When I was selling a software solution some time back I had a customer who used to turn up at our stand at exhibitions and other events on a regular basis and start giving demos to prospects. We never arranged for him to be there but were delighted to see him and as he grabbed the mouse to start his version of a sales demo I would grab a cup of coffee and let him take over simply because whatever he said would be accepted without question whereas I as a sales person had to work harder to win the confidence of a new prospect. This only worked because he was extremely happy with our products and service in fact he was passionate about it and this belief in our solution showed in his demeanor and as a result he along with a selected group of other customers became our best selling tool.
On another occasion I was positioning a product to a dealer who sold out of retail outlets and that particular meeting was being held in one of his most successful shops. The product in question was sitting in the middle of the shop while we talked but the meeting took a completely different turn when a customer came in and started looking at my product with great interest. The dealer got up and went over to the customer and started to sell it to him while I sat back and watched – the dealer saw the revenue opportunity the product could bring him first hand so any facts and figures I had up my sleeve was no long relevant. His own customer did all the work for me.
So what does this all mean? What I find often when I work with clients is that case studies and references come far too far down the sales cycle or are not positioned correctly. Too many case studies for example are written from the prospective of the company selling the product – a sort of look how clever we are – rather from the customer’s prospective of what the product or service has actually done for him. Quotes and views of the customer are hidden in the text rather than jumping out at you. Same applies to websites where customer quotes and case studies take a bit of finding.
Well how about happy customers taking the lead? How about a happy customer being the first thing a new prospect learns about your product and service? If you went to a website or picked up a piece of collateral and the first thing you saw was a customer telling you what buying from a certain company did for them would it not make you want to know more?
The big brands use celebrity endorsements very successfully as a familiar face will make you pay attention to their message but we all know that this is a paid gig and therefore it is simply about grabbing our interest – but using a real customer is far more powerful in my mind and what’s more important accessible to SME’s. It is more powerful because a customer would not agree to give a strong recommendation if they were not happy and accessible because you are not paying for them to sing your praises. So look through your customer base and see how you can make the most of what is probably your greatest asset- a satisfied customer – and use their level of satisfaction in as many ways as appropriate to build confidence right from the start.