The Granny Lesson

My mom and dad have seven grandchildren. Three live in the US and four live in Ireland. The ones who live in the US live relatively close to my parents so they see each other often. The grandkids in Ireland, however, don’t have the benefit of being with my parents much. But, that hasn’t affected their relationship. The kids Skype with my parents on a weekly basis so that they can see and speak with each other. It’s as good as living down the street.

One of the last times my mom went to Ireland, my youngest nephew, who was three at the time, saw her in the airport and went running up to her and gave her a huge hug. He knew who she was and was thrilled to know that his granny was going to spoil him for the next week or so.

I have channel partners all over the Americas. We email often and have good, productive, email exchanges. However, it’s the phone calls and in person meetings that are the best. We can relate to each other and there’s something about sitting in a room with someone and hearing their voice that changes a relationship. Words written in an email can be taken so many different ways so if you don’t have an established relationship, then words can easily be taken the wrong way. When you sit face to face or hear a voice over the phone, you can get the tone of the voice and can really get a better understanding of what the person with whom you’re speaking, really means.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have built strong relationships with my channel partners over the phone, and of course email, that when we meet face to face, it’s like we’ve know each other for years, understand each other and give each other hugs. (For the record, I don’t suggest hugging people you don’t have a relationship with and if you’re unsure about it. A smile and handshake will work just as well.)

My challenge to you,  get out of the email rut, stop texting, walk over to someone’s desk, pick up the phone or hop on a plane and meet someone face to face. The bond that you build can be as strong as my nephew’s and my mom’s.

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Start With Turning on the Faucet

I have all sorts of blog ideas stuck in my head and some I’ve even put in draft form, but I just haven’t written a full one in a while. I have time blocked out every evening to write, but every evening I find something else to do and move the calendar slot to the next night. I love writing but for some reason, I am fantastic at procrastinating when it comes to writing.

I just got an email from IMPACT and it was a list of quotes to get someone past the writers block. This one in particular, got me motivated enough to writing something. “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour, Author.

Everything I write doesn’t have to be perfect, ground breaking or even interesting to everyone. I have to accept that and move on. As I write this, I realized that the same thing applies to my relationships to my partners, coworkers, friend and family. You don’t have to have a reason to talk to someone, just talk. Start by saying “Hi, how are you?” or “Hi, how was your weekend?” and the water will flow.

We get so caught up in our daily to do list that sometimes we forget to be human. I have to talk to this person about this, and that person about that. How about talking to someone just because you want to, not because you need to? Crazy concept, but when you go to someone for the heck of it and not because you need something, you might actually build a two-way relationship and get a lot more out of the conversation than you ever thought you would. Stop thinking about what you need from someone and start thinking about him or her. People aren’t action items, so make sure not to always treat them that way.

Turn the faucet on and the water will flow, relationships will build and in the end you’ll get all the water you need.

Check out the IMPACT blog here which will give you some quotes to get you writing…it worked for me.

Why is a Customer Reference program important for a company?

There are many different groups within a company that benefit from a Customer Reference Program but generally there are two groups that have the most impact – Sales and Marketing. These are the teams that tend to raise the most amount of noise as it benefits them the most.

On the sales side there are two main reasons for a Customer Reference Program. The lesser of important reasons is to promote customers “like us”. Prospects generally want to speak to a customer who is in the boat as them – same IT budget, same network setup, same employee size, same industry. By giving them customers to speak with who are like them, they can better see the value of your solution.

But, by far the most important reason for a Customer Reference Program from a Sales perspective is to let Sales focus on selling. It’s not always easy finding a customer to fit the need of the prospect and sometimes it takes 5-10 emails and 5 calls – and that’s just for one reference request! Now figure out how much time it takes to do each of those tasks, multiply it by the amount of time it takes to actually find the correct person to send the emails to or make the calls to. That, over the course of a week or quarter or year, can add up to a lot of time. Now, if you were the VP of Sales would you want to be able to hand over that task to someone who is specializing in finding reference or would you want your Sales person to waste valuable selling time looking for customers? (I hope if you’re a VP of Sales that that wasn’t a difficult question.)

Marketing folks tend to like reference programs because it helps to build brand recognition. By announcing customer via press releases or case studies or media opportunities, people start to find out more about your company. And, there’s no better way to promote your company than through third party validation. Me saying that I’m the coolest person I know doesn’t really hold a ton of value. But if Joe Shmoe tells everyone that I’m the coolest person he knows, then there’s more credibility there.

Having a person focus solely on customer references also reduces the chance of a customer being overused. If Sales person 1 and Sales person 4 are using the same customer for a reference call and then the Public Relations team jumps in and asks for a press release and the Field Marketing team asks the customer to speak at a seminar, there’s a good chance that the customer will become tired or irate. It is easily forgotten that you are not the only vendor the customer is working with so you have to be mindful of his/her time.

A centralized Customer Reference Program also allows for the most appropriate customer to be used for the most appropriate opportunity. With one person, or a team, focused on references it’s easier to keep track of the critical details of the customer so that all references given are the best references for that specific opportunity.

At the end of the day, the benefit of a Customer Reference Program is increased brand awareness and sales which then lead to increased profits. Are you sold on it?