For how long we’ve known about the outsized impact of customer references on buying cycles, it’s fairly shocking to think about how little attention we’ve paid them. Sure, sales reps may call in a favor from a customer with whom they have a strong relationship, or make an 11th-hour request to a customer marketer, but for all the value these peer-to-peer activities provide, we’ve yet to fully tap into the impact customer advocacy programs can bring.
All that has begun to change in recent years, as more and more sales leaders throw their support behind the folks building real, programmatic approaches to customer advocacy in their organizations. With the endorsement of a sales executive, a customer advocacy program can get strategic and scale, accelerating deals, building trust, and expanding revenue as it goes.
Here are three reasons sales execs have become advocacy programs’ biggest fans:
1. Prospects Don’t Trust Sales Reps
It’s not your reps’ fault—it’s simply a hazard of the job. Just as modern buyers do whatever they can to put off engaging with salespeople (we’ve all seen that stat—the one about more than 60% of buying journeys being completed before a prospect interacts with sales—more times than we can count), they’ve also increasingly raised their expectations about what those interactions look like.
But is it even possible for sellers to be everything buyers expect of them? The Evolved Selling Institute found that less than 50% of B2B buyers reported that salespeople were knowledgable about their industry and that just 23% could “relate to my role and responsibilities.”
Well, of course they can’t.
However thoroughly they’ve done their research, a rep will never be able to speak with full, personal knowledge about the challenges a prospect is up against. And that’s okay. Because with a well-run customer advocacy program, reps don’t need to. Instead, they can cede the floor to an existing customer who aligns with the prospect in question and is willing and able to make the case better than a seller ever could.
Before we’re tempted to think seniority can solve the problem, consider this: It’s not just lowly sales reps who lack credibility. Altify’s 2019 CRO Benchmark found that buyers were 2x more likely to trust their peers in other companies than they were a vendor’s CEO.
2. References Drive Faster Deal Cycles
Trust drives action. (In fact, CSO Insights found that executives make purchase decisions 25% faster with a good reference.) Connecting a prospect with the right reference at the right time can help you stand out against the competition when it counts.
With a programmatic approach to customer advocacy, reps can quickly find a relevant peer. Much like delivering a well-timed piece of content as a followup to a conversation, smoothly supplying the perfect reference keeps the sales discussion moving without any disruption, maintaining the kind of seamless customer experience that makes it easier for prospects to buy from you.
3. Strategic Voice of the Customer Programs Grow Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Cross-sell and upsell opportunities aren’t the only ways to expand the return you get from current customers. Bringing current customers into your advocacy program is a huge opportunity to grow their value to your organization. A well-run customer voice program can derive outsized value from even the smallest ARR accounts by activating them strategically.
What’s more, building an advocacy relationship allows you to build deeper relationships with key accounts and showcase the success of important stakeholders. The more you’re able to tie customers’ success to your brand, the stickier you become.
Let Your Customers Be Your Biggest Asset
If your organization doesn’t have a robust customer advocacy program, now is the time. Without one, you’re wasting opportunities to build trust, accelerate purchase decisions, and get more value out of every account.
So support your friendly local customer advocacy team. Your sales reps—and your annual revenue goals—will thank you.
Want to learn more about the role of customer advocacy in sales enablement? Check out our on-demand webinar, Unlocking the Future of Sales Enablement.