How to Determine Which Customers Would Make a Good Reference


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When you are building a customer reference program, it is easy to be sucked into the fallacy that more is better. You or your manager may have been given a goal to bring X number of new customers into the program this quarter (or else you don’t get your bonus!). While having a large pool of customer references is important, it is also important to consider the quality and effectiveness of these customers. It may be a better use of your time to focus your limited resources on recruiting ‘high impact’ customers.

What makes a customer ‘high impact’? Here are some characteristics of what might make one customer a stronger candidate than another. The customer is:

  • A well-known brand, a household name (Dell, Google, Coke, Safeway)
  • From a vertical market that is a target for your sales team (finance, retail, healthcare)
  • Able to show quantifiable results from using your product or service
  • Articulate and able to convey a clear message
  • Genuinely passionate about your company and product
  • Willing to be involved in a variety of reference activities

Customer A
Here is an example of how this affects your program: After you spend weeks chasing them, Customer A reluctantly agrees to be a reference. You set up a call with the prospect. A few days later, the sales person calls you to tell you that after the reference call happened, his prospect decided not to buy! Here’s why – on the reference call, Customer A was from a small, five person IT shop that no one had ever heard of. He didn’t have any real benefits to talk about, but said that the solution was forced on him by his boss. He gave the prospect one-word answers and mostly mumbled throughout the call. He said he was busy and didn’t know much about the solution.

If you have many customers like this in your program, you have a problem and your program is fundamentally weak.

Customer B
Instead, let’s see what it looks like with a high impact customer: Customer B enthusiastically and promptly accepts an invitation into your reference program. He works for Kellogg Brand Foods. You set up a reference call with the prospect. On the call, he shares his ROI dashboard with the prospect and gives specific dollar amounts of how much money was saved by switching to your product. He answered the prospect’s questions with the right amount of technical detail as well as the business benefits. He even explained why they purchased three more of your company’s products and got your prospect interested in them as well! Without even being asked, Customer B talked about the high level of customer service he receives from your company’s support department – and this seals the deal. The sales person sends YOU a gift basket for setting him up with such a fantastic, well-matched reference which helped him attain his quota for the quarter!

If your reference program has 50 Customer Bs, it will be much more successful than if you had 100 Customer As. This may sound obvious and certainly isn’t rocket science but it’s often forgotten that quality vs. quantity is the key to success when deciding which customers would make a good reference. Now go get ’em!

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:


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