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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Why You Have to Check with Customers

Have you ever used a customer for a reference and then forgotten about them? You later give their name to a prospect to find out it backfired? Or maybe the customer approved the case study or press release, you waited to post the document, the day you post it you find out the customer hasn’t been happy since they sent you the thumbs up on the document? If this hasn’t happened to you, good! If it hasn’t happened to you because you don’t communicate with your Sales team and customers – bad for you!

One of the main functions of running a reference program is to know who is happy and who’s not. It’s not good enough to talk to a customer, find out that they’re happy and then keep them in the “happy” customer category. No one is ever 100% happy all the time. Things are going to blow-up at some point in time. It might be a small blow-up, but it’ll blow-up.

It is absolutely critical for customer reference professionals to be on top of the game when it comes to customers. Know who your customers are and always check in with them before you use them as a reference where they’ll be called. It doesn’t take much time and can save you a lot of headaches. Know what your customers are thinking of you before you hand them off to others.

Types of customer references

Doing a quick search on the Internet for blogs regarding customer references, I noticed that a majority of them ask how to find a reference for a particular software application or some other product. Most of these are from the perspective of the person (generally sales or a consultant) looking for answers for their customer/prospect. Very few of the blogs talk about how to run a Customer Reference Program and how to pull one together from scratch. I’m hoping to help answer some of these issues with this blog.

Types of customer references
When starting your reference program it’s important to realize the many different types of references. Start with basic 101…is this is sales or marketing reference? Although they might seem like they are the same and ultimately will affect one another, they are generally two very different types.

Sales references include:
Customer speaking with a prospect over the phone/email
Prospect wanting to visit a customer to see how the product works
Name dropping in a prospect call/meeting

Marketing references include:
Press release
Case study
Speaking with analysts
Speaking with the media
Website listing
Use of name and/or logo in Marketing material

In general, it’s usually easier to find a Sales reference than a Marketing reference for one basic reason…Sales references are generally not going to be made public. It’s that simple. Marketing references are used for..well, marketing reasons which means letting pretty much the world know that customer XYZ is a customer of vendor XYZ.

Because it’s a public reference, most customers will have to get approval by their Legal and/or Public Relations team if not more people. This extends the approval process and scares some people away as more time and effort is needed.

Rule #1: When using a customer for a public reference such as logo use on a Website or in a press release always get the customers approval at least once before doing so. If a customer has approved a quote and you want to re-use it, that’s generally okay. But for the first time usage, make sure to get approval!