Testimonials and recommendations work. Many will argue that they are THE most successful way to attract new business. Entire business models like Yelp have emerged to leverage this truth.
It is a recognized fact that our customers are active in the selection process before sales ever gets involved. There is disagreement about how far the customer typically has progressed down the buying path, but they have typically started the process before sales is engaged. Much of the time, this activity will take them directly to customer reviews or testimonials. Having them available at this stage can make a positive impact on their interest in you and your company. If they are absent or hard to find, you might not ever have the opportunity to compete.
Why are sales people not taking full advantage of this powerful sales influencer?
1. Don’t know how or are uncomfortable asking for them.
2. How to use them.
How to get references and testimonials
If you are not asking for testimonials you are leaving money on the table. Getting past this hurdle can deliver a significant uptick in your revenue almost immediately.
It goes without saying that in order to get good testimonials you need to be delivering top-notch products and/or services. If you are new to sales, it can be effective to let some early customers know that you are at the beginning of your sales career and that providing a testimonial is one of the most important goals you have for the relationship.
The timing of asking for a recommendation can make all the difference. We have all probably received a LinkedIn request from someone that we have never done business with but wanting you to give them a recommendation. Need I tell you that this is a bad idea? The best time to ask is right after they have told you that they have been able to accomplish their objective because of your effort. They will never be more willing to provide the testimonial than at that time. This might be immediately after your work is completed or several months down the road. It is important to listen closely to what they are telling you and when the time is right – ask.
How you ask will affect your success as well. It is important that you keep the focus of the request on their situation and their results. A testimonial that says how awesome you are is nowhere near as powerful as when they tell everyone that they achieved their goal/objective because of selecting your product or service. Future customers will relate much better and be motivated to act because they can put themselves in the place of the recommending customer.
Make it easy for your customer to provide the recommendation by giving them some tips. Sharing other recommendations that deliver a compelling message has worked wonders for me. I get asked frequently if it is ok to write the testimonial for the customer. I personally struggle with that, but am happy to ask the customer to just jot down a few bullet points and then help them edit it to their satisfaction.
Make sure that you are able to use your customer’s full name at a minimum, but preferably their title and Company name as well. A photo is very compelling if they have one to offer. If not, ask if you can use their LinkedIn headshot. They work well for this purpose. Every company is different with how they handle this so maintain some flexibility with what you are asking for. I recommend that you not use the recommendation at all if all you are able to use only their initials vs. a full name. One of the powerful benefits of testimonials is the social proof that they can bring. Using only initials makes your testimonial useless for most purposes. It is also helpful for both you and your satisfied customer in many cases to include a live link to their website or profile.
How to use them
There are so many places to use testimonials today. Here are just a few:
- LinkedIn Profile
- Slide Presentations
- Company or office lobby
Here are examples of some of my favorites:
- In your slide presentations, include a slide or two with customer testimonials after key points. A testimonial with a photo that addresses how happy the customer was after using you for that exact point is a powerful influencer.
- LinkedIn Profiles are a great place to highlight your testimonials. Once you get more than ten or more recommendations, I recommend you select only seven to ten, and hide the rest. Switch out and change which recommendations you show every two to three months to keep things fresh. Looking at a profile with 50 or more recommendations seems to be counter-productive in my opinion and experience.
- Displaying testimonials on your blog/website will always yield positive results. I have actually had customers ask what it takes to have their testimonial highlighted online. That is a good indication you have this recommendation thing figured out.
Most importantly, after you receive a testimonial, say thank you. Let them know how much their efforts are appreciated and how it validates what you told them at the very beginning of the relationship. “Their testimonial is one of the most important goals you have for the relationship.”
That is a great way to formalize what you have done for them now and positions you as their preferred source to provide similar products and/or services in the future.
Let me know – how do you go about generating client testimonials?