Six Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials

Most of us ask for testimonials. And if we follow up and pester our customers enough, we get testimonials.

There’s only one problem. Our testimonials have no power.

Testimonials are stories. And stories have power and grace, flow and rhythm. Look around you and you’ll see none of that in most testimonials.

Limp testimonials are a fact of life, because clients don’t know how to give testimonials. But more importantly, because we don’t have a clue about how to ask for testimonials.

As I mentioned last week, the way to ask for testimonials is to use six key questions.

The six questions you need to ask to get a powerful testimonial are:

  1. What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from buying this product?
  2. What did you find as a result of buying this product?
  3. What specific feature did you like most about this product?
  4. What would be three other benefits about this product?
  5. Would you recommend this product? If so, why?
  6. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Some folks may use slightly different terms for #1, like “What was your main concern about buying this product?”

You can slightly amend this question, but don’t stray too much away from it, because it’s critical to bringing out the objection and the reason why this customer (and others) may have been hesitating to buy.

A more detailed explanation of each of the six questions:

1) What was the obstacle in your mind that would have prevented you from buying this product?

We ask this question because the customer always has a perception of an obstacle. No matter how ready the customer is to buy, there’s always a hitch. The hitch could be money, or time, or availability, or relevance — or a whole bunch of issues.

When you ask this question, it brings out those issues. And it does something more. It gives you an insight into issues you may not have considered, because the client is now reaching into their memory to see what could have been the deal-breaker.

There’s always an obstacle, and it’s often something you may not have thought of. So when the customer brings up this obstacle, it presents an angle that’s unique, personal, and dramatic.

2) What did you find as a result of buying this product?

This question is important, because it defuses that obstacle. When a client answers this question, they talk about why the purchase was worth it, despite the obvious obstacles.

3) What specific feature did you like most about this product?

Now you’re digging deeper.

If you ask the customer to focus on the entire product, the answer gets “waffly.” That’s why you want to focus on a single feature or benefit that the customer liked most. This brings out that one feature in explicit richness and detail.

4) What would be three other benefits of this product?

Having already got one big feature, you can now go a little wide and see what else the customer found useful.

You can substitute the number “three” with “two.” You could even remove the number completely. But the number does make it easier for your customer to address the question. It lets her focus on a limited number of things and give you the ones that were most useful to her.

5) Would you recommend this product? If so, why?

You may not think this is an important question, but psychologically it’s very important. When a customer recommends something, there’s more than your product at stake. The customer’s integrity is at stake too.

Unless the customer feels strongly about the product, they won’t be keen to recommend it. And when they do recommend it, they’re saying to prospective buyers: “Hey, I recommend it, and here are the reasons!”

6) Is there anything you’d like to add?

By this point, the customer has often said all she has to say. But there’s never any harm in asking this question.

The questions before this one tend to “warm up” the customer, and sometimes you get the most amazing parting statements that you could never have imagined.

Using testimonials to find and address objections

This detailed method of constructing testimonials brings us to a very interesting observation: the testimonial is the flip side of the objection.

Notice the first question we asked the customer?

What was the obstacle in your mind that would have prevented you from buying this product?

That “obstacle” the customer is talking about is really their biggest objection.

So what does this tell us about how we should plan our testimonials?

We should plan our testimonials to directly defuse each objection

Let’s say you’re keen to sell a trip to the wildlife on the Galápagos Islands.

Obviously, the trip is an exciting idea for travelers seeking to explore the wildlife on the islands. But even thrill seekers will most certainly have their objections. So if you did your homework and interviewed the potential customer you’d get objections such as:

  1. It’s too expensive
  2. It’s too far Pokies to travel
  3. There are no comfortable accommodations

Now let’s assume these are the three main objections

What are the testimonials going to say?

  1. I thought it was too expensive, but (here’s what I found)
  2. I thought it was too far to travel, but (here’s what I found)
  3. I thought we’d have to rough it out, but (here’s what I found)

Each testimonial is a mirror image of the objection

Sure you have already addressed objections earlier in your sales copy, but this defusing is now being done by the customer, who is a third party. And you know what that means, right?

A third party is always far more believable to your prospective customers. And because each testimonial is specifically linked to an objection, it systematically reduces the risk not once, but twice.

But how do you go about controlling the angle of the testimonial?

You may want the customer to talk about expense, or distance travelled, or relevance. But the customer may want to talk about her fear of seasickness, or dangerous animals. So how do you control the angle?

You don’t.

You’re in the business of helping to construct the testimonial. This means you’re asking questions that give the testimonial structure. You don’t need to control the situation.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t influence things. Here’s how you go about attempting to get the angle you desire.

Start with the key objections you need to address

Call up the customer. Ask the customer if expense, or distance, or comfort was one of their big issues.

If they say yes, continue down that track, and they’ll give you the specifics of why expense or distance or comfortable accommodation was an issue.

But if they disagree, and come up with a completely different issue, for example they say, “I thought the bad weather was going to be a dampener,” then hey, keep following that customer’s train of thought.

Because that train of thought is now revealing an objection you hadn’t considered. And it may be a valid objection that just hasn’t come to your attention yet.

However, you may decide that the stray objection isn’t worth pursuing. And that you can’t use the objection and corresponding testimonial. Well, no problem. If you decide you can’t use the testimonial, you can always call other clients to get the angle you’re looking for.

Sooner rather than later, you’re going to get the exact objections, and the exact testimonials, that help to defuse those key objections.

Which means that the testimonial isn’t something we just throw into our marketing. It means the testimonial is doing some real grunt-work in overcoming objections.

The factor that makes the testimonial so much more powerful is that it’s doing so from a “third party” perspective, and doing it in a way that you as the seller could never do.

You could never bring out the detailed specifics that a client brings out

You could never paint the imagery and the emotion. And even if you could, it would sound like a whole lot of puffery. But when the client comes up with all that detail and emotion, the testimonial becomes rich, complex, and yet believable. And that’s the main job of the testimonial.

Please try the six questions out for yourself! And let us know how you do with them in the comments.

By the way, if you missed the first post on testimonials, you can find it here: The Secret Life of Testimonials

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a free report on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Be sure to check out his blog, too.

An editorial P.S.

Hi all, this is Sonia, intruding on Sean’s post for a moment if I may.

When Sean sent me this pair of posts, he was also kind enough to include a review copy of his new product, The Secret Life of Testimonials.

This pair of posts in and of themselves will get you remarkable testimonials. So the first thing I’d like to suggest is that you contact some happy customers today and use the techniques he’s taught you to boost the power of your testimonials. I think you’re going to be impressed with the results.

But if you want to make your testimonials even more effective, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Secret Life of Testimonials. That’s an affiliate link, so if you decide to invest in his program, we’ll earn a few dollars. But I’m quite confident that you’ll make much more than that by putting Sean’s teaching into place. It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I’m not easily impressed. :)

Testimonials are both one of the most important pieces of your marketing message and one of the biggest stumbling blocks for many of us. Having a well-thought-out system can make all the difference for you. I hope you’ll at least go check out the details for yourself.

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  1. Jason Rose - 14. Apr, 2010

    RT @growarentroll : Six Questions to Ask for Powerful Testimonials

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