This is a follow-up to last week’s episode about asking for testimonials. There are three keys to using written testimonials successfully.
- Ask for written testimonials at every opportunity—but not too soon!
- Guide the content of your testimonials. The easier you make it for your client, the more likely you are to get what you need.
- Update your testimonials. Review your file or binder (or website) every two to three years at least. Discard anything from a company that’s no longer in business. Feel free to ask ongoing clients to update their testimonials if it’s appropriate.
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Complete Transcription of BNI Podcast Episode 111 –
Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the Net for networking downloadables.
I’m Priscilla Rice, and I’m coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California, and I am joined on the phone today by the founder and the chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner.
Hello, Ivan. How are you?
I’m doing great, Priscilla. Thank you.
Great. So what are you going to share with us today?
Well, today I’m going to talk about three keys to using testimonials, which is follow-up to last week’s podcast on Asking for Written Testimonials. And the question really is: How to you use those testimonials when you have them? So that’s what I want to talk about today.
We know what a powerful tool testimonials can be when it comes to building credibility and generating new business. I talk about that in last week’s podcast, but it’s also very important to know how to successfully use testimonials and how to ask for them. And there are three keys to successfully using written testimonials that I would like to talk about today.
One is that you ask for testimonials at every opportunity. Whenever you have the chance, I think it’s really important to ask for those testimonials.
Second is to guide the content of your testimonials. Don’t necessarily write them, but guide the content, help to coach and guide the direction that the testimonials go.
And three is to update your testimonials.
So at what point in the sales cycle should you ask clients or your fellow members of BNI or other contacts for testimonials? This is kind of a tricky question, but in general, ask for no testimonial before it’s time. You want to make sure that you are at credibility with somebody before you’re asking for an endorsement or a testimonial. Now, this is probably before or after the completion of a sale or a project, but depending on the type of client that you have, your product, or service, it’s after you’ve established a good relationship that you’re going to want to ask for that endorsement or for that testimonial.
So let’s say, for argument’s sake, that that’s one month before a finishing major with some client or after the completion of the project. You want to call your client to ask how things are going before it’s over. If the client tells you that they’re really happy with the results and that their business is better because of the products or services, that’s the point that your testimonial detector should be pinging loudly; it’s the right time to make your pitch; it’s the right time to start to talk to the client about the endorsement. It would be good to say to them, “It would be a great thing for other people to know about what I do. Would you be willing, when I’m completed with the project, to do an endorsement or testimonial on your company letterhead by the end of the project?” If they’re happy, they’re going to absolutely say yes, they’d be more than glad to do that.
The next step is to then coach the client in writing the testimonial that fits your needs. Ask him or her to tell why they chose you to do the work and how they benefited from your products or services, how you solved the problem for them, what other people should know about your business, what are most people concerned about using a business like yours. Ask them to address those issues. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions. That’s really important. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions. It will make it easier for them to write an appropriate testimonial, and the results will be more valuable for you. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable laying the ground work and doing a portion of the testimonial, but I’m here to tell you that for people, it’s really easier if you can give them some suggestions or show them some previous endorsements that have been done or give them some verbiage to use.
For example, I’m asked to do dozens and dozens and dozens of book endorsements every year. I mean, literally, I think last year was like 30 or 40 book endorsements and forwards that I was asked to write. It’s so much easier when somebody comes to me and says, “Here’s my book; here’s my material. Here is a sample endorsement or two or three.” And they’ll give me two or three to pick from, and they’ll say – these are the people that are really doing it right – “Here are two or three; these are covering some topics or some comments other endorsements I have are kind of missing. So if you feel comfortable with two or three of those, would you use them as is or put them in your own words or come up with something on your own.” So they’re basically saying to me, “Look, you don’t have to use my words, but here’s something to start you off with.”
Do you have any idea how helpful that is for somebody who’s very busy?
And they’re going to pick and I pick and endorsement of phraseology that fits my style, that fits something I would say, and then I adjust it or change it or I may rewrite it completely or rewrite it in part. It gives me a starting point.
