It only serves to show what sort of person a man must be who can’t even get testimonials. No, no; if a man brings references, it proves nothing; but if he can’t, it proves a great deal. – Joseph Pulitzer
Have you ever done some work that’s delivered a healthy return to your clients – a result you can both be pleased with?
Have you also thought of asking them for a testimonial – and then parked the thought, a little embarrassed by the idea and not quite sure where to start?
If you search the Internet for suggestions on what to put in a testimonial you get quite a lot of rubbish.
It starts with the advice that you should ask for a testimonial – I suppose that makes sense so far.
But then you get a selection of poorly drafted email templates that say little or a long list of questions that can act as writing prompts.
The problem with both approaches is that they lack focus.
If you ask someone to just write whatever they want they’ll either find it hard to get started or write just enough to make you go away.
If you provide a list of questions then they’ll answer them, but in the process probably end up losing the will to live a little.
The thing with writing something like a testimonial is that you need it to tell a story – but it needs to be a complete one.
So maybe it’s worth thinking of an outline to help structure it.
The outline in the picture above is a combination of a writing approach from the book Can Do Writing and Neil Rackham’s Spin Selling model.
In Can Do Writing the authors suggest that you should start writing every document with a purpose statement.
A purpose statement addresses the following questions:
- What type of document is this? – testimonial
- What does the document do? – describes
- What information does the audience need? – savings/results
- Who is the audience? – prospective customers
- What will the audience do with the information? – trust it
A purpose statement for a testimonial might read something like this:
The purpose of this testimonial is to describe how the XYZ company saved $X00,000 from our manufacturing operations through their consulting work.
An introductory paragraph using this kind of format puts the results up front – and tells prospective customers who manufacturing firms that there is interesting information coming up.
Now, follow up with the SPIN model.
This starts with describing the situation.
We were faced with rising manufacturing costs in our main product division.
Then follow up by examining the problems caused by this situation.
The increased costs at a time of budget restrictions meant we had to stop bidding on certain projects.
Examine what the implications are of making such a decision.
The reductions in expected profits meant we were considering painful headcount reductions.
And how did what you did help?
XYZ consultants identified $X00,000s of savings in our processes through optimising shifts and reducing machine use.
Now clearly I know very little about manufacturing operations – but if you ask your client to write something that follows that approach you’ll end up with four very usable paragraphs.
And that’s probably all you need for a useful and persuasive testimonial.
Now you could write this for them – but it’s probably better in their own words.
And even better on letter-headed paper.