Episode Thumbnail
Episode 73  |  41:32 min

Your secret weapon for moving deals forward

Episode 73  |  41:32 min  |  03.15.2021

Your secret weapon for moving deals forward

00:00
00:00
This is a podcast episode titled, Your secret weapon for moving deals forward. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week, Devin and Sheena sit down with the VP and CMO of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong to discuss the power of gaining customer references. From pre-contract talks to closing, Amber draws on her years of experience in sales and marketing to walk us through the "dos and don'ts" of asking a client for a reference or review, and how doing so might actually help you close a deal or two. </p><p><br></p><p><br></p><p>Connect with Amber: <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/amber-armstrong-marketing/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"><strong><u>https://www.linkedin.com/in/amber-armstrong-marketing/</u></strong></a></p><p>Connect with Devin:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/devinreed/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(15, 15, 9);"><strong>https://www.linkedin.com/in/devinreed/</strong></a>&nbsp;</p><p>Connect with Sheena:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheenabadani" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank" style="color: rgb(15, 15, 9);"><strong>https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheenabadani</strong></a></p>
Takeaway 1 | 01:49 MIN
Reference or Review?
Takeaway 2 | 01:31 MIN
When should you use a reference?
Takeaway 3 | 00:59 MIN
Data Breakout: Peer Reviews
Takeaway 4 | 01:23 MIN
Can asking for a reference help close a deal?
Takeaway 5 | 01:47 MIN
What NOT to do when asking for a reference
Takeaway 6 | 01:23 MIN
Micro-action: Add value when asking for references

This week, Devin and Sheena sit down with the VP and CMO of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong to discuss the power of gaining customer references. From pre-contract talks to closing, Amber draws on her years of experience in sales and marketing to walk us through the "dos and don'ts" of asking a client for a reference or review, and how doing so might actually help you close a deal or two.



Connect with Amber: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amber-armstrong-marketing/

Connect with Devin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/devinreed/ 

Connect with Sheena: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheenabadani

Guest Thumbnail
Amber Armstrong
VP and CMO of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBMConnect with Amber

Devin Reed: Welcome to Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast powered by Gong. We're your hosts, Devin Reed-

Sheena Badani: And I'm Sheena Badani. Revenue Intelligence is a new way of operating based on customer reality instead of opinions, making data driven decisions based on facts instead of opinions or guess work.

Devin Reed: And it's made up of three success pillars, people intelligence, deal intelligence and market intelligence. You know, the things all revenue teams need and care about. Every week, we interview senior revenue professionals and share their stories and insights on how they leverage revenue intelligence to drive success and win their market.

Sheena Badani: You'll hear how modern go- to market teams win as a team, close revenue with critical deal insight and execute their strategic initiatives, plus all the challenges that come along with it. So Devin, you probably heard there's some stat around social media and general user generated content sites where 90% of the visitors are just viewing the content and reading the information, and 10% or less are the ones who are actually contributing and adding reviews. Like say on Yelp for example, most people are not writing reviews, they're just going and checking it out. I'm curious, are you a reader or a writer?

Devin Reed: That is so funny. I am definitely a reader. I have learned that the only time I ever feel compelled to write a review is when I'm really pissed off about something, which is very common, It's why review sites and getting good reviews is tough for businesses. Or, if I had really good service and they specifically were like, " Hey, do you mind going to Yelp and leaving a review for my business?" as the owner or even as a server. I've had people ask that before. There's one story, we're at a restaurant, Skal was fantastic, the servers you remember, you have a great time, you're excited for them to come back to your table

Sheena Badani: Mm- hmm( affirmative)

Devin Reed: Because they're conversationalists. She was like, " Hey, I appreciate you guys coming in. I have a competition at our restaurant right now, and whoever drives the most Yelp reviews wins some prize," I can't remember what it was. She's like, " All you have to do is just put my name in there somewhere and that's how we're tracking them."

Sheena Badani: Oh!

