Five Secrets to Develop Great Client References for Technology Businesses

As a high growth software and technology business it’s important to identify and penetrate your customer market.  If you’re new to the market, you don’t have an unlimited budget for marketing and chances are you don’t have a huge sales force.  How do you increase sales to the point where you can get a real marketing budget and hire more sales people?

The secret is to get your clients to sell for you.  I’ve read a number of surveys and interviews done with high level executives indicating they respond more to peer-to-peer referrals than to print advertising or sales gimmicks.  So how do you get those referrals?  I’ve come up with 5 secrets that pave the way to getting your software clients to sell for you.

1.  Build Trust – Technology clients feel like they’re assuming a lot of the risk in a sales transaction.  After all, they’re putting their money down for a product or service that they don’t really know will solve their problem.  How can you help to build their trust?  Provide information.  Give them specifics on how your solution will work for them.  Provide a means of risk-reversal.  Give them 30 days to try your product and see how it meets their needs.   

2.  Find the Early Adopters – Are you selling to the right clients?  Software clients fall into several categories of buyers.  Geoffrey Moore classifies them as Early Adopters, Pragmatists, Conservatives, and Laggards (from Crossing the Chasm).  Early Adopters are willing to try new software or technology solutions.  The other groups wait until there’s proof, such as testimonials or case studies, before trying something new.  If you’re selling a new solution, don’t waste your time trying to sell it to companies that don’t want to be first. 

3.  Ask the Tough Questions – After spending a lot of time, effort, and resources on crafting your solution to the client’s problem, you probably figure you have all of the bases covered.  Even if you think your solution is ideal, ask the client the tough questions about how it works for them and what changes or improvements they would like to see.  Their comments and suggestions can make even a great product better.

4.  Listen to the Answers – It’s hard not to be defensive about a product you’ve spent a long time trying to bring to market.  Asking the tough questions doesn’t mean you really want to hear the answers!  There have been times when I asked for feedback because I really wanted them to say, “Don’t change a thing, I love it!”  That rarely happens.  You can’t incorporate all of the suggestions you might receive, but really review the client’s input and try to change as much as you can.  It really will make a better product.

5.  Make the Client the Center of Your World – To create reference-able clients, be a team with your clients.  Make the client the center of your focus.  They provide input to the real world and how your product will really be used.  Listen to their input on changes, work with them on improvements.  If you’re responsive to them and their needs, they won’t hesitate to share what a great product you have with others.

So that’s my take on getting customer references.  What do you think?  I’d like to get your input, as well.  Any tips you can share with my readers that worked well for you? 

Tripp Braden is a marketing consultant who specializes in developing seven figure partnerships and high growth technology businesses.  Discover how to grow your company through extraordinary partnerships by visiting where you can find resources and products to increase your success.

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