You know testimonials are important, don’t you? Potential clients love to hear what you’ve done for others. And testimonials are part of what is now called ‘social proof’ along with ratings and reviews.
But have you or your team struggled to get testimonials from clients that truly reflect the value of the work you’ve done for them? Without a solid structure to capture deep feedback from clients, testimonials can seem very elusive.
For many organisations in the business-to-business sector selling products or services it can often be like “selling the invisible”. Clients can’t always directly see what they’ll be getting. And that’s why just about every technically-focused business relies on some form of ‘proof’ that they can deliver what they offer.
Potential clients simply don’t know whether you can do what you say you’ll do. They want evidence.
Because of this – and survey results that show advertising is the least trusted form of promotion, and personal recommendations are the most trusted – client testimonials are among the most sought after sources of influence for sellers to have in their arsenal.
How do you get a client testimonial that is worded well enough that you can actually use it?
- Do you find it difficult to be bold and straight-out ask for a testimonial?
- Do you lose contact with your clients after the job is done, and have trouble going back to ask for a testimonial?
- Do you worry that if you ask for a testimonial you’ll appear pushy?
But you do want to get a relevant testimonial that explains how you helped your client achieve their goals. So, what’s the secret?…
In coaching clients on their marketing tactics I have found they can be successful in getting great testimonials by using a simple question-based approach. I recommend you try it as well.
How to ask for a testimonial
Firstly, it can be helpful to prepare your client for the task of supplying a testimonial. Let them know in advance that you would like them to provide their feedback. Maybe you can mention it during the final stages of your work. Or simply contact them and ask if that would be OK. (Just about everyone will say yes, as long as they are happy with the work you have done.)
Once they are expecting you to contact them for a testimonial you can ask them to answer a few questions. At a minimum you should ask these four questions.
When asking for testimonials it is helpful to provide guidance for your client. By asking them to answer questions they can easily focus on what to say.
The following questions should provide answers that can be combined for a strong testimonial.
[Note – this is a guide, so insert your own words where needed or replace the text in brackets]
1) What was the problem (or challenge) you wanted to resolve?
Example question: What was the situation that prompted you to look for help from a company like ours?
Or: What was the problem you were trying to resolve?
2) Why did you choose us/me?
Example question: Which factors encouraged you to choose us/me to help you with [the outcome your client wanted]?
Or: Why did you choose me/us for this project?
3) What was the impact of our work?
Example question: Please explain the impact of the work I/we have done for you?
Or: Please explain how you believe the process I/we used [or, your service or, what you did for them] will help you achieve your goals [for your business, your health]?
4) Why would you recommend us/me?
Example question: If you were to recommend me/our services to a colleague, friend, or business associate, how would you describe the way I provided my service/s to you [or, the way I helped you achieved your goals].
What do you do next?
Once you have received answers to the questions the idea is to strip out the questions, leaving the answers that can be connected together to form a complete testimonial like these. Ideally the testimonial will say – in a chronological sequence – what their situation was, why they chose you, followed by how you helped them (the impact of what you did), and why they would recommend you.
Keep in mind you may need to edit/adjust a few joining words to maintain continuity throughout the testimonial. But that shouldn’t change the meaning of the testimonial, so don’t worry if you need to make these minor changes.
The questions above are a minimum. You may find it suitable to ask other questions that dig a bit deeper into the specific actions and outcomes you were involved with.
Examples of additional questions:
- When we first started working with you what was your ‘challenge’ that you wanted to achieve?
- How did you feel about signing up for (the service/project)? Did you have concerns/excitement?
- What was it that convinced/persuaded you to use our product/service?
- What were your goals that you wanted to achieve from the project?
- What did you experience as you progressed through the project (stages/sessions)? Were there any ah-hah moments or breakthroughs?
- What did you like best about (our service/project/process)?
- How would you describe the support offered by us (during the project)?
- What are the major outcomes for you? What have you achieved? Is that more/less (better/worse) than what you expected?
Your objective is to ask very direct yet open-ended questions that encourage your client to explain their thoughts and feelings. Ideally the questions should be posed in a chronological order, starting with the decision they made to engage with a provider, and finishing with the outcomes of the work you did for them.
Make it personal
When crafting your questions be sure to personalise each testimonial request. This means adjusting each question to be directly relevant for the person you are asking.
So, if you wanted to use the example from above:
“If you were to recommend me/our services to a colleague, friend, or business associate, how would you describe the way I provided my service/s to you [or, the way I helped you achieved your goals].”
… you would need to remove the / (backslash) options and instead just use the one word which is relevant for your client:
either: me or us
either: services or service
either: the way I provided my service…, or the way I helped you achieve….
And you would want to remove irrelevant words, which may be ‘colleague’ or ‘business associate’ if you are working with your client on a purely personal/individual basis. And vice-versa, remove the word ‘friend’ if you have purely a business relationship with your client.
When to ask for a testimonial
Ideally, you should approach your client to ask these questions shortly after the satisfactory conclusion of your business with them.
If you have an ongoing engagement with that client, ask after a major milestone has been achieved. That way your client has something specific to focus on when answering your questions.
Email gives clients time to think
Once you have prepared your client to give their input, these questions can easily be asked via email. There is no need to ask them face-to-face. In fact, by asking via email you can more easily capture their specific words. And importantly it gives your client a chance to think about what they want to say.
Keep in mind what you are looking for is a ‘complete’ testimonial. If clients only use two or three words to answer each question then your testimonial will fall flat. Encourage them to provide details in their reply.
People don’t always respond to emails. Even your satisfied clients will get busy and may not prioritise your testimonial request. You must plan for follow up and to be proactive if your client doesn’t respond in a timely manner.
In some cases, even for me, I’ve seen it take a few months (with some gentle reminders) before the client gets around to providing their feedback. Remember the goal is to get a complete response that has a real impact on potential clients who may be reading it, so don’t rush the process.
Write a draft testimonial:
In some cases you may decide to write the testimonial yourself (using words you have heard from your client during discussions with them) and then send that to your client for approval.
Create an online form:
Create a form on your website that contains the questions so you can send clients a link to the web page and they can fill in the answers there. This is a good follow up option if they have not responded to the first request.
You could ask the client to record a video of themselves answering the questions. Or you could interview them directly on camera or via video call, which enables you to respond in the moment to ask for clarification if it’s needed.
Where to use testimonials:
Testimonials become a silent salesperson for your business, so they should be used whenever potential clients are open to receiving information from you, such as:
- On your website, as a stand alone page or positioned individually on other relevant pages.
- In your proposals, or covering letters that accompany a quote. Include a heading such as “Previous clients have said” or “A few comments from our clients”
- In other printed material such as brochures or fact sheets.
- On social media. Create a visual meme to share, or share the testimonial text itself with a thank-you mention to the client. Maybe include a photo of the project if suitable.
Testimonials are powerful persuasive tools when gathered and used correctly. Some people may try to discount the value of testimonials by saying things like “No one ever gives a bad testimonial”. But that’s not really the point. Having solid testimonials is always better than not having them.
If you generate powerful testimonials that include some emotional connection with your prospect due to the way your clients have answered the questions, then you’ve taken the first step to winning over that client.
So take time to prepare your questions. Ensure they are unambiguous and in a sensible chronological order. Check the grammar and spelling. Then stand back and send your testimonial requests.