Transcript | The Importance of Turning Customers Into Advocates: A Sales Perspective with Dan Raynes

On this episode, I was joined by Dan Raynes, State and Local Senior Account Executive at Rubrik. Dan is one of the highest performing sales reps I know and has consistently achieved over 100% of his annual quota at the last five companies he’s worked at. One of the reasons why I wanted to bring Dan on the show is that he’s a big believer in the power of customer advocacy. We talk about how sales can benefit from customer marketing, how he convinces customers to participate in advocacy activities, and his systematic approach to cultivating loyal customers. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Dan. 

Margot Leong: Hey, Dan. Welcome to Beating The Drum. I’m super excited to have you join us. First off, if you could start off by introducing yourself,  tell us a little bit about your career in enterprise sales and some of the companies that you’ve worked at.

Dan Raynes: Sure. Thank you, Margot. Really excited. So I’ve been in sales probably about 30 years. I went to college back East and moved out to California and I was actually doing purchasing for a manufacturing company, so I wasn’t doing sales. I was actually a buyer dealing with salespeople. It’s actually kind of interesting. My best friend came out from New York as well, and he was living with me and he was in car sales. And I would always joke with him about salespeople and all the things they do.

And I remember one night, we were having a drink. And again, I was going on about salespeople and I said to him, I remember I was a buyer for a manufacturing company, I said to him, you know, what, what gets me? How do you go to work every day? And you have no idea what you’re going to make? At least I know, right. I go to work, what my paycheck is. How do you go to work every day? And you have no idea what you’re going to make? And he looked at me in the eye and said, How do you go to work every day and you know exactly what you’re going to make? And I was like, you’re right. The next day I went to my boss and said, I don’t do purchasing anymore. I want to do sales. 

Margot Leong: That’s all it took. 

Dan Raynes: Yeah. Because any other career, everybody thinks in any job you have, you always think you’re worth more money than you’re making. And then you go to your boss for a raise and you don’t get it, or you don’t get what you think you deserve. In sales, I get to control how much money I make. The smarter and harder I work, the more money I make. I don’t go to my boss and say, give me a raise. I sell more. And if they’re not paying me enough, there’s always somebody else who’s going to want me. The greatest thing about sales? You’re like a great actor or a great sports figure. Everybody knows about you and everybody’s going after you. That’s fine. 

Margot Leong: That’s a good pitch for sales. 

Dan Raynes: Absolutely. I don’t sit in a review. You ever have your employee review and you sit there, you think you’re doing a great job and your manager says, well, here’s things you can improve upon. Well, all I do is I go, take a look at my numbers. That’s what’s so great about this job. It’s really easy for me to prove my value. 

So that’s where I started. I then got into PC sales and then I started working for a company called Legato, being an inside rep. And then I got promoted there were a couple of times. Legato got bought by EMC, which got me into more different sales roles. So I’ve done channel sales, sales management, and then, after EMC, I did really, really well at EMC. I went to a startup called SimpliVity. I was there for two years. They got bought by HP and HP is a great company, but I’m a different type of sales person that HP wasn’t the exact right atmosphere for me. I did phenomenally well. In fact, HP is the first company I ever left where money wasn’t the driving factor, why I left. And then I ended up at Rubrik in 2018, I’ve done phenomenally well there. 

Margot Leong: Got it. What are you the most proud of when it comes to your career in sales? 

Dan Raynes: So one thing I’ve learned about sales as I’ve done phenomenally well at it – by the way, I don’t know if you can tell, but I have a bit of an ego.

Margot Leong: You are your own best promoter. 

Dan Raynes: Absolutely. If you don’t think you’re the greatest salesperson, how does your customer not going to think it? So, here’s what I learned about sales and this is why I prefer to work for – I mean, I don’t want to work for a 100-employee startup, but why I like working for startups in the 500 to 3000-employee count. 

Here’s why: when you work for a large company, they’ll always say, well, the territory always does X amount. So you get a quota based on that, because you put a dead body in that role, customers are going to buy. But why I like working for smaller startups is they don’t have a lot of customers. The quotas are a lot lower, but the job is a lot harder.

