the game. The result is a more consistent use of customer references, which tilts the odds of closing business in your company’s direction.
Q: What steps should organizations take if they plan to implement a customer reference program?
David: Identify a passionate owner. In most cases this is a full-time role. Collect customer references from those colleagues who own customer relationships. Centralize the data and give users self-service access. Put a stop to “black market” referencing so that uses can be tracked, overuse prevented, and references rewarded for their contributions.
Q: Will customer reference programs be more or less important with remote selling being the new norm?
David: Because “water cooler” references aren’t a thing in remote selling, sellers will need a single place, loaded with qualified references, more than ever when working remotely.
Point of Reference
David has been an über advocate of customer advocate programs since 2003. He believes in the power of leveraging authentic, relatable customer experiences and insights in all sales and marketing activities and initiatives. His company, which provides technology and services, is focused on fueling company growth through the effective use of customer advocates.