How can I Maximize Customer Referrals?

Author:

Aurelien Mottier
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Episode

47

How can I Maximize Customer Referrals?

Aurelien Mottier

CEO at Operatix

Melinda Marks

VP of Marketing at Armorblox

The best sales people aren’t always on your sales team. In fact, sometimes the best sales people don’t even work at your company.

Hint: They pay you.

Customers are, time and again, the best sales resources your company has access to. Nothing will sell your product more (and faster) than a referral from someone who already uses it.

Melinda Marks joined us on the B2B Revenue Acceleration podcast to tell us all about building a customer referral program, and we brought the highlights to you:

Melinda is the VP of Marketing at Armorblox, the first cybersecurity company to utilize NLU to stop cyber attacks. Melinda has an extensive background in marketing at Styra, StackRox, VMware, and others.

The 4 Benefits of Customer Stories & Referrals

left quote
right quote

The first thing you must do is realize the absolute importance of customers.

Melinda Marks

We’re talking with sales people here, so we’re going to skip the fluffy stuff and just list off the reasons customer stories are vital to any organisation:

  • Focuses the branding and messaging
  • Helps engineers focus their work and gives them ideas for product
  • Stories become marketing assets
  • Builds relationships with your customers

Let’s unpack these:

Branding & messaging: When you gain customer stories, you understand why customers are actually using your products and services. This helps target your branding and messaging. Often times, the use cases (and the why behind those use cases) conceived in a boardroom are entirely different than reality. Customers may be using your product(s) for entirely different reasons than you think.

Engineers: When your engineers have the chance to hear, firsthand, from customers about the pain points the product is solving (or not solving), they have a renewed perspective when it comes to the next upgrade and/or product design.

Assets: Fairly straight forward — When you interview real customers, you now have use cases and content that you can reuse, re purpose, and equip your sales and marketing teams with.

Relationships: relationships are the glue that ensures renewals. There’s no better way to encourage these relationships than face time (or voice time!).

When in the Sales Cycle to Use Customer References

When is it appropriate to have a current customer talk with a prospect about their experience?

If you’re a sales leader, you’ve probably had a prospect ask one of your reps, very early on, to talk with a current customer. I’ve seen this many times. Often, it seems inappropriate to immediately engage a current customer with a prospect at the very early stages of a sales cycle.

I asked Melinda when you should use current customers to talk with prospects, and here’s what her experience has taught her:

Use customer references later in the sales cycle.

Your sales team knows the power of a referral — So, it can be tempting to jump straight to a referral call. Ensure your sales team is not using customer referrals as shortcuts.

Diagnose the problem:

Is the sales team simply trying to use shortcuts?

Is the sales team being resourced appropriately?

Does the marketing messaging need to change, so customers are aware of the value on the front end?

If your sales team is facing the same questions or objections repeatedly, perhaps they aren’t being resourced appropriately to handle these issues. Or, maybe the marketing messaging isn’t highlighting the right advantages of your product.

How to Utilize High-Level Customer Referrals

Let’s talk about high-level customer referrals.

Let’s assume you have some important, time-strapped individuals in your customer base who’ve agreed to act as a reference for your product (often in exchange for a discount). Clearly, you don’t want to over-utilize the CTO of a big-name logo to have one-off sales calls every couple weeks.

Here’s Melinda’s suggestion:

Connect high-level customers to a reporter who writes case studies. 

When you land a high-level customer reference from a big logo, you want to use that leverage. Wisely. There are many reporters who only write customer case studies. Connect that high-level reference with one of those reporters, then use that asset across the organization for prospects.

In the End

Customers sell other customers. We may believe a news article, we may not. But we all listen to our peers.

Leverage your prospects’ peers.

This post is based on an interview with Melinda Marks from Armorblox.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The B2B Revenue Acceleration Podcast.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.

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About Operatix

Operatix is a Sales Acceleration company specialized in supporting B2B Software vendors to identify new revenue streams, increase qualified sales pipeline, and accelerate channel development across Europe and North America. Operatix has a wealth of experience in working with the biggest tech players worldwide as well as a multitude of emerging software vendors.

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Digital transformation is changing how companies buy and use business solutions, making vendors re-assess the capabilities of their channel ecosystem. With channel dynamics in constant flux, vendors need to be ready to cut ties with partners that don’t share their vision or have connections with the right B2B buyers.

 

Operatix has supported numerous vendors in their path to Channel transformation by assessing current partners and recruiting new partners that are more aligned with their new channel strategy. Once the right partners have been identified, Operatix built scalable outbound sales development programs that accelerated their routes to market.

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Our team will identify new sales opportunities within the strategic accounts that you haven’t been successful in penetrating through your sales & marketing efforts. By applying the ‘Challenger Sale’ methodology we use a tailored, multitouch approach to connect with prospects, generating qualified sales engagements for your team and ultimately increasing your pipeline.

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Using a proactive outbound sales approach has been proven to be one of the most effective methods to engage with prospective customers. By applying the ‘Challenger Sale’ methodology we use a tailored, human approach to getting in touch with prospects to increase your qualified sales engagements and ultimately generate more pipeline.

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Our Partner Concierge Service helps vendors accelerate their channel programs, by engaging and nurturing channel partners and supporting them to get to revenue quicker.

Demand Generation

Whether you need to implement a demand generation strategy or get more results out of your existing demand gen engine, Operatix can work alongside your marketing team to yield better results out of your demand generation programs.