Now, why do I say that? Selling to existing customers – I’m not saying it’s not hard. Selling to a net new customer is always a lot harder because when you sell it to a net new, you are having to rip out somebody else’s technology, and then they’re going to have to buy yours. That is always phenomenally generally a harder sale, but you get paid more on that.

I love doing that. Net new logos are a phenomenal thing I love selling. A lot of reps don’t like that. They like saying, Hey, I sell to the same 10 customers over and over and over again. I enjoy that. But the net new is –  I love the chase. 

The other piece I love? In sales, it’s like my own McDonald’s or Subway. Think about this: you have a Subway store. Yes, there’s corporate management that dictates what kind of signage you should use and what are the rules, what should the store look like. But you get to decide, how am I going to drive more customers in, what am I going to do locally? Where am I going to advertise? What are all the local things I’m going to do? That’s the way I approach sales. My territory is my own little franchise. There’s a corporate rule on how I sell and what I need to do. But who I partner with, how I create more business, how I find business, how I close, who I leverage to help me grow my business, that’s my own little franchise that I get to create. I love that part of the business. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I really liked this idea that the world is your oyster when it comes to your territory. And something that really stood out to me as a customer marketer is that you believe in the importance of making customers referenceable. I’d love to hear a little bit more about why that is and how turning your customers into sales references ultimately benefits you. 

Dan Raynes: Okay. Great question, Margot. So let’s look at it in your own personal life. And it kills me that most sales reps don’t realize this. If I was going to sell my house and I get a knock on my door and it’s a real estate agent. I don’t know a person, I know nobody who has ever used them, says, hey, I’m just in the area, wanted to see if you’re interested in selling your house. Would I use that agent? No, I’d say no, I’m not interested. I don’t know him. 

Now the agent knocks at my door and says, Hi, my name is John Doe. I’m with XYZ real estate agent, by the way, do you know your neighbor across the street? Bill Smith? I go, Oh yeah, I know him. I just sold his house and he made $80,000 more than he expected. And also your neighbor down the street, do you know, Anne Smith. I go, oh yeah, I know her. I just sold her house in one week for a hundred thousand dollars over market value.

Do you notice how all of a sudden now, I’m interested. Because you reference-sold me. Think how many times do you go on Nextdoor or Yelp? And you look at reviews? 

References. We use them in our own personal life. Why not use them in business? Most sales reps wait till a customer says, hey, do you have any references? I start out saying, hey, here’s a group of all my customers, who do you know in these accounts that you’d like to talk to? 

Customer references are great for a number of reasons. Number one, people want to talk to other people. They’re taking a risk and buying your product, all the marketing in the world doesn’t do it justice if I can’t talk to somebody who tells me. That means the world to me. 

Other advantages of customer references: customers are always going to mention competition. Hey, we’re looking at your competitor XYZ. I can pull out a sheet – well, here’s what they do, here’s what we do. Everybody’s got that, but I prefer to do it – oh, you know what? Competitor X makes a great product. In fact, here’s five of my customers who are actually in the same situation you are in that they were looking at Brand X. They did due diligence just like you are and they decided to buy my product. Would you like me to do an introduction? I’d like you to ask a customer why they bought my product over the vendor you’re looking at. 

So much better than: we do this, they do that. Let them talk to a customer who made that decision. That’s excellent. 

Margot Leong: You’re introducing this element of personalness, so I really liked that aspect of it. And the fact that you’re also really proactive in pushing this versus waiting for the prospect to ask. 

Dan Raynes: Now, I want to say something about that though. This is where it benefits the customer too. You want to make your customers referenceable? Then you’ve got to go out of the way to keep your customers happy. So that’s a commitment I make to a customer when they buy my product is, you know, part of my goal is I’m not here just to sell you product. A lot of sales reps, they sell a product and they walk away and there’s something in marketing called the 80/20 rule. 

Think of, for example, the cell phone companies, right? Look how much money they spend to try and get new customers. You’d ask yourself, when was the last time a cell phone company called me and said, hey, how’s our service? What do you like about it? What can we do better? Hey, I’d like to do a health check with you to validate what you like about our cell phone service. No, they only care when you drop your service. Isn’t that wrong? My belief is I don’t want to ever get my product replaced. Getting replaced is the worst thing. I go out of my way to not just sell my customer, but I stay engaged.

