Please could you provide a reference… (Proposal Problems #101)
The proposal is in well before the deadline. Phew.
You feel the odds are in your favour; the ‘spec’ was a good match for your service and the pricing felt about right.
A few days later, it’s still looking good. You’ve dealt with the questions and provided additional information.
Then you get the call (…or email).
“Could we just have a couple of references…”
Now you’re under serious pressure.
Reality bites.. to be honest the ‘Case Studies’ you provided were a ‘little bit out of date’ and you’ve not spoken to the client in a while. Who on earth should you suggest they talk to?
The ‘blinkers’ of lead generation
The organisation has been focussed ‘new business’. No one has really engaged with the existing clients for a while. They’ve been paying their bills and you’ve had no major complaints. So surely any of them ‘will do’.
The reality. It’s a complete lottery as you scrabble to find up to date contact details and then have the inevitable worry of what will be said ‘in confidence’.
How to avoid this nightmare scenario…
- Identify the clients who would be great ‘references’.
- Ask them.
OK, it’s not that simple…
Identifying your real ‘advocates’?
Implement a programme, scheme, project… just something which ensures you are in regular dialogue with your clients.
If possible get a third party to ask and probe on the tricky question of how you could improve your service. You might be surprised how open clients will be – at the end of the day they want to reinforce the great decision they made (of choosing you as a supplier). If there is anything more you could do to help them – they will say so. But only if you ask
Tangible benefits of reconnecting with clients:
- Client engagement increases
- Cross Sales / Up sales opportunities identified
- Client Retention improves
- You know which clients would refer
- You stop wasting time on inefficient marketing
And, now you know for sure who to provide as that all important reference.
Go on, think about the last time you really ‘engaged’ with your existing clients.