MSPs, says StorageCraft’s Bret Dayley, are too shy. Because most of them are technologists rather than sales or marketing people, they’re too often reluctant to use their current customers as stepping-stones to new customers.
But “reference selling,” Bret’s term for leveraging current satisfied customers to land new ones, is fairly easy, provided you have the mindset to do it. Bret says:
As a sales person, reference selling not only opens doors, it closes deals. Nobody wants to be your guinea pig. They want to have confidence in you before taking the leap, and providing customer evidence of past performance is by far the best method for building confidence with your target customer.
It makes sense. Word of mouth has always been a powerful means of making and breaking businesses. The advent of review sites like Yelp and Amazon.com and the various types of social media have made this instrument that much more powerful. The key is to harness that power so that it works for you.
Nevertheless the idea of reference selling feels awkward for those of us (myself included) who are not natural salespeople. To get past this reluctance, Bret puts forth several tips to help you get into the reference selling habit.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for a reference.
Your customers are your best brand advocates, so ask them if they would be willing to give you a testimonial that you can post on your site or act as a reference for customer leads in the same industry. “People are usually flattered to be asked because they want to be validated about their decision to go with you over another provider,” Bret says.
Bonus Tip: Always ask for a reference immediately after you perform a disaster recovery or other critical service. “This is when the customer most wants to hug and kiss you,” says Bret. “Their affinity will never be higher!” Imagine that customer’s testimonial on your website. Visualize him raving about your quick data recovery to a potential customer in their space. Smiling yet?
2. Keep track of reference customers using a basic spreadsheet.
You don’t need fancy CRM solutions to track your reference customers. Start out with a spreadsheet with the following columns:
- Company name
- Company size (number of employees)
- Industry or vertical focus
- Date company became your customer
- Any major events you performed for this customer (disaster recovery, being the most obvious example)
- Number of times you’ve used them as a reference
- Last time you used them as a reference
Bret recommends limiting your requests to once or twice per quarter. Yes, they love your services, but they’re using your services so that they can focus on their own.
What problem did your customer face? How did you solve the problem? Even a short case study can illustrate to potential customers the ways in which you quickly and efficiently handled a situation—and let other customers know they can expect the same great service.
Bonus Tip: Hire a professional writer to conduct a short interview with your customer and then write it for you. A seasoned B2B writer knows the right questions to ask the customer and compose a narrative that will make your case in an unbiased fashion. I’m sure StorageCraft can recommend a few good ones right off the bat (hint, hint).