Devin Reed: And so we did it right then and there. We had had a couple drinks, we're happy to help and we had knocked out a review. I never got to follow up if she won, but I'd like to think that she did.

Sheena Badani: That is very brilliant. I like that a lot. And one thing that was concerning me was, hey, you only go on Yelp to write bad reviews, which I think is very common, right? Where you'll get at least these consumer type of reviews, and that won't fair so well for us who are selling in the B2B space if our customers are only writing about us when it's negative.

Devin Reed: Yeah.

Sheena Badani: Or just leaving it up to them, leaving it up to them to do it. There has to be some intentionality like you talked about, like asking for it. When's the right time to ask for it? How should you ask for it?

Devin Reed: I was going to say, if B2B users only went on these sites for negative reviews, the name of the game would be who has the least bad reviews instead of who has good reviews? Yeah.

Sheena Badani: Yeah. Exactly. Well, I think that's why we were really excited to bring Amber Armstrong, who's the VP and CMO of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM. She is very, very knowledgeable around customer references in general. So reviews are part of it, but it's also like, " Hey, when should I ask one of my former customers to talk to one of my prospects? Should I ask them to talk to the prospect or should I invite them to write a review or come speak on stage?" There's so much opportunity, not only to help move your deal forward, but also put your company on a stage, help that professional brand development of your prospect, of your client. So, this episode is really, really interesting in how we go deep into all sides of customer references.

Devin Reed: Absolutely. I have had good customer references, I've been a good customer reference and I still learned a lot from Amber. A shameless ask for those listening, if you don't mind going over to wherever it is you listen to podcasts and giving us five stars, that'd really make our day. Let's go hang out with Amber. Amber, thank you so much for joining us on Reveal. We are very excited to have you.

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I can't wait for our discussion.

Devin Reed: I got excited just looking at your title, because we usually have revenue leaders and by'revenue', we mean sales leaders. Marketers are revenue generators too, but you're VP and CMO of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM. I have been told what blockchain is multiple times, I am never able to repeat it back to folks. So no pressure to school us on what blockchain means today, that's not what this is about, but can you give us a quick overview of what you do at IBM and maybe what you're focused on right now?

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, absolutely. I lead marketing for the division of IBM that infuses AI into the applications. So, if you think of with AI, you can buy Watson APIs as an example, and add those into your existing business processes. Or, you can buy our solutions, like Maximo as an example of one of those, or we have some supply chain solutions, where actually the AI is already embedded, and so you just go out and deploy it, and you are able to deploy AI at the same time as you're deploying the application. That's that part of the business, and then Blockchain, I'll give you my simplest, when I was learning blockchain because I've worked on blockchain for about five or six months now. The simplest way I can describe it is it's a trusted ledger. It is 100% true and it's mutable, you can't change it. It's permanent. Once you have something that is permanent, then you can trust it and know that the suppliers that have provided these things along the way, have met certain expectations and therefore, it's something that's real. And there's a lot of opportunities for a blockchain to drive improved efficiencies across businesses as well.

Devin Reed: You are so kind for starting that with, " The simplest way I can explain this to you," and for not shaming me, as I just displayed my call it'ignorance' or'inability' to learn. But the good news is, I have confirmed now that'ledger' is one word I do hear every time, so I must be on the right page

Amber Armstrong: Yes.

Devin Reed: And now I can at least spit that back. I'll say, " My friend Amber said it's a ledger. I would explain it to you, but you wouldn't understand."

Amber Armstrong: That's a great plan.

Sheena Badani: You could also say goodbye opinions, hello reality. I feel like that fits well with blockchain too, based on Amber's description.

Amber Armstrong: I like that. I like that.

Sheena Badani: So Amber, I read that the words'passionate', 'focused' and'kind' have become a mantra for you. Could you share a little bit more about why those specific words are so meaningful for you?

