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The Three Myths of Customer References

woman in front of computer feeling frustrated

Katy, a salesperson at ACME Corp, is close to signing a new deal, her hours of research, meetings, and negotiation are about to pay off, when the prospect asks to 'speak to a few references.’ The prospect wants to verify all the amazing claims Katy has made about the ACME product’s functionality, implementation times, and the quality of support. Unfazed, Katy selects three customers from the pool of accounts who are willing to provide references (and who haven't provided references lately) and sends an introduction email to her prospect and willing reference customers. Confident, Katy waits for the signed contract to appear in her inbox. Time goes by and still the prospect and signed contract are nowhere in sight. After several follow-ups, Katy eventually hears that the prospect decided to sign with a competitor. Katy, her Solutions Engineer, and the rest of her team are then left wondering what went wrong and what they could have done differently. Unbeknownst to them, Katy has fallen victim to three common myths of customer references:

Myth #1: References Belong at the End of a Sales Cycle

The first mistake Katy made was waiting until the final stages of the sales cycle to share references. Traditionally, customer references have been seen as the last push to convince prospects to make a purchase decision. However, this approach is outdated, legacy sales thinking.

Smart companies today recognize the value of using references as early as possible to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Buyers expect to hear about comprehensive capabilities and unparalleled support from sales teams, but those claims go a lot further when they’re coming from enthusiastic customers. Think of customer references as a more personal, more credible, and more interactive version of a case study. Presenting them early allows businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors, highlight unique features, and build trust with prospects from the start.

In fact, customer references can be used outside of the sales process altogether. Investor relations, partner ecosystem management, and the HR/hiring process can all be streamlined by capturing reference interviews digitally – and sharing them early.

Myth #2: All My References Are Positive

It’s a common fallacy that any customer willing to provide a reference is going to give a positive one. On the contrary, research suggests that 10-12% of customer references are outright negative. Would you accept a one in 10 chance of killing your deal?

Further, even happy, satisfied customers are human and occasionally have bad days. The fact is that sales team

s have no way of knowing if the reference accounts they share are going to provide credible, sincere, and positive testimonials without investing in a reference intelligence solution. A digitized reference platform allows sellers to monitor and compare the success of different customer references – and avoid the ones that hurt instead of help.

Myth #3: References Must Be Used Sparingly to Avoid Overuse

Finally, our fictional salesperson, Katy, has fallen victim to the fear of “reference fatigue.” It’s true that using the same small number of references over and over again ensures they will eventually burn out and either lose enthusiasm for your product or tire of doing favors for you altogether. However, there are other options available – besides underutilizing your happiest customers.

Capturing reference videos digitally allows sellers to decouple a reference from the customer who provides it. By using a third-party reference intelligence platform to record and share confidential reference interviews, sales teams can build a library of videos that are available to prospects on-demand. This way, the customer only needs to make time for one interview, one time. Sellers are enabled to share these prerecorded reference interviews as many times as they want without waiting around for time to free up in multiple busy schedules, across multiple time zones – and without fear of reference fatigue.

By digitizing and categorizing references, sales organizations can easily match prospects with their most relevant, credible, and satisfied customers, all while gaining visibility into the reference process. Capturing references digitally allows businesses to share references early, ensure they are providing positive, credible, and informed testimonials, and reuse their best references all the time. Beyond sales, digital reference intelligence solutions like Verified enable marketing, HR, investor relations, channel and partnership teams, and more to harness the power of happy customer stories.


Ready to start avoiding the three myths of customer references and leverage happy customers to close more deals, faster?

Reach out to the Verified team via the button below. We help organizations like yours accelerate the road to revenue.


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