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Getting Customers to Pitch for You Gathering testimonials from happy customers is an easy way to show prospects exactly what you can do for them.

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If you've ever watched the Home Shopping Network or seen aninfomercial-and been tempted to buy-then you understandthe power of testimonials. In our experience, there's aninstantaneous increase in the number of sales when real customersare seen or heard testifying as to how beneficial a product hasbeen for them. It helps potential customers clearly imaginethemselves as proud owners of that product, experiencing the verysame benefits as the person who made the honest testimonial.

Truth sells-and you can't get closer to the truth thanwhen it comes from someone who's had a real-life experiencewith you, your product and your company. If you've got happycustomers, you shouldn't have any trouble getting them to talkabout how pleased they are with your product or service.

Case Histories vs. Testimonials

So what's the difference? In a nutshell, testimonials aresimply positive statements from your customers. They can range frombrief kudos-"These guys saved my job!"-tolonger recountings of how the product or company has performedimpressively. Testimonials are commonly used in selling services,for example, by carpet cleaning companies or car repair shops. Andthe more well-known the testimonial-giver, the more powerful thewords and the impact.

In a case history, you tell a story, demonstrating the problemfaced by your customers and how your product or service solved theproblem. Case histories are often targeted at technical customers.You see them most often used as stand-alone print pieces, asadvertisements in the trade press or as recurrent themes in companybrochures.

Good case histories are rich in detail, including explanatorycharts and graphs. They use the real names of the players, and, ofcourse, they end happily.

Gathering Testimonials

One of the best ways to get prospective clients to buy from youis to introduce them to other satisfied customers. Because youcan't drag your best customers around with you on your salescalls, testimonials can take their place.

Ask your most satisfied clients whether you can interview themabout the positive experiences they've had with your productand company, and record it with a video or digital camera. You canthen load the videos onto your laptop and, with just the click of amouse, play them back for prospective customers. A video or photoof a happy, satisfied customer is worth a thousand impersonal salesbrochures.

If you're ever talking with a client and they give you agreat compliment, ask them to put it in writing so you can use itin a brochure. Received a nice e-mail from a satisfied customer?Ask them if you can put it in the "testimonials" sectionon your Web site. You can also place the testimonials in yourbrochures, in your press kit, on promotional fliers-whereveryou can to toot your own horn.

Ask your current customers to talk about the benefitsthey've received from using your product or service. Sinceyou'll have a number of different testimonials, you shouldalways use the one that best fits the sales scenario in which youfind yourself. They'll be especially effective in presentationsto companies in the same field as the testimonial giver.

Any company worth its salt should have collected and saveddozens of testimonials in its marketing files. Because people tendto rely on the implicit endorsement that's part of thetestimonial's appeal, you should be developing them on anongoing basis and using them whenever you get the chance. And avoidthe temptation to complete a dozen or so and then think you haveenough: You never know when the next testimonial will clinch yournext client.

Drumming Up Case Histories

For case histories, you'll need to alert your salespeople tokeep their eyes and ears open for an interesting, amusing orrevealing use of your product. When writing them up, remember thateach case history should be brief and focused on just one or two ofyour product or service's benefits. And don't make each onesound like all the others. Give them enough character andpersonality to make them readable, without sounding like a preparedadvertisement.

Consider collecting case histories as an ongoing project. Everythree months, each salesperson in your company-even ifthat's just you-should compile a list of client projectsthat may make interesting case histories. To begin, gather the corefacts, along with the best contact for a follow-up interview. Thenassign it to someone on your staff with a knack for writing (orhire someone outside your company to write the case history). Usephotography or charts where they'll help underscore theperformance of your product. Be sure to include direct quotes fromyour client. And if you can attach some numbers to the performanceof your products-boosts in production, more satisfiedcustomers, increased retail traffic counts and so on-it willmake your case history even more compelling.

Finally, remember that the process of collecting testimonialsand case histories is also a good way to do on-the-spot marketresearch. You'll learn a lot about your company and what yousell by asking for feedback. This also affords you a way of keepingin touch with your existing customers. Just calling for a"testimonial update" is a sure way of staying connectedto your clients-and helping them remember just what a greatcompany you have.

Compiled from an article written by Barry Farber previouslypublished on Entrepreneur.com and from Knock-Out Marketingby Jack Ferrari.

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