Amber Armstrong: Yeah. I'll tell you a little story about how I developed them. Back probably five years ago, I had a really tough day at work where I had to explain to people that their roles were essentially going away, and I wrote down three words and I just kept them next to me and I stared at them all day long. And literally had 25 back to back calls on this. So I stared at them and it was'kind', 'patient' and'calm' were the three words that I had, and It was so helpful to me in that day, that I said, "You know what? I should actually do this more often, what are the words I really want to keep in my mind, I don't have them on a piece of paper next to me, but I do run them through my mind constantly." And whenever I'm feeling out of sorts, I will stop. It's like, " Okay, am I focused? Am I passionate about this thing that I'm working on? Do I feel like I'm in a space where I can be really kind to the people that are around me?" and that sort of thing. If those things aren't true, then it's definitely time to take a break. But the reason I chose those words is because to be focused, that's how you actually get to outcomes. If you're trying to do everything, you're never going to do it very well and then you just feel like a failure. Whereas, if you say, "I'm going to focus on these individual things, and really do my best at those things, you start to have some successes, and it builds up more successes, and maybe you get to some of those other things, because you're able to already have some successes in the things you've been focused on. On the'passionate' piece, AI is something I'm actually very, very passionate about, and with working every day on something that's exciting to you, that is adding value to the world. We spend a lot of hours at work, and with COVID, we're literally not leaving our homes, and so it's really important that you have a lot of passion around that. And then'kind' inaudible show up in the world, right? It doesn't mean as a leader I can't be direct, and I can't have tough conversations. But I can do so from a place of kindness and emotional maturity, and I just to make sure that I bring that forward.

Sheena Badani: And I suspect part of kindness is also being kind to your own self, and investing in yourself, so you can be your best self at work, so that you can be the best leader. Are there any particular things that you do in regards to being kind to your own self, so that you show up 110%?

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, there's a few things. One is I'm really clear what I'm not good at, and I don't try to do that, and I'll give you an example. We live in a high rise in Austin, and we have someone that helps us take care of our home. We just have her pop in every day for 15 minutes, just to do a little tidy up, right? So, I'm very kind to myself, I don't do dishes, I don't make my own bed. And it's easy, because we live in a high rise, she's here anyway and it's something that's very efficient for her and her time. But, I don't inspire to be a great housekeeper. I just aspire to be able to spend my time doing things that I feel are quality. Spending time with my family, with my husband. The other thing is, and I started this with real seriousness during COVID, is running every day. And it's a minimum of a mile everyday. And I track it through, I don't know if you the Streaks app, but it's just wonderful. And every day, you sweat, I cannot stay stuck in my head on a run.

Devin Reed: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: And some days, it may be longer than two miles, but it's never shorter than two miles. And that just really helps me stay focused. And then I make sure I get steps, which is already really hard during COVID. I make sure I get at least 5, 000 steps a day. Usually it's a lot more than that, and I have a meditation practice. So all those things are the things that make me feel good, and I feel like help me show up as a better person.

Devin Reed: I'm sensing a high level of self awareness and balance in the world of Amber.

Amber Armstrong: Yeah I try. I try really hard. You also seem super nerd, like everything gets tracked, and so I was saying with the Streaks app, I'm very motivated by there being a little red symbol on my phone that's not done, right? It's like, " You might not want to go for that run right now, but you got to go.".

Devin Reed: I imagine, I can't see to the side, you have this huge dashboard up on the wall. It's got your meditation data, mixed with your running data, and maybe some mood data. I'm similar.

Amber Armstrong: Pretty much. Bringing in some IBM AI into that mix too.

Devin Reed: Yeah. Amber we brought you on to Reveal, other than just because you're fantastic, to explore the topic of customer references. I'm really interested in this, because it's something that is very heavily used in sales and marketing. But not really not something I think gets coached or really even talked about that much. So I guess first, before we dive into that, how would you define a good customer reference? And how is it different than a customer review or case study?

