Get more sales references without a traditional program

5 minute read

Get more sales references without launching a traditional reference program

Even when organizations acknowledge their sales reference processes could be better, it can be an overwhelming problem to confront. Will it require new hires? New software? A big investment of time or resources?

A well-oiled, traditional customer reference or advocacy program can be an organization’s strongest asset, but launching, revamping, or expanding a traditional program isn’t right for every organization. Luckily, there’s a middle ground between having an elite advocacy program and letting sellers flounder on their own.

With the right approach and appropriate tech, revenue teams can build a strategic reference motion that helps sellers deliver the right references to the right prospects at the right time.

Why are targeted sales reference important?

These days, most prospects both want and expect to speak with a peer reference before they make a final purchase decision, but not all references are created equal. The best are those that are available immediately upon request—or better yet, supplied proactively by the seller—and are relevant to the prospect in question.

If you’re selling to a Chief Marketing Officer, for instance, a rep should be able to proactively offer to connect the CMO with a current customer who is also a marketing leader. Doing so not only inspires confidence for the prospect that your company is awash in happy customers but also allows them to have a productive, meaningful conversation with someone who shares the same priorities and use cases.

The challenge of traditional advocacy programs

Traditional advocacy programs are one way to get there, but building one is no small undertaking. They require C-suite buy-in, cross-functional support, expanded headcount, and an earmarked budget. Typically, these programs are powered by a robust software solution designed to meet all stakeholders’ reference needs—from Marketing and Customer Success to frontline sellers and everyone in between—and require at least one dedicated Advocacy Manager to keep everything running smoothly.

At the start of a new advocacy program, sellers also have to learn common workflows, such as the process for requesting sales references and suggesting new reference accounts. A recent Forbes survey found that sales reps already spend less than 36% of their workdays actively selling. Without support from leadership, it’s tricky for sellers to sacrifice even more potential selling time to get up to speed on new reference software and processes. This makes resorting to unofficial sales reference channels all the more tempting.

For organizations prepared to put in the time and resources, customer advocacy programs can pay dividends and become one of their strongest differentiators. But many organizations don’t yet have the cross-functional alignment, executive support, or resources to launch a traditional program—or simply aren’t interested.

Someday, a formal advocacy program might be right for these companies, but sales reference requests are pouring in today.

A pragmatic approach to sales references

Organizations with a pressing sales reference demand need a straightforward, pragmatic solution as soon as possible. Rather than grasping desperately for whatever customer is willing and able to hop on the phone, sellers should be thoughtful about connecting prospects with relevant peers. To do so, they need access to a diverse, high-quality collection of references.

According to Forrester, executive buyers only consider 19% of the meetings they have with salespeople to be valuable. A healthy sales reference pool provides the diversity sellers need to have matching contacts available to win over all the personas they work with throughout deals, from frontline managers to C-suite budget approvers. When the value of prospect meetings increases, sales cycles shorten and win rates go up.

Nearly all B2B prospects will eventually want to talk with a reference. When sellers proactively introduce references to move deals forward, they’re in control. A large, high-quality reference pool gives sellers the confidence to proactively offer references at strategic points in sales cycles. When sellers approach their deals from positions of strength, they can rapidly increase prospects’ confidence by conveying that reference customers are lining up to sing their company’s praises.

Having references available on-demand also keeps sellers in control of the timeline. They can be sure to bring in sales references at the best times to move deals along—never too early or too late.

Making targeted, on-demand references a reality

Is this possible without a full-blown advocacy program? Yes! A simple, intuitive reference app designed to prioritize the needs of B2B sellers can add the structure these companies need to source and manage sales references and is often the quickest path to realizing value.

The right product can empower sellers and relationship-owners to source great customer advocates without putting them at risk of burnout, as well as proactively suggest the best reference for a given deal. Even without a dedicated program, the right systems and safeguards in place can make a major difference.

Take your sales reference strategy to the next level with our eBook: Win more deals with peer-to-peer sales references >

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