Every three to six months, we’re following up. How’s your product running? What do you like? What do you not like? What could we do better? Here’s some health stats. We’re not trying to sell them anything. We’re just making sure they’re still happy. Are there any open support tickets that aren’t not getting resolved? I always tell my customers, if you’re not happy with tech support, call me direct.

It’s not just selling a customer, walk away. You’ve got to keep them happy. I mean, thing is, I also believe is: remember, in sales, they buy you first. They buy your product second. One day, you may leave the company you’re working with and go somewhere else. Are those people that you sold to – that you sold networking gear one day, now you’re selling hardware – are they going to take your phone call? Because remember companies hire sales reps because they got a book of business. People who trust them. If you’re seen as somebody who just sells a widget and you never see them again, is that the reputation you want to have? 

 Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely.   You mentioned that you love the challenge of going after new logos, however, I’m sure that another advantage of your dedication to customer success is that it sets you up nicely for expansions as well. Now, something that we had talked about in our prep call is that every company typically encourages reps to make their customers referenceable, however, it doesn’t seem as though it’s actually that common in practice. Why do you think that is?

Dan Raynes: Generally, sales reps are always focused on the business at hand. Because that’s how they’re managed, right? What are the business I have? What are the business I need to close? How do I move on? Is how a lot of sales reps see it. I see it as the long game, not the short game. I see reference customers. If I take care of my customer, it’s a lot easier to get repeat business. Because you’re taking care of them, right? 

How do you think a customer feels when the only time they give them a sales rep is when they’re looking to buy something? I’ve been your customer for a year. You never call me, but now that I need to buy some additional product, all of a sudden, now you’re returning my phone calls following up. Now you care about my support ticket, it just sends a bad message. 

I believe if I take care of a customer and I prove it, that relationship follows me. So if he wants to buy more product, it’s a much easier sales process. They trust me, they trust the company. If I ever leave my employer, that’s a relationship that goes with me. It’s also a karma thing, right. Or the golden rule. It’s that type of thing. 

Remember, if you sold a customer a year ago and you’re not thinking touch with them, what if he’s got an issue that’s not being resolved? The worst thing that happens in sales is getting replaced. I’ve never been replaced, right? Why is that important? When you get replaced, your competitor gets that story. 

Think about this. When a customer tells me I’m looking at vendor X, I go, oh, Vendor X is great. They’re one of my competitors. Would you like to talk to five customers that not just, we competed, they replaced Vendor X with my product. You don’t want to be that company. It’s one thing to lose to your competitor. It’s another thing to get replaced for your competitor. 

Margot Leong: Yeah. Why don’t you walk me through sort of a typical customer trajectory? Let’s say that you get a net new logo where you haven’t previously had that relationship. How often are you talking to that customer?

Dan Raynes: So the first three months are critical, right? They’re learning a new product. If you’ve ever gone from an iPhone to another phone, it’s very difficult in that beginning. Even though it’s not a product issue, that learning process can be challenging for you. So the first three months, we’re all about keeping our customer happy, right? Through the install, through the training, let’s stay very close to them. 

Once they’re familiar with the product, then when we get to, you know, every three months, every six months staying in touch with them, right. We’ll do a health check. How’s the product working, go over the product, validate with the customer based on data we’ve gotten back. 

We’ll go through what’s new with the product. Remember, customers pay when they buy software, they pay for the upgrades. Well, most companies just send an email: here’s what’s new with our product. Who reads those emails or what does it mean? What we like to do is with my engineer, walk through what are the new features that they’re entitled to.  Here’s what they’re going to get out of it. Here’s what it’s going to do for them, how it could specifically benefit them. Again, I’m not trying to sell them anything. They’re already entitled to this.

It’s very important that they don’t see that I’m trying to sell. I just want to show a customer service thing. We go through, are there any open support tickets, any concerns they have, we also ask roadmap, tell us about your business – where’s it going, how are you guys doing, is there any additional departments you’re adding on? 

And then, after we do that, my ask back to the customer is, and by the way, one thing I believe in sales, every time we end the meeting, we always schedule the next one. One of the hardest challenges in sales is I’m an overpaid calendaring person.

Do you know how customers don’t commit to meetings? They cancel. They flake, that date doesn’t work. So always at the end of the meeting, I say, I’d like to schedule our next health check. Would you like to do it in three months or six months? I give him the option. I put a date up there and I always tell him we can cancel it or change it. I put a date out there, I put the agenda in the calendar.

