Are Happy Customers Really the Best Salespeople? by Cynthia Greenawalt

Are Happy Customers Really the Best Salespeople?

{3:57 minutes to read} While it’s true that someone who has experienced our product or service is able to speak powerfully and authentically about the beautiful job we do, being a good salesperson is more than just being effective at painting the picture of our value. Let me explain.

When I was a kid, my mom worked for Xerox as a sales rep – back when it was rare that women were in sales positions. She would take me to the office on occasion and I got to know her sales manager, Harvey. Now, let’s imagine if Harvey had been presented with the following job description when they recruited him for the sales manager role:

You will have a team of 20 salespeople. They are your responsibility, but you can never hold them accountable. You can never ask them if they followed through on their prospecting or sales goals. All you can do is buy them gifts and throw parties for them. Your job is to make them feel good. Oh, and by the way, your pay is tied to their productivity. 

Now, if that were the offer given to Harvey or any potential candidate for a sales manager position, that would seem like a pretty lousy deal! However, this is what it looks like when we count on referrals from our happy customers or clients. We are wearing the hat of the “sales manager” and our clients who rave about us are our “volunteer sales force.”

Imagine it’s October, and you called one of your clients who’s usually one of your most productive volunteer salespeople and said this:

“Hey, I noticed that at this time last year, you had referred me 4 clients, and so far this year you’ve only referred me two, so you’re kind of falling behind and you need to step it up.”

If we ever said that to one of our customers, they would probably never talk to us again! When it comes to our customers being our sales force, pretty much all we can do is buy them gifts and throw them parties.

And that is why it’s a myth that a happy customer is the best salesperson – from the standpoint that your pay is tied to their productivity, and you cannot hold them accountable!

The best salespeople are those whom we can hold accountable. And that is why I have my clients focus on one of the most important roles of a sales manager: recruiting and developing the best talent for their volunteer sales force. And the best salespeople for our volunteer team are “outside referral sources” as opposed to “inside referrals sources.”

An inside referral source is when a client refers a prospective customer to us. And an outside referral source is someone who acts as a raving fan, as a referral source, not ever having used us personally, but knows who we are, has the first-hand experience of our value and our integrity.

The power of an outside referral source comes alive when they are in a profession that is synergistic to our own. In other words, someone whose client profile looks like our own client profile.

For example, a CPA and a Trusts & Estates Attorney both have their foot in the door that the other wants to enter. This makes them ideal “referral partners” because they can refer back and forth. Because of this reciprocal dynamic, they can hold each other accountable because they are both producing results for each other as members of the other’s volunteer sales force.

The art of recruiting, developing, and training “outside referral sources” is a game changer when it comes to referral marketing. It’s a skill set worth learning and mastering. A good starting point is asking, “Which professions have their foot in the very door I want to enter – and for whom my foot is in the door they want access to?”

Make a list of these professions and take inventory of who you know in each category. From here, you engage in the courtship – i.e., recruiting – process (outlined in my Referral Progression article) whereby they become a raving fan who is a member of your volunteer sales force, and just as important, you become a member of theirs.

Cynthia Greenawalt

Cynthia Greenawalt

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