I’m Good. I’m Not God!


As a reference manager, some of us are tasked with a huge amount of deliverables.  Case studies, press releases, PR references, Marketing references, Sales references, analyst references, customer snapshot slides, logo slides, video testimonials, maintaining a database…. the list could go on forever.  Even if your list just includes finding references for Sales, Marketing and other groups within your company, it’s a huge job.  We have to guarantee that we are providing the most appropriate customer for the each request.  We need to carefully watch the balance of over using a customer as well as making sure that we balance the customer vs. prospect size and the customer contacts title vs. the title of the prospect.  There’s a lot more than goes into a reference than just giving a customer name.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been hit with Sales folks (or others in the company but for the purpose of this I’m targeting Sales) asking for a certain number of references that fit X, Y and Z (not X, Y or Z) and of course the reference needs to be delivered in a few hours or, if we’re lucky, tomorrow. 

Julie Tung, Vice President of Global Customer Programs at Oracle spoke during the 2010 Customer Reference Forum. What resonated with me the most during her presentation was when she said “We provide references. We don’t create happy customers.”  Have you ever found yourself in a situation where someone says, “Just get a customer!” or “Just find a happy customer!”  It’s almost as if the requestor thinks we snap our fingers and it’s done.  Little do they know!

We have to remember that as Julie said, we provide references and references have to come through Sales, Marketing or other folks in your organization.  We can’t be expected to know every single customer that has ever bought something from us and thier satisfaction or loyalty level.  It’s not possible because for the most part, we’re not in front of the customer as often as other folks are. 

Running a reference program is a two way street.  Sales must work with you and you must work with Sales.  It’s a cyclical process that everyone benefits from.  Get in touch with your Sales team. Have lunch with them. Go to happy hour. Anything you need to do to get face time and to build a good, solid, trustworthy relationship with them.  Once they trust you, you’re job will become much easier. 

For those of us running a program by ourselves, we have to keep in mind that we’re good but we’re not God.  We can’t always do it all but we’ll do our best at all times.

For those who aren’t reference professionals, please remember that not everything can always be done and in the time frame required.  We do our best and sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.  Not all Sales people win their deals.  Not all quarterbacks throw touch down passes – sometimes they get sacked on the field.  So please, treat us as you would others.  We’re only human so treat us like humans!

As a reference program manager, we are a service group within any organization so as you would with external customers, set realistic expectations with your internal customers.

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