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, yeah. So, a good customer reference is someone that is willing to take a call, to say" Yes, I used this.", and to be the solution, and to be really genuine about the things, the reasons why they chose it. And some of the challenges they faced along the way. Because people don't believe everything is always 100% perfect, right? And so, what you need as a seller, is a reference that can share like, " yeah, we've faced some tough times, but we got through those.", and we were able to get to the other side of these things. It's also really important, the way I differentiate it from a review, is reviews on third party sites are absolutely amazing, and especially in this world we live in now where digital is so much more important there, an incredible part of the funnel from a marketing perspective, and a must- have. And they help you with digital discovery. So if you're a seller and you're thinking about, " okay, I've got this client who I think should talk to other clients.", then, " Should I ask them to be a reference? Should I ask them to write a review? Should I ask them to participate in a case study? Or should I ask them for a press release?" It would kind of divide it into those buckets. And I think it depends a little bit on the industry you're in, and which of those is a better kind of approach. But absolutely, reviews on the third party sites, are really low hanging fruit. They are easy for the customer to do, and the person is speaking from their own individual perspective. They're not speaking on behalf of the company. So that's a really important thing in a review site. When I write a review on yelp, as an example, I'm not writing as an IBM employee, I'm writing as someone who attended the restaurant. On the case study side, the things I think about that make really good case studies, are usually specific to an industry. They tell a great story of a beginning, a middle and an end. And how they can get to those outcomes. And then on press, now press we actually find to be considerably more challenging, because oftentimes, because of company requirements internally, oftentimes the person that could be the reference for you, and actually take the call, or write a review on a website, or even give you the input on a case study, sometimes doesn't have permission to do the press piece of it. Because it gets tied up in the broader company communications. So what I always suggest is, don't start there. Start with the review and the case study, and then after you get those kind of working, unless there's something incredibly monumental that you want to announce, that they also want to announce, then hold that for a later date.

Sheena Badani: That's a super helpful breakdown

Devin Reed: Yeah, for sure

Sheena Badani: For marketers are listening, or for even reps who are trying to understand, " why did we chose to take this customer and utilize them in one of these, but not the other channel?". As a rep, you have a lot of different tools to utilize, to help to get your customer across the line, customer references being one of those. There could be videos, there could be the case studies, there're other things. How should a rep evaluate when they should use a reference versus something else?

Amber Armstrong: I think references can be great at each part of the sales cycle. So if you think about you're in early stages, references and case studies, specifically, can be a great way to open up that door. If you have someone that looks like them, that's in their industry, that can be a great way to start a conversation on LinkedIn. There are a variety of different channels. Its great use for internal sellers, what we call digital sellers, to be able to do an initial outreach, have a conversation, and then follow up with references from that perspective. They can also be really, really important at the actual reference, like someone calls them perspective at the end of the funnel, when you're really trying to close the opportunity, convince them to move now, give them the confidence that you have the longterm commitment to them, as you do for your other customers.

Devin Reed: Amber, what are maybe the psychological levers that get pulled at that stage? Because I've been in sales before, you have all the things you've mentioned, like" Check us out on G2, here's this video.", you've got all of these kind of pre- packaged or digital. Why is speaking to an actual client at that stage so impactful? Why does that work?

Amber Armstrong: Well, I think psychologically, you feel bonded to people that are like you.

Devin Reed: Mm- hmm(affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: Good or bad, I think that that's true.

Devin Reed: Sure.

Amber Armstrong: If this person is like me, and they made this decision, then it gives me some validation that that's probably a good decision. And especially if this person is honest with me about the challenges that they faced in this process, then I feel extra like, " Okay, we're not hiding things from each other here."

Devin Reed: Mm- hmm(affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: And so that's a real value. Now, there's something else that's psychological to the side of why people want to be references. And it goes to each of those levels that we talked about, right? When someone is on G2 as an example, they may be doing it because they want to be helpful to people in their community, and it's an easy enough way to do it. The various sites have differing levels of participation. So that may be why they do that. A reference may be because they want to connect with people in their industry, and when that person calls them, they're also getting something out of that conversation. And then, on the case study, or another one that we didn't talk about earlier, is speaking at events.

Devin Reed: Right.

