Are You Making References Part of Your Sales Process?

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you think references are only for securing yourself a new job, check out what Lee Salz has to say on this topic. The right references can help you close a big deal, but you have to know when and how to use these contacts in your sales process.

You might have dazzled a prospect with your presentation and impressed them with your understanding of their business and how your solution can help them solve their problems, but that probably won’t be enough to get them to sign on the dotted line. In this age of oversharing, you don’t want your prospect relying only on the latest Yelp review of your company. A better way to manage this part of the sales process and your reputation is to maintain a list of references.

As Salz points out, the reference list shouldn’t be one-​size-​fits-​all. Using your existing clients as a resource, build your reference list with some customization in mind. One of your clients might be willing to let prospects know how responsive your company has been when they needed service in an emergency. They might even agree to be quoted in a customer success story. Another client may be more genuinely excited about a new product enhancement your company added in response to his request. At any point in the sales process, you might encourage your prospect to talk with the reference who has something in common with his business. There’s no need to wait until the last minute to bring out the reference sheet.

At the same time, take care to manage your reference accounts. You need their help so you don’t want them to feel pressured to talk with a needy prospect when they least expect it. Make sure not to abuse their generosity. If you have used a specific client as a reference during the last two or three sales deals you’ve closed, it may be time to give them a break and move on to another client.

The bottom line is references can be a big help in your quest to close more sales and you should manage them as carefully as you manage your sales pipeline.