a newsletter for customer reference professionals
Early registration for the 2008 Customer Reference Forum is going briskly (the early registration discount expires on January 7). Already we have reference professionals from SAP, Intel, Oracle, BEA, Microsoft, BMC, Blackbaud, Siemens, Unisys, Qwest Communications, Actuate, Fujitsu Consulting, PGP Corporation and other great firms planning to join us.
Below, please find an interview with one of our presenters, SAS Institute's Christine Carmichael, on why SAS Sales has come to regard the Reference Program as essential to the sales process. It includes a great value proposition for Sales showing what they gain from a closer integration with References.
And stay tuned in coming weeks for interviews with presenters from firms such as Microsoft, Unisys, Oracle, Qwest Communications and other great programs.
For more information about our presenters, including more interviews, please click here.
To register for the 2008 Customer Reference Forum, please click here.
"The Customer Reference Forum was incredibly valuable. I learned more in two days at the conference than I have in my first 9 months on the job!"
Liz Pedro, Customer Programs Manager, LANDesk
All the best,
CUSTOMER REFERENCE JOBS
Looking to hire a customer reference professional? To post a job (for now, this service is free), please click here.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a job, bookmark our new job board postings and check it from time to time, at http:// www.customerreferenceforum.com/jobs/
Check out our BEST PRACTICES REPORTS for tips on critical issues like: getting marquee customers to participate in a reference program; getting customers to reveal measurable benefits; developing customer communities; integrating your program with sales; gaining executive support, and more. For more information, please click here.
Check out our SURVEYS of Reference Programs and the Managers who run them, here:
BAY AREA REFERENCE PROFESSIONALS
If you are a senior-level customer marketing manager interested in participating at an upcoming Bay Area customer marketing professionals meeting, please contact email@example.com. The meetings take place every 2-3 months in San Jose. Participating companies include Adobe, Amdocs, BAE, Siemens, Verisign, Informatica, Genesys Labs and VMWare. The next meeting is scheduled for first week in February. Vendors may submit proposals to speak at the meetings.
2008 CUSTOMER REFERENCE FORUM
WHEN: February 18-20
WHERE: Claremont Resort, Berkeley, CA
KEYNOTE: "Uncovering the Hidden Impact of Customer Referrals on Profitability"
by Prof. VK Kumar, ING Chair Professor in Marketing, and Chairman & CEO , IMC International
CASE STUDIES BY: Microsoft, Unisys, Qwest Communications, Oracle, SAP, SAS Institute and other leading programs
And stay tuned in coming weeks for MORE INTERVIEWS with other presenters, such as:
- Oracle's Dian Thompson and Microsoft's Paolo Tosolini on how their firms are integrating social media into their Reference Programs.
- Our Keynoter Prof. V. Kumar on uncovering and leveraging the hidden impact of references on profitability.
- Unisys' Wayne Fenstermacher, who has seen it all in almost a decade's worth of experience as a references professional, on what matters and what doesn't in running a reference program
. . . and more.
And btw, for those who are just starting a reference program, we're planning a special afternoon track for you, which will include a case study from Qwest Communication's Tom Robson called "From 0 to 60: Getting Your New Reference Program up to Speed Fast". Stay tuned for that as well.
WHY SAS' CUSTOMER REFERENCE PROGRAM IS CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL TO THE SALES PROCESS: AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINE CARMICHAEL
Q. Can you give us a quick overview of your reference program: How many references, how large is your reference staff, any budget info you can share, any other pertinent info you can share.
A. New revenue and new SAS license footprints comprise about 20% of our overall revenue in the U.S. I currently have a staff of 12 reference managers that are one of many support teams in the company who support this new revenue mission. Our team has been in place for 7 years, and to date we have around 1,100 supported references. We also have an annual metric to grow supported references by 10% per year. Our focus is to create references from the premiere deals that we sell. These deals are large, they fall into one of SAS's 6 major initiative focus areas, and they comprise about 20% of SAS's overall new revenue business.