Amber Armstrong: Virtual now. But in both case study and the events, that person's individual career is propelled because they are then standing up, as the expert on how they solved this problem. It happens to be solved with your solution, but how they solved this problem, and then they can you can go to my LinkedIn, and on my LinkedIn, I'm standing on a stage with the Watson IoT background behind me. It's a prestige thing to be like, " Yes, I owned this audience, I entertained them and served them. And I was chosen for that.". And so you can think about it when you're talking to customers about whether or not they should participate, you can really think about what's in it for them, from those different levers.

Devin Reed: All right everyone, you know what time it is. In every episode, we have a data breakout, a quick sidebar to look at the data. Now most of us have experienced the disappointment of buying a product that doesn't quite live up to the promise in the ad, or the sales pitch. As a result, we've become more skeptical about marketing and sales messaging. But, it turns out that we don't have the same bias against customer created content. According to a Demand Gen Report survey, 97% of B2B buyers say that user generated content such as peer reviews, is more credible than other types of content. That means that we can't just rely solely on our marketing collateral and pitch deck to demonstrate credibility. To earn a prospect's trust, high impact customer references should be a key part of your sales strategy. Stayed tuned to the microaction at the end of the episode, for tips to help you build your go- to list of high quality, customer references. Now that you've given me a bunch of levers to look at, or a bunch of options, I'm thinking, " Okay, how do I pick the right lever to present to my buyer?" Or maybe perspective buying if you're negotiating this type of dynamic, or this interaction for when they become a client. How do I know which one of those to choose?

Amber Armstrong: Well, there's a variety of things to consider. And some of it is based on the individual you're talking to. If the individual you're talking to is very timid, not very bold in their manner of speaking, you're not going to offer that person to get on stage. They're probably going to hate it, and it's not going to be a good outcome for what you're trying to drive. So you want to match up personality and interest of that person, to what you offer them. And then there's also this increasing levels of commitment, just as you have in a regular sales cycle. People get more and more committed as you go. When you're asking someone to do a review on G2, it's relatively easy, relatively simple, kind of a lightweight thing.

Devin Reed: Right.

Amber Armstrong: But when you get to the point you're talking about case studies, that's hours of conversations about those, and doing an event. Those are going to take more time, and so you want to be able to balance how committed are you to this client? How committed to your company? And can I place the ask along those lines? The other thing I would say that's really important to look at, when you're thinking about references, is where has your company driven the most value?

Devin Reed: Mm- hmm( affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: What is the hardest problem you solved? And which customer could be most proud of what they've accomplished by working with your company? That just makes it so much easier to make the ask.

Sheena Badani: Do you have any examples of creative or innovative ways that reps have utilized references at IBM, or any of your past experiences?

Amber Armstrong: Well one of the ways we use references, and this was in a face- to- face world, but we obviously put them up when we have big events, we put them on stage as I was talking about, and we actually have reps who will create an agenda for their client, and just take them from place, to place, to place. From each presentation, and then actually get them to spend a few minutes with the client at the end of the presentation. And so it's a really nice way to say, " Oh I just saw you on stage, that was really wonderful. I was wondering if maybe I could connect the two of you for a follow up conversation about X topic.". We haven't figured out a way to do that fully in the virtual world, because how you actually get someone from place A to place B is a little more challenging, but as we have better and better capabilities for these online meetings, I think that's something that we'll see come back.

Devin Reed: I mean, talking about feeling special, right? "Amber was just on stage, come with me I can go introduce you to her. Get a few minutes of her time."

Amber Armstrong: Exactly!

Devin Reed: I say it with a smile, but in all honesty, who wouldn't want that? Like you said, there's a level of prestige for being on that stage, and sharing all your knowledge, and getting some one- on- one time, even if brief, is a special experience. And I come with kind of secondary touch points. Customer reference, to me, is usually not a part of a sales cycle, like there's not usually a stage, no one's like, " Hey Devin, before you get to proposal, make sure your prospect talks to him.", but I think all of the examples you just mentioned, and especially the last one, those are differentiators between you if it's a competitive deal, or just you compared to all the other vendors or supplies that they work with.

