The Offensive Lineman of B2B Revenue Generation

The Reference Management Elite - Eric Andre

Just part of the job?

When Eric Andre joined ServiceMax, a division of GE Digital that develops, sells, and supports field management software, his role was a hybrid between internal communications and customer reference support for their sales team. But with ServiceMax’s aggressive growth goals, reference selling became more and more important to the company.

Not that internal communications were any less important. As Eric puts it, my role used to be split 30/70 between references and internal comms. I’m not sure it adds up to 100% anymore. It’s more like 80/80.”

Although he laughs after saying that, we suspect there’s a lot of truth to his statement.

Learning to expect the unexpected

By nature, Eric is a planner. That’s one of the reasons he was attracted to internal communications and – earlier in his career – event marketing. But the world of the reference manager isn’t like that, and he ends up being more reactive than he would prefer.

“When sales needs something, they usually need it right away. We can ask for additional lead time, but if the prospect expects a reference immediately, we need to do what we can.”

Currently, Eric focuses on sales references and collaborates with a partner in marketing to manage the marketing references that are used for events and in printed collateral. Between the two of them, they manage a program that has approximately 140 companies and 200 contacts. With that pool, Eric fields reference requests for 50 to 75 salespeople, but that number is growing.

For Eric, the most fulfilling part of his role is filling reference requests that everyone thought were impossible. Most often, these are references for a relatively new product or a customer that is in a unique industry or trying to solve an unusual challenge. “We don’t have to do the heavy lifting and close the deal, but it feels good to do our part. When we see the opportunity show up in the closed column, it feels very good. We’re honored and happy to have played a role in something that helps the bottom line.”

Tips and best practices

When asked what tips Eric would provide to a new reference manager, his answer reveals his love of coaching. “Being a reference manager is not glamorous. We’re like the offensive lineman in football. We’re not the one scoring the touchdown. We’re blocking and hopefully opening up a hole the other guy can go through.”

For reference managers, new and old, Eric shared a few best practices he’s developed over the years. The first is to make sure you have executive support.

“Our CEO has a sales background, so he understands the importance of a good reference program. That helps. Also, when you invest in ReferenceViewTM, you’re not going to break the bank. It’s affordable and your return is going to come back to you very, very quickly. That helps even more.”

Eric also stresses the importance of visibility. Salespeople are accustomed to having the spotlight shone on them in good times and bad. They like to see you recognize their efforts and they like to acknowledge your efforts in return. A Customer Spotlight page on the company’s internal sales portal accomplishes both goals. It also encourages other recognition-motivated reps to nominate their customers for the program.

 

The future of reference management

Like many other companies, ServiceMax is seeing customers do more and more research online before ever engaging the sales team. Once they engage with sales, they are much more knowledgeable about possible solutions and much more ready to speak with a reference.

To respond to these requests, Eric works with the marketing reference manager to ensure a wide variety of videos and case studies are available online and off. This buys the sales team some time to ensure the prospective customer is a good fit for the solution and keeps the team from burning references on unqualified prospects.

As complicated as reference management has become, you need a tool.

“I used to try to manage the program using a spreadsheet, but every time a reference request came in it was what you might call an ‘unpleasant experience. Using ReferenceView from RO Innovation makes our small team seem so much larger. We can add reference contacts faster, process requests faster…we’re just much more effective at our job. And since we’re able to track what is happening with our references, we can treat our best customers with the respect they deserve. We’re not abusing their time and burning them out.”

Parting thoughts

When asked to sum up his thoughts about being a reference manager, Eric had this to say.

“Nothing can take the place of hearing from another customer who can talk openly and honestly about their journey from where they to where they are today. We love it when customers can say, ‘Yes, there were hiccups along the way but it’s been worth it.’”

Fun Facts About Eric

  • Eric has four kids, and he stays very busy in his spare time, coaching little league and basketball. “We’re on a field or a court eleven and a half months a year.”
  • In college, Eric majored in English and his dream job would probably be teaching English, but only so he could also be a coach.
  • If stranded on a desert island and could only have one album listen to, he would choose “Blood on the Tracks” by Bob Dylan.
  • His favorite reference program metric is Revenue Impact. He says it helps him get through even the toughest days.

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Nichole Auston
Director, Content Marketing at RO Innovation
Nichole Auston is the Director of Content Marketing at RO Innovation. With a background in digital marketing and nearly a decade of experience managing marketing programs for a variety of SaaS companies, she’s passionate about sharing insights, best practices and stories about sales enablement and customer reference management, and the people and technology that power it.
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