Get It in Writing

By Lain Ehmann

Common wisdom among salespeople says that if we educate our prospects on what we’re selling, the reasons why they should buy will be obvious, says Paul Johnson, founder of Panache and Systems LLC. In reality, though, the prospect wants to know: Who is it besides you that’s saying this is a wonderful thing?

There’s an easy way to answer that question, says Johnson. His surefire way of lowering a prospect’s anxiety level? Testimonial letters.

By offering your prospect letters from current customers willing to sing your praises, you can accomplish a couple of key things, says Johnson. When used early in the sales cycle, even at the first call, testimonial letters can help salespeople establish credibility. After you’ve presented your proposal, letters can reinforce key messages and provide proof that your company can do what you say it can. “Oftentimes the letters that you provide can address specific objections that have come up in the buying cycle,” says Johnson.

Johnson advises salespeople to take the lead when asking customers for a letter. “Most of the time,” he says, “the biggest obstacle to getting a letter is having the people carve out the time to do it.” So instead of waiting months for Company X to generate a hastily written generic letter, Johnson suggests requesting a 15-minute phone conversation during which you ask key questions that will help you generate a draft letter for your customer’s signature. That way you can tailor the letter to meet your current needs. “The point is not just to get letters, but to get letters that help support your message,” he says.

Managers are in the perfect position to spearhead a testimonial letters program for their team. Johnson suggests running a contest for two or three months that offers a modest reward – $25 or so – for each letter a salesperson generates. More often than not, “20% of the salespeople will get all the letters,” he says. No matter. It’s perfectly appropriate to create a team portfolio of letters for each salesperson to use. “Using other people’s letters is not a problem,” says Johnson. “It indicates more depth and breadth to the company.”

For more information, or to view samples of successful testimonial letters, please click on