Weeks ago, our children wrote carefully crafted letters to Santa, professing why they deserved to be on Santa’s “Nice List” and get all the things they have on their wish list under the tree. As the letters were popped in the mail, it made us start wondering – if a customer reference manager wrote a letter to Santa, what would be on their wish list?

We have a hunch “new customer references for our program” would be near the top. While we are no Santa (big bellies and beards don’t look good on us…take our word for it), our team here at RO Innovation is quite the set of Santa’s helpers when it comes to reference nomination techniques. Thus, we offer you some tips for making the addition of new references to your program a reality this holiday season.

Garner Executive Sponsorship – Bring sales executives on board to promote and support your program. Having this top-down buy-in will make it easier to create a sales culture that sees references as a good thing. Also have them set targets for their account managers to improve the quality and quantity of references in your program

Buddy Up to Sales – Building a strong relationship with sales is important for fostering trust and incentivizing more nominations. Follow up with every sales rep who requests a reference. When a new deal closes, don’t go around the rep, but rather ask the rep directly if they could get the customer to participate as a reference. Plus, asking informal questions through this relationship building process gives you insights on what customers and sales reps are saying about your customer reference program.

Create an Incentive Program – It’s no secret, a salesperson is driven by rewards. Cater to this by creating contests for sales reps with attractive giveaways. Maybe each reference nomination counts as an entry, and there is a drawing for a prize each quarter (like an iPad, gift certificate, or a weekend stay at a nice hotel). Or simply, the sales rep with the most high-quality nominations at the end of the quarter wins the prize.

Give Public Recognition – Acknowledge and promote top contributors as often as possible in front of their management and peers. This gets their attention! Putting their name in lights not only makes them feel good, but often drives them to communicate more, and helps their peers see the benefits of nominating and using references on a regular basis.

Tap Social Media Outlets – Your customer advocates are out there, it’s just a matter of finding them and inviting them to participate in your customer reference program. Social media platforms are a great way to recruit references and increase nominations. Read our blog post to get tips of ways to find new customer references on LinkedIn.

Consult the Customer Advisory Board – This key group of customers is a perfect place to recruit new references, if they aren’t already. Obviously they are already big fans of your company if they are willing to give their opinion on new product development, and thus would make outstanding references if you can get their participation.

Launch a Customer Campaign – Awareness and education are key components to get customers to self-nominate to the reference program. Consider launching an email campaign about the program or including snippets about it in your monthly customer newsletters. Have a specific area of your corporate website dedicated to reference sign-ups to make it easy on the customer.

Integrate Nominations with the CRM – Another idea is to integrate the customer reference nomination process with your existing CRM platform. Since sales spends a lot of their time there, this is an obvious place to grab their attention…but you have to make it easy for them to nominate, or it won’t work. There are a couple of customer reference solutions on the market (including RO|ReferenceView) that integrate with platforms like Salesforce.com and include a “nominate” button on the opportunity profile. This makes it a breeze for sales to add good candidates, because they don’t have to do much other than click a button and provide a sentence about why the customer would be a good reference. They don’t have to switch systems, do anything taxing, etc…it’s efficient and easy for them!

Want to discuss some of these ideas in more detail, or need some extra help with the nomination process at your company? RO Innovation is here to help. Call or email us anytime.

Jim Mooney
Jim Mooney is the Founder & CEO of RO Innovation. His passion for helping salespeople excel in all aspects of B2B selling, especially where customer references are involved, was the reason he started the company. His desire for helping others succeed flows through in the expert thought leadership he provides the industry, his customers and his employees.