But I’ll also ask the customer: hey, Mr. Customer, I’d like to ask you. Who else do you recommend I should be talking to? 

Margot Leong: And this is – wait – so recommend I should be talking to from a sales standpoint. 

Dan Raynes: Correct. For example, let’s say you’re a county government. I might say, there’s these five cities in the counties – do you talk to them? Who would you recommend I should be talking to? You know, you’re the county health care department. What about the sheriff’s department or fire department? Is there somebody there you could help with an introduction? People trust who they know. So I’ll try and leverage that person, other departments that I think they might know people.

Margot Leong: Let’s dig into that a little bit more.   How does that conversation get broached? Do you provide them with a template for how to reach out to other people? How does this typically look? 

Dan Raynes: So what I’ll say to them, I’ll go, hey, Mr. or Mrs. Customer, I’m very happy you’re happy with our product. If you remember, I found out about your company through this company that recommended I talk to you, right. One of the challenges I have being in sales is this. How many sales calls, you get a day of people trying to sell you copiers and faster networking and internet? Their phone’s ringing off the hook of people trying to sell them something. How many of those calls do you take a day? 

 They’ll typically say, Dan, if I had answered every sales call that comes in, I’d never get my job done. IT executives are being bombarded with sales calls. So, Mrs. Customer, that’s my biggest challenge. My technology that’s now a big benefit for you that you really like? If it wasn’t for that reference for this meeting three months, six months ago, you wouldn’t be my customer right now.

When I call you, it gets lost in the guy trying to sell you copiers and printers and what have you. I’m just another one of those things. He’ll never answer my call. He’ll hang up on me. So my ask as your trusted advisor with what you do, I know just like us salespeople know other salespeople, I know in IT, you know other IT people, if you’d be open to helping with an introduction that we could give the same benefits to another prospect, it would mean the world to me. Would that be something you’re open to? 

Margot Leong: OK, so let’s say they say yes. Is that introduction typically facilitated over email?

Dan Raynes: Yeah. So what I’ll say is, would you be open to me sending that customer an email and cc’ing you, or do like to send the email and CC me? Now, the reason I ask is the customers are very busy. If I leave it just up to them to do it, it may not happen. And I don’t want to keep bugging them about it. So if I give them the option, hey, I’ll send the email and CC you on it, that’s an easier way for them to do it. 

Margot Leong: Got it.  I know that you do something similar with reference asks. You have so many customers in your back pocket that are available and open to being on reference calls. How do you approach that conversation? 

Dan Raynes: So two ways. So one is, you gotta be very careful of using the same customers over and over and over again, right? 

Margot Leong: Yeah. 

Dan Raynes: They don’t like that. That’s number one. Number two, I know a lot of reps don’t do this as much and then somebody says, I want a reference of somebody using XYZ application. And then you send an email to sales@myemployer.com and somebody says, yeah, I’ve got somebody in Bangladesh who uses that application. It looks bad. 

Make your own customers referenceable, so you’re not always bugging other reps. I’ve been at companies where I see the same rep sending an email to a sales alias asking for references. When their own customers might be wearing that same application, they just don’t know it. I actually track what my customers have, what their applications are, what competitors I replaced, what competitors I had so I know who I can go to if a customer says, hey, I’m looking for somebody who has SQL and Linux and was using competitor X. I can then find that out and say, okay, here are those. 

Going back also to what you were saying, when I start my first call presentation, I have a slide that shows who are my customers. Let’s say it’s state of California customers. What I’ll do is, and I’m talking to another person who’s a state prospect, I’ll say, here’s all the customers I have who are using my technology in this state. Who do you know? And they’ll go, oh, I know John at department A, I know Bill, he’s with California department of This.

Great.  Maybe it might be worthwhile for you to reach out to them and ask them why they bought my product? Yeah, sure. I know him. We have lunch every month. By doing that, instead of me having to introduce references, they’re already calling in a friend or somebody they know. That’s a big advantage of me having to use references later. Now, by the way, when you give the option to pick the reference, you got to make sure you’re keeping all your customers happy. 

Margot Leong: Yes, exactly. I was going to say like, let’s underline that point. 

