David Sroka, President & CEO“Our B2B technology is only as good as the data that’s in it and the people who manage it,” explains David Sroka, President and CEO, Point of Reference. With customer reference (a.k.a. customer advocate) data spread around organizations in spreadsheets and often peoples’ heads, the need to quickly and easily access customer success stories—written, recorded, or live—becomes nearly impossible. The competitive imperative is to centralize customer reference data and automate processes so that the most relevant and influential customer stories can be shared effortlessly and consistently with prospects whenever needed.
Addressing these stumbling blocks, the Point of Reference solution engages company relationship owners to capture and maintain the best knowledge about reference customers. The company’s solution, ReferenceEdge, is a 100 percent native Salesforce application. It automates search, reference requests, content sharing, advocate identification, updating reference information, and quantifies program value.
ReferenceEdge provides a single source for all customer reference information along with content, like videos and case studies, all housed within the client’s Salesforce organization. With Smart Search logic, users discover relevant content and reference accounts with minimal time and effort. This is important because up to 85 percent of B2B buyers depend on peer opinions to make purchase decisions.
Salespeople are dependent upon reference customers to close opportunities, yet their hunt for reference information is often haphazard and, unfortunately, fruitless. Two common ways salespeople seek references are through indiscriminate email blasts—which yields low odds of receiving a reply— and the other is to send requests to an individual in marketing—acting as a concierge or reference help desk—finding and providing reference matches—which is not scalable. With the intent to improve efficiency and results, Point of Reference introduced a peer-to-peer request capability to automate the request and approval workflow without an intermediary. “We bring order to chaos. Our system even automates the reference use feedback loop, so the outcome of each reference activity isn’t a mystery,” adds Sroka.
A company using ReferenceEdge consistently uses customer advocates to increase close rates, shorten sales cycles, and expand up-sell opportunities.
We’re working with Salesforce to explore AI applications to further free up program resources to focus on cultivating relationships with internal stakeholders and customer advocates, which machines can’t do
To ensure the best results, Sroka advises companies investing in customer advocate management technology not to underestimate the importance of a strong program leader. “This is not a junior position,” he emphasizes.
Looking ahead, the company sees a number of applications for Artificial Intelligence (AI). In particular, bots could be deployed to investigate the reference suitability of a particular customer then pass candidates over to people to build relationships. “With the possibility of influencing millions of dollars it’s important to ‘leave no stone unturned,’ when it comes to advocates,” says Sroka.
The recently announced partnership involving Salesforce’s Einstein and IBM’s Watson is expected to advance the respective maturity of each technology. “We’re working with Salesforce to explore AI applications to further free up program resources to focus on cultivating relationships with internal stakeholders and customer advocates, which machines can’t do,” Sroka reveals.
“We see companies formalizing the customer success discipline like many other long-standing disciplines such as lead gen, and that makes for a logical home for customer advocate programs,” Sroka points out. Going forward, Point of Reference anticipates more synergy between its typical home base, customer marketing, and customer success functions and technologies. The natural outcome of true customer success after all is customer advocacy—public expression of satisfaction in a variety of forms. Point of Reference leverages the Salesforce platform to help clients fully realize its vision of strategic, quantifiable customer advocate management.