Consider the skeptic’s perspective: 1) You always pay 3 vendors, so they can serve as credit references 2) I see testimonials the same way – you always take care of 3 customers, so they can stand as testimonials. Thus, testimonials are useless.
This can certainly be true in some cases. Is this the first and last word on testimonials?
In answering this question, let’s consider the securing and use of testimonials from the perspective of: 1) The salesperson 2) The customer writing the testimonial 3) The prospect reading the testimonial 4) The company
1. The salesperson’s perspective
a) Why don’t salespeople ask for testimonials? In my experience, most salespeople don’t request testimonials, though they gladly accept them, if offered.
Let’s assume the salesperson and company have “earned the right” to the testimonial.
Usually, the salesperson doesn’t ask, because it’s “socially inappropriate behavior”.
Most salespeople are social sellers – they want to make friends; this contrasts with business sellers, who want profitable customers. You don’t ask your friends for testimonials – it’s rude behavior, at best. One salesperson summed it up this way:
“I don’t ask my customers to do things for me; I do things for them.”
Business sellers know selling is a 2 way street, it’s OK to ask customers for help, and testimonials can help create credibility and close sales.
b) What happens to salespeople when they ask for testimonials?
They begin to change. They see the typical buyer/seller relationship is malleable; it doesn’t have to be a master/serf relationship. It helps sales team members realize they can challenge prospects and ask “big fans” to help the salesperson extend his/her good reputation.
c) What happens to salespeople when they – and their team members - receive testimonials?
Testimonials help sales team members see their company in a more powerful light. It builds self-confidence, which prepares the sales team for business development and helps inoculates sales team members against resistance and objections.
The battle for sales takes place in the salesperson’s mind. Testimonials help prepare the sales team to move forward in the face of adversity.
2. The customer writing the testimonial
Big fans are usually very happy to help salespeople “extend their good reputation” with testimonials and introductions. Thus, getting agreement to a testimonial identifies your customer as a big fan – it’s like litmus paper.
The testimonial sets up the request for an introduction. Once you have the written testimonial, you can reasonably ask the customer: “to whom can we send this, introducing me?” The essential copy of the introduction is already written.
The testimonial letter is also a strong defensive strategy. After a customer thinks through and commits to writing a testimonial, they are much less likely to give the next order to your competitor.
3. The prospect reading the testimonial
The testimonial letter serves these purposes:
a) Enhances credibility, developing a serious conversation b) Can be a door opener c) Sets up the reference check, where appropriate d) Helps move the selling conversation forward – confirming the prospect wants the values discussed in the letter and then smoking out additional closing conditions e) Can be a springboard to a closing discussion f) As a PIK, helps verify the prospect is serious
When you are facing the risk adverse prospect, testimonials can be a great way to reduce the prospect’s “blood pressure”.
This is particularly so for prospects who feature testimonials on their websites.
Consider this conversation:
Salesperson: I noticed some great testimonials on your website. Why do you feature them on the website?
Buyer: We want our prospects to know we have “raving fans”. We want them to see themselves as future raving fans.
Salesperson: This agrees with my thinking. Question: you use testimonials when you sell, how about when you buy? Do you think a potential new vendor should have powerful testimonials?
Buyer: Gee. I never thought about it, but now that you mention it, getting powerful testimonials from new vendors makes great sense. Say… do you have any testimonials?
Salesperson: I will be glad to review them with you.
4. The company’s perspective
Developing testimonial letters is a strong team building project. When the entire team works on the project, they see how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Strategically, testimonials help support 2 often neglected parts of the proving:
Selling the economic justification of the offer
Selling the company’s consistency
Both of these are needed to secure the best possible price for the offer.
On a fundamental level, testimonials help address the 2nd fatal flaw in the selling process: Assuming prospects believe what you say.
Will testimonials cure all ills, close every deal? Of course not! However, without them, we can be defenseless before the skeptic.
And here’s a final thought. Although testimonials aren’t bullet proof – we usually get zero per cent of the attempts (at credibility) we don’t make.
Andy Gole has taught selling skills for 23 years. He started three businesses and has made approximately 4,000 sales calls, selling both B2B and B2C. He invented a selling process, Urgency Based SellingTM, with which he can typically help companies double their closing or conversion ratio.