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7 minute read

7 minute read

How to Get Testimonials That Are Actually Convincing

Imagine that your company attracts people who understand and appreciate the unique value and quality you provide — and who are willing to pay for it.

Good testimonials get good clients. (Some things really are that simple.)

The problem is that most people don’t know how to write a good testimonial.

They’ll say how good, wonderful or helpful you are, but who’s actually convinced by such saccharine statements?

If anything, these lazy generalizations tend to make us more skeptical. It’s obvious you picked this because it only says positive things. What do people really think?

And while you were obviously a good fit for Sandy and Todd, I’m more concerned about whether you’ll be a good fit for me.

The bigger problem is that most of us don’t actually know how to ask for the testimonials we really want.

If you email your favorite client and say, “Hey Bob, would you mind writing a testimonial for us?” you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re not asking Bob for his input at all, you’re doing even worse.

Maybe you’re scared to ask or scared of the response. Maybe you’re the introverted type and can’t justify the energy it would take to reach out to Bob. Maybe you just don’t know how to get the conversation started.

That’s all okay. The excuses stop here.

You’re going to learn how to get positive, believable testimonials right now — without breaking into a cold sweat or feeling slimy.

I’m going to show you:

  • What a convincing testimonial does and looks like
  • Simple questions you can ask to get the information that makes a testimonial convincing
  • 6 “secret” places that may just have the perfect testimonial waiting for you

What Testimonials Should Do

A testimonial should do way more than show people that someone who spent money with you was happy that they did.

A convincing testimonial will reduce the sense of risk potential customers feel, overcome their objections and set expectations. That’s the concept behind reverse testimonials.

A reverse testimonial:

  • Identifies an objection, obstacle or “hitch” to making the purchase
  • Resolves the initial objection
  • Focuses on a single feature or benefit
  • Briefly mentions other useful features or benefits
  • Is infused with relatable, tangible emotions
  • Sounds human

It’s the difference between “Adam really knows his stuff,” which has all the force of an infomercial, and “I was concerned that Adam was too young to give useful advice on making our company more efficient. We were running strong for 20 years before he was even born. Yet his ability to pinpoint the real problems our company was having and offer simple, actionable ideas saved our company at least two weeks’ worth of meetings and countless hours trying to come up with and implement fixes on our own. We’ve improved productivity 20% in just 2 months following his advice. If your company is having issues with efficiency or productivity, Adam’s insight will be invaluable!”

Whoa! Get Adam in here pronto.

So why is the second testimonial so much more effective?

Because it tells a story, which will always be more unique, personal and dramatic. It starts off with an objection, which immediately catches our attention. We may have the same fear about hiring Adam, but it shows us that this fear was never realized. In fact, Adam actually did what he claims he does in the text surrounding this testimonial.

How You Should Ask for Testimonials

If we don’t ask for what we want, we’ll never get it. Yet asking makes many of us feel slimy, like we’re taking advantage or inconveniencing someone. But those feeling exist only in our minds. Most people will appreciate you taking the time to reach out and ask for their opinion.

So here’s a super simple, non-sleazy way to get exactly what you want.

Come up with a list of objections people commonly have before buying your product or service.

Is it too expensive? Too noisy? Too time consuming? Too complex? Pinpoint whatever prevents some people buying from or hiring you.

Request a phone call with the person whose testimonial you want.

In your message, tell them what you’re doing and why you’d like their help. If you’re really not sure what to say, you can use this handy template I made for you to edit:

Hi Bob,

How are you? We’re currently working on a new brochure and would like to include some testimonials from our best clients. Would you have about 15 minutes to answer a few questions? Your insight would help others feel more confident hiring / buying from me. I would write up a draft and send it to you so you can review before we post.

Let me know!


Instead of just asking for a testimonial out of the blue, you’re giving Bob a reason for your request, telling him how much of his time this will take and why you’re asking him specifically. By writing the testimonial yourself, you’re taking the burden off Bob, which makes it more likely that he’ll say yes while ensuring that it reads exactly how you want. Just make sure you make it sound like Bob. Use his words and includes what he tells you during your phone call. Accept any edits he has.

Get on the Phone

Do you know what people object to? Good. You’ll want to start with that. You can say something like, “A lot of our customers felt that was going to be a big problem. Was that true for you as well?”

This forces the person to accept or reject your statement. While agreement will give you the testimonial you were likely going after, disagreement is also valuable because it may reveal an objection you didn’t know existed or give you a testimonial you can use elsewhere.

