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How to Use Case Studies Effectively in Sales (And Mistakes to Avoid)

Sales Process

Used right, case studies can boost your deal closing ratio by 70% and your sales by 185% — making them a valuable addition to your sales enablement library.

But here’s the thing…

There are hundreds of tutorials on how to create them. Not so much on how to use them in your sales process.

So that’s what we’re going to cover here. Keep reading for practical tips on how you can use your case studies to attract new prospects and convert existing prospects into paying customers.

What Is a Case Study?

Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page here.

A case study in sales is any story, data, or evidence of your product or service benefitting a customer.

Case studies aren’t really about your company though. This is an easy mistake to make. The focus should always be on the benefits your customers and clients experience because of your company.

They should be data-focused, and should include the problem the customer went through and how your product helped the customer overcome it.

Case studies give you the ability to frame your product in the way you want.

They allow you to build one of the most valuable and hard-to-find things in sales — trust.

This makes the case study one of your most powerful sales tools.

The Value of a Case Study

A tool is only as good as its craftsman, and it’s the same with case studies. They aren’t the smoking gun that will immediately close the deal, but in the hands of a skilled SDR or AE, they can help you control the narrative and bat away objections.

Richard Harris of Harris Consulting had this to say,

“Case studies don’t actually make the sale. What they do is provide real-world validation.

The real value of a case study only applies once a conversation around the prospect use case has occurred. In most cases, the case study just verifies your legitimacy and allows the prospect to ‘check the box.’

You must have case studies, though. That’s for sure.”

That real-world validation is key. Hearing a convincing pitch is one thing, but seeing how a product or service works in the real world goes a long way to stripping objections and building trust in your brand.

A case study may not make someone buy, but not having a case study will almost certainly make it harder to close the deal.

How to Use Case Studies in the Sales Process

That’s all well and good, but how do you actually use a case study in your sales process?

Sales expert and VP of Sales at Vector Solutions, Phil Gerbyshak, shared with us the different ways his team utilizes case studies.

“My sales team uses case studies extensively for social proof.

We use them in first contact with customers as an opening attention grabber, to overcome an objection, and lastly, to ask for references.”

The concept of social proof is important. It builds trust in your brand’s ability to follow through with your promises and to solve your customer’s problems.

Here are some practical tips for using case studies to do that at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Attracting and engaging new leads

As an online lead generation tool, case studies make an attractive offer. They have the added bonus of attracting your ideal customer at the precise moment they’re actively looking for solutions.

For this, rather than a one-page write-up, think in terms of a free guide detailing the challenges company X was facing, how their problem was solved, and what their experience has been with your product.

But free downloads aren’t the only way to use case studies to generate leads. They’re also a great format for webinars.

Of course, the key is to get the topic right. You want to focus on your customer and the success they’ve enjoyed, not on your company and product.

Good: How Company X Doubled Their Revenue in Y Weeks

Bad: How [Product Name] Helped Company X Overcome Y

RELATED: The Power of Social Selling (+ 7 Rules for Storytelling in Sales)

Don’t forget cold outreach. Case studies are the perfect excuse to reach out to a new lead. They ensure your first touch is value-add and selfless.

Building confidence during discovery and demos

Case studies can be used to answer questions, show use-cases, and prove that your product does what you say it does.

During any call, you can use them to keep things from stalling out or taking a negative turn.

And it’s easy to make the offer a natural part of your conversation. Phil told us that his team broaches the subject directly. They’ll ask something like,

“Here are some relevant results a company like yours got with us. Is this of interest to you?”

During a demo, case studies can turn a boring features-review into an engaging presentation.

And it’s as simple as telling stories about previous customers who struggled with specific problems, then showing how one of your features solves that problem.

You don’t need to trick the prospect into seeing a case study. This is information they likely want to see so they can make an informed purchase.

Often the best way to bring up a case study with a prospect is to simply ask if they want to see it.

Overcoming objections

One of the most valuable (and most obvious) benefits of a case study is using it to overcome objections.

Alex Greer, Founder & CEO, SIGNAL HQ, says,

“They are a great way to alleviate fear that an investment in a new solution may not work, or generate enthusiasm about the new capabilities a solution unlocks for an organization. Ultimately, they demonstrate your business has experience working with similar customers, and that your solution drives results.”

Fear is the enemy of every sale.

Your customers have to make a very important decision. They have to decide to invest a large amount of money and time into trying your solution to their problem. There will always be fear initially that your solution will be a poor investment.

Case studies allow you to address your customers’ pain points directly, with real-world data.

Phil again shared with us how his company brings this up to the customer. Once they find their customers’ main concern they’ll say something like,

“A client in a similar situation to you had that concern, and here’s what they did…”

Similar is the key here.

