How to Comfortably Ask for and Get Testimonial Letters that will Boost Your Sales
Client testimonials are an incredibly powerful sales tool, especially for selling professional services. The testimonial assures your prospective client that you’ve successfully delivered this service to others and made them happy. There is an ideal way to ask for and get testimonial letters from your happy clients.
When you master this way, you’ll find it easy and comfortable to ask for such letters, get them, and have them say precisely what the next client most needs to hear.
Figure out What Prospects Want to Know
Start with the end in mind. You must become crystal clear on what an ideal testimonial letter would say — namely, it should address the worries, questions, and insecurities of the next prospect.
What do prospects hope to see in a testimonial? Here are three simple, easy ways to find out:
- Look at competitors’ testimonials and see what themes are present that resonate for you
- Ask current happy clients what their biggest concern was before hiring you
- Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and ask yourself what you most want to know before hiring someone
Jot down the themes. Odds are, you’ll find things like:
- Track Record – Ability to get results in situations like mine
- Empathy or Caring
- Specific Outcomes or Success Stories
Before you finish the list, also think about horror stories. What are prospects worried, maybe secretly worried, they might experience? What are some ways that your competitors have screwed up, that make buyers nervous to hire anybody from your industry? (For example, when we buy, we may fear the lawyer who runs up excessive billable hours, the doctor who doesn’t remember our name or the details of our condition, the dentist who inflicts pain, or the dry cleaner who ruins or loses clothes.)
Add these additional concerns to your list of themes.
Set Expectations with Current Clients
Next, make it easy for clients to say yes — and make it easy for you to ask. The best way I’ve found is to include the word “testimonials” in your intake process with clients. I’ll usually tell a new client, during the rosy period of excitement and hope at the start of a new engagement, “When we finish this engagement, assuming we’re successful, is there any reason why you wouldn’t be able to offer me a testimonial that I could share with other folks like yourself?”
I also include “ask for testimonial” in the “wrapping up the engagement” section of the client checklist. When I do this right, each client has had plenty of advance notice that I’ll ask them for a testimonial at the end of the engagement. They aren’t surprised.
At the start, this closing event “ask for testimonial” is far off — so far off that I’ve never had anyone be bothered by it. They aren’t promising to write anything right now — they’re just being informed that I’ll ask. It’s all comfortably distant and non-threatening.
Once you’ve told a client you’ll ask for a testimonial, it’s not an imposition when you ask. It’s actually you keeping your word.
During our wrap up conversation at the end of an engagement, I’ll say something like “As you might recall, when we started, I said I would ask you for a testimonial. I’m now about to do that. Do you have six minutes right now?”
Only Ask the Happy Ones
Clearly, you’ll have an awkward conversation if you start asking for a testimonial and the client’s not happy. So, don’t ask yet. First, you’ll test the waters.
Ask: “Now that we’re done, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is you’re ecstatic, how happy are you overall with the results you’ve experienced?” For any answer lower than a 10, ask, “What if anything would turn your response into a 10?” Then listen.
Now, do what you need to do to raise their score toward a 10.
Once you get them to an 8 or above, you can ask for the testimonial. If their final score is 7 or less, even after you’ve done the final work they asked for, don’t ask for the testimonial.
Alternative to Testimonials – the Reference Client
Some clients are unwilling to write and sign a testimonial letter, yet are happy to agree to talk on the phone to your future prospects. Others don’t want to take calls, and are happy to write and sign a letter. Work within their preference.
For the client who is uncomfortable writing and signing a testimonial letter, ask if they’d be willing to take “no more than one phone call a month” (or whatever is accurate) from qualified prospects inquiring about what it’s like to work with you.
Make it Easy
Tell your client that you’ll be asking six or seven questions and taking notes. Offer to then draft the testimonial letter for them, that they can edit “so that it sounds like you, and is accurate.” Tell them you’ll then ask them to then print the testimonial on letterhead, sign it, and mail it to you.
Ask Your Questions Based on your Themes
Now, you should ask the questions you’ve prepared in advance, based on the themes that your prospects and leads care about.
Here are some sample themes and questions.
- Triggers for Needing Help: “What was happening that made you want outside help?”
- Nature of the Felt Need: “What was happening for you subjectively when you realized the extent of your challenge? What did you feel? What was it like?”
- Fears and Misgivings: “What sorts of thoughts and feelings held you back from seeking outside help?”
- Your Reliability: “What were some ways I demonstrated my reliability, that you really liked?”
- Your Discretion: “What were some ways I demonstrated my discretion and ability to keep your confidences, that you really liked?”
Having asked your questions and taken notes, you now draft the testimonial letter for them, and send it off within 24 hours. Remind them in your email that you want them to edit your draft for tone, style and accuracy. Ask them to print the testimonial on letterhead, sign it, and mail it to you.
If your contact has an assistant, be sure to stay on good terms with him or her, and work with the assistant to get the letter printed, signed and returned to you.
Put a tickler note in your calendar for a week in the future — if you’ve not received the testimonial letter, gently remind them, and ask if you can do something to make it easier. Repeat your gratitude for their willingness to give you a testimonial.
Testimonials are far, far more valuable and important to you, than to the person giving it to you. Since you’re the one receiving the value, be cheerfully willing to go the extra mile — make it easy for your client to give you a useful, powerful testimonial letter.