Being the child of two educators, I grew up hearing my parents’ students ask, “Can you please write me a letter of recommendation?”
And, when teachers are teaching hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of students a year, it can obviously be very time consuming to write each student a letter of recommendation.
So what do many busy educators do?
Assuming they like the student and are willing to put their name in support of the student’s application, they often say, “Write something up about yourself, which I’ll use as a draft.”
In this way, they can tweak, add, subtract, and edit the letter of recommendation so they feel comfortable sending it out, but have the basic work, the gist of what the student needs based on their chosen career path, and the contact information and correct salutation for the receivers, all ready for them.
It’s a help to both the educators and the students. For the teachers, it saves so much valuable time, and for the students, because in addition to the other benefits, it gives them two very powerful ones: the ability to give input as to what kind of letter they need, and, secondly, the fact that they wrote the draft and minimized their teacher’s workload makes it much more likely that the letter will see the light of day and be there for them to help them get where they want to go.
Not only are educators often overworked and underpaid, but most of them share another trait with the rest of us in society: they procrastinate!
One of the key elements of building a successful business is getting, having, and using testimonials.
Testimonials are a key form of social proof, which let your potential clients see that, in fact, there are people out there who have worked with you and are happy with the results -- so happy that they want other people to know about it.
Imagine, you sit down in a restaurant for lunch. The waiter comes over and says, “Would you like to try our special of the day? It’s an ice cream sushi sandwich with pickles. It’s really good!”
You think to yourself, “That sounds absurd! Am I being offered that dish because it’s truly that great [shudder!] or perhaps the boss warned the staff that if they didn't sell out that disgusting ice cream sushi with pickles today, they're out of a job!”
Chances are that in the above scenario, you would probably lean toward the former and decline the offer, right? Well, what if at the next table there was a man, eating his sushi, ice cream, and pickle dish with gusto… and he told you, ice cream dribbling down his chin, “It’s really, really good!” Suddenly, you would be much more likely to try it for yourself.
Why? What happened?
Well, you don’t really believe the waiter, because you know that he has a possible ulterior motive in his suggestion. However, the man at the nearby table has no such financial interest in whether or not you buy this dish, and, hence, his believability to you is greater than the well-dressed waiter standing at your side.
Herein lies the secret of the testimonial: They have no discernable vested interest in what decision you make, so they are inherently more trustworthy than anything that comes from the mouth of a salesperson.
So how do you get testimonials? And how do you use them effectively?
Well, the first thing you need are satisfied clients. But even once you have those, it can be difficult to get testimonials from them. And it’s not because they don’t like you or because they weren’t happy.
More than likely, the main reason holding many people back that giving you a testimonial means they have to do a whole bunch of scary things:
1) Think about what they want to say,
2) Find the time to write it,
3) Get over the “I’m not a writer hump!” and type it,
4) Like what they wrote, and
5) Hope that they got the message you wanted them to say correct, and
6) Edit it, and
7) Send it to you, as a draft, for further input and finessing. And that’s a lot to ask your average busy client!
But what happens when you eliminate as many of those steps?
Just like in business in general, when you offer your clients a “done for you” service, even at a much higher price than general consulting, you will get a percentage of your clients who will be delighted to just have it done, and who will gladly pay much more for that privilege. In testimonials, the same is true.
What you want to do is: Write your own testimonials on behalf of clients.
I can hear your collective gasp. But relax, I’m not saying anything illegal or immoral. I’m not saying to post words in someone else’s name without approval, or to make things up. (Incidentally, falsifying testimonials is not a joke. The FTC has come down on fake testimonials fairly strongly. You’d better be able to back up whatever you are claiming, product wise and testimonial wise.)
What I am saying is to borrow the educators’ toolkit for your own use.
When I am sitting with a client who says something like, “Rabbi, you sounded expensive when I thought about using you, but I got more in an hour here then 15 hours with that other fellow!” I will jot own those words to him in an email and ask him if I can use them with his name. I will usually add some background and flesh it out a bit, and then request it as a LinkedIn recommendation from my client with the line, “Feel free to use as is, modify as you wish, or write your own.”
While many clients will edit lightly, and once in a while someone will take the time to write their own, for the most part, the clients post something much along the lines of what you wanted.
This is extremely valuable, because of another secret of testimonials: You can deal with some potential client hurdles head-on, on your own terms. In the above case, my client thought I was too expensive. But then he admitted he was wrong.
So the real secret to writing your own testimonial drafts is this: You can select different elements likely to be client objections (price, value, expertise, out of the way location) and address them within the client testimonials you are drafting. This means that the chances of getting many alike-sounding testimonials is greatly reduced, and your “whack-a-mole” on the most likely objections of your prospects brings a sale that much tantalizingly closer.