In B2B, securing a sale with a potential customer is a lot like dating. You spend months building a relationship: courting buyers with meetings, showing off all your product’s great qualities and features, sending them bouquets of content, assuring them you’ll be able to meet their needs now and in the future, maybe even giving them a trial run of your offering. You do everything in the hopes that popping the question, “Will you buy my product?” will end with a resounding “YES!”
The truth of the matter is, while the “courting” is a major part of the buyer’s decision making process, it’s not what’s really going to win them over.
It’s Not Really About Your Product
You can talk until you’re blue in the face about product features, time saving benefits, a bangin’ user interface, and the 24/7 live support – but those data points will only get you so far. To really win the sale, you must also play to the psychological elements of the buyer’s decision making process. But before you go asking, “So, how does this feature make you feel?” understand what we mean.
During the decision making process, usually after you’ve done all your pitching but before you pop the “will you buy” question, your buyer will be asking themselves a series of questions that you probably won’t get a chance to play a direct role in answering. They’re not thinking, “Will the single sign on feature save me time?” No, you’ve already answered that with your white paper and case study. They’re questioning things like:
- Do I feel confident about this decision?
- Can I do it?
- Do I trust it?
- Will I really have the bandwidth to manage it all?
- Are there hidden costs? Is it really going to take more budget than I have set aside?
- Is everyone else on my team going to get value out of it? Or even really use it?
By the time your prospects interact with you, they have already made 70% of their purchase decision, at this point they are looking for affirmation from YOU and from PEERS with whom you can connect them.
Customer References to the Rescue
Who better to give them that affirmation and put their worries at ease than a peer that has gone through exactly the same thing and overcome those same concerns by using your solution?
Research firms like SiriusDecisions, have shown that behind their own experiences, the experiences of B2B buyers’ peers are the biggest influencer in their decision making process. Not only that, but in the latter stages of their decision process, peer references are the most trusted source of information as well.
Customer references are an effective sales enablement weapon because they give buyers the opportunity to hear live testimonials and feedback from a third party source; people who’s opinion they trust leaps and bounds over yours as a vendor. Customer reference calls let your buyer have candid conversations and ask those probing questions that a vendor can’t answer because they’re on the other side of the fence. For your buyer, a good customer reference will help them overcome those psychological “hang up” questions. A stellar one will convince the buyer they can’t go another day without you!
Don’t be surprised if your buyer sends you a signed contract shortly after a reference call. It means your strategy worked!
Happy Customers are the Key to Accelerating Sales Cycles
Because of their trusted nature, and power to influence buyer’s decisions better, faster and with more credibility than a vendor can, customer references are a key component for impacting new customer acquisition. Mark Organ, Founder and CEO of Toronto-based marketing software firm Influitive says, “To beat the competition, you need to mobilize your passionate base of customers. Get your customer to advocate for you, and accelerate your sales cycle.”
Frankly, customer references help you be more persuasive in your sales message and are really the crucial factor in winning over buyers faster so you can close the deal. That said, it is important to not only continually build your library of customer advocates you can deploy as references, but also have a tool that enables you to:
- Track buyer engagement to signal when it might be time to deploy a customer reference and help you over the “psychological” buying hurdle
- Systematically leverage the voice of your customer at the right time in the B2B buying cycle
When interviewed about his use of customer references and sales enablement technology at Intel Corporation, Rhett Livengood, Director of Enterprise Solution Sales said, “RO Innovation has helped decrease our sales cycle by 10% on average. What our references really do is give the salesmen the ability to shorten the customer sales cycle and thus we can recognize revenue quicker. Thus, Intel makes more money, salespeople are happy, the customers are happy – so being able to pull in time to market, or times to design win, is really the key attribute of the RO Innovation platform.”
Peers Assure Them You’re “The One!”
Just like dating in the real world, the opinions of your buyer’s friends, peers and family play a major role in assuring them whether or not you’re a good fit in their lives. If their peers aren’t validating the same things you’re telling them as a vendor, your buyer might think twice about you being “the one.” So keep customers happy – and they’ll do wonders for your sales cycles!
To learn more about best practices for leveraging customer references as part of a sales enablement strategy, contact the experts at RO Innovation today.