Key traits of a winning sales reference pool
Prospective customers are in control of more of the B2B sales cycle than ever before. Contacting an enterprise sales rep is no longer a prospect’s first stop on the long road to making an important business purchase. In fact, Forrester reports that an average buyer completes about 70% of a B2B purchasing decision before ever contacting sales.
When a prospect finally does raise their hand to talk with sales, they’re often close to making up their minds. Instead of looking for specs and details, they’re often primarily interested in getting additional validation before sealing the deal. At this point, they might ask to chat with two or three happy customers who can confirm that your product or service is really what they’re looking for.
The moment this request is made is a pivotal one. If sales reps can’t put their prospects in touch with relevant sales references, it introduces uncertainty that can throw promising deals into jeopardy. Inversely, if the request to connect with a peer can be met, a seller can take major strides toward closing the deal.
To meet the moment, sellers need to be able to draw from an effective reference pool. A reference pool that’s defined by two key traits: quality and diversity.
1. Sales reference pool quality
When a prospect asks to talk with a sales reference, it shouldn’t set off a mad dash to track someone down. Reference pools should house a significant bench of people who you’d be confident to set up with an important prospect.
Quality references are those with a clear understanding of your reference program and who are enthusiastic participants in it. They should be effective users of your product who can point to measurable results and speak eloquently about your partnership. In short, they should be people to whom you feel comfortable entrusting the reputation of your brand.
2. Sales reference pool diversity
Variety is critical in a pool of sales references for several reasons, but all come back to the same imperative: being able to connect prospects with the right person at the right time. The most successful sellers honor their prospects’ deadlines. If a prospect says they want to talk with three references by the end of the week and Friday rolls around without anyone available for them to speak with, that’s a major red flag.
And timelines aren’t the only factor: relevance matters too. If a CRO at a tech company asks to chat with a reference and a sales rep puts them in touch with a Content Manager at a manufacturing firm, the resulting conversation isn’t likely to move the needle. A mismatched reference can sometimes be worse than no reference at all because it implies the sales rep was desperate to accept a reference from anyone.
Using the same contacts too frequently is also a recipe for damaging customer relationships. Yet, a recent study from Corporate Ink found that 75% of companies are sincerely concerned about overusing a small group of customer references. For example, a C-level employee might be open to providing a reference once a quarter, while a manager trying to build her personal brand may be happy to join a sales reference call every month.
The best way for organizations to get ahead of this concern is to constantly expand their pool of sales reference accounts and contacts. With a large pool to choose from, reps can rest assured that they’ll always be able to bring in a great match for any given prospect, any time.
Win more deals with your sales reference pool
Building a diverse, high-quality pool of satisfied customers across various roles and industries helps sellers prepare to fulfill a wide range of reference requests quickly and easily. Not only can sellers better match prospects with customers they are likely to relate to, but reps can also protect their customers from overuse.
A deep bench of customer references who can speak to the concerns and aspirations held by your potential customers will make a world of difference for your sales team. With targetted sales references in their selling arsenal, sellers will be better positioned to increase deal velocity and win rates. It’s high time a reference request was considered an opportunity, not a crisis.
For more on how to build a pragmatic approach to sales references, check out our eBook: Win more deals with peer-to-peer sales references >