How to Get Your Sales and CSM Teams to Help With Case Studies

BY Joel Klettke
August 17, 2022

How do you get your sales and customer success managers to help with case studies?

“We need to get more case studies done, but the sales/accounts team is over-protective, unresponsive, and won’t help!”

I often hear this complaint from marketing and customer marketing teams who are tasked with producing case studies at scale, but are getting stonewalled by other internal teams.

If other internal teams won’t help with surfacing customer stories or helping with reference programs, it’s a huge problem: sales reps and CSMs are usually the ones closest to the customer. They’ve usually got more context and accessibility than anyone else, and they’re critical to both identifying wins and getting customers to agree to be in case studies because of the close proximity/familiarity to the customer.

Ironically, sales and CSMs often stand to benefit most from case studies—if you can just get them on board.

If you need to get your sales and accounts teams on board, here’s how to do it:

  1. Involve them in the strategy.
  2. Prove that there’s a plan.
  3. Collaborate on the process.
  4. Templatize to simplify.
  5. Consider incentives.

1. Involve them in the strategy.

Salespeople and account reps are busy. It’s no wonder they’re not excited about diverting their attention to support marketing’s ‘pet project’ if they don’t see anything in it for them.

One way of changing that perception is by giving them a seat at the strategy table, demonstrating that you’re genuinely interested in creating assets that are completely tailored to their needs, goals, and priorities.

Instead of starting the conversation with a set of demands (or ‘friendly guidelines for supporting our reference program’), begin by asking these questions:

1. What challenges is your team facing?

From long ‘time-to-close’ periods to massive gaps in proof, sales and CSMs have obstacles that stand in the way of closing deals or hitting their numbers.

By getting them to lay these out, you open the door to a conversation about how you can ensure the collateral you create will directly benefit and support them. Now, it’s a “how do WE accomplish this together?” vs. “How can I pull enough teeth to get you to do what I need?”

2. What types of stories, quotes, or anecdotes would YOU benefit from most?

Other ways of phrasing this question can prompt interesting responses:

  • What objections do you wish you had more anecdotes to counter?
  • What stakeholders or industries are the toughest to influence?
  • What use cases are we light on proof for?
  • What questions are you constantly having to answer?
  • What would help you upsell, nurture, or retain customers better?

Customer success stories can be extremely powerful in countering objections and demonstrating the efficacy of your offering—but only if they actually exist, and are told in a meaningful, focused way. That means being open-minded about the content of those stories as well as the ways they’re told.

Their answers to these questions can be used to map out the story themes you go looking for.

3. What formats are most effective for you?

A 1,500 word blog post might be amazing case studies for SEO and marketing, but miserable for a lead with a short attention span. Your sales and account reps need collateral that’s completely tailored to the awareness level and appetite of the prospects and clients THEY deal with.

One-sheets, audiograms, and videos may be more effective for these teams; show them you’re intentional about creating content that will best supports them.

Stuck for ideas? Here are 16 ways to empower your sales team with case studies. (It even opens in a new tab, so you can keep reading!)

When you involve sales and account reps in the strategy, you make it valuable for them.

2. Prove that there’s a plan.

Sales and account reps work very hard to build rapport and earn every deal.

It’s understandable why they’re protective of those relationships: they don’t want to do ANYTHING that would undermine what they’ve spent months (or years) establishing.

They’re naturally hesitant to nominate their clients to be part of case studies unless they’re confident that you’ll respect them—and their time.

It’s up to you to prove that’s the case by walking them through the creation process:

  • Lay out what happens when, and why. If you have documented SOPs around this (and you should!), bust ’em out.
  • Demonstrate how the process is optimized to maximize convenience and minimize the ask of the customer.
  • Give them a clear understanding of the timelines involved.
  • Explain how you give their customer control over the final outcome.
  • Prove that the ways you communicate are considerate and well-thought-out.

(Of course, this requires that you actually *have* a process that’s optimized and efficient. For clients, that’s where we come in.)

Finally, if you can, share examples of successful projects and feedback from customers who have taken part so that they can see the process not only exists, but is working well.

When you prove to sales and account reps that there is a plan, you make it safe for them.

3. Collaborate on the process.

The creation process is one thing. But what about the pieces you’re counting on sales and account reps to own, like identifying candidates or making the ask?

