Following on from our first Customer Reference Academy event held last month, I’ve been reminiscing on everything I learnt and how the ‘reference world’ is moving forward.

Firstly, a brief recap: The Customer Reference Academy (CRA) evolved from Riffs n Rants as a networking opportunity for customer reference specialists. It’s a place for reference professionals to share best-practice in a sales-free environment.

This year’s first CRA event took place in the beautiful surroundings of Queen’s Eyot, a private island on the Thames. It brought together 60 reference professionals from 23 tech companies.

There were three terrific speakers, a guest panel consisting of experts from Avaya, Vodafone, Orange Business Services and HP and the presentation of the Global Reference Survey. As you’d expect with this kind of event, we soak up vast amounts of information. One month on, how much of it sticks? For me, it’s the below:

1) Invest in reference recruitment: The demand for references outstrips supply – nearly 90% of respondents to the Global Customer Reference Survey said there were not enough new customers in the pipeline or that existing contacts were overused and at risk of exhaustion. This point was echoed in the Reference Panel. When asked how they would spend extra budget, the panel unanimously cried ‘Reference Recruitment!’

2) The stick is more effective than the carrot: When it comes to incentivising sales teams to engage with a customer reference programme, is it better to entice sales teams with bonuses (a carrot), or use ‘punish’ them using targets against their performance (the stick)? There was much passion from the panel where it became evident that customer reference is the means to generating new sales and closing new deals.  From both the survey and the discussion, it was clear: the stick is more effective.

3) 70% strategy, 30% tactical. Claire Grove from Juniper Networks in her presentation ‘Preparing for Success’, emphasised that it’s good to have big ideas but it’s just as important to work with what you have. Claire, who got her company on board with her strategy within just one year of joining Juniper, advised that reference activities need to mirror the business’ strategy; it’s got to be 70% strategy, 30% tactical.

4) The three dimensions of trust are competence, character and judgement. We may take it for granted, but Kevin Murray’s presentation, ‘Trust is money’, reinforced the importance of trust in a business environment. It is no good as a CEO to say what you think people want to hear; you have to mean it with actions in order to inspire trust.

What do these learnings have in common? Perhaps they are catchy and relevant. Or is it that they are especially useful and practical? You tell me. Will these learnings stick with you?

P.S. If you want to delve into the survey results more thoroughly, you can find the full report by clicking here. And to check out the official pictures of the CRA event, just head to the inEvidence Facebook page.