Transform Your Customers into Unassailable References (Part 2)


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Good references are made, not born.

Here is a continuation of the previous blog post, Part 1, beginning with step seven of the thirteen-step process:

  1. Train your reference. Whether he’s the ally you recruited and trained to sell on your behalf, or someone you met after the contract was signed, you have to train him if you want him to be a good reference. He should know and be able to talk knowledgeably about
    1. your company’s messages
    2. how and why your company was selected
    3. your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
    4. issues his company had with you and how those were favorably resolved
    5. instances where your company, and you in particular, went the extra mile to meet his company’s requirements
    6. the standard sales objections your company faces, and responses to those objections
  2. Keep your reference informed about anything material going on with your company. Don’t ever let him be surprised by information about you during a reference call. In fact, don’t allow them to be surprised at all. It’s not good business to put your reference, coach or ally in a potentially embarrassing or precarious position.
  3. Before they are called by a prospect, brief your contact just as you would any other member of your virtual sales team.  Tell him
    1. with whom he will be speaking, their title, and responsibility in the evaluation
    2. what that person’s company does
    3. where the company is in its evaluation process
    4. what the prospect’s decision criteria are
    5. what the prospect likes and dislikes about your offering
    6. who your competitors are, and how you want him to position you against those competitors
    7. which subjects he should defer to you
    8. which subjects he should raise with the prospect
  4. Keep up your relationships with others in your reference account as well. If you’ve invested a lot of time in developing your reference and have learned to use him well, what would you do if he disappeared tomorrow? Is there someone who could step into his place?
  5. Make sure your company takes care of your references. Without usurping the authority or responsibility of the post-sales team, make sure your reference receives special treatment — fast access to customer care, free tickets to your company’s annual customer conference, or perhaps a regular round of golf with you and your company’s CEO.
  6. Use the reference regularly. Don’t let months go by without making her feel useful. References grow stale through lack of use.
  7. Make sure your reference is believable. My friend Olin Thompson used to remind sales reps that if their reference’s story sounds too perfect, credibility goes out the window. It’s good, not bad, for a reference to say, “There are two small issues that remain with this supplier. They’ve done everything they promised, but these two things came up which they’ve been working diligently to resolve. . . .”

One final note: While winning you new business, your reference may begin to wonder whether his own success will hurt him. Will he lose resources? Will he receive less attention from you or your company? Will someone else usurp his favored-reference spot? Bring the subject into the open from time to time. Reassure him that his success as a reference will only make him more valuable in your eyes.

Excerpted from How Winners Sell © Dave Stein — All Rights Reserved

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Stein
Dave specializes in helping his clients win critical B2B sales opportunities as well as helping them hire the best sales talent.Dave is co-author of Beyond the Sales Process. He wrote the best-selling How Winners Sell in 2004.


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