Customers like to feel reassured that the purchase they are about to make will do everything that the salesperson has told them it will do. Why? Because there is a principle based around social proof that effectively confirms, "If other customers like this, it must be good."
The power of using testimonials during different stages of the sales process increases sales when "real" customers are seen or heard testifying as to how beneficial a product/service has been for them. They increase your credibility, because they are third-party endorsements rather than words out of your own mouth.
"If you become a testimonial-based seller (which I believe to be the most powerful form of sales in the world), then you can get testimonials for every element, or every step of your sales cycle," says Jeffrey Gitomer, author of the Little Red Book of Sales Answers.
The goal of a customer is to predict the future about a product or service, and by offering real stories from other real customers, you can turn a picture of your proposition into a tangible experience.
When using testimonials, there are a number of elements that can maximize their effectiveness.
The more specific a testimonial is, the more power it has for the customer. For example, "Great company, great service" lacks meaning because it is vague and doesn't tell the customer anything. Consider the impact when a testimonial becomes more specific: "I was really impressed with this company's speed of service. They pulled out all the stops so that I had the product sitting in my warehouse within 24 hours."
Every testimonial should include the customer's name, their title and their organization's name (if relevant), and ideally a thumbnail-size photograph of that person. This helps to convey the authenticity of the testimonial and builds credibility.
Dividing testimonials into different aspects of the sales process can be really useful. When used in context, they create more impact. For example, if a salesperson is struggling to get an appointment with a prospect, a relevant testimonial could help persuade that prospect to agree to a meeting: "It took me two years before I agreed to meet this company. Having worked with them almost a year, I wish I'd seen them earlier."
Within the context of the sales cycle, testimonials can be used at many stages, particularly: initial letters/e-mails to request a meeting, sales presentations to reinforce key points, objection-handling and negotiations, post-meeting follow-ups to provide reassurance, and managing ongoing relationships with regular contact.
Validating the benefits of your product or service can be achieved brilliantly by using a video format for your testimonials at the end of your presentation. This provides a powerful "benefits-driven" summary that confirms and proves your claims. Just remember, the only thing better than saying the right thing at the right time is when your customers do it for you - and better.
You and your team are already acutely aware of your most frequently encountered objections. That's why testimonials should acknowledge and mention these objections, before explaining why they still decided to buy from your organization. For example, "I was initially surprised with their prices until I saw the quality of their product and experienced their vast range of promotional services."
Testimonials are really powerful when they acknowledge an objection that paces the probable experiences of your prospects, and then wipes out the objection with an overarching benefit.
To help busy customers respond to your request, provide them with other examples of testimonials so they can see how easy they are to write. It also helps if you can provide them with a simple structure to follow, for example: Why did you agree to meet us? What persuaded you to buy our product? What benefits have you gained from using this product? How would you describe our level of service?
Finally, when requesting testimonials, you are looking to obtain a genuine viewpoint that praises your organization/product/service. Therefore, the best time to ask for this is when your customer has experienced the benefits of your product/service.