Today I attended the grand opening of NOV (National Oilwell Varco) new facility in Houston, TX. NOV is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and sale of equipment and components used in oil & gas drilling and production, oilfield inspection, and supply chain integration services to the upstream oil and gas industry.

This facility was state of the art, with over 225K of operational space, 7.5 acre pipe yard, automated routing and delivery, smart forklifts who followed sensors imbedded in the floor and a 3,600 SKU carousel. The offices were light and airy, with top of the line meeting facilities. A perfect atmosphere to foster collaboration and productivity.

Naturally this event was invitation only with live music, catered food, limousine service, guided tours, customized golf cart service, valet parking and plenty of free giveaways. And this evening it was going to be top shelf open bar. NOV went all out and the attendance of very senior oil & gas business leaders showed that it drew the right crowd.

But when I looked at all the vendors it took to pull this off – the caterers, tent erectors, limo service, valet parking, signage providers, custom CGI animators, giveaway manufacturers and band I wondered how many of them had asked NOV if they could use them for a reference.

If you ask someone like NOV if you can use them for a reference AFTER you have signed the contract and delivered the goods, the answer will always be “No”. There is simple no compelling reason for them to agree.

But if you ask them before you close the deal, it then becomes a negotiation point. Which means for a little extra service, or a small price break you can get a “Yes”. Combine that with stellar customer service and you now have an extremely powerful reference. And that can be worth a fortune in new sales..!