Prospective customers are much more likely to buy when they feel their peers have vetted and endorsed a product and, by extension, the person who's selling it. The best way to do this is to get a customer to refer you to a prospective customer (providing you do it correctly).

The next best thing is a testimonial--a quote from a happy customer. Unfortunately, most salespeople and marketers alike have no idea what kind of testimonial will make a prospective customer think: "Gee, I should order this product immediately."

Over the years, I've helped dozens of companies recruit, select and publicize testimonials. Here's my advice:

1. Write the Testimonial Yourself

Unless your customers are professional writers, they probably don't enjoy writing, won't appreciate being asked and will do a lousy job. Rather than assign a customer homework ("will you please write a testimonial") and get a sub-standard result, write the testimonial yourself.

Don't create the testimonial out of whole cloth, though, because your customer might resent you "putting words in my mouth." Instead, base the testimonial on something positive that the customer has said during your conversations.

Ask for permission in an email (because that provides documentation) like so:

Chris,
In our last conversation, you said something like this: "[testimonial]".
Is it OK with you if I use that as a testimonial?
Pat

A couple of points about this approach.

First, by asking as YES/NO question, you've made it extremely easy for the customer to say YES. Much easier than if you asked the customer to craft something themselves.

Second, when you ask permission this way it's implicit that you can attribute the quote to the customer. 

2. Pack the Testimonial with Emotion

The more emotion that a testimonial expresses, the more likely it is to persuade another customer to buy. Unfortunately, many testimonials are written in bloodless corporate-speak, like this real life example:

"Acme has removed technology as an obstacle to moving our business forward. The net result is frictionless innovation, with app delivery that moves at the speed of business." 

With all due respect, that testimonial is just a bunch of yada-yada-yada buzzwords. It's supposed to be impressive but reads like a quote from world's most boring conference. Major fail.

Emotion-packed writing uses short, common words that express how feelings change, like so:

"Until I saw it with my own eyes, I couldn't believe how much faster we were building apps with Acme."

Can you see the difference? The rewritten example literally pulls you into the customer's viewpoint and then expresses a before-and-after buying experience. Bingo!

3. Make the Attribution Specific

Let's suppose you've got a testimonial from an accountant. Here are some of the ways you might attribute the quote, ranging from 1 (highly unbelievable) to 9 (highly believable):

  1. -- Accountant
  2. -- John S., Accountant
  3. -- John Smith, Accountant
  4.  -- John S., Acme Accounting LLC
  5.  -- John Smith, Acme Accounting LLC
  6. -- John Smith, CPA, Acme Accounting LLC
  7.  -- John Smith, CPA, Managing Partner, Acme Accounting LLC
  8. -- John Smith, CPA, Managing Partner, Acme Accounting LLC, Smallville USA
  9. -- John Smith, CPA, Managing Partner, Acme Accounting LLC, Smallville USA (10/27/2016)

General rule: the more information you include in the attribution, the more credible the testimonial.

Testimonials that are anonymous (in the sense that there's no way to locate the person who gave the quote) lessens the testimonial's credibility. In fact, anonymous testimonials can drive away prospective customers because they'll figure that you either made up the quote or your existing customer doesn't want to be blamed when you screw up.

4. Make The Testimonial More Visible

Testimonials (at least the ones that have the other three characteristics) are your most powerful sales tool because prospective customers trust their peers far more than they trust you or so-called experts. Feature them prominently!

For example, on your website, put the testimonials (or at least one testimonial) first... and make it more prominent than your company and product description. Never force prospective customers to click down (or worse click a link) to find the testimonial(s).

5. Make The Testimonial Short and Sweet

Ideally, a testimonial should be a single sentence. Few prospective customers will read a paragraph-length testimonial, even if (especially if!) they're full of glowing compliments.

Again, this is a reason why you should write them yourself rather than depend upon your customer's writing ability. Crafting great (i.e. short, sweet) testimonials is, like all sales messages, a time-consuming process requiring patience and skill.

As a great man once said: "I apologize for writing a long letter. Had I more time, I would have written a shorter one."

Published on: Jan 24, 2018
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