How to hold an effective buyer and referral panel

Gaining the attention of buyers in a noisy marketplace can seem impossible. Sure, it may be easy to fill the pipeline, but are you having a hard time converting those leads to wins? As discussed in one of our previous posts, the old strategy of filling the pipeline just isn’t the smartest method anymore.

Investing in qualified leads will pay off much more than just filling the funnel. I’m guessing this isn’t a new idea for you, but maybe you are curious how you are supposed to go about finding these qualified leads.

Finding quality leads starts with learning more about your customer and prospective customer. The more knowledge you have about them, the better prepared you are to execute marketing campaigns that will effectively engage them. Your sales execution will also be much more successful as you add value for them.

One of the more creative approaches being employed is engaging a referral or buyer panel. In addition to enhancing your knowledge of the marketplace, these panels can help grow your referral base and build relationships with potential buyers, if executed effectively. Panels are a great way to ask questions and receive insight you might not capture in a conversation. They also position you and your sales team as a resource for a panel member’s future needs.

84% of B2B decision-makers start their hunt using referrals. (Source: American Association of Inside Sales Professionals)

1) Hold a Referral Panel

A great way to make new connections and become a referred source is engaging the external parties that have the ear of your buyers.

  • WHO do you invite? Vendors and trusted partners of your target buyer (e.g. accountants, lawyers, bankers, associations/affinity groups).
  • HOW do you reach out/engage: Be part of the community in which these partners operate, and find ways to add value in their “watering holes.” As you get to know them, ask them out to an informal coffee/lunch. Make the invitation about them, getting to know them and helping serve their needs.
  • WHAT is their incentive for engaging with you: They can learn more about value they can bring (directly or indirectly) to their client(s).
  • WHY hold this panel: Building these relationships will put you and your team at the forefront of their mind when they are talking to your potential buyers.

2) Hold a Buyer Panel

It can be easy to fall into the trap of only engaging your current customers and using them as your sounding board. It is great to understand why they chose you and continue to do business with you, but their views can be biased, and their opinion of you is too often based on previous experiences, current relationships and future needs.

Instead, it can be extremely beneficial to engage people who are not current customers. This valuable approach can give you and your team unbiased answers and opinions.

  • WHO do you invite? New (desired/non-existing) customers.
  • HOW do you reach out/engage? Again, be part of the community in which your buyer audiences operate. As you get to know them, ask them out for an informal coffee/lunch to learn more about their industry, their business and/or their role. Be sure to make this engagement about them and understanding their Do not lead with your products or solutions.
  • WHAT is their incentive for engaging with you? You could possibly solve some of their current problems. Ask what solutions they are exploring. Your primary goal is to learn more about their pains and understand their needs, not sell your product. Let the selling happen naturally.
  • WHY hold this panel? This is a great way to make an introduction and showcase your solutions in a way that doesn’t feel like a sales pitch.

Building relationships is key to building a quality pipeline. If you hold a panel, go into it without expectations, and to purely serve others and build communities.