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"Works Great!"

Using testimonials to unleash the power of the second opinion

If you've ever watched the Home Shopping Network or seen an infomercial, then you know about the power of testimonials. In my experience, there's an instantaneous increase in the number of sales when real customers are seen or heard testifying as to how beneficial a product has been for them. It helps potential customers clearly imagine themselves as proud owners of that product, experiencing the very same benefits as the person who made the honest testimonial.

The best way to get prospective clients to buy from you is to introduce them to other satisfied customers. Because you can't drag your best customers around with you on all your sales calls, testimonials can take their place. Luckily, you don't have to be on a shopping network or in an expensive infomercial to use testimonials to your advantage.

Ask your best customers whether you can interview them about the positive experiences they've had with your product and company, and record it with a video or digital camera. You can then load the videos onto your laptop and, with just the click of a mouse, play them back for prospective customers.

A picture of a happy customer is worth a thousand impersonal sales brochures.

For example, maybe you know of some situation where the cost of your product was initially an issue for a particular customer, who decided to buy instead from a lower-priced competitor. But then, after discovering that the selected vendor wouldn't be able to deliver, the customer came back to do business with you. The customer had realized that the lower price he or she paid in the short run would actually cost more in the long run, and the value you provide in quality and service is more than worth the extra money.

That's the perfect kind of customer to give you a testimonial. Then, should you run into another prospect with similar concerns, you can say, "I understand how you feel, and other customers have felt that way, too. In fact, here are some comments from a customer who had the same concerns as you do now." You can then open your laptop and play the testimonial for the prospect.

Ask your contented customers to talk about the benefits they've received from using your product or service. If you have a number of different testimonials, you can always use the one that best fits the sales scenario in which you find yourself. One particular rep I know takes pictures of customers using his product. A picture of a happy, satisfied customer is worth a thousand impersonal sales brochures.

Truth sells-and you can't get closer to the truth than when it comes from someone who's had a real-life experience with you, your product and your company.

This story appears in the February 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »