Once you've explained the vision of your customer references programme and you've got the buy in of your all-important sales colleagues, how do you improve their chances of getting a 'yes' from clients?
Well, in short, you need to make them feel comfortable about approaching their customers, and it needs to be as easy as possible to do so.
Making them feel comfortable:
Your sales colleagues' most prised assets are their client relationships; building and nurturing them is by no means easy, and so they understandably avoid anything which could jeopardise their efforts.
How do you settle any nerves around asking for customer references?
1. Explain the process:
Quite often a reluctance to ask clients to participate is due to being unclear on exactly what they're asking them to sign up for. This is easily overcome by explaining the typical production schedule and what will be asked of them at each stage; especially if you tailor you customer reference programme to your client.
2. Show that it's not "asking for a favour".
Your sales colleagues likely feel as though they're asking for a favour when they approach clients for a reference. In their view, your brand is the only one who benefits from the exercise. To overcome this, you just need to illustrate what the benefits of providing a customer reference are. Once they understand the value, they'll feel much more comfortable 'selling' it; that's their bread and butter, after all.
Making it easy:
Your sales colleagues' days are just as hectic as yours. Even when they have a firm understanding of the process and how to sell their client on providing a customer reference, you still want to make it as easy as possible for them to ask, so that it doesn't fall off their to-do list.
3. Give them the tools:
Give your sales colleagues standard text/scripts to use as part of the usual follow-up calls or emails. To lessen their involvement even more, the text could point clients to a customer feedback form on your website. This could act as a preliminary screening tool for references and you could pursue those that look most promising. Plus, what did your sales colleague have to do in that process? Drop a link into the email. Easy, job done.