Dan Raynes: So again, this goes back to the first part. Selling isn’t just all new sales. It’s staying in front of your existing customers to make sure they’re referenceable. You don’t know who we might know. What if he calls, the customer’s not happy? How do you even know they’re not happy if you don’t have a regular relationship with them? It’s a front end and the backend, Margot, to do it. But by doing that, I don’t have to do reference checks on every single account because maybe the customer already knows those people. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, because you’re talking to your customers on a pretty consistent basis, whether they’re happy or not. And so it’s very easy for you to be nimble with how you frame this and approach this because you just know pretty much at all times what’s going on there. 

Dan Raynes: You’re right. And imagine if I’m a customer and every month I got to constantly take a reference call. I’m gonna start asking: don’t you have other customers? Why is it always me? So you want it to be a whole bunch of different customers. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. From an incentive standpoint, I’m curious to talk a little bit about the difference between commercial versus what you work with a lot, which is more on the state agency side. When it comes to references, some customers are very open to getting gift cards for taking the time to talk to prospects. In your experience, because customers at state agencies can not do anything in that realm whatsoever, I imagine actually that the importance of building that rapport is about 10 times more important because they’re not necessarily ” rewarded” with something of monetary value for taking this reference call.

Dan Raynes: Yeah. So you’re right. I mean, I can’t even send them logo shirts . I mean, they’re government, they’re very strict. Right? So you can’t take them out to eat. You can’t send them a gift card, none of that. And additionally, the thing about government is it’s a very small circle. Everybody knows everybody. Remember, good news travels. Bad news travels faster. So you got to constantly make sure your brand and your company’s brand – you’re taking care of it. 

So how do you get customers to do this? Well, you can’t offer him things, so you do things for them, right? You know, health checks, taking care of support tickets. Also, people in government are always moving up to different departments. You share with them openings: hey, I understand you’re looking to move more in the networking side. I sell to this government agency, they actually have an opening. Would you like me to connect you, right? 

Also the thing about government, people are always, when they’re switching different departments, they’re moving up in rank. So somebody might be in IT certain position at one government agency, but then they get promoted to be the CIO at another government agency. Because every time they’re switching, they’re generally getting paid more to move up the ladder. If you’ve got a good relationship with that IT person back when they were helpdesk and now they’re CIO, that follows for you. You’re a trusted advisor. That’s big. 

Margot Leong: Over the span of your career, I’m sure you’ve had a lot of customers that you have seen throughout that journey. Let’s say that you leave one company and go to another, but it may be several years before someone that you’ve built relationships with would be able to purchase whatever software you’re representing at that moment. How do you think about keeping in touch with people that wouldn’t necessarily have to talk to you for a long time?

Dan Raynes: So I make sure, even if they say, hey Dan, I’m not interested. We’re not gonna do anything for a couple of years. I always have a, is it okay if we touch base every six months? I realize you’re not looking to purchase anything. Totally get that. But being in a fast-growing business, the technology’s always changing. I’d just like to go over some new features and every six months, we always have new features. Again, I know you’re not looking to buy anything. But would you be okay with every six months, we just have a call. I just tell you what’s new in the market, what we’re seeing. Most customers say yes to that.

Margot Leong: So this is more about providing external value to the customers outside of just – this is all about our company. It’s more about, okay, here’s some things that we’re seeing that might be useful or interesting to you.

Dan Raynes: Absolutely. Now, he may not buy for a year, but there may come a time during one of my calls: hey Dan, that technology we bought that I told you we’re staying with for three years, it just blew up on us. Oh my gosh. I can’t tell you what happened – we’re actually in the market now. It’s funny that I’m talking to you.

 You wouldn’t believe how many times it happens. I believe what I call the stars in the sky analogy, which is the human eye can only see roughly about 5,000 stars, even on the clearest night. Does anybody believe there’s 5,000 stars in the galaxy or the universe? No. Just because you cannot see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. 

All my competitors are selling to somebody, every day. Right now while I’m talking to you, one of my competitors might be on a call selling a solution and the customer doesn’t even know or think about calling me. I might’ve talked to that customer six months ago. Out of sight, out of mind.

