Social proof is a deal killer – how enablers can help reps succeed

Red Bull once filled up popular sidewalk dustbins with empty Red Bull cans to promote their energy drink. They were banking on the influence of social proof.

This blog talks about what social proof is, why sellers get it wrong, how to enable sellers with relevant customer evidence, which tech solutions can help, and how to take a new approach with AI-first software.

What is social proof?

Copying someone else's actions in an effort to influence their behavior in a certain situation is known as social proof. Robert Cialdini, an American psychologist, coined the term social proof in his 1984 book Influence: Science and Practice

Anything that helps your buyer make a confident decision because they see their peers doing the same can be social proof. Here are a few popular types of social proof:

  • Customer logos
  • Customer references
  • Customer testimonials and reviews
  • Success stories
  • Customer love
  • Influencers, awards, and recognition

Marketing uses them everywhere. Sales however cannot use all kinds of social proof in every conversation. In this blog, we explore how sellers can leverage customer evidence to improve win rates and deliver better buying experiences.

Using social proof wrong hurts your deal

A few months ago, we were evaluating ABM platforms. We narrowed it down to a provider but still had reservations about buying something like that so early in our GTM journey.

We had requested the salesperson to provide references that were “just like us.” However, all the referenced customers had raised at least Series C funding whereas GTM Buddy was only seed-funded.

On the call, the rep didn't have a reference for a company relevant to our situation. 😑

They later got back to me with a suitable reference days later. This experience wasn’t ideal but to be honest, I didn’t expect any better as a jaded B2B buyer.

It’s rare for a salesperson to get it right in the first conversation.

And this isn’t limited to my experience. A 2019 research by Gong shows that employing social proof techniques during early-stage calls decreases close rates by 47%.

Image source: Gong

A B2B buyer doesn’t care if Google is your customer when they are nothing like them. Most sellers often cite the same set of top clients which is a massive turnoff for the buying team, resulting in lower win rates.

How great sellers use social proof?

Top sellers take the time to prepare. They find out in advance what kind of companies the buyer will relate to, regardless of what's in the case studies folder.

For instance, when selling to a sales tech company, an average seller might showcase the usual set of clients including irrelevant ones. A good seller would take her time to research existing case studies and would reference relevant customers. A great seller will try to find as many references as possible for all sales tech companies ensuring relevance. This only gets more difficult as you scale.

What happens when you have 500+ sellers and 1000+ customers? How do you help average sellers discover the wealth of social proof you have? And can all customers be referenced?

There is more to social proof than case studies

You have a few logos plastered on the website and some case study PDFs organized in a neat folder. These case studies are limited by approvals and bandwidth. Also, adding another document to the folder doesn’t guarantee that the sellers will discover and use it in their calls.

Most companies have thousands of customer reviews on platforms like G2 and Capterra. An average seller doesn’t have the time to sift through those reviews and find the ones relevant to the current buyer conversation. Some happy customers also shower their love on LinkedIn or Twitter but that love just gets reposted on the company handle and that's it. These reviews could be rich sources of social proof if used properly.

Lastly, there are many other customers that might be relevant. These companies might not have success stories or reviews. However, the buyer is more likely to be influenced when your seller can quote a long list of relevant customer references. The scope of your social proof is your entire customer list.

How enablers can help sellers use the right customer reference

Enablers will have to do better than organizing all their case studies into a single folder. This is because sellers can’t be expected to research and analyze relevance on their own. A simple Google Sheet also works when you have less than 50 sellers or 100 customers.

Let’s start with a sheet. We have put together this quick template to make social proof actionable. It comes with an automated dashboard that offers some visibility into the state of your organization’s social proof.

