*This article originally appeared on Sohuis.com, a brand consultancy (and provider of branding courses) for female founders.
You deliver the final work or product, and your client is happy. In fact, they seem thrilled. So, you ask them to leave a testimonial, eager to have a rave review to show off.
…And they write something like this:
“Krista’s work was very professionally done. I really enjoyed my experience!!”
It’s positive, at least. And hey, it could be that the second exclamation mark is proof they thought your work was truly top-notch.
However, this testimonial isn’t likely to lead to sales because it’s too vague and impersonal. Potential clients or customers don’t learn anything from this testimonial that would help them feel confident giving you their money. (“Professionally done” is kind of the bare minimum, isn’t it?)
The problem is that most people—including many of your customers or clients—don’t inherently know how to write a testimonial that has value for the person reading it. That’s why you have to proactively guide them.
In this post, I’m sharing the six steps I take to get testimonials that drive home sales, every time.
1. Prime your customers for good answers by explaining why their testimonial matters
Before you ask any questions at all, sharing why you want your customer’s feedback in the first place can help them shape their answers to be the most valuable for you.
Most business owners ask for feedback because you want future customers to trust you. I usually set up my testimonial questionnaire by saying, “Your feedback helps other people feel confident hiring me.” If my relationship with my client is good, they should be excited to help me get more business.
While it may seem obvious to you that that’s the point of a testimonial, it’s not obvious for everyone. People need to be reminded that they’re not just filling out an anonymous survey for a big box store. They’re sharing their experience to help a real person or favorite brand achieve more success.
2. Make sure their great experience is fresh in their minds when they write your testimonial
You should ask for a testimonial right when the project ends or they receive their product. Even waiting a day means losing some of that initial excitement.
More importantly, you should explicitly remind them of the highlights of their experience in the same email that you ask for a testimonial.
For example, if you’re an event planner, you could add a paragraph like this before asking for a testimonial: “Pleasure working with you to plan your beautiful wedding! Even though it rained last minute, we were able to move the ceremony indoors seamlessly—and the ambiance was STILL stunning. I’m looking forward to seeing the photos!”
This way, when your client goes to write you a testimonial, they have something specific and positive in mind to share.
3. Ask questions that reveal the customer journey
Getting a testimonial that touches on the stages in the customer journey helps potential customers recognize themselves in a testimonial—and as a result, they see your company as the solution right for them.
Your customer’s journey goes more or less like this:
I have a problem > I look for a solution to my problem > I find a solution I think will work, but I’m still a little worried it won’t > I purchase the solution > My worries are eliminated > My problem is solved better than I imagined it could be.
For example, look at this testimonial for a lifestyle concierge company:
“I became overwhelmed trying to handle all of my elderly mom’s errands and housekeeping while working full–time, taking care of my family, my house and my own errands. Something had to give; so I called Sandra. …I felt that everything that Sandra did for me and my mother, she did as if she was doing it for her own family. Concierge Lifestyle made my life easier.”
A potential customer can read this and relate to the specific problems this reviewer explained. Then, the company is delivered as the ideal remedy.
To get this type of detailed, narrative-style testimonial, you can ask questions that lead your customer through their own journey, prompting them to comment on every stage. I always ask my clients the following questions at the end of a project:
What was the challenge you were facing that led you to seek out ____________?
This answer helps potential customers see that you’ve helped people who had a similar problem to them.
What was your biggest fear before hiring my company/buying this product? Did it come true? If not, what happened instead?
This answer helps potential customers overcome their worries that your solution won’t work for them. It also reveals the great final result you delivered!
4. Ask a question that targets the most common hesitation people have before buying
A testimonial that mentions a big, common hesitation and then explains why the product or service was worth it can help future customers overcome their own fears.
You likely have an idea of what people are most concerned about when they’re on the fence about hiring you or buying your product. You may have had past customers ask similar questions before buying, or you’ve noticed that a significant number of clients drop off after discovering something about your service.
For example, if you find that a lot of people are hesitant about the cost of your service, ask a question specifically about price:
Having seen the final result, do you think the cost was worth it? Why or why not?
Or, if you find that people worry that the quality of your product isn’t good, ask a question like this:
Was the quality of ______ everything you hoped for? Why or why not?
5. Use the opportunity to remind them to refer you
Your customer has just reflected on how amazing their experience was with you. What better time to remind them that you are open to referrals?
My favorite way to do this is simply to ask a Yes/No question at the very end of my feedback questionnaire:
Would you refer _____ to other people like you/businesses like yours?
There’s no pressure for them to give you a name on the spot, but it can get them thinking about the possibility. Next time someone is looking for something you offer, your name is more likely to jump to mind.
6. Transform even the most boring answers into a valuable testimonial
Sometimes people are busy, so they answer your thought-provoking questions with a single, uninteresting phrase. However, if you’ve asked the right questions, you can salvage even the worst answers for a great review.
For example, a friend of mine recently received answers like this from a client:
Question: What was the challenge you were facing that led you to seek out a website designer?
Answer: I tried to make one on my own and it looked terrible!
Question: What was your biggest fear before hiring me? Did it come true? If not, what happened instead?
Answer: That it would be too expensive. I was given options that fit my budget.
Question: Anything else you’d like to share?
Answer: My business is more legitimate with a real working website.
Alone, none of these responses is enough for an informative testimonial. However, packaging the answers together with a couple of linking and clarification phrases results in a pretty good one:
Before hiring ______, I had tried to make a website on my own, and it looked terrible! I was worried that hiring a website designer would be too expensive, but _____ gave me options that fit my budget. Now, my business is more legitimate with a real working website.
This testimonial takes readers through the customer journey, even highlighting a big hesitation—price.
In order to “repackage” a customer’s response like this, you must include a final question at the end that confirms permission to use their feedback as a testimonial. Then, make sure that you only change the wording for clarity, not meaning.
Getting a value-packed testimonial takes more strategy than asking one open-ended question like “Can you share your experience?”
However, I think it’s important to also offer the opportunity for my clients to share without prompting on subject matter from me.
Including an open-ended question in addition to your strategic questions is a great way to make sure that you’re getting a meaty testimonial and also giving your customers space to add whatever they haven’t had a chance to say yet.
You never know—sometimes, what your customers really loved about their experience may surprise you.