“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford
The reality of closing B2B enterprise deals is that prospects want—and expect—to talk with customer references. For even the best and most well-known brands, no reference means no sale. Few organizations are willing to believe you have done it before just because you say so. Putting customers who can validate that you’ve been there and done that on the phone with prospects is critical validation that you will live up to your promises and deliver results.
Professional sellers know the power of references, and for many, cultivating reference relationships is as valuable as cultivating knowledge and credibility. Great sellers won’t sell products or make deals that violate their values or fail to set prospects up for success. They know that winning deals takes a combination of unique business value, third-party references, and personal credibility.
However, despite sellers’ best efforts, sales references and sales teams are often completely disconnected. These siloed programs and inconsistent processes jeopardize deals and hurt relationships in the process.
The sales reference gray market
Even in companies with strong customer focus and robust customer reference and advocacy programs, salespeople are often underserved and left to operate outside of formal programs to find references, generate conversations, and close deals. Because sales references are often scarce and highly coveted, salespeople tightly control access and use, often with no central oversight or way to measure success.
In our research, we uncovered a hard truth: most reference programs and apps aren’t designed for sellers’ needs and don’t work the way salespeople actually sell. As a result, sales teams invent their own ways to get references and win deals, leaving teams overstretched. And the bigger the organization, the bigger the sales reference problem.
Rethinking the problem and turning the sales reference goat rodeo into a structured and scalable program requires organizations to address three key realities of the current state of reference selling:
- Reference programs don’t proactively engage sales reps
- Sales reps and leaders don’t have responsibility for the reference status of their accounts
- There’s no easy way to add new accounts and people to reference programs
These shortcomings led us to build Altify Sales Reference Manager: a reference solution designed for the needs of B2B sales teams. Sales Reference Manager makes it easy for organizations of all sizes to request, manage, and nominate sales references to improve sales velocity and maximize relationships. Our new app is designed to tackle the three significant reference process challenges facing B2B sales teams today: engagement, responsibility, and simplicity.
Proactively bringing references into the sales process
In most organizations, sales reference processes are reactive and require reps to do all the homework. An AE working on a deal must decide when to use a reference, and she often has to do the legwork to figure out who’s the best fit and what their status is—all before going to yet another app to fill out an official request and joining the reference queue. Not to mention, she has to hope that this process will move quickly enough to fit the customer’s timeline.
We’ve solved this problem with a reference app you can add directly to Salesforce Opportunity records. As a rep is working on her deal, the app proactively suggests reference accounts that are good candidates to request. How? SRM reads the fields in the Opportunity record and makes intelligent suggestions based on factors including industry, geography, product/solution, deal size, and more. The app guides the rep and proactively suggests reference account candidates that she can request directly from the opportunity she’s working on.
Putting relationship owners in the driver’s seat to help manage reference-ability
When asked directly, most AEs will assert that they “own” their accounts, yet they are not often responsible for managing reference access programmatically. Worse, when high-profile accounts become marquee references for the organization, the rep is often disconnected from the requests coming from sales, leadership, and marketing. If sales representatives are expected to know what’s going on in their accounts, then they need access and insight into who is asking for what to make sure both sides see the value.
Sales Reference Manager solves this issue for AEs in three critical ways for sales references.
- Organizations can make AEs or customer success managers responsible for managing sales reference access for accounts. When someone needs a sales reference, the request comes to the AE to review and approve, adding a peer-to-peer element to scale the program. Even if the reference team or sales ops is involved, the account owner still has a voice.
- Ownership rests with the relationship owner, not just the contact owner. References often get over-used because reference apps focus on individual contacts, despite the existence of multiple or even dozens of contacts in an account. Now the account and the contacts can be managed together.
- Account owners can set the parameters for how often an account and the associated contacts are made available for references, and they can see confirmation that references calls have actually happened. This both closes the reference loop and avoids reference burn-out.
Nominations are everyone’s business
“We’re drowning in sales references,” said no sales leader ever. Much like leads and pipeline, sales leaders can never have enough sales references. The challenge is how to build pipeline and add more accounts and contacts to the program.
With Sales Reference Manager, it’s easy to nominate references from multiple different Salesforce views. Because it’s a native Salesforce app, access to SRM can extend beyond the sales team to customer success, technical experts, execs, and more. This means that any positive interaction with a customer can be turned into a reference nomination with a few clicks.
There is a better way to address sales references for sellers, the extended team, and prospective customers themselves. Altify Sales Reference Manager reflects the modern way salespeople work and enables an easy and scalable way to manage sales references and turn customer relationships into closed-won business.