And so there’s nothing wrong with coaching and guiding the endorsement. Just ask the person to be honest and tell them that if none of these work, come up with something else that they feel more comfortable with. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Do you think it’s embarrassing for the person that’s presenting it to write something about themselves and then hand it to you? Do you think that’s awkward?
Yeah. Yeah, it is, especially if you’ve not done it much. It feels uncomfortable; it feels like it could be self-serving, and so that’s why you want to have a lot of escape clauses in what you say to them.
I see, yeah.
Ivan:“If you don’t like this or this doesn’t fit exactly how you feel, please, please feel free to write something completely different or write what you feel comfortable with.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But the bottom like is you want the endorsement, you want the testimonial, and people are very, very, very busy; especially successful people. And so the easier you can make it for them, the more likely they’re going to give you what you need. You have to remember, this is for you, not for your client. You’re asking for your client to do something for you. And they’re generally more than willing, but they may be busy, so the easier you can make it for them, the better.
Now, here’s the last part of the process, and that is to update your endorsements and testimonials. You want to review your testimonial file or binder at least every two to three years, at least, to identify testimonials that are no longer valid or credible, out of date. Specifically, you want to discard refile a testimonial that’s from a company that’s no longer in business. That’s important.
It’s so funny.
You have a big company and maybe they were well known and you got an endorsement, but they’re out of business now, that doesn’t necessarily make you look good. An endorsement from the vice president of Enron isn’t going to help you at all.
So it’s not what you want.
For those of our listeners who are from other countries, Enron was a big company that went out of business a couple of years ago.
It might hurt you.
Yeah, exactly. So you want to pull those out.
Was it written by somebody who has left the company? That may or may not be as big of a deal. Just because they left the company doesn’t mean you pull it out of your file. It may still be completely valid, but it’s certainly one you want to think about.
Does it represent a product or service that you no longer offer? Well, you certainly don’t want that to be an endorsement letter if it’s something you don’t do anymore.
Is the endorsement dated in some way? Does it talk about something that was only relevant at one point, the situation or the experience? Does it need to be updated with new statistics from the customer? Now, that’s important. What if this is a customer that you’ve been working with over time and you’ve got more current data, and you want to get that updated? That’s really easy. You go back to the customer, you say, “Here’s the endorsement you did earlier. Would you mind just plugging in these numbers instead of that? And would you sign off on it?” And generally speaking, they’d be more than glad to do that. So these are things that you want to remember.
So just to review, you want to ask for testimonials at every opportunity; you want to guide the content of your testimonials; and you want to update your testimonials over time.
One more thing.
Remember the law of reciprocity; it works here, too. If want to motivate someone to write you a testimonial, write one for him or her first. Offer to do an endorsement for them whenever you’re doing business with somebody who’s also doing business with you. And I think that these are recommendations that are really powerful and valuable for BNI members all around the world.
That’s great, Ivan. I just want to mention that our BNI group is going to talk about the possibility of writing testimonials for each other inside of the meeting instead of a presentation, and we’re going to talk about it at our leadership meeting this week. And I’ll let you know how that goes.
Yeah, that’s a great idea, and those kinds of discussions, I think, can be really valuable for a chapter. It’s very focused on the vision of the organization and the purpose of the organization, which is to support one another. And I think it’s a great idea to spend ten minutes at a meeting talking about how do we do good written testimonials.
By the way, I’ve seen many chapters that literally have a chapter testimonial binder where members have endorsed other members and the work that the other members have done. And they have that for visitors who come to visit the group, and I think that’s a great idea.
Yeah, that’s a great idea. I hadn’t thought of that.
Okay, well, I think we might be out of time.
Yes, thanks, Priscilla. Great interview today.
Well, thank you, Dr. Misner.
I think that’s it for this week. I just want to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, the leading site on the Net for networking downloadables. Thanks so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and I hope you’ll join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.