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Getting Executive Support Will Set the Tone for a Successful Customer Reference Program

Recently someone posed this question: “We have a customer reference program but it just isn’t getting enough traction. How do I spur it into action?” Unfortunately this is a pretty common sentiment, so let’s take a few minutes to explore one of the most common reasons why this happens and how best to tackle the issue.

To determine the shortcomings of any given customer reference program, it’s necessary to take a closer look at the specific situation, but quite often the core issue is that the program lacks the right type of executive support. You may have a very well managed, well structured, and organized program but without visible support and influence from the executive team you may find you are struggling to get your constituents to participate. Sales professionals, who are competitive by nature, may feel the need to keep their references close to the vest. Others may simply see it as more work and unnecessary if it’s not defined as a direct responsibility. Whatever their perspective, this will need to change for your program to thrive. And you will most likely need an individual more powerful than yourself to make this happen- this is your executive sponsor and enlisting their support is challenging but with some persistence it’s achievable and will be worth the effort.

Begin by locating the individual that you believe will be your strongest advocate and have the loudest voice within the company. Gain their support by providing them some hard evidence. Speak their language with well defined metrics that prove the positive impact references have had on the business’ bottom line. Once you have solid executive level sponsorship on your side then work to directly engage the sales reps and managers. Ask your executive sponsor to include the importance of the program into all relevant communications. Offer to craft that message for them. Their voice will go a long way. Arrange for your executive to sponsor a contest to see who can offer the most new customer reference nominations, then have them publicize the rankings and recognize the winners. If this type of contest doesn’t work then it may be necessary for your executive to require each member of the sales team to nominate a certain number of references. Either approach will work and breathe new life into your program.

Regardless of departmental responsibility, all members of the senior management team speak the same language and are driving toward the same goals- financial growth and success. Your customer reference program is designed to directly support these goals. Show past performance and future potential. Be clear about offering solutions for any gaps or challenges and they will support your efforts. Make it easy for them to help you achieve your participation goals by doing the work for them – drafting the message and creating the vehicles to deliver it. In no time you will have an evangelist that will light a fire under your program and send it to the next level. Remember to report on the progress of the program to your constituents and executives on a regular basis this helps to remind everyone that their hard work is paying off and will keep them motivated and participating. Securing executive support and maintaining that support requires more work for the customer reference program manager, but going the extra mile will bring great rewards.

If you have a story of how your executive sponsor supported your program and made a difference we invite you to comment and share your story here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joshua Horwitz
Boulder Logic
Joshua Horwitz is president and a founder at Boulder Logic, a company specializing in customer reference management. Companies with complex products and selling cycles rely on Boulder Logic for an easy-to-deploy, highly customizable enterprise solution to accelerate sales and marketing using their existing customers. Blog: http://referencesuccess.com


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