7 Ways You Can Boost Sales & Thrive in the New Economy, Part #3: Obtain Testimonials from Customers

So far in this series on boosting your sales and thriving in this new economy, we’ve looked
at the importance of leveraging who you know, of considering carefully what you say and how you
say it. Let’s turn now to what your customers have to say about you, and why it is vitally important
that you harness the power of word-of-mouth in sales.

Customer uncertainty during difficult economic times can make any sales person’s job harder,
especially when pitching to new prospects. In an environment of elevated risk, its human nature
that we tend to stick to what we know and what we’re sure of…and that certainly applies
to customers when facing a choice between buying from you or one of your competitors. As a sales
professional, you already know how important it is to first sell the benefits of your product
or service so that a prospect or existing customer can make a decision with confidence to buy
from you. However, there’s still much more you can do to help influence and boost a buyer’s confidence,
and that’s where testimonials come into play.

Testimonials can transform selling benefits

Let’s face it, there is a whole lot of fear out there today. Among the many things companies
are worried about is whether they’re making the right choices when it comes to suppliers. Will
you be able to deliver on your promise? Are your fundamentals strong or could you be out of business
soon? Are you stretching the truth with the unique benefits you are offering, simply to secure
a sale? No matter how polished a sales presenter you might be, those questions are the kinds
that your prospects will be asking themselves until they are given a good reason to feel differently.

Whether you’re trying to persuade one person or a room full of people, testimonials provide
your audience with something tangible and solid: someone else’s positive experience, their satisfactory
results and their glowing praise. On the face of it, these are opinions, but when they are seen
as credible opinions, testimonials have the potential of taking on
the similar weight as facts. Here’s why. Because they give your prospects something they can
measure against their own needs and expectations. Testimonials are especially powerful when
they come from a peer or from someone in the same industry as your prospect. It’s meaningful
when you’re able to say: "We’ve been doing business with your colleague, Phil, in accounting,
for over ten years, and here’s what he has to say about that experience."

Turn the great things people already say about you into testimonials

As a sales trainer, I often meet people who say: "I know my customers love doing business with
me, but I’m not all that great at getting testimonials…what am I doing wrong?" If you want testimonials
from your clients, you have to ask them. It’s as simple as that.

People generally like to be helpful to other people, but they’ll never get that opportunity
to give you that all-powerful testimonial if you don’t ask first. Keep your ears open for kind
words and praise from your customers. Follow-up right away with a phone call or an email, explaining
how important testimonials are in your line of work, and then ask: "would it be okay if I included
what you said in my collection of client testimonials?"

Another approach is to simply follow-up with a customer who purchased from you recently. This
is especially important when speaking to newer clients. As Andy Sernovitz, the author of "Word
of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking" explains, they are the ones who are
most excited about having found you. Make the most of that. Also, be sure to ask probing questions,
such as: "why did you choose to do business with us over someone else?" Or: "why
do you continue to buy from us in these economic times?
" A customer who is happy with the
products or services they are receiving from you is quite likely to share a few really solid
reasons why they keep placing orders.

Review with your sales team the very best feedback your group has received to date and then
go down the list of your existing customers to identify the ones who could provide new testimonials.
Get on the phone and make those calls. If you can’t do it yourself, there are all sorts of companies
out there that you can hire to collect those testimonials.

Testimonials work best when you use them often

Proving to others what you already know is true — that’s the real power of testimonials. However,
you can’t extract their full potential unless you use them often. If you’re working within a
larger organization, it will definitely be worth your time and effort to sit down with those
responsible for corporate marketing and identify every opportunity possible to include testimonials
on outward-bound corporate communications.

No matter how large or small your company is, make sure every proposal that goes out the door
has at least one testimonial on the front page. Every page on your website should feature glowing
feedback and recommendations from your customers. You can also collect a group of testimonials
and insert one in the signature line of each email you send. Like so many things that characterize
the business habits of the top-10% of sales professionals in organizations of all sizes, the
key is to be consistent.

More tips on how you can obtain and use testimonials are covered in one of my previous newsletter
articles, available here.

The proof you need to sell more

More than any other marketing tool — from advertisements to opinion polls — recommendations
from other consumers is still ranked the number-one selling tool, according to a recent study by
Nielsen Research.

In an economy of all seasons — from sunny to stormy — it remains effective because it provides
consumers with something that is valuable to them: proof. It demonstrates
that buying from you isn’t a risky decision — it’s a smart decision, backed by the track record
you’ve earned from those who know best: your customers.