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, I think that's right. Giving people the opportunity to sign up in advance, and say yes assuming this all goes well, I will be a reference for your company, gives them a little bit of bargaining power as well, if you do it kind of pre- contract.

Devin Reed: Amber, I'm curious if you have any advice for how sales people or sales teams can use customer references, in all the different ways we kind of just talked about, as part of a negotiation tactic when they're going for the close.

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, absolutely. I think it can be, it depends a little bit on the person who you're negotiating with, if they view it as purely a gift to the company, then that could actually put some pricing pressure, that sort of thing, on you. But there's lots of ways to answer that right, it's in additional service hours or other things that you could use as a carrot, to drive that. If it's someone, though, that is interested in that, then I think it can help get them more excited. Because they're going to get recognition for the things that you're doing together, and you were telling me the Gong brand is really popular, people they feel really proud, that they want to be associated with that brand, it could be something to help move the contract forward.

Devin Reed: I said it very humbly, for those listening. But I have to imagine too, if I was going to close IBM, right? Huge logo, I have to imagine that's part of it. Do people ask you, as a buyer, as an executive, does that come up in conversations? I would love to hear how you approach that ask.

Amber Armstrong: It does. In IBM being such a large company, has really strict rules

Devin Reed: Sure

Amber Armstrong: Around what we can do, what we can't do. Even to have our conversation today, communications had to approve it. So you also kind of have to know a little bit about the level of company that you're dealing with. I could take an event, speaking relatively easily, it's not like I'm going to speak at a competitor, kind of event. So when I get approached with those things, it really depends on the level of tactic. If it is to do a press release, I don't get to make that decision. If it is to speak at an event, I can make that decision. If it's to do a podcast, I can make that decision, I just have to give someone a heads up that this is something I'm going to be doing.

Sheena Badani: So Amber, I'm sure there are reps who are more junior in their careers, or they haven't had the opportunity to really utilize references, to the best of their potential ability. Could you give some examples of what not to do? Or what are some of the common mistakes that folks make when utilizing references?

Amber Armstrong: Well, I think when utilizing references, if they don't understand the company that they're trying to find a reference for, they could send them the wrong reference. And it can really show that, " Oh, you don't actually understand my business. You think this person is solving a similar problem.", and that can be really detrimental, so you really have to make sure you understand the person you're trying to sell to, the prospect. And that you've got a reference that's really relevant to them. I think that could be an area that goes wrong. Another area where it could go wrong, when I think about a new rep, in asking for a reference at the wrong time. When you've really got to know the person, and be able to feel out the situation, to decide when the right time to ask that question is. Also, asking for the reference when the customer isn't abundantly overjoyed with where you are in the process, can be a real test. It can actually move you backwards, in the cycle. So it's about having that sensitivity to, " Is this a person that would be interested in this? Do I really understand their problems?", and then finally, " Is now a good time?".

Devin Reed: It seems like the worst response that the reference, the person who's hearing the reference client, the prospect. The worst thing they could say after is, " They don't really seem like me.". I mean, the way they approach the problem, maybe the problem itself. Do you think that's kind of a detractor, and maybe actually the solution isn't for me, as a result. Do you know what I mean? Because there's such a disconnect there.

Amber Armstrong: I think it could be. It's just really important to make sure that you really do understand the problem, that that person's trying to face. And maybe it's worthwhile to repeat back whatever this reference did, to say, " I think you're trying to solve this problem, would it be helpful if I connected you with, or I sent you a case study where someone else solved this problem?", then that gives you an opportunity for them to clarify what their problem is.

Sheena Badani: I've been in that position of being a buyer, and a good experience I can recall, where a rep approached me with a few different options, so I could also help pick the right reference for me. So they said, " Okay, I have marketing in this vertical, or I have somebody that runs marketing in this partial size of company.". So I could pick. For me, it doesn't really matter what size they're in, but that vertical lens is really important, or vise versa. So I thought that was a unique approach that that particular rep took.