Your typical rep says, I can’t believe it. I just talked to that guy eight months ago. They said they weren’t interested. And now they just bought something. Yeah. They forget. Somebody caught him at the right time. It’s tough, but you have to constantly be in touch with every customer, every prospect on a regular basis, either you or some of your surrogate – a reseller, an alliance partner – always got to make sure you’re touching base because you never know when that moment’s going to strike. 

Margot Leong: Absolutely. And I think what’s fascinating about sales and it’s actually quite similar to the type of work that customer marketing does is that all features being equal, right, you’re lining up next to a competitor. If everything lines up from a feature standpoint, then really the x-factor is the relationship that you build with the customer and the rapport. And basically who cares more and who’s able to build that relationship. You get full control over that aspect. 

And it really proves that, even in a very digital world, the power of relationship-building and people still wanting to connect is absolutely still there. And that can be the difference between exceeding quota or not.

Dan Raynes: I’ll give you an example when you ask a question like that. Customers like seeing people, even in this day of the virus that we’re dealing with.  I do my Zoom sessions. I always do a video. I don’t expect the customer always do it, but I want them to see, not just hear the person they’re talking to. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re a perfect example of if you really do follow the golden rule, and you’re constantly thinking about how can I provide value to the customer, then I think all this other stuff around references and testimonials, like that comes relatively naturally if you are taking care of the person, because it’s all about reciprocity. You’re creating friendships with these people and that’s something that I’m super passionate about. So I love hearing it that, that, that what you’re doing really works, essentially. 

Dan Raynes: Let me throw it in your own personal life. Think about the plumber, the lawyer, real estate agent, think about somebody you use, and you always call them the same over and over again. Then, one day there’s an incident and you decide not to use them again and you switch. 

Do you think that plumber calls you up and says, hey, I haven’t heard from you in six months. I know normally you’re calling us every a couple months to fix something, haven’t heard from you, what’s going on? They don’t. Their business goes away. Because they’re not following up. What if the businesses that you call every time, don’t take it for granted the fact they just get your business. But if they’re calling directly just to check up, then if there was an issue, they’re not going to lose your business forever. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, there’s this great book called The Trusted Advisor, they talk about this too, like doing things like this, checking in with your customer, it also cannot be a one-off. It has to be systematic, just like you’re talking about, because trust is built over an accumulation of all of these consistent gestures over time. And it may take some time to set up, but if you’re thinking about it in the long term, it pays dividends later. 

Let me pivot to another point, which is, we talked about reference asks. I think you also really encourage turning customers into testimonials and so I’m curious, what is the benefit to you of having your customers participate in things like this? And then secondly, how do you utilize those when you’re then pitching to prospects? 

Dan Raynes: In sales, there’s something called storytelling. When you talk to a customer and you leave that meeting, 80% is how they felt, 20% is what they heard. Now, what does it have to do with this? With a case study, when I do a first call, I’m talking to a customer, if I’ve got a case study of a customer who’s either in the same industry they’re in, or nearby, and I could show that case study and talk about the story. And this way, it’s my customer. I can say: here’s what they were using before. Here’s the challenge they had. Here’s the case study of why they bought my product. That rings true because it’s not just me telling it. I’ve got a case study that talks about my technology. That’s a link or PDF I can send out to other customers. 

Let’s say I’m calling on a county government and I could send three case studies of other customers. See, most sales reps when they cold call or email, they send the same email. Every time you get an email from some company telling you something, you look at the email, that email could have been sent to a million different people with the same thing. 

I craft my email just for you. Hey, I’d like to talk to you about my product. And here’s three other customers who bought my technology and actually did a case study with us on why they loved it so much. That’s specifically written for you. And now I got a link to a customer story that you can just click and read.

Margot Leong: Yeah, exactly. It’s what is efficient versus what is effective . And I’m always harping on, you know, efficient is automation, but if you are sending a thousand of the same emails out to all these different people, the open rates are just going to be awful. If you spend a little bit of the upfront time to personalize this, it really can reap rewards. 

Actually something I’d love for you to speak to is even the process of when you get a customer in the room and you’re pitching to them, you actually have a narrative structure for how you talk about a story, in addition to the case study itself.

