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Be Strategic About References
An excellent reference can tip the scales in a
competitive situation in your favor and a bad or not stellar reference can cost
you the deal.
A great client reference often can be more powerful than the best sales
pitch. An excellent reference can tip the scales in a competitive
situation in your favor and a bad or not stellar reference can cost you
Clients respect and listen to one another and, therefore, invariably
ask for references. And even when they don't, you can offer
references to help you win.
1.Line Up Your References
Before you provide a reference to your prospect, be 99.9% certain of
the kind of reference you will get. Do this by earning the right
to use clients as references long before you need them. Consider
the criteria important to the prospect in selecting which name(s) to
give and don't provide more names than necessary.
"Nurturing a relationship takes time, not necessarily large blocks of
time, but consistent responsiveness, attention, and flawless execution."
Nurturing a relationship takes time, not necessarily large blocks of
time, but consistent responsiveness, attention, and flawless execution.
For example, things such as the proactive call after the product is
delivered to check on satisfaction and quality, a voice mail at New
Year's with a wish for a Happy New Year and a thank you for the
opportunity to work with him/her, a year-end letter summarizing and
thanking the client, consistently knowing and responding to what the
client wants and likes, and bringing value-add ideas. When you
develop strong client relationships you are poised to get the GLOWING
references you need.
2.Prep the Client Who Will Provide the Reference
Once you are positioned to ask a client to be a reference, take the
pre-reference steps needed to help you get not a good, but a superb
- Call the client to get his/her OK.
- Most importantly, use the call to tee up what the prospect is most
interested in so that your client can position points that are most
important to the prospect and know which capabilities and benefits to
- Check in to make sure your prospect is able to reach the
reference(s) and use this call as another reason to make contact,
gather more information, continue to position, and reinforce what a
great partner you would make.
3.Prepare the Prospect
- Give your prospect some information about the reference and how your
work with this client does and does not apply to the prospect's
situation so there are no surprises.
Avoid providing references that may even be partially negative.
If you personally don't have an appropriate reference, e-mail your
teammates/colleagues to leverage their relationships. You can use
an organizational reference when one of your own clients doesn't fit
the specs. For example, you may say "I need a reference in the
insurance industry, ideally personal lines. Please let me know
any names I might use." And then ask your colleague to tee up the
reference or get an OK for you to call. You can also leave a
voice mail thanking the client for agreeing "to take the call" and
concisely position the specific interest of the prospect. Be sure
to thank your colleague.
- Follow up with your client reference to thank him/her. During
this call, you can often get invaluable feedback and insights on how
the prospect feels about you, your competitors, and his/her
needs. Be sure to express your appreciation.
- Follow up with the prospect to check that he/she has connected with
the reference(s) and gotten what he/she needed. Use this call to
get feedback you can use to move to the next step and learn more.
Reinforce your value - or make adjustments based on the feedback.
, founder and CEO, of Richardson a global sales training
company, author of nine best selling sales books, and faculty member at the
Wharton School, is the driving force behind the Richardson sales curriculum.
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