Are you taking advantage of one-to-many reference activities? One-to-one reference calls are the standard approach for connecting a buyer and a customer reference. They are more labor-intensive to arrange but offer the most personalized sharing of information between two parties. The high-touch reference approach generally works pretty well until demand exceeds supply, such as at the end of a quarter or year. Some companies will connect only deals meeting a certain revenue threshold with reference customers. Buyers who don’t meet that threshold may not kindly take the “You’re too small to warrant a reference call” implication, which isn’t a great way to begin a relationship. Fortunately, a few options are available to meet high demand periods yet still retain a one-to-one call’s dynamic, interactive quality:
- Limited group events
- Reference Forums
Limited Group Events
The idea behind a limited group event is to have 2-4 prospects join a call with a single customer reference where all attendees take turns asking questions. This is the simplest form of one-to-many customer reference activities, and can be set up easily. A side benefit of these calls is that one prospect may pose a different set of questions than the other prospects. One could make the argument that it’s a more thorough due diligence opportunity. Of course, some questions may not be pertinent to other prospects, so that’s a potential downside. Nevertheless, during spikes in reference demand, group calls may offer the only feasible way to accommodate all prospects in the reference-check stage of the sales cycle.
Limited Group Events may have representation by the vendor, but more often than not are un-chaperoned.
It’s always important to track revenue influenced to any sales-related reference activities. In the case ofone-to-many activities the customer’s influence applies to each attending prospect opportunity. The reward for the customer may be higher given this additional influence, but generally is rewarded for a single activity. The same applies to Reference Forum customers.
Reference Forums are reference calls at scale. In the early days of Point of Reference, we used to plan, facilitate, record, and host edited recordings of Reference Forums as our one-to-many reference activity. Some had as many as 70 prospects in attendance. That sounds unwieldy for Q&A, but typically only 10-20% of attendees asked questions. The rest were simply happy to listen. Reference Forums were more planning- and labor-intensive but worked quite well to satisfy the due diligence requirements of prospect companies.
Here are some key considerations in offering Forums:
- Participating in a forum is a different ask of a customer reference, so your contact needs to be comfortable with being on-stage with a larger audience.
- The customer needs to provide a brief bio, picture, and customer relationship backstory for promotional purposes.
- Once a date and time are selected, promote the event to the sales team.
- Give the sales team guidelines on what type of prospect is appropriate to invite. For instance, existing customers are not appropriate because they will likely ask different “how to” type questions
- Providing a registration method is essential so that you know who is registering. – This is important if competitors of the customer company register. The customer must approve these attendees.
- Have a list of “seed” questions to fill in if there is a lapse in attendee questions during the call. Share the seed and other likely questions with the customer, so they’re well-prepared with any facts and figures.
- The event requires someone to manage the call and question queue and someone else to act as host or master of ceremonies– The call manager manages the question queue, and unmutes accordingly
– The MC kicks off the call with a brief introduction, key customer facts, and asks a few starter questions.
– The MC also asks the “seed” questions should audience questions trail off.
– If any questions are inappropriate (e.g., pricing), the MC can jump in and table those.
- It’s also a good idea to have a solution expert from your company on the call should any questions stump the customer, or should an incorrect answer be given related to the solution.
- To maximize the value of these calls, record them. If a prospect couldn’t make a call, but can listen to the recording the day after, that works nearly as well.
- To maximize the value of these calls, record them. If a prospect couldn’t make a call, but can listen to the recording the day after, that works nearly as well. It’s very important to disclose that the call is being recorded at the start of the session.
- Part of the service we offered was listening to the full recording then parsing out questions related to a specific subject (e.g., reporting, customer service, results, etc.). Grouping these segments together so a future listener could go just to the areas of interest was a real convenience.
- There is also value in having the recording transcribed. Maybe a prospect would prefer to read the interview vs. listen. Perhaps the call contained quotes from the customer that could be “gold” for other purposes.
Feedback from attendees of one-to-many reference events is typically quite positive. The brain trust of the attendees leads to questions from a host of different perspectives. Comments such as “I wouldn’t have thought to ask some of those questions” are not unusual.
While we view group events as another “tool” in a program’s “toolbox,” we have worked with at least one company that has made group events the primary option for reference conversations. They gained commitment from customers to do monthly or quarterly calls, the dates scheduled in advance throughout the year. The schedule is published for sales, so they always knew what type of customer was available and when. It took a very particular type of program manager/team to go all-in on this model. But it worked for them.
However you choose to leverage these one-to-many reference options, they ensure you never have to “turn off the tap” on reference activities when demand exceeds conventional one-to-one reference calls.
Check out some of our own customer success stories on the Our Advocates page!