Creating and expanding your Customer Reference program can be extremely valuable in helping your sales team close deals faster and more often. However, asking for a customer reference is tricky. It’s awkward for most people—after all, you’re asking somebody who already pays you money to go out of their way for something you need.
Before you ever have a conversation with a customer about your reference program, you first must develop and be able to articulate a value proposition to the customer. It’s easier said than done. To start, ask yourself what benefits this reference relationship is going to provide to your customer? Can you offer incentives to the individual (user event or trade show tickets, $50 Amazon gift card) or offer benefits to your customer’s company through a strategic relationship (opportunities to network with industry peers, presentation as a thought leader in their industry)? Both have their respective place in a value prop, and a recognition program, but they target different audiences and different objectives in the relationship with your reference customer.
Below are template emails that can be used for asking a customer to be a reference:
Asking to Participate in Reference Program:
Subject: We appreciate your feedback
Thanks so much for taking the time to complete our survey last month! Your feedback is incredibly valuable to us.
I wanted to send a special thank you for agreeing to be a customer reference for us. We’re focusing on expanding our Customer Reference Program this year and we’d like to invite you to participate.
Attached is more information about the program and incentives for you. You’ve always been a great advocate for us at [their company name] and we’d be thrilled to have you be a further reference for us.
Thanks again, I look forward to chatting soon!
Reference Program Manager
Asking to be a reference for a specific prospect/client:
Subject: Reference ask - VP of Marketing ACME Systems
Thanks so much for taking our customer survey in April. I’m reaching out because I saw that you selected that you would be available to speak as a reference.
We’ve been speaking with Alice Smith (link to LinkedIn profile), the VP of Marketing for ACME Systems. Prior to joining ACME, Alice was the CMO for a small startup in the financial services industry. She has since moved to this new role and hopes to bring modern marketing to a new level.
She is evaluating [your company name] and would like to talk with you about your experience using the program and the results you've seen. You’ve always been a great advocate for us in the past and I thought you might get a lot out of speaking with her as well.
Let me know if any of the times below work with your schedule:
Monday @ 11am PT
Tuesday @ 10:30am or 1pm PT
Friday @ 9:30am or 11am PT
Auston, Nichole. (2013, December 12). Strategic Business Practices for Building Your Customer Reference Pipeline [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.roinnovation.com/strategic-business-practices-building-customer-reference-pipeline/
Persofsky, Julie. (2017, May 4). The Art of Asking for a Customer Reference [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://influitive.com/blog/tip-2-the-art-of-asking-for-a-customer-reference/