Amber Armstrong: I love that, that's really smart. It's all about getting to know that person, and what challenges they're trying to fix, and being able to give them choice in that.

Sheena Badani: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: When someone has choice, they then feel ownership for that decision, and so it's super clever.

Devin Reed: Who doesn't like to choose your own journey? It's always fun. I don't know if we talked about it, but I think it's worth mentioning is, as a seller, I think it's also a great idea to prep your reference client. Say" Hey, here's who you're going to talk to, here's where they're at, here's why I connected you.", to make sure they're properly prepared. Hand in the air, I've made that mistake before. Where they agreed, I sent the calendar invite, and I was like wiping my hands, awesome this deal's done. Jim's going to sell for me and get this accomplished. Call didn't go so great. Prospect was not enthused, Jim called me and goes, " Hey, next time, do you mind giving me some prep? I kind of went into there, didn't really know what to expect.", and so on. I remember that story. Jim is not his real name, but I remember that story really well because I was like, " oh, this is what not to do."

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, no that's a great example.

Sheena Badani: So, G2 and other online review sites are super popular now, even for us, we invest a lot of time in making sure we are sending the right set of customers to review there. And social media is also another channel where folks are highlighting their professional expertise, by putting those recommendations, their favorite software, what they're utilizing, as a differentiator for them, as a professional. So due to that, do you think that the impact of that reference, that validation, is diminished due to this increase in number of reviews on both of these type of channels?

Amber Armstrong: Oh I don't think so at all. And I see those channels quite differently, actually, and how to make those successful. But if you think of G2, volume is the play. And you think of, as a seller, you're trying to really do great things for your company. More broadly, it's not just about your individual opportunity, but how can you help your boarder company. When you have a volume of reviews on G2, it comes up organically in search much more often. So you're going to be able to find more and more of those opportunities. There is a believability that increases with the number of reviews on a site. And then you have a company like TrustRadius. TrustRadius has fewer reviews, but very long, very detailed. And so they've made the choice that they want to be really high quality, on the reviews. And so different sites have kind of purposes, and I think you kind of choose which one you want to point to, based on your company strategy and based on whether or not you think your solution would benefit from a longer form, or shorter form.

Devin Reed: My gut tells me maybe like, B to C companies or maybe not B to C, but more transactional sales, might be interested in the volume game of 2, 000 reviews, even if they're just one sentence. Versus maybe more complex solutions in the enterprise space, it might benefit from longer reviews. Is that a safe assumption, or am I in the wrong ball park?

Amber Armstrong: I think volume is really important on both of those, and G2 in particular does some really great things with the data on the backend, that's super helpful. So if you think about how they take that data, and make it useful to the companies that they're working with, and help them understand the market better, there's some real advantages to that approach. In either way, having that organic lift. People going into Google, searching for solutions like your solution, and being able to say, " Oh, here's the solution I came here looking for, but I can very easily now compare it to three or four others.", and then how much I trust that is going to be based on whether I think the reviews are high quality. And it may be based on volume or it may be based on the depth of the reviews. It just depends a little bit on the individual.

Devin Reed: Gotcha, thank you for clarifying. That's good to know.

Amber Armstrong: I did want to go back to your comment on LinkedIn.

Sheena Badani: Mm- hmm(affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: And people leaving reviews on a LinkedIn. When I think about LinkedIn, I don't often go out and say, " Oh my gosh, I really love using this particular software.", but it's a great opportunity for companies to showcase a client, in a way that client will then want to promote themselves.

Devin Reed: Mm- hmm( affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: And so, the thing that links both of these strategies is going to where the clients are.

Devin Reed: Right.

