To Boost Sales, Put Your Customer Testimonials on Steroids

By Heather Baldwin

No doubt you understand the power of testimonials in swaying a prospect’s decision in your favor. But what if you could put that testimonial on steroids and make your satisfied client’s word carry even more weight and power? That’s essentially what an endorsement does, particularly when it’s from one high-level executive to another.

“My vision of an endorsement is when your best client writes a letter to a specific prospect telling about you and your wonderful product or service,” says Nancy Michaels, founder of Lexington, Massachusetts-based Impression Impact and author of Perfecting Your Pitch: 10 Proven Strategies for Winning the Clients Everyone Wants (Career Press, 2005). “Endorsement campaigns can replace cold calling and pitching for the rest of your business career.” If you want to try a new method of reaching decision makers and hooking their interest, try Michaels’ three-tier system for a successful endorsement campaign.

Tier 1: Identify your best client and prepare endorsement letters.

  1. Identify your best client and approach him or her, either in person or by phone, with your request. To increase your chances of success, ask someone with whom you have a long-standing relationship and a track record of results.
  2. Write the endorsement letter on your client’s behalf, using bullet points, facts and statistics about the results you’ve achieved. Michaels says there is mounting evidence that two to three pages works best – anything less doesn’t show enough substance; anything more is too long, especially for busy CEOs.
  3. Create a prospect list, ensuring that your client’s direct competitors are not on the list.
  4. Give your client the opportunity to review and edit the letter and prospect list. Consider including some additional information or a sample of your product to support the endorsement letter. As an example, for one of Michaels’ endorsement campaigns, she enclosed copies of her book. The endorser’s letter said: Nancy would be happy to meet with you in person or over the phone. Here is her contact information and here is a copy of her book as well. The book was a freebie that helped build immediate goodwill, says Michaels.
  5. Offer to return the favor. Michaels once told an endorser if there was anything he needed her to do for him, she would be happy to do it. About a month later he took her up on it, requesting her to attend a political fundraiser at his offices for a ticket price of $1,000. “I did it because it was the right thing to do,” she says. “However you can thank your client for endorsing you, be ready, willing and able to do it.”
  6. Collect the company letterhead so you can reproduce the letter and do the mailing yourself.
  7. Handwrite your prospects’ names on the envelope or package and then mail them from the client’s town so the postmark is accurate. If you don’t live in the client’s town, think about friends or colleagues who live there and could do the mail drop for you.

Tier 2: Send a follow-up letter from you.
Two to three weeks after sending the endorsement letters, send a letter on your own company letterhead to the same list of prospects. Remind them at the beginning of the letter about your client’s willingness and generosity in sending a letter on your behalf, and then reiterate the key points made in the endorsement letter without being redundant. Include a fax-back form and two or three other testimonial letters or quotes from other satisfied clients. Here’s another opportunity, adds Michaels, to include additional relevant information, such as a tip sheet on your product or service.

Tier 3: Follow up with a final letter.
Two to three weeks after the first follow-up letter, send a final letter that includes a copy of the original endorsement to anyone who has not yet responded. Update them on any additional news related to the success you have brought to your best client. As a final step, follow up this letter with a phone call.