We are getting close to signing our first enterprise client. Among other things, we want them to help us sell to other companies in their industry, which they indicated they have access to. In past companies I worked in (where I was involved in sales in supporting role), we'd offer an upfront discounts for being a reference.
In your experience, what kind of discounts would you offer to being a positive reference?
What do you typically expect from them (in terms of # of customer calls, analyst calls, blurbs on website, news releases, etc).
My company Blue Fish is a content management software and consulting firm, and we deal with this all the time. I'd estimate that 75% or more of our clients are willing to serve as a reference of some sort. We actually have a system to track this and drive clients toward being a reference.
We track three levels of reference:
Here are some of the things we do to drive clients toward being a reference:
For your first enterprise client, it's OK to offer perhaps a 25% to 40% discount in return for a specific set of things like client visits, analyst calls, etc.
What you're really after with your first big enterprise client is a GREAT reference. My suggestion is to put your emphasis on providing OUTSTANDING support for this client. Make sure you understand exactly how the client will use your product, make sure that their team is fully trained on the functions they will be using, and make sure you meet frequently and LISTEN aggressively so that you can spot and address any concerns before they become problems.
This way - the story they'll tell prospects, analysts, and press will focus less on "hey - we got a great discount from this supplier" and much more on "hey - these guys have a GREAT product with EXCELLENT support".
In terms of mechanics, I would be sure to write into your agreement what you will expect with regards to reference activity.
If you are expecting lots of on site customer reference visits, and they are expecting a much smaller commitment, this could lead to frictions.
It's easy for me to say as it's not my money, but customer reference activity can be absolutely golden for the startup. I'd personally let them negotiate me down substantially in return for locking in lots of help with future reference work, marketing, and PR.