If the person agrees:

  • Why was that a problem for you?
  • What did you feel? What were you worried about?
  • Were there other issues regarding that made you hesitant?
  • What’s changed since ? How do you feel now?
  • If someone were in the same shoes now as you were then, what would you tell them about ?

No matter how you handle the first three questions (you don’t have to ask them all, they’re just different ways to tease out the “why”), you must ask the last two questions. The answers will be what you use to defuse the tension in the first half of the testimonial. That’s where you’re going to shine.

If the person disagrees:

Simply ask them what their biggest fear, objection or issue actually was and why. That will get the ball rolling; then just keep asking questions. Make sure you ask the last two questions here as well. Try to stay on topic while focusing on emotions and reasons.

If you don’t know what objections people have about buying from you, you’re going to want to find out. Ask the person to describe their journey from person-with-a-problem to happy customer using questions like these:

  • What was going through your mind before you made the purchase? How were you feeling?
  • What objections did you have to buying? What were you worried about?
  • What ultimately made you decide to go through with it?
  • Was this your first experience with or had you tried others in the past? If they tried others, ask them to describe that experience.
  • What’s changed since ? How do you feel now?
  • If someone were in the same shoes now as you were then, what would you tell them about ?

Be sure to key on emotional words and phrases like these:

  • I felt…
  • I wanted…
  • I wasn’t sure about…
  • I didn’t know if…
  • Frustrated
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Confused
  • Fed up
  • Tired
  • Unsure
  • Relieved
  • Reassured
  • Confident
  • Amazed
  • Useful
  • Thankful
  • Surprised

When someone tells you how they really felt, you’ll have the most convincing way to phrase your testimonial. So you know how the stereotypical psychiatrist always asks, “And how did that make you feel?” That’s basically what you want to do here. The more you can get someone to say, the deeper you’ll dig into their psyche and the more likely you’ll be to get a solid, believable answer.

So don’t rush. Try to do as little talking as possible and let the person tell you what it’s been like for them. The more they talk without going off topic, the more detail you’ll get. And it’s this detail that will turn your testimonials from ho-hum to holy moly!

6 “Secret” Places Testimonials May Be Hiding

There may be some perfectly well written testimonials hanging around in plain sight. The key is knowing where to look and how to use them.

Facebook Reviews

If you have a company Facebook page and have this feature turned on, read some of the reviews you’ve gotten. Do any of them meet the criteria for a convincing testimonial? If so, copy / paste it and mention that the review came from Facebook.

LinkedIn Recommendations

Yes, I know that only individuals can receive recommendations. While this is especially useful for business owners and freelancers, personal recommendations that your employees receive can also be effective.

You can use them to give people an in-depth idea of what it’s like to work with specific members of your team. (About us pages, anyone?) Just make sure you have permission from your employee and the person who posted the recommendation first.

Local Search Directories

Search Google Places, Yahoo Local, Merchant Circle, City Search and similar sites for convincing testimonials you can use in your marketing materials. Just be sure to include the person’s name, rating (if applicable) and the site you pulled it from. If you have a lot of positive reviews and it won’t distract people from completing something you want them to do, you can even link to the page so people can see other ones.

Industry-Specific Review Sites

The travel industry has TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Travelocity and countless other review sites. Maybe your industry has its own review sites. If so, take a look at those pages and see if any reviews fall into the “convincing” category.

Google Alerts and Social Mentions

Sometimes you’ll get unsolicited reviews on minor blogs or websites. Setting up a system to track mentions of your name or brand will let you know when and where you’re being talked about. Periodically review these alerts and see if anything juicy comes up. If so, send the person a nice message asking if you can use their comments as a testimonial.

Blog Comments

If you write for your own blog (or someone else’s), check out the comments. Sometimes people will leave a comment that sounds more like a testimonial. This is especially useful if you’re trying to get people to subscribe to your newsletter or trade their email address for an ebook or whitepaper you wrote. What have other people said about subscribing? About the value you’re providing? Was it worth it to them?

Start Getting the Testimonials You Want

A strategically placed testimonial can establish credibility, earn trust and close more sales — but only if it’s convincing.

Now that you have the knowledge and tools you need, asking shouldn’t be so scary or so slimy-feeling. If you’re offering value and quality, people will generally want to help you out. It’s all about reciprocity.

They’ll walk away feeling like you care about them and value their opinion while you walk away with a convincing testimonial that’s actually worth using.

Are there other ways to get good testimonials? How do you plan on using the new-and-improved ones you’re going to start getting? Tell me in the comments.

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