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Customer References Trim the Sales Cycle

Author: ; Published: Aug 10, 2010; Category: Case studies in the sales process, Customer reference management; Tags: , ; 2 Comments

Customer case studies pull major weight among your marketing and sales materials. But they are just one way that a customer can serve as a reference for a business.

Customer stories fall under the bigger umbrella of customer reference activities, which can involve anything from taking a phone call from a prospect, speaking to an analyst or agreeing to a press release.

Smart companies manage their customer references, and even smarter ones manage them well to ensure every reference is maximized - without overusing precious customer contacts.

But it's a hard sell at most companies to add reference management.

What's the payoff of a well-functioning reference program? Good metrics can be hard to come by.

A webinar put on by Gartner last week featured impressive stats:

Buyers trust references most

In Gartner surveys, the #1 thing that buyers said influence their preference to purchase is references from the IT provider. (The survey focused on technology purchases.)

Why? Because it reduces risk, according to those surveyed. If another company like them has done it, then they can reasonably expect to achieve similar results.

Moreoever, they are 2.5 times more likely to buy from a provider that can quantify the value proposition. That means creating materials - like case studies - that demonstrate the return on investment of a solution.

References get customers to buy sooner

Gartner referenced the CIO Insight survey results that indicated prospects buy 25% faster when a relevant reference is provided.

References are so valuable that a strong one can actually shorten the sales cycle.

What's the monetary value?

Even more impressive is just how much references mean to buyers - so much that sales reps may be able to bypass other steps in the process.

Gartner told the story of an IT provider that offers pre-sales assessments, which can cost up to $30,000 each.

However, “skillful use of customer references actually reduced the need for these assessments by a third, saving the company almost 200,000 last year while accelerating the sales cycle.”

It's not easy to make the case for true reference management, but these stats should go a long way.

 

2 Responses to “Customer References Trim the Sales Cycle”


  1. Louise
    Sep 27, 2010
    3:10 pm

    Casey, can you explain a little more in detail what you mean by reference management?


  2. Casey Hibbard
    Sep 28, 2010
    10:48 am

    Hi Louise,

    Oh, definitely. Didn’t mean to talk in code.

    Reference management refers to the way companies manage their customer references. Many companies officially track the current customers that are willing to serve as references. Those “customer references” can be involved in anything from taking a call from a prospective new customer to being involved in a press release to speaking or being in a case study.

    It’s important to actually manage those references to make sure that the same customers are not hit up over and over to the point of being worn out, and also to have a sense for what activities the customer is willing and able to be involved in.

    Not all companies have reference programs but for those that do, it’s the larger umbrella under which case studies fall.

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