Account-based Marketing

An Account-based Marketing strategy is only as successful as the revenue it generates. At Operatix we will support your 1:1, 1:few or 1:many approach to get your team in front of decision makers in the accounts that matter the most to you. 

Lead Qualification

If your marketing leads aren’t converting, it might be a lead qualification issue. Operatix can help sieve through leads that need further qualification, so they are ready for an AE or sales team member to engage with.

Account-based Selling

At Operatix we will support your 1:1, 1:few or 1:many approach to get your team in front of decision makers in the accounts that matter the most to you. 

Pipeline Generation

Generating Pipeline for our clients is our key-objective. And we do that by using a multi-touch, multi-channel approach to generate qualified sales engagements for our customers’ sales teams.   

Account Intelligence / Deep Dive

Understanding buying centres, hierarchies and relevant personas in strategic accounts is a fundamental step to increase conversion rates. By leveraging account intelligence in a sales conversation your team can tailor their message and provide value to their prospective customer. But sales & marketing teams often struggle to dedicate time and resources to do the deep research and this is where Operatix can help.

DMID – Decision Maker Identification

Finding quality data is an on-going challenge for B2B Tech vendors. The accuracy of data platforms is questionable and that is why Operatix developed a manual process to identify & verify contact details for decision makers within strategic target accounts.

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Sales Playbook Development

Operatix can develop Sales Playbooks that enable teams to sell more effectively. Your Playbook will be fundamental to implementing the correct messaging, accurately position your solution against competitors, and adapting the communication of your value proposition to different buyer personas.

Lead Qualification

If your leads aren’t converting, it might be a lead qualification issue. Operatix can help filter through leads that need further qualification, ensuring that they’re ready for an AE or sales team member to engage with and progress through the funnel. 

Partner Portal / Marketing Concierge Service

Vendors often spend thousands of dollars building multifunctional Partner Portals to help channel partners educate their teams, manage opportunities, and create marketing programs. Still, these portals are often underutilized due to lack of bandwidth and capacity from vendors to offer support in enabling their partner community. Operatix, through their Partner Development team, can support your partners to make the best use out of your partner portal, managing the relationship with your partners and helping them set up co-marketing campaigns to drive more revenue for both businesses. 

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The sales development function is often seen as the “glue” that brings sales & marketing teams together. By working as an extension of your teams, Operatix will be your predictable source of pipeline, sales & revenue.

Optimization of MDF

Market Development Funds are an important component of any channel ecosystem, though vendors believe they are not maximizing the return on investment they should be getting from their MDF programs. At Operatix, we build scalable outbound sales development programs that will give you the visibility of return over the invested spend and will provide clear value for your channel partners.

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The 80/20 rule is still very applicable to the channel, which means that investing in partner productivity should be a priority for vendors looking to grow their businesses. Operatix can increase partner productivity and shorten sales cycles, by identifying ready to engage sales opportunities for your most valued channel partners.

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Solution Selling Training

Far too often vendors insist on enabling their channel partners to talk about features and technical details of their solutions. Customers don’t buy features; they buy the benefits your solution can bring. Operatix will work with your partner community to train them in articulating your message from a high-level business perspective, enabling them to talk to prospects about the value your solution can bring to their company from a board-level perspective.

Channel Enablement

Enabling your channel partners have measurable wins for your business when done right. Operatix has a proven track record in enabling channel partners from a sales & marketing perspective, providing them the knowledge and tools to successfully pitch your solution and sell the value & benefits of it. 

Partner Recruitment

Recruiting the right Channel Partners is the first step for a successful channel program. Operatix has helped over 350 B2B Software vendors recruit suitable channel partners across EMEA and North America, supporting them to scale and expand their presence in different geographies and verticals. 

Risk/Reward Business Model

To truly work as an extension of our client’s sales & marketing teams, we have also adapted our business models to show how our clients operate, and how their success is measured. With our risk/reward business model your investment is proportional to the results our team delivers.

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On average, 52.5% of the sales engagements set up by our team progress into a next step in the sale process. That means that 5 out of 10 meetings will progress either into a POC, a Demo or a pipeline opportunity.

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Increase Revenue & Decrease Cost

Building an internal sales development team comes with many additional costs and challenges that aren’t always taken into account: recruiting resources, training and enabling them etc. You also need to take into account the need for having the data and tools to make them successful, which in turn requires time, capital and effort. By outsourcing your sales development to Operatix you will see your revenue increasing, while decreasing costs and business risk.

Predictable Pipeline Generation

On average, our clients see a 26X ROI on the programs we deliver. By understanding your revenue targets and sales pipeline gap, we will work on a sales & marketing plan that will deliver tangible results.

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Entering new industries or launching new product lines? Operatix can accelerate your growth by supporting your go-to-market strategy, and getting your sales teams in front of decision makers in key target accounts.

Reduce Headcount

By outsourcing your sales development and partner programs to Operatix; we reduce headcount and the challenges that come with managing people, technologies, and processes. We take care of your sales development, so you can focus on what matters the most: growing your business.

Revenue Acceleration

Operatix helps your business get to revenue quicker. By providing qualified sales engagements for your direct sales team (to kick-off new sales cycles), or by accelerating the growth of your channel partners, our focus remains on delivering tangible results for your business. 

Persona-based Selling

Operatix team will design specifically tailored messages to influence the different levels of decision makers in the sales process, tailoring the communication according to each job function. Our focus is to sell the value of your solution from a business perspective, not its features.    

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