From Whom and How to Request a Testimonial


” 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 essential to determine as clearly and precisely as possible what you want to receive in the testimonial, as an example, not in 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 particular thing you are selling, not how amazing you are generally.

Make a list of all the people who:

  • Bought the service/product you want to promote. Clients.
  • Have worked with you in offering this service and can offer a couple of words about you. Partners, collaborators.
  • Have observed externally how you were working while providing 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 essential service done for you by whoever agrees to give you a testimonial. Therefore, it is the case to be very appreciative of this, especially if the testimonial is successful (we will get there too). You will find it 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 can use and you know that the individual has difficulties in expressing ideas through words, it is the case to stop insisting. The best testimonials providers 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 stand out for a connoisseur. It will be a great business card for you that somebody has made an effort to write a quality testimonial.


How do I request a testimonial?

The first answer that comes to my mind is “with care, attention, and patience”! Obtaining testimonials might be one of the most delicate operations of the things you are doing to promote yourself.

The situation was immediately after work. The most accurate testimonials are obtained on the spot, fresh, when I have just offered the service/product, and the client has realized its value. Nevertheless, this does not apply to every service/product (e.g., a computer program or consulting in objectives management). A testimonial from the point of view of a person who has done the time test regarding the utility which the respective product/service has presented might be more helpful.

To give an example, it was helpful 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 this service is based on 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 toward knowledge and the persuasion of the audience.”

Av. Cristina Ţigănucă

Likewise, it might be possible for the individual to need some time for thinking to offer something useful, and when you force him/her, you will receive something that will not satisfy you. Remember that a testimonial is how you got it; you cannot request it twice! The moment you get the testimonial, you can correct it eventually and ask the person to sign the testimonial “adjusted”. I do not recommend this because you can get better ideas for adjustment later. It is not the case to disturb the individual for a testimonial he/she already has offered too many times for 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 particular conversation. Otherwise, it will likely get lost in all the other ideas you transmit on a specific occasion. There have been persons who requested we meet and discuss the contents of the testimonial, the way, and the purpose for which it will be used. There are even some that would go so far as to even request a contract for this. Obtaining a testimonial from a referent facilitates creating 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, in the best case, you risk getting your testimonial a month later. If the individual has offered written references before, it is the case to tell him/her what interests you more directly. Suppose it is someone who actually has never shown in his/her life a testimonial. In that case, you can give a link to the articles that are to be 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 valuable.

Usually, it is a good idea to insist; rarely will you receive it the first time. To obtain a testimonial from a referent, you must make a request up to 3-4 times until you get it. This thing is valid everywhere, without a rule, but it is good to get accustomed to and know beforehand. In one 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 particular 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 many ways to slink away from this task, giving different reasons: “why do you 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 these 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.

A folder with as many references as you use is suitable, handwritten, and signed by referents, which you can show if needed.


Thank you!

Happy Self Branding!

PS. You may access this list [ro, blog] for a list of articles treating personal branding.  

Marcus Victor Grant

 Translation by Răzvan Goldstein of the article “Cui și cum să cer un testimonial, “previously published in Romanian on the 16th of March 2011 on Discerne. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2008-present, all rights reserved.

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.





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