Posts Tagged ‘deliverables’
While it may seem everyone will appreciate the benefits of your customer reference program, it is important to recognize that salespeople are often skeptical. Past efforts to share their references may have led to frustration for them and their customers, and a formal process may be perceived as complicated. And when it comes to cultivating references for the program, any effort required conflicts with their number one priority: selling.
Below are some of the tips we’ve seen help successfully align customer reference program efforts with the sales team.
Align yourself with the sales team as you design your program
Involve salespeople early by asking for their input via surveys and interviews. Let them know that they are at the heart of the program. Listen to their suggestions and let them know that the program will be designed with their input and for their success.
Set clear and achievable expectations for yourself
Be reasonable in what you promise. Sales may have many requests and customer reference management generally covers a wide spectrum, but you are best to set reasonable and achievable expectations. Break your objectives into phases so your first steps can be achieved quickly – and make sure sales requests are incorporated into your early milestones.
Identify and promote your champions
Look for well-respected salespeople who have had successful experiences with your reference program and ask them to help you encourage others. If necessary, help personally make sure these important early adopters have a positive experience. Let them know in advance that you are going to ask for their help spreading the word to their peers.
Engage your executive sponsor
Ask your executive sponsor to highlight the program and encourage participation as part of his/her internal communications. Prepare messages for him/her in a simple format that can be easily reused. Use your sponsor to create a corporate mandate for your single customer reference process, and to incentivize salespeople to submit leads.
Use both the carrot and stick
Work with sales management to set up systems that reward good participation and discourage rogue behavior. Start by gaining the attention of sales executives by clearly illustrating the correlation between customer references and new revenue. Then give your sales executives specific examples of how rewards for providing customer reference leads can be incorporated into the objectives of each sales representative.
Create visibility to foster competition
Sales representatives are a competitive breed by nature. You can use this to your advantage by rewarding and ranking their contribution to your program. For example, keep track of adoption metrics such as the number of nominations and show which individuals are participating. Make sure the sales team knows that your executives will see this information.
Call out participants
Encourage sales executives to specifically name those sales reps who are participating in your program by providing leads. Showcase the deliverables – such as success stories, audio and video interviews, and case studies – that resulted from the leads. Soon, more sales representatives will want that kind of company-wide recognition.
Create internal marketing
Utilize a variety of ways to communicate with your stakeholders such as newsletters to keep your program top of mind. Branding your program and investing in ongoing awareness activities is an important way to build a strong presence and promote continued success. See our article on promoting your program here.
Collect and act on feedback
Continue to make improvements that address perceived challenges. Prepare to conduct regular surveys of your stakeholders to collect their insights and promote the improvements you make.
Ultimately, your sales team is a substantial supplier and consumer of customer references, and a well-run program will acknowledge their important role with active steps for earning their trust, appreciation and participation.
“A recent study we conducted of B2B companies revealed that sales people spend on average 5 to 7 hours to hunt down references when they are left to do so themselves. An effective program can reduce costs and accelerate the sales cycle.”– Joshua Horwitz, Boulder Logic