👉 Enablers: Follow these steps to use the customer reference template

  1. Use the "Setup" sheet to customize the dropdowns for you – the "Details" sheet uses that data for field validations
  2. Work with your sales and customer success teams to make sure that you have all the right details – there is sample data added for easy understanding
  3. Do monthly checks with the customer success team to determine customer health
  4. Monitor the overall evidence collected for different scenarios in the automated "Dashboard" tab

👉 Sellers: Follow these steps to make social proof work for you 

  1. "Dashboard" sheet gives an overview of all the assets available to use in your buyer conversations
  2. Filter the sheet for the right industry, company size, geography, solution, implementation type, incumbent (if needed), and champion persona
  3. Sort the filtered list of customers by Customer Health grade
  4. Namedrop all the healthy customers (A or B scores) in your meetings or emails
  5. Use the talk tracks from these customers to give buyers a glimpse of what your company can do for them
  6. See if the company has evidence like a review or a case study - and offer these links when prospects show interest in learning more

Can tech help in the management and discovery of social proof?

While this template seems like a good start, it is yet another spreadsheet. It puts the onus on the seller to find the right reference, rather than asking various teams.

How would you automate this with your current tech stack? 🤔

Trying with a traditional CMS

If you have a traditional CMS like Seismic or Highspot, you can build recommendation rules so that the sellers can find marketing-produced case study documents while they are viewing the respective deal in the CRM. Following are some typical steps you would follow.

  • Ensure that all your customer evidence is in one place only
  • Add the talk tracks and reviews for each customer as separate documents
  • Get the right tagging in place for use cases, problem, solution, industry, company size, geography, implementation type, incumbent – all the fields from the sheet
  • Build recommendation rules that match the tags with the same types of fields in Salesforce
  • Test and review if the right recommendations are showing up

And needless to say, the recommendations will be far from perfect. Is it possible to account for specific personas? Who decides what is more critical? Who updates the latest reviews, talk tracks, and more?

The shouldn’ts of an ideal scenario

We have now discussed two methods to make the management and discovery of social proof easier. Although neither is perfect, the first choice seems to be Google Sheets.

Let’s consider what we don’t want in our ideal scenario.

Sellers

  • Shouldn’t have to adapt to enablement practices. They need things in their flow of work – email, calendar, CRM, content library, LinkedIn, and Slack.
  • Shouldn’t have to figure out the relevance of the social proof on their own
Enablers

  • Shouldn’t have to spend half their life tagging all these customer stories and evidence
  • Shouldn’t have to keep updating everything on their own
  • Shouldn’t have to build recommendation rules for a few customer stories to show up in CRM

Approaching the problem with GTM Buddy: a modern enablement platform

You can prevent your sellers from sharing irrelevant customer references by leveraging GTM Buddy's contextual AI engine. Here are the steps:

  • Give the platform a lay of the land by setting up your business vocabulary and buyer personas
  • Sit back as the platform auto-tags all your customer evidence as you upload it
  • Integrate with review websites like G2 or TrustRadius to automatically organize all product reviews
  • Import your customer list with the health score – the platform maps all CRM fields

There are just four steps, one of which is sitting back and another is a one-click integration. Looks like less work for the enabler but what about sellers?

The same spreadsheet level of visibility is built into the GTM Buddy library that sellers can access whenever they want.

It uses this along with all the CRM fields and persona info to recommend relevant customer references in the flow of work. Below is a sample screenshot of how it would show up in Google Calendar. In a discussion with Anthony from Hooli, a seller can quote these customers and access their assets right from here.

Leave the status quo behind to make the magic happen

Status Quo GTM Buddy
❌ Cite all the top clients – the prospect doesn’t care if Google is your client ✅ Refer only to the relevant clients from the complete customer list
❌ Find and send case studies and testimonials prepared by marketing ✅ Leverage the relevant G2 customer reviews recommended by GTM Buddy
❌ Send the case study they usually share ✅ Discover the latest case studies that would most likely resonate with your buyer

I leave you with the fourth panel of the meme we saw earlier in this blog. 

Get in touch with GTM Buddy today to learn what more you can do with a modern enablement platform that delivers industry-first AI capabilities for customer evidence.

About the author

Author

Aditya Jhalani

Aditya is a jack-of-all trades marketer at GTM Buddy. Aditya also worked at two agencies, Hire Digital and The Smarketers, where he managed inbound, outbound, and ABM strategies for B2B clients.

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