SalesHood - Sales Enablement Platform

The Proven Way To Do Reference Selling

  • by Elay Cohen
  • September 29, 2017

How are you and your teams using reference selling in your sales and customer success pursuits? How are you setting up reference calls for success? How are you preparing your buyers and reference customers with briefs to maximize conversations and reference call outcomes?

Here is a list of best practices that are proven and used by the most experienced enterprise sales professionals.

  1. Develop a references strategy for your deal/account and identify ideal references. Do your discovery and know what is top of mind for your prospective buyer. Discovery is key. How would you know what references are most relevant without knowing what problems they want to solve?
  2. Match buyers and prospects correctly. Match personality, function, experience, and level between prospective buyer and customer reference.
  3. Ask permission from customer to use them as a reference. It’s goes without saying but it’s very risky to not ask permission before sharing logo and story with prospective buyer. . You never know what your customer is thinking. It’s also good professional etiquette.
  4. Share the customer success story with buyer. Follow a best practice storytelling framework and make your story emotional, quantifiable, and personalized. Close your story with the question: How does this customer success story compare to your desired business outcome?
  5. Write introductory email connecting reference customer and prospective buyer. Position the reference call as networking and best practice sharing. It’s a great way for two like professionals to get to know each other. Make it a win-win.
  6. Send separate email to reference customer outlining what the buyer is looking to learn. Help them help you. Extra points if you brief the customer on a call too.
  7. Send separate briefing email to prospective buyer. Outline the reference customer’s solution, ROI benefits, and journey. Include suggested questions for them to ask based on what you uncovered in discovery. We should always reinforce to the company requesting that they be judicious with the reference’s time.
  8. Send thank you emails. Both the prospective buyer and reference buyer deserve the courtesy and thank you email gratitude after the reference calls happened.
  9. Confirm with your prospective buyer they got what they needed. It’s important to make sure that the call went as planned. Perhaps another reference call needs to be scheduled. It’s always good to be curious and ask.
  10. Send a handwritten thank you card and gift to the reference customer who did call with your prospective buyer.  The personal touch is classy and highly differentiated.
  11. Share the deal outcome. Make sure to follow up with the reference customer to let them know if the prospect became a customer.  References like to hear if their support helped.  
About the Author
Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen

Elay Cohen is the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and the co-founder of SalesHood, a SaaS sales enablement platform and community for sales professionals. Elay is the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Salesforce. Recognized as the company's "2011 Top Executive", and credited for creating and executing all of Salesforce's sales productivity programs that accelerated its growth from $300M to $3B+ in revenue. The sales training and sales support innovations delivered over these years by Elay and his team to thousands of sales reps resulted in unprecedented hypergrowth. He also created the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) category.

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