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  Reference Point
  a newsletter for customer reference professionals
  April 2011
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IN THIS MONTH'S ISSUE:

  1. How to Listen to a Senior Executive (first in a 2 part series on gaining executive support for your reference program)
  2. 2011 Survey on Customer Reference Programs is ready
  3. Links to job openings, local reference meetings

How to Listen to a Senior Executive (first in a 2-part series on increasing your value to senior management)

Gaining strong executive support for any initiative is a key element of success, which is why we've discussed this enduring issue several times in previous issues and in our conferences. In this short series, we're going to look at a fairly bold approach: how to increase your value to senior management and in particular, to your executive sponsor, by 1) listening more effectively--which is key to building the sort of "trusted advisor" relationship that the best top executives crave, and 2) as trust builds, guiding the discussion to those areas where he or she, and you, can really increase the impact of your program on the business.

All of this will assume that you have the RIGHT kind of senior executive to approach in this way: one who is open to ideas, values input from thoughtful people, and welcomes pushback and challenges to conventional wisdom (even his pet beliefs). (And if you don't work with such an executive, you might think about finding another one!)

  1. "Echo" what he says to show you're listening (and to help you listen actively!). Sr. Exec: "We need to raise awareness in our marketplace of what we can do." You: "Raise awareness." Sr. Exec: "That's right. We're doing a great job, and have lots of passionate customers, but no one knows." You: "No one knows." Sr. Exec: "It sure seem that way. Surveys are showing we only have about 25% name recognition." You: "Wow, only 25%."

  2. Ask open ended questions. "How are you thinking we'll address that issue overall?" "Who are the critical players we'd need to address it?" "How would we engage with those passionate customers to help us?"

  3. Help him flesh out his ideas. Don't just repeat and don't just summarize. Synthesize. "OK, I'm hearing three different challenges that we need to address: lack of market awareness, lack of fully engaging with our customers, and absence of a clear branding strategy on our part, is that it?"

  4. As you gain a level of comfort in the relationship, constructively push back. As questions like, "Why?" "Do we have the internal resources we need to really do that?" "Where would our internal support come from?" "How would we convince PR to go along?"

  5. Clarify the meaning of unusual words he uses. "Why do you say 'no one' knows?" "How do we know we have 'lots' of passionate customers?"

  6. Get him to clarify his thinking on how we got here, where we are now, and where we're headed. By asking about the past, the present and the future, you help him to establish context, why any important new initiative needs. "How did this situation start?" "What are we doing now to correct it?" "If we do the things you suggest, how will we know we've succeeded? What's the measures?"

  7. As respect and a good level of comfort develop, ask more personal questions when they would be relevant and helpful. "What are your overall goals for your organization?" "How do you feel about what's going on now?" These sorts of "touchy feely" questions can be critical to helping you--and him--gauge his real commitment. If that passion isn't there, not much is likely to happen.

Some of these may seem pretty bold, but you'll find that if you start slowly and build up, substantial trust and respect will develop with your senior executive sponsor. And that will be key to your success and his.

In Part 2 in our next issue, we'll provide a set of specific provocative questions about customer references and customer engagement in general, that can be used very effectively to increase his support and involvement as your mutual trust grows.

All the best,

Bill Lee, President
Customer Reference Forum and Customer Strategy Group
Author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review Book, The Hidden Wealth of Customers

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2011 SURVEY ON CUSTOMER REFERENCE PROGRAMS IS READY

The industry standard for reference program budgets, staffing, best practices and more. Learn how leading reference programs:

  • Are organized
  • Allocate budgets and headcount
  • Establish growth targets
  • Leverage social media
  • Interface with and incent sales
  • Reward customers
  • Measure the value of their programs
  • Design and implement the reference management system they use

For more information and to purchase, please click here.

Note that attendees of the 2011 Summit on Customer Engagement receive the Executive Summary free, and a 67% discount on the full report.


ONSITE WORKSHOPS

Couldn't make it to the Summit? Is it time to take your customer engagement program to the next level? Having trouble getting there? I can bring Customer Reference Forum's knowledge, research capabilities, and the most extensive network of reference professionals and suppliers in the world, onsite to you.

Learn more.


JOIN OUR LINKEDIN COMMUNITY

For practitioners only. Exchange ideas and best practices with peers, get your questions answered quickly, expand your network. We're now up to 380 members. If you're not a member, join us - just reply to this email "sign me up for your LinkedIn community" in the subject line.

NEW EMEA REFERENCE COMMUNITY ANNOUNCED

To get involved with the recently formed community of customer reference professional in EMEA, contact Claudia Koenig at referencecommunity@googlemail.com

LOCAL MEETINGS OF REFERENCE PROFESSIONALS

For the Boston Customer Reference quarterly meetings schedule, please check with Kara Manfredi for updated information, at karaManfredi@deltek.com.

To follow and attend the San Francisco/Silicon Valley Customer References Council, you can go to their new LinkedIn community site (just copy and paste "San Francisco/Silicon Valley Customer Reference Council" into the LinkedIn search engine for "Groups").

For the next Bay Area Reference Group Meeting please send an email (and please include your title) to val.stephen@acxiom.com.

JOBS

For information on who is hiring and to apply, please click here.

We can let our community of more than 1000+ reference pros know about your position opening. To post a job (for now, this service is free), please click here.

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Contact Information

email: bill@customerreferenceforum.com
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