Dan Raynes: Sure. So typically the case study, it just has numbers, right? Better performance, 80% faster than what they had before. Every vendor’s got that. What I kind of try and do is tell a story. Mr. Customer, do you remember about the big fires that we had last year? And I might have a picture about the fire that they saw on the news. Remember the fires in such and such city and county. Remember that devastation, we’ve all read it on the news. 

Well, let me tell you a story about a city that actually went through this and the challenges they had with their existing technology, when just like everybody else, they had to evacuate and get out and they couldn’t get their technology to work. And here was the end result of it. After this happened, they went through an exhaustive evaluation of other technologies. Here’s why they chose mine. Here’s the end result of it. This way, it’s not just a case study. It’s a story that we all can relate to, that we all remember reading about. It’s much more powerful. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, I think that’s super important because, as customer marketers, we are often responsible for creating that and putting out the numbers, but really, it’s meaningless if you don’t have the additional context and,  in many ways I think the rep, because they are in the room with the customer, has to also be responsible for weaving in that story. 

To be honest, when I’m getting sold to by vendors, they never do this. Everybody does the thing where they’re just putting up a logo slide – and these are the customers we work with, very impressive. And then I never hear anything about customer stories at all anymore during the pitch. And it actually makes me pretty sad because, you know, the whole point is like, show me the success, right? Have you, as a rep, internalized your own customer stories? And can you speak to that? That’s fascinating to me as someone who wants to buy. 

Dan Raynes: Oh, you bring up a good point. The greatest thing about sales is there’s so much mediocrity that if you’re just better than the mediocrity out there, you can make so much more money. The cost, the competition is pretty much mediocre. 

Margot Leong: You’re basically above the status quo, right? 

Dan Raynes: I know I’m doing this to help sales reps get better. But my challenge, Margot, if what I’m giving you, helps sales reps get better, then I’m going to have to work even harder because then my competition has just raised the bar. 

Margot Leong: Well, that’s good, because you like a challenge, right? It’s only gonna make you get better. 

Dan Raynes: Yes. 

Margot Leong: And the good thing is that this is more for customer marketers anyway, so I think you’re safe in that regard. I think not many people in sales will listen to this.  So another question I had was, how do you frame the conversation to customers to get them to participate in testimonials? How do you get them to see the value of it? 

Dan Raynes: Well, a couple of things. In sales, once a customer is sold on your technology, there’s always negotiation and price always comes up as part of it. One of the things I typically do , or ask when a customer is asking for a price discount, if I can get it approved, I’ll say, look, if I can get you this additional discount, would you be open to doing a case study with us after the product’s up installed and it’s running and you’re happy with it. Would you be open to doing a case study? Generally, a lot of times, they’ll say yes. 

What’s valuable about that is I’m doing what’s called “forward-thinking.” I’m saying in six months when this product is up and running and you’re as happy and satisfied as we talked about, would you ever do that case study? That’s me saying, I’m so sure that you’re going to be happy and like our product that I’m willing to give you a discount on the trust that you’ll do a case study later, because that’s how great I think our product’s going to be .

There’s an intrinsic thing the customer is getting out of me saying that, which is true, right. Because if you’re not happy, you’re not going to do the case study. So the customer generally will take that risk. Now, you’ve got to follow up and make sure they do it.  

Another one, the government, I said, you know, your technology is being paid by taxpayers. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile if we could show the taxpayers, here’s how a government agency invests in new technology. Here’s the benefits we got that we can get back to the taxpayers . Faster processing, the data is more protected. I mean, I can go on and on. Right. But it’s something they can show that the public can see. So that’s a value. Because people always think that government is slow and they aren’t embracing the technology. Here’s how we embrace new technology and the benefits we got out of it.

And the other one I’ll share is at the personal level. Mr. Customer, if you like, we have a couple of quotes from you in this article. That’s something you can connect to your LinkedIn. You could say, here’s how I personally was involved in embracing new technology and taking the risk with this product. Here’s the benefits we got. In government, sometimes IT people aren’t always seen as innovators and being creative when a lot of them are. Here, you could say, I’ve got proof of what we did. We took a risk on new technology, instead of staying with legacy and here’s the benefits that we got and how I was instrumental in that. Again, people, a lot of times do things for themselves. Here’s where I show it, benefits them personally. 

Margot Leong: I think that it’s so important.  If you’re working with teams like ours on the customer marketing side, like we are more than happy. If that customer wants to talk, we are more than happy to get them out there as much as possible. 

