Many buyers routinely ask for references, but it's a mistake to just givethem three names and numbers. When asked for references, always do three things:

1. Say to the prospect something that lets you uncover the prospect'sremaining issues and lets you select customers who will say the right things inrelation to those issues:

"I'll be glad to provide references. Now, I assume you want more than just the names of three people who will say we're terrific. Give me an idea of the kinds of things that are most important for you to check about my company, and I'll suggest customers who have had experience with us in those areas."

2. When you present the references, also give your prospect a littlebackground on the nature of what you have done for those customers and ideas onhow to use those people as references:

"Mr. Johnson had the same kinds of quality concerns you raised, so he can tell you from his point of view what steps we took to address them."

3. Then, call your references and tell them to expect the call, as well aswhat you know about the issues that are on the prospect's mind.

Reference checks can be the kiss of death or the final arrow in your quiver.Without planning, they are the former. With careful choreography, they are thefinal stroke in your close.

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