5 Reasons to Not Divulge Client References Up-Front


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I just got this email inquiry from a prestigious, international hotel chain:


I am interested in getting information regarding your seminars, speeches and training programs. Could you please forward me details of some of your recent corporate engagements with names and phone numbers of the contact person there for reference purposes.

Thank you.

Not bad, right?

It has all of the earmarks of a serious inquiry, one that is ready to award a contract providing the references check out.

But wait a second.

Before I divulge references, I have found it is essential to know several things, especially whether there is a viable deal in the offing.

Here are 5 reasons to NOT divulge references too soon:

(1) If you give out the name of the same references too many times, they’ll simply get tired of touting you to other people, no matter how useful you were to them.

(2) The best references are SPECIFIC or as close as possible to possessing the information the inquirer needs. A company interested in negotiation skills training won’t give a hoot about the great customer service program you just delivered.

(3) The prospect may not be the qualified buyer, cannot approve your contract, but can damage your chances of getting it, while abusing the sensibilities of your endorsers. In other words, there's very little up-side and a big down-side risk.

(4) The prospect might really be favoring the proposal of someone else who is on the inside track to getting the deal, and they simply want to say they did their due diligence by looking at a second or third source. You don’t want your references called without a genuine purpose.

(5) It could be a set-up. Your competitor might be using a pal, a shill situated in a good company, to research you, to learn about your clientele, to gather competitive intelligence.

I phoned the email inquirer and determined, within 5 minutes of chat that she had no true need for what we do, there are existing in-house training programs against which we’d be competing, and her manager didn’t know she was shopping vendors and kicking tires.

As she put it: “I was just trying to think out of the box. ”

To abbreviate the story, this inquiry wasn’t worth my time nor the time of my clients.

Toward the end of the call she confessed she had only been at her job for about a month.

It was at that point that I nearly asked HER for references!

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is the best-selling author of 12 books and more than a thousand articles. His seminars and training programs are sponsored internationally and he is a top-rated faculty member at more than 40 universities. Dynamic, experienced, and lots of fun, Gary brings more than two decades of solid management and consulting experience to the table, along with the best academic preparation and credentials in the speaking and training industry. Holder of five degrees, including a Ph. D. from the Annenberg School For Communication at USC, an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, and a law degree from Loyola, his clients include several Fortune 1000 companies along with successful family owned and operated firms across America. Much more than a “talking head, ” Gary is a top mind that you?ll enjoy working with and putting to use. He can be reached at: gary@customersatisfaction.com


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