You’re far more likely to get them to take part if they’re involved in shaping those processes.

And because these folks are on the frontlines, they’ll have clearer insight into…

  • The natural cadence of communications with clients
  • The best opportunities to identify a win
  • When to make the ask
  • How that ask should be made
  • The easiest way to surface KPIs and context for the story

Don’t try to wedge things into their existing workflow: develop processes in tandem, and offer to handle any heavy-lifting it takes to document them or create the collateral to support it so they don’t have to.

When you involve sales and account reps in designing the process, you make it realistic for them.

4. Templatize to simplify.

The less time, thinking, and energy involved in an action, the more likely we are to actually do it.

The same goes for busy sales and account reps:

If you make supporting your case study program simple, you make it more convenient. If you make it more convenient, you make it more likely to ever happen.

Work with these teams to develop templatized…

  • Scripts for asking for participation
  • Follow-ups and responses to questions/objections
  • Hand-off emails
  • Story briefs

And more to take make the process fast, easy, and unintimidating.

Assign clear ownership for updating and improving them over time, since your first attempts at these templates are likely to improve as they get tested and new ideas emerge.
Otherwise, you’ll wind up with very dated templates that nobody actually uses and nobody is accountable for.

When you provide sales and account reps with templates to tweak, you make it convenient for them. 

5. Consider incentives.

Money, recognition, rewards… while we’d love to say that it’s always as simple as approaching things with a collaborative spirit, sometimes you need to gamify things with incentives to get the whole team on board.

Some companies will SPIFF as hundreds or thousands of dollars for a successful nomination. Others will float the person making the nominations a quick gift card.

No matter what, supporting your case study program will cost sales and CSMs time and energy (though if you’ve followed these steps, hopefully less of it), and so finding ways to make it worth their time can be the difference between adoption of a reference program and total apathy.

What works best here will come down to your company culture and resources, but we’ve seen things like…

  • A bounty on case studies
  • A leaderboard with a prize for contribution
  • Monetary rewards
  • Visibility to leadership
  • Tiered perks (think back to your Scholastic Book Fare days!)

Make a big difference in terms of participation from teams who otherwise couldn’t care less.

Case studies are a team effort, so get every team on board!

One of the major differences between our most successful clients and the companies who struggle to get case studies is the mentality that everyone, organization-wide, has a role to play in making them happen.

While it can be a challenging, months-long process to finally win over the sales and accounts teams, the rewards are well worth the effort: more (and better) stories that benefit multiple departments, which benefits the organization as a whole.

Pssst… struggling with this stuff? We can help.

With over 1,000 stories delivered for over 300 B2B brands (and counting), we’ve seen a whole lot of what works, what doesn’t, and what the best companies do to make case studies inevitable.

Check out our samples, and if you get a good feeling about us, drop a line to connect

Ya, you like that? Well, there’s more where that came from!

How the Top 1% of Companies Scale Their Case Study Production

We’ve worked with 300+ companies on customer success stories. Here’s what 99% aren’t doing that would change everything. Since 2016, I’ve had a front-row seat to see how hundreds of companies come at the challenges of customer success stories. My team and I have had hundreds more conversations with B2B’s ranging from 10-person startups to 2,000+ person enterprises. It’s a rare position that’s offered an incredible level of insight into what works—and doesn’t—when it comes to scaling up strategic, meaningful storytelling....

BY Joel Klettke

Why Your Case Study Needs a Customer Headshot

In a recent survey of the customer success pages of the top 50 SaaS companies, we were surprised to find that only 28% of those companies included a headshot of the customer interviewed in their case studies. And even where we did find headshots, they weren’t always included consistently. This lack of customer headshots is troubling because they’re an important trust indicator. They make the customer success story more believable and demonstrate that a real, living person is saying all...

BY Holly Yoos

How Long Should Video Testimonials Be?

Video testimonials are one of the best ways to demonstrate to prospective SaaS customers that you’ve solved complex problems for customers just like them—problems that they share. So it’s no surprise that most enterprise SaaS companies are already creating customer video testimonials at scale. (Keep an eye out for our upcoming research report that confirms this finding.) But there’s one area of video testimonials that’s subject to a lot of debate: How long should video testimonials be? Some say 45-60...

BY Holly Yoos

Let’s tell your stories together.

Get in touch to start a conversation.

Contact Us