Motto: It Doesn‘t Matter What You Know
What matters is what you do with what you know!
I was writing the other day about what the testimonial is and how important it is in business, regardless if you have a corporate brand or a brand as a freelancer. It is time to get practical!
From whom to request a testimonial?
First, it is important to determine as clearly and specifically as possible on what you want to receive the testimonial. As an example given, not on communication. It is too general. On organizational branding. This is more specific. People are looking to find out in a testimonial how good you are at a certain thing you are selling, not how amazing you are generally.
Make a list of all the people that:
- Bought the service/product you want to promote. Clients.
- Have worked with you in offering this service and are able to offer a couple of words about you. Partners, collaborators.
- Have been able to observe you, externally, how you were working while offering the respective service. Evaluators. Observers.
- Other individuals that have been in contact with you and have had the possibility, probably even by coincidence, to observe your skills in work, such as: people at a presentation, reporters at a press conference, people that have read your articles, people that have mailed you feedbacks, professors/guides/mentors, consulting providers, trainers of certain courses/formation/workshops/debates you have been to, university colleagues, etc.
These individuals must be willing to offer their names publicly to you. Be careful, the name of a person, even though nobody has heard of it, is very important and is an extremely important service done for you by whoever agrees in giving you a testimonial. Therefore, it is the case to be very appreciative of this, especially if the testimonial is a successful one (we will get there too). You will find out that it is very difficult to obtain a successful testimonial from a promotional point of view. If the person concerned really does not manage to offer you a testimonial you are able to use and you know that the individual has difficulties in expressing ideas through words, it is the case to stop insisting. The best providers of testimonials will first be experienced business people, who use these instruments in their businesses and know their importance. “The competence” of a person in writing a testimonial will be one that stands out for a connoisseur and it will be a great business card for you that somebody has made an effort in writing a quality testimonial.
How do I request a testimonial?
The first answer that comes to my mind is “with care, attention and patience”! The obtaining of testimonials might be one of the most delicate operations from the things you are doing for promoting yourself.
The situation immediately after work. Without a doubt, the most accurate testimonials are obtained on the spot, fresh, when I have just offered the service/product and the client has been able to realize its value. Nevertheless, this is not applicable to every kind of service/product (e.g. a computer program or consulting in objectives management). A testimonial coming from the point of view of a person that has done the time test regarding the utility which the respective product/service has presented might be more useful.
To give an example, it was useful for me asking this client from 2005 a testimonial in 2007: the client was able to verify the value of the consulting services for 2 years:
“I believe that this service is at the base of my personal and professional formation. The techniques I have experimented with this opportunity have served me well in my presentations over the last few years, not only in the logic of my speech but also in managing my anxiety and in channeling my energy towards knowledge and the persuasion of the audience”
Likewise, it might be possible for the individual to need some time for thinking in order to offer something useful and in the moment you force him/her, you will receive something which will not satisfy you. Remember that a testimonial is a way you got it, you cannot request it twice! The moment you get the testimonial, you can correct it eventually and you can ask the person to sign the testimonial “adjusted”. I do not recommend this because you can get better ideas for adjustment later and it is not the case to disturb too many times the individual for a testimonial he/she already has offered you.
Post-work situation. First, you need to call the person and talk directly about this. This subject is not one to be mentioned on the go, it is something for which you need to have a special conversation. Otherwise, it is very likely to get lost in all the other ideas you are transmitting at a certain occasion. There have been persons who requested we meet and discuss regarding the contents of the testimonial, the way and purpose for which it is going to be used. There are even some that would go so far to even request a contract for this. The obtaining of a testimonial from a referent facilitates and forces the creation of a long-term relationship with that referent.
The first thing you need to mention is that a testimonial is a thing requiring little effort. It is easy, especially for somebody who does not know what it is about. This is the way to put it. Otherwise, you risk getting your testimonial a month later, in the best case. If the individual has offered written references before, it is the case to tell him/her what interests you in a more direct manner. If it is someone who actually has never offered in his/her life a testimonial, you can give a link to the articles that are to published on this site about this subject (like this one), or you can explain to the person you are talking about something simple in which he/she uses his/her own words to describe how your service/product for your target public has helped him/her and considers it useful.
Usually, it is a good idea to insist; almost never you will receive it the first time. For obtaining a testimonial from a referent it is needed to make a request up until 3-4 times until you will get it. This thing is valid everywhere, without it being a rule, but it is rather something that it is good to get accustomed to and know beforehand. In a situation, I received a testimonial 10 minutes after I requested it, and in another case, after a year! Anyway, the answer to the question “When do you need it?” is a very specific one and very close to the present moment. At most a week, only if the person is very busy. It is good to call that person sometime before the deadline and remind him/her. If he/she tells you that he/she has not had time, request the testimonial on the telephone, write the words of the referent, read them in the written form at that moment and mail it to him/her afterward, for the final confirmation.
People will find a lot of ways to slink away from this task, giving different reasons: “why do need my references? Who am I to say something?” “I have never done this before; I do not think I am capable of it, I am afraid to hinder you.” “I do not have time.” etc. The moment you receive this types of answers, it is the case to avoid them, assuring the person that it is something that takes little, can go on for a lifetime, will help you enormously and does not require specialized knowledge.
It is good to have a folder with as many references that you use handwritten and signed by referents, which you can show if needed.
Happy Self Branding!
PS. I recommend Ghidul credibilităţii by Andy Szekely (2007)