Client References Close Deals (and Add Profit)

In It for the Money (song)

Getting a new customer can be very similar to getting a new job — it’s all about who you know. References are critically important in B2B sales, but they’re also tricky. You don’t want to piss off one of your best customers because you overuse their name. And if you maintain a customer list on your website, you have to make sure that’s a Happy Client List not a Client Fail List.

We spend lots of time managing references and these customer relationships, but do we really know the true value of that reference?

The Journal of Marketing recently published the article “Defining, Measuring, and Managing Business Reference Value,” attempting to quantify just how much cash-money a reference is worth.

Intrinsically, we know that matching a prospect up with a client that’s in a similar industry and has had time to see results should make the reference more relevant. Being strategic with reference selection does have a significant impact on whether or not you’ll close a deal. It also predicts if your projects will be profitable.

What’s also interesting is that type of reference has a lot of sway.

In order of influence, these formats impact how your customer reference is received by a potential client:

  • Video testimonial
  • Audio testimonial
  • Written testimonial
  • Case study/white paper
  • “Call me”

Turns out shoving a camera in a client’s face can help you close deals.

You don’t have to change your customer reference strategy overnight, but you should think about creating a diverse customer reference library. If you’re pursuing a specific industry vertical, snag client references early. Use opportunities like conferences and networking events to get testimonials in a richer media format.

You can also build in customer satisfaction measurements throughout the course of the engagement. The sales stage should tell you all about the client challenges, you’re already heavily involved during the solutions phase, and then do regular follow-up to see results. If you think about it at the beginning of the deal, you’re not trying to get retroactive testimonials.

Having a good customer reference program is definitely worth the effort. Having a diverse pool of references is even more valuable.

Photo credit: Wikipedia — In It for the Money (song)

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