“A key element of supporting a shift to new and effective selling methodology is the provision of credible, targeted and specific references and collateral at the right time in the sales cycle.  Without this shift in advocacy and marketing programs, your sales rep cannot effectively shift his/her selling paradigm.”  Ray Cameron, Director of Digital Marketing, Magneti.

For nearly the last decade, sales and marketing have seen a shift from transactional sales (based on product features, pricing, volume, or just simply the most product for the least amount of money) toward customer experience and/or customer success. While there are differences between experience and success selling, both are based on how well you understand what your prospective client or buyer really wants. This is clearly a step away from just delivering the most bang for the buck.

Being able to supply relevant references to sales teams at key stages during their sales cycles demonstrates your organization is dedicated to the customer experience. Additionally, the provision of references can shorten the sales cycle, which frees salespeople to spend more time reaching out to new prospects, impacting the bottom line.

But how does supplying credible references shorten the sales cycle? Why do they have this effect? To answer that we need to shift the focus from your organization’s sales cycle to the buyers’ journey, which may look similar in some ways, but are in fact very different. While the entire journey for the buyer is a bit more of an in-depth discussion than we’ll get into here, the important thing to know (for this blog) is that the evaluation portion of the buyers’ journey is, by far, the longest leg. And it’s not that way because the prospect wants it to be – digging through all the research, examining and possibly trying different solutions, mentally applying solutions to their own problems without actually buying anything – all of things take time and are exhausting.

No, the prospect doesn’t want to do this, but they must. Above all other things, most prospects fear making the incorrect choice, or more importantly, being informed by their internal organizational peers they have made the wrong choice. Cutting away at that fear is what providing a good reference does and is what shortens the sales cycle. It does this in three ways:

  • Provides an outside, objective source of information the prospect trusts.

Or at least more than they trust the salesperson. While providing any reference can move the prospect further along in their buyers’ journey, the greater the similarities between the prospect and reference (the issues they face, the industry they work in, the role in the organization) the further it will help the prospect along in their journey.

  • It presents a compelling reason to move from evaluation to the next step in the journey

If you present the prospect with a reference that can provide a strong motivation for moving to the next step of the journey (mitigate concerns, solving a specific problem, calculated and empirical bonuses) the prospect is less likely to seek alternatives, again cutting the evaluation period short

  • It validates what your prospects have already learned from their peers and confirms that you are attentive to their specific business challenges and obstacles.

In this fashion you can help release your prospect from the toil of their decision and possibly save them from making the wrong one. This greatly compresses the evaluation leg of the buyer’s journey. This in turn will shorten your sales cycle.

Matthew McLean
Matthew McLean is a Program Manager at RO Innovation. He has a passion for helping organizations and individuals increase sales and market share through the design and application of software. With over 15 years of experience in customer relationship management, project management, and product management with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 in a variety of industry verticals, McLean can help your company grow via sales and marketing best practices.
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