Customer reference calls are one of the last parts of a VC due-diligence process. VC like it because they can hear an actual user of your product tell them about their experience. While this is an excellent opportunity for a founder to gain credibility with the potential investor, you must take it seriously.

Following these simple steps will ensure that you maximize the outcome of these customer reference calls:

  1. Plan in advance. Once you’re in fundraising mode, expect a request for an introduction to 2-3 customers. Think who your best champions are. Then, reach out to them and explain that you are raising a funding round. The new money will allow you to provide better service to them and further develop the product. Ask for their permission to be introduced to investors by you. Be friendly and polite.
  2. Align expectations. Explain what the VC is interested in getting from the call. Many of them have never been in this situation before, so that they might go on rambling. Instead, it’s important to emphasize that the investor is trying to understand the market, your product’s unique value proposition, why they chose you over the competition, if you’re willing (or already are) to pay for it, and how much.
  3. Avoid pitfalls. For example, a reference customer should not take the call if they don’t know how your product works. Try simulating the Q&A with the reference customer and see if there are red flags. It might be better to search for a different reference.

Once the first reference call is complete, don’t be shy and reach out to the customer again to ask how it went. Understand what questions the VC asked. Then, before their call, speak with the other reference customers and prep them to get the best outcome possible.

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