Your case study needs to be as similar to your current customer as possible. Richard Harris says that your,

“Potential customer wants to know the case study, but they’ll rarely believe the case study will be equal to them.”

Many prospects think that their company and its problems are so unique that no case study will truly capture the depth of their problem. Sometimes this is true, sometimes not. That’s not important.

What is important is that you realize you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle to prove your case study applies to your prospect.

The less similar the case, the harder that fight will be. Which is why choosing a case study that’s too dissimilar can end up creating more objections instead of removing them.

So make life easier for yourself. Take the time to pick as similar a case study as you can.

Making Case Studies Easy to Use

For your case studies to be relevant, you need to be able to choose the perfect case study for the perfect moment.

You likely have been given a large pile of resources to help you sell — from random specs and data to full-on case studies.

It can often be overwhelming, and finding the gold in that pile can often be difficult.

Alex Greer had some more tips for us here,

“It’s important for everyone in your sales organization to know exactly where to access an index or database of all your referenceable customers and collateral. You can organize this with something as simple as an Excel or Google Sheet, or a more robust asset management system in Salesforce, Highspot, Showpad, or similar.

This customer reference index should have (at least) the following types of tags, since each customer will give their own set of permissions:

– Publicly Referencable by Name? (Yes/No)

– Publicly Referencable in Written Communication? (Yes/No)

– Permission to display logo? (Yes/No)

– Links to Testimonial Webpages

– Links to Testimonial Videos

– Links to Written Case Studies

– Links to Webinars

– Links to Slides”

Having an index like this is perfect for keeping track of your case studies, so you’re not jumping from email to email, or wasting time searching through your hard drive to find the one case study that’s a perfect fit.

RELATED: The Complete Guide To Auditing Your Sales Content Library

Even with an index like this, though, it’s important to know your case studies well. You need to know what to look for when you start dealing with a client.

Another excellent way to utilize an index like this is to put it on your website and let it do much of your work for you.

Create a case studies page

One of the most valuable resources you can provide on your website is an easy-to-find page on your website filled with all of your best case studies.

This does two things for you.

  1. It works passively to attract new customers who are impressed with what you’ve done for other companies.
  2. It works as a valuable resource when you’re selling.

When you’re talking to a prospect, it acts as a database, where you can easily search the exact study you need. It also allows you to direct customers to it, or show them directly if you’re talking to them in-person.

Outreach does a great job with this. They have a Customer Stories page that’s easy to find and chock full of great case studies.

 

Today’s buyers are used to having a huge amount of data available to them. When buying anything, their first instinct is to look at user reviews.

Deloitte’s consumer review says that “customers are very used to having a huge amount of data available to them.” What’s more, ”81% of customers read reviews and check ratings.”

So make the data available.

Give your customers the tools to sell themselves on you.

If you don’t have a page like this, then you need one. Your website is free real estate to show people how great your company and product is. Use it.

Use case studies to get case studies

All of these benefits require that you have applicable case studies to use. So an important way to utilize your case studies is to use them to actually to get more case studies and reviews.

Phil Gerbyshak says that his team does this by, again, being very straightforward and simply saying,

“We have a review/case study from a client like you, would you be open to sharing one as well?”

This will help keep your case studies page and index full and make sure you and your sales team have the ammunition to keep every deal moving forward.

What NOT to Do

There are a few pitfalls to avoid when using case studies.

Don’t lie or stretch the truth.

This should be pretty obvious. These days it is easier than ever to fact check. If you’re caught in a lie, any trust you’ve built up — and likely the sale itself — is gone.

Don’t forget who you’re talking to.

Like I mentioned before, the case study should be a similar case to the customer you’re speaking to. They shouldn’t need to stretch their imagination to see how this applies to them.

Don’t focus on how great your company is.

The case study’s focus should be on the customer’s benefit.

If it sounds too much like propaganda or a promo, you’ll lose your customer focus.

Once people think they’re being sold to, they’ll often either stop listening or stop trusting you. They’ll start looking much more critically at everything you’re saying, wondering if you’re telling them the truth or not.

If you do a case study right, they’ll still walk away thinking your company is great, even though you never told them that directly.

Don’t forget about the data.

The more data-focused, the better. A good case study should be backed by facts, even if you’re telling it in story form. This has the added bonus of lending itself to visually engaging elements such as graphs and charts.

Final Words

Case studies can be a very powerful tool to have in your sales toolbelt. So, equip yourself.

Gather your case studies, and use them to convert potential sales into very real revenue.

 

Scott Barker

Scott Barker is the Head of Partnerships and Revenue at Sales Hacker. He is passionate about building and strengthening authentic relationships with his team and partners. Outside of Sales Hacker, he helps bring Vancouver sales professionals together to share ideas, network with peers, and learn from top sales operators & leaders as GM of Vancouver Enterprise Sales Forum.