You have been chasing an account for six months, and you’re feeling optimistic as the buying process is coming to a conclusion. The decision is between you and two other firms. The competition is fierce, but you feel you are ahead.
At 11 a.m., the procurement agent asks for three references by the end of the day. In a panic, you send out a company-wide email in search of referenceable clients. At 4:58 p.m., you get the three references from your colleagues and quickly send them out to the procurement agent.
Whew! Mission accomplished! They wanted three references and you got it done. And so did the competition. You see the finish line, forgetting that many a salesperson has fallen one step short of winning.
The request for references is a standard part of the buyer decision-making process. However, few salespeople use the reference stage as one final time to differentiate themselves and stand out from the competition.
When I talk with salespeople, one of their most common gripes is that they are selling a product that is viewed as a commodity. They cite price as their biggest challenge. Right behind that, they lament about their inability to differentiate their product.