Amber Armstrong: They're on the web searching, or they're on their LinkedIn feed. And if you can convince your client to do a case study, and a case study is a great way of doing this, to do a case study, you can then put out a social tile that has their image, and maybe a quote from it. Link it into the case study, or perhaps have them do a short virtual event, and then they're going to want to promote it, because it makes them look wonderful, it shows how smart they are, this great thinker and contributor. And so then they go and share that, and people are connected to a lot of people like them. So I'm connected to bunches of marketers, so if I was talking about a marketing solution, that would be something that would be really exciting to my audience, and then obviously to the company I would be talking about.

Sheena Badani: Yeah, I love that. You put in that time and investment into creating that case study, that customer video. How can you maximize that? And doing other things around it, like you said the event, getting them to promote it, helping to showcase them as that thought leader, in the space. I think all of those things are really great ideas.

Devin Reed: Sure.

Amber Armstrong: Yeah. I think also, there's lots of formats, and this is mostly a sales audience

Sheena Badani: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: But there's lots of formats, too, that you can do it in. You mentioned video, you can do a WebEX recording, it doesn't have to be anything fancy. You can do an official case study. You can also do infographics, and a very simple webpage that people can come and navigate through, that maybe has some motion on it. Those things can all make references really come to life.

Sheena Badani: Mm- hmm( affirmative)

Amber Armstrong: It doesn't have to be a giant execution.

Sheena Badani: Very true. Well Amber, we ask all of our guests one final question before they leave us for the day, which is how would you describe sales, in one word?

Amber Armstrong: I can only come up with three words, and it's about the customer.

Sheena Badani: We'll just throw in some hyphens

Devin Reed: Yeah.

Amber Armstrong: Let me say that again, a little crisper.

Devin Reed: Sure, I like it.

Sheena Badani: Well it's a really good one, so we will let it fly.

Devin Reed: Yeah.

Amber Armstrong: Thank you.

Sheena Badani: For you.

Devin Reed: Yeah, for you. I was like, " if she says blockchain, this will have come full circle.", but I don't know how the ledger applies to this, but that's okay, I appreciate it.

Amber Armstrong: Love it, wish I thought of that.

Devin Reed: Well Amber, thank you for hanging out with us, I learned a lot about customer references, how to use them, why to use them. So I truly enjoyed the conversation, and I'm sure our listeners did too.

Amber Armstrong: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was great to talk with you guys today.

Sheena Badani: Thank you.

Devin Reed: Every week, we like to bring you a microaction. Something that you can think about, or put into play today. Sharing the best customer reference, at exactly the right time could be the difference between persuading a prospect to go with you, or your competitor. But, building a go- to reference list is sometimes easier said than done. If you're having a hard time getting customers to act as a reference, or share a testimonial, ask yourself these questions. What value can I offer, in exchange for a reference? Am I framing is as a favor that I'm asking from them? Or as an opportunity for my customers to network and make new connections? Am I building the types of relationships with my customers, that make asking for a reference a no brainer? And lastly, can I make it easier for my customers to provide references, by outlining exactly what I need from them? Adding an effective customer reference strategy to your sales process requires up front work, but it definitely pays off. I personally just made a software purchase this quarter, and I distinctly remember deciding to go with them, because a peer, who also leads a content team and sells to sales people, said he had a great onboarding experience and highly recommended them. One week later, they had a signed contract. Can I make a super quick ask? I bet the VP of sales that we can get to a hundred podcast reviews before Q1 ends. That's March 31st for us. It's a gentleman's wager for bragging rights, because I love telling him" I told you so", and we're already at 73 reviews, so I'm hoping you can help push us over the edge. All you have to do is take 27 seconds to give Reveal a five star review on Apple Podcast. It's that simple. I appreciate it, and thanks for the help. Did you like today's episode? Subscribe now, so next week's episode will be waiting for you on Monday.

Sheena Badani: And if you have any feedback, or you want us to interview one of your favorite revenue leaders, just email us at reveal @ gong. io

More Episodes

How to maximize precious time with buyers

How to negotiate like a boss, with Chris Voss

Driving results by leading from the front

How to go from $0 to $60 million ARR

Perception versus reality in the consumer world

How to scale your go-to-market motion