Dear Growth Molecules: When Is The Right Time To Ask A Customer For Help?
By: Sabina M. Pons
Peer recommendations are undeniably powerful influencers of software and services purchase decisions. In fact, this word of mouth communication style is the “primary factor” in 20 to 50 percent of those consumer decisions (McKinsey) and software companies are privy to this statistic. For that reason, programs at business-to-business (B2B) software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies exist to drive current customer feedback on application review websites, to obtain customer success stories / case studies, and to request to have current customers serve as a reference to prospective customers. In other words, SaaS companies need the help of their current customers to obtain new ones. Timing is key when it comes to making these requests and equally important is who will be asking the customer for this help. So when is the right time to ask a current customer for help, and who are the right resources to do so?
First and foremost, building a relationship and delivering value should be the priority rather than asking for a customer’s help at the onset of their customer journey. Only after you have established trust and provided business outcomes to your customer should you consider asking for their participation in programs to help build and grow your business. Asking for help too soon can be off putting to the customer and impact their overall experience negatively (This is like when a server at a restaurant asks about your enjoyment of your meal when you’ve only had one bite – annoying!).
As for the responsibility for asking the customer for help – that is a shared opportunity. Traditionally, some may say that it is the marketing department’s job. Others may contest that it should only be the Customer Success Manager’s (CSM) job or Product Management’s role. Just like the mantra “we are all in sales” – SaaS companies should adopt a similar saying: “we all need our customers’ help. We are all in the business of obtaining it.” This mindset will drive internal behaviors of customer centric motions and will also empower various departments that touch the customer on their software lifecycle journey to ask a customer to participate in word of mouth activities on behalf of your product. With that in mind, let’s dive into the best time to ask for participation in application (“app”) review sites, case studies, and references.
App Review Sites
App review sites, such as G2, Capterra, and TrustRadius, can be incredibly valuable for B2B SaaS companies. These sites provide potential customers with unbiased reviews from current users, which can help build trust and credibility for your product. The best time to ask for a customer’s participation in an app review site is shortly after they have had a positive experience with your product. This could be immediately after they have completed a successful implementation, reached a new adoption milestone, or even provided positive feedback on a customer satisfaction survey. You want to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak, and capitalize on the positive feelings they have towards your software.
Case studies are another mechanism to drive sales. They provide potential customers with real-world examples of how your product has helped other companies achieve their business goals. The best time to ask for a customer’s participation in a case study is after a series of defined, measurable wins, that usually completes the intended business outcome objective. This could be at the completion of a large transformational project or could be after a quick win relative to a specific need. You want to showcase their success in the best possible light, so it’s important to choose a time when they have achieved a significant milestone. Lastly, take the time to capture pertinent data to tell the impact story (e.g. billable utilization increased by 12%, or time to first value was decreased by 5 days on average).
If you ask any sales account executive at a B2B SaaS company what their favorite sales tool is, they will say “a current customer reference.” That’s because engaging with people who are like us, who have the same shared beliefs and who can personally share their story, is more powerful than any sales demonstration (This is where Dann Byrne’s Law of Attraction comes into play). When two industry peers can privately engage in live dialogue around scenario-based use cases, a decision to invest in the software will be made. That’s why references are the most powerful type of help that a customer can provide. As such, they should be handled delicately and sparingly.
Best practices for a customer reference program includes having qualified selection criteria, having an organized tracking mechanism, and clear timing expectations. Ensure that there has been ample time with your product such that the customer can speak intelligently about it. It’s also important to ensure that the customer is comfortable with being a reference. Not all customers may be willing, or permitted, to participate in reference calls. Respect their decision if they decline.
In conclusion, timing is key when it comes to asking for a B2B SaaS customer’s participation in app review sites, case studies, or as references for other customers. Asking for their participation in these activities should be a natural extension of that relationship-building process. By choosing the right time to make the request and making the process as simple as possible, you can build trust and credibility with potential customers and ultimately drive more business for your company.