Developing the pipeline: it can’t just be a box-ticking exercise
There’s no doubt that having a good quantity of reference assets provides valuable support for the sales process. A good choice — not just of case studies and testimonials in a variety of formats but also permissions to use customer logos and individuals who are willing to act as a reference — means that any one asset won’t get overused and you won’t impose on the good will of your biggest advocates.
Also if, like Colt, you serve multiple geographies and industries with a diverse portfolio of services, only a large variety of reference assets can cover the breadth and depth of your expertise.
“Of course we want lots of references, but quantity is not the only measure,” says Gemma. “We have to prioritise and invest in the right ones; the ones that support our positioning.”
You might think that all you need to do is incentivise account teams or make it a formal objective for them to put customers forward as references. You’d be wrong.
“If account teams don’t understand what we’re trying to do with customer advocacy,” Gemma explains, “then such objectives just become a box-ticking exercise for them and we’re unlikely to get the calibre of nominations we need.”
One of Gemma’s earliest decisions was to spend face-to-face time with the account teams, talking to them about what makes a good customer reference and about how and when to approach customers and communicate what’s in it for them if they take part. To help, information was created to equip account teams to have the right level of conversation with their customers and encourage them to get involved.
Since the account teams own the customer relationship, it’s vital to maintain their support for the programme. Sales engagement can’t be thought of as a one-off task. Both Gemma and her in-country marketing colleagues continually engage with sales directors and account teams to communicate the value of the reference programme – both for Colt and for the customers who participate.