Are Your Sellers MISSING This OPPORTUNITY To Get Ahead of the COMPETITION?

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Are your sellers looking for a competitive edge? Sure they are! And, the answer is right under their noses. In this episode of the Sales Management Minute, learn how to take what is perceived as a task and turn it into opportunity.

Michael has been chasing the account for six months and he’s feeling pretty optimistic as the buying process comes to a conclusion. The company is considering his firm plus two others. The competition is fierce, but he feels like he has a leg up.

At 11am, the Procurement Agent asks for three references to be provided to her by the end of the day. In a panic, Michael sends a company-wide email in search of these referenceable clients. At 4:58pm, he gets the three references from his colleagues and quickly sends them out to the Procurement Agent. Whew! Mission accomplished! They wanted three references and he got it done. And, so did everyone else. Michael sees the finish line, but has forgotten that many a sales person has fallen one step short of victory.

The request for references is a standard part of any buying process. Ever consider why prospects ask for them? Despite all of the sales speak, sexy websites and dazzling marketing material, they don’t believe the story. Rarely will anyone ever say that, but that’s what this step of the process is all about. Validation! Making a supplier selection decision has risk and prospects want to conduct their own due diligence to make sure they make the right choice.

While this step is about trust, they still come to your sales people for names…usually three of them (not sure why three is the magic number). Unfortunately, sellers often see this as a task rather than an opportunity. Let’s be honest. They see it as a pain in the neck all the while complaining about competition, price pressure and commoditization. Yet, they don’t use this step of the process to stand out from the pack.

Here are six tips to turn this from task to opportunity.

1. Build a stable of referenceable clients so the same three are not used and abused. Consider what prospects want to learn about your company and develop a portfolio of clients who can address each area.

2. When prospects request references, ask what they hope to learn from the discussion so you can provide them with clients who can speak to those points.

3. Ask who is going to be calling. This gives you an opportunity to align a title with a title. Imagine connecting a prospect CFO with a client CFO. Powerful!

4. Profile the prospect. Consider their industry, size and circumstance when selecting client references. The more the two entities have in common, the more effective the reference.

5. Prep your client…unless you want disaster. There’s nothing more disastrous at this step of the process than a prospect surprising a client with a reference call. Contact your clients and let them know who will be calling and what they want to discuss.

6. When you send the list of references back to the requestor, provide a short narrative explaining the background of the relationship to best prepare the prospect for the discussion.

Think about the deals your team has won and lost. It was the little things that led you to victory or resulted in defeat. Use the reference step of the buying process to give your sales team a competitive edge.


Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including award-winning,  best-seller “Hire Right, Higher Profits.” He is a results-driven sales management consultant and a passionate, dynamic speaker . Lee can be reached at or 763.416.4321.