References aren’t all good

I’ve heard a lot of concern from marketers about “the dangers” of exposing negative customer comments as well as positive ones. This concern is obviously heightened in today’s social media age. However I think that the approach of encouraging an open conversation between customers has long been recognized by sales people.

Last week I interviewed a sales rep as part of a consulting engagement with a hi-tech company. During the interview he mentioned a sale that he’d won by asking a current customer to have a direct call with his prospect. This is nothing new, and isn’t unusual at all, except this was a competitive bid against another hi-tech vendor. The competitor also arranged a reference call. However, the sales rep at the competitor insisted on sitting in on the call! My interviewee was convinced that his openness to letting his customer discuss their product, warts and all, contributed to him winning the deal.

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