Q. OK, before we get into the remarkable job your team has done in integrating with sales at SAS, let's talk just a bit about your program scope. Unlike some firms, SAS' reference program in the U.S. is responsible both for reference development as well as reference fulfillment, correct? Why does it make sense for your program to do both?
A. I won't exaggerate and say that handling both is easy. Across time we're seeing that the workload has stretched our limits, and we have recently started discussing alternative divide-and-conquer strategies for the U.S. team. However, the current strategy of handling both has worked well because of our alignment with the sales industries. From our inception, leadership felt it was extremely important for our stakeholders and our reference customers to have familiar people to go to who know the industry well. Whether it's cultivating the reference relationship from its infancy, or working with Sales and other stakeholders to call upon that relationship to fulfill a reference request, the reference managers on our U.S. team have intimate knowledge about our reference customers and industry drivers at all times. They know what reference customers are doing with the technology, they know the overall health of the account, they know whether the reference customer is over-used or abused, and they generally know the types of reference activities the reference customers are best at fulfilling.
Q. In our surveys of reference managers, "integrating with Sales" is a major, recurring issue. Why has SAS' U.S. team been so successful at this, do you think?
A. A significant number of folks on my team, including myself, come from Sales and have a personal understanding and empathy for what the job entails. We also have a very senior team of folks who have been at the company for many years, who understand the company's inner workings, who understand support infrastructures and politics, and who know how to make things happen. In addition most of my people have been through about the same amount of product and industry training as our sales people, so there is credibility and respect between ourselves and Sales.
Q. You've said that Sales and References are "joined at the hip." Can you elaborate?
A. I believe that Sales considers our team to be an integral part of their team. There are many things Marketing and other organizations do to support new sale opportunity, but not many activities have the instant credibility, impact and drive to success that a reference can bring. Our best sales leaders know this dynamic, they appreciate this dynamic, and they make sure we're a part of their overall planning, strategy, and training. As a result, we can be in alignment with how they do business.
Q. What are some of the benefits that Sales gains from this close relationship? What are some of the benefits the Reference Program gains?
A. Sales Benefits: Sales knows exactly who to call, and for the most part, there is trust and credibility between us. Sales knows they're working with a resource who understands and appreciates their role and who knows their industry well. In many cases, we actually serve as a trusted advisor and strategy partner who is at the table with them to get the sale.
Reference Program Benefits: We feel validated, important and respected when we're given a seat at the table alongside sales and their customers, and when we're invited to their industry training and knowledge, we and them are provided the knowledge to do our jobs better.
Q. You've mentioned that, so great is the trust and reliance between Sales and References, that in one instance a sales person asked that one of your reference managers attend a sales meeting to help close an up sale to an existing customer. Can you tell us more about that?
A. The dynamics of the relationship between a reference customer and a reference manager is usually different than the relationship between Sales and that customer. In our case, many of our reference managers have had the relationship for years, whereas a salesperson may be brand new to the account. We also have to recognize that sales people are trying to sell the customer something, whereas reference managers may be working within C- levels in the organization to create thought-leader speaking opportunities, success stories, joint ad strategies, etc... This dynamic was the situation on a recent sales call with one of our key ad customers. Sales had been trying to get into the CIO's office but couldn't, and when they realized we had a warm and trusting relationship with the CIO and could help sponsor such a meeting, they called on us for help. The General Manager for that business unit nearly fell out of his seat when he realized his reference manager support person ushered in his sales team to meet the CIO in a strategic account.
Q. Going forward, what are some opportunities for improving the relationship with Sales?
A. We're always hiring new sales people, and we need to ensure we're catching them early in their training cycle and letting them know who we are and how we can help them. As strong as the relationship typically is, we still suffer from black market reference requests. Sales does a lot to "train" us, but we need to do a better job of training them on why black market is actually harmful. We currently don't have a system in place that emphatically demonstrates the amount of revenue we touch. Our ability to better demonstrate our touches would validate the work with do and our relationship with sales.
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