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Building Referenceability into the Contract

Posted by Bill Lee on July 26, 2006 at 08:49 AM

Cheryl Bartlett-Gutierrez at BearingPoint has a question for the community. To respond or contribute, please use the comment feature, below.



I would be really interested in knowing more about what folks are doing to build referenceability into their contracts upfront with the client.  If you have best practices on the topic, we would greatly appreciate it.  I will reach out to one of the folks I met at the conference as they had an approach I would like to learn more about.

Thank you,


Reference Community Comments

As a matter of principle, I think it's important to avoid taking (inadvertent) advantage of the honeymoon period by committing the client to some list of activities that may be good for your reference program and sales efforts, but that may not provide additional value to the client. I think it's also important not to get too focused on the quid pro quo aspects of the relationship. Finding simple, meaningful ways to say "thank you" that appeal to the heart can be very powerful in cementing a client relationship.

Something we've come across with some of our clients is that they actually have a requirement for us to use them as references for new deals over a specified size. I believe this is an aspect of their own PR activities (and it precludes them being overused on smaller deals). This is actually written into the contract. You may want to make it an attractive offer to your clients.

In our HP Services particularly "outsourcing" practice we attempt to build a reference clause into a contract if the client and HP are using our terms and conditions. In all cases, its not carte blance but allows for client approval of each reference activity. We try to get commitment up front. In many outsourcing deals, the client uses their own terms and conditions or those of their consultant. In those cases, reference activity is not usually present.

We've actually done this with BearingPoint and one of your clients on a large ERP implementation. In short, the client gets a cost/benefit audit as part of the effort. They benefit from a pre and post hoc value assessment of the solution. This helps them effectively set expectations and commitment with key business leadership on the value the solution is to drive and actually show what value indeed was delivered. Given the size and complexitiy of many of these implementation, clients find this of great value.

There's no taking advantage here at all. You (BP) are in essense saying "we are confident we can help, and we want to prove it to you."

Happy to provide more detail on the specific BP client.

This strikes me as a pretty promising area for reference programs. Every buyer believes it's important to establish the ROI of a business purchase, but it seems that few actually follow up and assess ROI after they purchase and implement.

I'd like to hear more Amir, and in particular, have you address some potential pitfalls here:

-- If the seller provides this service, how do you prevent a conflict of interest (we're paying to show whether we succeeded)?

-- How do you avoid the hassle of the buyer saying, "OK, we meet our goals but it wasn't really due to the new technology platform you provided?"

-- At the same time, how do you avoid the hassle of the seller saying, "OK, you feel short of your goals but it wasn't our fault?"

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