Let’s be honest – selling isn’t easy. Unless you can convince your prospect that your product or service will give them the result they’re seeking, you won’t get the sale.

And what you say is often taken with a pinch of salt. After all, we’re all sceptics these days.

So how can you almost instantly prove to the prospect that you can deliver on your promises?

It’s actually much easier than you may think – you use Social Proof.

Although there are other good options for social proof (which you should also use), customer testimonials are the most common and often the most powerful form.

What surprises me therefore is how often I see businesses trying to sell and market their offering without the use of testimonials. You make your life very difficult if you don’t use them.

Testimonials add credibility to your marketing materials and the ‘story’ you’re telling becomes far more believable. Your reputation is enhanced and a new prospect will know that other buyers have received the benefits you’ve promised.

So, what are the key elements to a great set of testimonials? Here are my 7 recommendations…

1.  Identify the person giving the testimonials by their name, their title, what they do and where they’re from. Add a photo if possible. If you can’t put the details of the person providing the testimonial, you’re better off not using it – people may suspect it’s a fake!

2.  Make sure the testimonials are specific. For example: “I’m delighted to say this workshop has made a significant difference” – a difference in what?! This type of generalised testimonial is weak, so it’s best to use a more precise description of what has been provided and the difference it has made. Better still, giving exact facts and figures can be really effective, such as “our business made £24,900 more profit after using ABC Product”

3.  Make sure the testimonial is written in a positive way. Rather than saying “not a waste of money” (which could do more harm than good), it should be turned around to “every penny spent was well worth it”.

4.  Obtain 3-4 paragraphs if possible, with each paragraph vividly describing one major benefit. You can then use one testimonial for up to four different circumstances.

5.  Obtain a range of testimonials. Variety is important as you can use each to highlight specific benefits of your offering, or even to counter the objections of potential customers.

6.  Get testimonials from a diverse group – from both sexes for example to avoid alienation (unless the offering only applies to one sex of course).

7.  Request video as well as written testimonials. Video testimonials are fantastic because not only can you can share the video on your website and on social media, they’re also versatile – you can transcribe a written version for other uses.

At this point you might be wondering how you can fulfil all of these recommendations… How can you make sure that they’re specific, for example?

Well, in my experience, customers are often happy for some adjustments to be made as they want the testimonial to be useful to you. You can modify the testimonial to make it snappier and more specific, and then get approval for the change. Do it diplomatically of course!

And don’t worry if you don’t have any testimonials available yet – one of the great things about them is that your satisfied customers will usually be more than happy to provide one, if you just ask. Requesting a testimonial straight after you’ve completed the work is the perfect time.

Once you have testimonials, I recommend placing them in all your marketing communications. But don’t stop there – put them in every place where your prospects will see them, such as in your offices, in your reception areas, on your walls. Blow them up and parade them!

If you’re not using them already, or the testimonials you have are poor, you’ll see a fast and measurable improvement in your sales and profits once you start using great testimonials.