Current Customers – the Key to New Customers.

Guest Blog by Cindy Fahrner, Phone Works Engagement Manager

Cindy was a quota-busting sales professional in her own right before joining Phone Works, where she has helped numerous companies pilot, implement and accelerate inside sales teams, achieving such success that many have been subsequently acquired because of their technology and sales performance – companies including Global Sight, Caw Networks and ClosedLoop. On behalf of Phone Works, Cindy is currently working with The Grossman Group on an inside sales calling pilot. She recently took a short break from her typically jam-packed schedule to attend the Sales 2.0 conference in San Francisco and came away “refreshed, rejuvenated and full of innovative ideas to share.” We asked her to reflect on some of what she learned.

Wow! Where to start? I took away a lot of information about new and exciting tools that will ratchet up today’s Sales 2.0 processes. I loved the session by Executive VP Dave Fitzgerald, of Brainshark, challenging us to ask, “Is Your Sales 2.0 Platform Mobile-Ready?” But I think I’ll focus this post on a recurring theme from the conference that led to a very practical takeaway we can all implement today.

The recurring theme? Buyers are more educated than ever. OK, this is not news…the Internet has been around for years now and access to information is nothing new. But, what has intensified is the use of Twitter and Facebook to obtain colleague/counterpart recommendations. Buyers are turning to these resources to get quick recommendations for their buying decisions from people they know and trust.

Playing off that trend was this intriguing idea from the Peer-Powered Sales & Marketing session, moderated by Focus Expert Network (Moderator: Craig Rosenberg, Leader, Focus Expert Network, Panelists: Carlos Hidalgo, CEO, The Annuitas Group; Steve Gershik, CEO, 28Marketing; and Adam B. Needles, VP Demand Generation Strategy, Left Brain Marketing). The suggestion was this – to bring existing customers’ successes, ideas and learnings into your sales process to serve as voices of experience for your product – not just at the end of the sales cycle, as we commonly do, but early on to fill this “recommender” role.

If your company or product is early in the market, customer input is even more vital to help mitigate prospective buyers’ understandable wariness. It’s the ‘safety in numbers’ thing. Having colleagues make the same buying decision reduces the risk of perception that they may have made a risky decision.

How to turn customers into recommenders
There was some discussion about how to involve customers effectively. Here are some of the ideas that were batted around:

  • Integrate client input in content, such as webinars and videos
  • Ask clients to join discussion panels
  • Invite them to post on your blog
  • Encourage clients to join your fan page, and post links on their Facebook pages
  • Incorporate clients in your sales training, so your reps can hear how your product or service alleviated their pain

A bit more challenging was the concept of inviting customers to join sales calls. I’m not sold on the reality of this one, yet. Most of our customers are pretty busy at their core jobs.

Still, when you think about it, people like to showcase their success. Why not take advantage of this? Inviting your customers to talk to your prospects gives them a platform to present to their peers how they were able to identify and resolve a problem. At the same time, they get to exchange ideas with their counterparts.

Bottom line, it’s time to start thinking about how current customers can become a part of the sales process – from the early stages on. We know our prospects are out there doing their research before we get to them. Let’s increase the likelihood of being included in a product or service selection by having our successful customers talk about us.

I’d like to hear from you. How are you integrating current customers into your sales process?

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Friday, March 25th, 2011 Sales 2.0