Nothing sells your product or service better than a passionate customer.  Strong customer testimonials break the ice with prospects on the fence. 

Here are some practical and powerful ways to get that message across:

1.  Build a Strong Foundation

Everything you do with a prospect, from the beginning of the sales cycle to the end, builds your case for a powerful referral.  To make sure you end up with a delighted customer, you need to listen carefully, ask good questions, uncover a customer's key needs, present a solution—and then follow up on every detail.

In the initial stages of the sale, ask your prospect: "Do you know what our goal is?"  Usually the customer will say something along the lines of, "Yes, to sell me something." Your reply should be: "It's to eventually use you as a strong reference."

Let them know that your business is built on the success and satisfaction of your customer base and that you're in it for the long run.

2. Think Visual

Many years ago one, of my top sales reps brought back a portfolio of pictures of his customers smiling around the products he sold.  It may seem corny, but he used these as powerful aids during his presentations.  Whenever a prospect questioned any part of the proposal, he would open this portfolio to one of the customers' pictures and tell a story. 

The part that had the most impact: He would look the prospect in the eye, point to the pictures and say: "Call any one of my customers and ask them: What was it like after the sale? Did I deliver everything I promised?" He was able to say it with confidence and conviction—and it helped him close many deals.

I once knew a stationary and paper goods store owner who took pictures of all her customers, giving them hats and funny glasses to put on. Then she had those pictures laminated, cut out, and posted throughout the product aisles.  When new customers walked through the store, they'd recognize people they knew.  (It also showed how many "happy" customers shopped at the store.)

3.  Get Audio or Video Backup

Every time I have gone on the air at QVC and had a customer call in to share his or her enthusiasm, we've seen a sharp increase in sales. There is power in the voice of your customer—and you can leverage that for future sales.

When I first started selling over 30 years ago, I would interview a select group of my customers on tape: I asked them to share why they bought from me, what other companies they looked at, and the benefits they received from making that decision.  These interviews—after being edited down to short soundbites—would then become part of my presentation:  I would play the ones that related to a specific customer's situation. 

If a customer was throwing out price objections, or concerns about service and support after the sale, I'd answer those concerns and then introduce the testimonial: "I can appreciate that; many of my current customers felt the same way. May I show you what they said after doing business with us?"  I would then play the audio testimonial. (I also had copies in print, on the customer's letterhead, on the table).  When your customers are talking passionately about your products, a prospect can't help but catch their enthusiasm.

4.  Send Them to the Source

After every sale, follow up with your customers to ask, "Is there anything we could do to serve you better?" Then, if the customer is satisfied, take that moment to ask to use them as a referral. Write a short case study on the experience, and keep it on hand. That way you can provide a list of customer references to any prospective buyer.

A memorable story was told to me by a top sales rep at Xerox. He often demonstrated his products to new prospects at another customer's location.  Once, when he was showing off all the bells and whistles of a new system, the existing customer walked by and said:  "Every copier is pretty much the same!  You press print, and they make a copy."

The sales rep almost lost it—he had just spent 30 minutes talking about all the product features that differentiated his product from the competition.  But then the customer continued: "But do you know what you get when you buy this product?  You get [the sales rep].  He's the main reason we bought and will keep on buying from this company."

The prospect signed the order on the spot.