  From a sales perspective, how would you recommend that we get more sales reps on our side? Our role is super cross-functional. A lot of the times we’re interacting with reps in a very service- oriented way where it’s usually it’s the rep coming to us saying, Hey, we need help with this reference request. And then it’s either me bothering a rep saying, hey, like, is this customer open to a testimonial? 

Do you have any recommendations on how we could be better allies with sales and get them to understand and have more buy-in into what we’re doing? 

Dan Raynes: So you just asked a great question. So remember we were talking about customers don’t like sales reps who only show up when they’re looking to buy something, customers don’t like that. You can see that, right? So if I’m a sales rep and I never hear from a marketing person, but the only time they call me is when they need me to have my customer be a reference. Do you see kind of now the correlation? Now what if  marketing was more active with salespeople, right? 

Hey, I just want to follow up. What do you see is working well with marketing? What would you like to see us do different? I can’t promise everything, but I like to listen. Here’s things we’re doing and here’s how we think it could benefit you. Would that help you ? 

I mean something you guys do. Hey, Dan, you could use more swag, right? What if I could get you some more shirts and stuff like that? Yeah. Send me that. And then after you send it to me a month later, you asking me for a reference. You’re in my good graces. I’m more open to doing it. 

Margot Leong: Yeah, absolutely. Something that we’ve done together, right, is, in the past, I’ve had extra budget. And so, I always want to think about, okay, can I use extra budget to advance sort of my own goals? Or can I use it to make existing customers happier? 

So something that I’d worked on with you and a bunch of other reps that had always helped us out in the past is that we said, hey, there’s a heat wave going on. We’re going to send, you know, packs of ice cream sandwiches to our customers. Send us the name of your top three customers that you want to reward this quarter. And we will take care of that. And like that’s goodwill-building as well because we have the budget for it and it’s something that’s going to help you guys out too. And just to get back the emails from the reps that were forwarding the thank you’s from their customers, I love to do more stuff like this to help reps out because ultimately it helps us out. 

Dan Raynes: And why do you think I send you a thank you. I sent you the thank you from the customer, so you’ll want to do it more, right. What you did was a value. Here’s what my customers saying. So you’ll do it more. Because if you didn’t get the feedback, you may not do it. 

Margot Leong: Exactly.  We talked about  providing value to sales and partnering with them more to achieve mutual success. I think that customer marketing, we do create a lot that ultimately ends up getting used by sales, but I think that there’s nothing more sad than creating something that we think is a scalable asset and putting it out there and then realizing that no reps are using it. I’m curious as to understanding what kinds of customer related content or collateral has been the most helpful for you in the past and why?

Dan Raynes: Sure. So a case study is valuable to me, but when there’s a story behind it, like we have a couple of customer success stories where you guys actually have like a YouTube video. Those are much more powerful because that’s a customer speaking, right? What they went through before, why they’re using the technology, how it benefited them, they talk about their overall business. The video ones I find are very, very impressive. I liked those the best. 

Case studies that I see that talk about the before and after, I really like that really well.  Marketing that’s cross-reference marketing, right. Here’s a success story of somebody who’s got my technology and another company’s technology. Let’s say it’s my product with – I’m just throwing this out there – with Microsoft. Well, guess what that value is that something I could take to Microsoft about working closely together or something with Amazon? Or with Google, right? Something like that. By having that cross reference story that goes a long way, because now I can use that with my partners too. So if the Google rep is helping me find you business, he can use that story too. 

Margot Leong: I think about it as more sort of arrows in your back pocket, like a prospect is wanting to understand, are you using my software with this other software? Do they play nicely? Do you have evidence of that? Right. I have evidence of that from a reference standpoint, here’s a video on this. And so it’s just giving you more ammunition in order to be able to prove that out. 

Fantastic. Thank you so much, Dan, for taking the time to chat with us. Lastly, where can our listeners find you? 

Dan Raynes: I’d say LinkedIn would probably be the best way to get a hold of me. 

Margot Leong: Okay, perfect. Really appreciate you joining us on the podcast. It was fantastic to have you. 

Dan Raynes: You got it, Margot. Thank you for having me. 

Margot Leong: Okay, take care. 

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