«Return to Blog List Avoid ‘The Kiss of Death’ When Asking for Your Next Testimonial


Note from Casey Hibbard: While I’m out on maternity leave until the end of July, this blog will feature a summer guest blogger series with content from experts in marketing, organizational storytelling and writing.

By Bill Metcalf

One of the most powerful tools in any marketing arsenal is raving testimonials from your happy clients. So every time you haul out the old brochure to “spruce it up,” write a press release or develop a new website, you go through the painful task of begging for testimonials.

Asking for testimonials from clients – yuck!
Seriously, doesn’t your stomach turn just a bit and your throat become parched just as you are about to ask . . . no, let’s be honest here . . . beg, for a testimonial from a client?

Worst of all, most of the time, you don’t beg once. No, you have to beg continually. It’s embarrassing. Finally, you give up, write the damn thing for them, and carry it over for them to sign. You consider yourself lucky, if you haven’t lost your client’s good will due to all of your badgering.

Victory? Well, sort of. Except that your testimonials all have that familiar ring of your own prose. They literally drip with syrupy phrases like, “outstanding service,” “a true partner,” “a commitment to excellence.”

Maybe your quest for a testimonial was doomed from the start!
Read this typical email and ask yourself if you have not – in one form or another – said or written something like this to a client when asking for a testimonial.

Jo –

I was wondering if you would be willing to do me a favor. You recently told me how happy you were with our service to you over the years, especially after handling that big shipping problem you had. (Whew! That was a close one. So glad we could rescue that order for you.)

Anyway, we’re putting together a new web page and would really like to have a couple of testimonials on the site. Would you be willing to help us out?

Dinner is on me afterwards!


Justin has just delivered this testimonial’s Kiss of Death. How? Well, first of all, he asked for a testimonial! What do you mean, “He asked for a testimonial?” How else would you ever expect to get one?

How do you feel when someone asks you for a favor? If you have teenagers, your knee jerk reaction might be to put your hand on your wallet. If it is a supplier you like, you certainly may want to help them out, since they gave you good service.

But either way you look at it, when someone asks you to do them a favor by giving them a testimonial, you do not put this request on the very top of your “To Do List” because there is no direct benefit to you.

What’s In It For Them? You see, in asking your client to do you a favor by giving you a testimonial, you have forgotten the cardinal rule of commerce – “What’s in this for me?” Take a look at this alternative approach:

Jo –

I am so pleased that our work is getting you the results you deserve! You know, the reason you are getting these great results is that YOU are an exceptional client. Not everyone “gets” the value of what we do, and how it can enhance their business. You do. And you take ACTION to really harvest the value of your investment.

We like to showcase some of our best customers to demonstrate how they are using our services to better serve their clients. While these interviews will no doubt say some nice things about us, they are more “information-driven.” That is, anyone who listens to this interview will discover ways that they, too, can improve their business through your successful experience.

If you would like to be “showcased” to position your company as a market leader, then I will have someone call to arrange a telephone interview. He will record and edit the interview. YOU will have final approval of the finished product before anyone else sees it. During the interview, he will make a point of positioning your company as a forward thinking, customer-driven organization.

Trust me. You will love doing this interview with him. He is a professional in every way. He makes you feel really comfortable. And then he edits the interview so well that he can even make me sound articulate! 😉

I am copying him on this email and hope that you two will connect soon. Nothing to prepare. He will guide you through the whole process.

He will probably only need 20 minutes for the interview, but he likes to have you block out an hour just in case you get started late, or you want to say more about your company.

Please feel free to pass on this opportunity Jo, but I feel that this would be a great opportunity for you and for our company as well.

I’ve attached a sample of these interviews to this email.



Can you see the WIIFT in this approach? Your client gets “showcased.” They are selected as an “exceptional client” who uses your products or services “to better serve their clients.” In other words, you will show how your services create value for your customer’s customers! When this interview is finished, it should present your customer in such a positive light they would want to put the interview on their own website.

Try this approach with your customers. At the very least, stop begging and start finding What’s-In-It-For-Them. If you do just that one thing, your testimonials will get instantly better. If not . . . pucker up baby . . . your Kiss of Death is on its way.

Bill Metcalf records telephone interviews with your Raving Fans to “do the math” and determine the real cash value of what you offer your customers. These interviews can be used as multimedia testimonials or Compelling Cases can turn these interviews into powerful written case studies. Discover more about Bill at www.MoreAndBetterClients.com.

4 Responses to Avoid ‘The Kiss of Death’ When Asking for Your Next Testimonial

  1. Mike Sweeney says:

    Very interesting twist on asking for a testimonial Bill, I will try this. Any thoughts on how to best word it when you’re a solo professional and don’t use outside interviewers?

  2. John Evans says:

    Thanks for a post that offers such a clear illustration and model to follow. Sharing the successes of our clients, regardless of our contribution, still means we win merely by the association. Less about us, more about them …a time tested concept.

    Always liked this one … “Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

  3. Bill Metcalf says:

    I suggest that you record what I call “Client Value Conversations.” After your client has a big breakthrough, just say to them,

    “Hey, you just made a big breakthrough! Congrats. Now let’s figure out just how we got here so we might just have another breakthrough sometime soon!

    I am going to record this interview and will send it to you. It will serve to help us both get better moving forward. I am going to ask you some specific questions about exactly how I helped you get that success. I am not always sure what works for each client. The more I know what I did that helped you the more I can help you again. Make sense?

    I will have you call into my free conference call line and we can record it there. Here is the dial in info . . .”

    (You can use http://www.freeconferencecall.com for this service)

    You will still have to dig to get the answers — even more than I do — when you do this call with your own client, because what you do best — the very reason people actually BUY from you — is normally LACKING in your marketing material because you take for granted what you do naturally. We ALL do!

    So when they say, “Well, you really helped me get focused.” (fill in the blank here) Then ask,

    “Well, how did that happen. Let’s be really intentional here — partly to help me know how to coach you — and partly so you can learn how to coach yourself. What happened this time, that was different from before when you were not focused . . .”

    You get the idea? You have to keep digging. My favorite comment about coaches and consultants from clients is: “He is such a great listener!”

    My reply is always, “Great. But all he had to do to make you THINK he was listening was shut his mouth. What did he do or say that made you FEEL listened to?”

    You may be able to discover your unique selling proposition over time in conversations with your clients. But my guess is that it will be slow going because it is so hard for you to get outside of yourself to ask the right questions. Think about it. If you take for granted what you do best (and MOST people do), then it is doubly hard for you to dig to get answers that lead to that.

    Click on this link: http://www.moreandbetterclients.com/FreeStarterKit.htm Download the FREE Starter Kit and see some of what I am talking about in the work I did for John Lafferty, the CFO Pro.


    Ps. Oh, wait a minute. You are still wondering how to turn those comments into multimedia testimonials, right? Simple. After you review the call, IF you find something useful and usable after some careful editing. You send it back to them along with the full interview. Then you say:

    “Hey, I wonder if you would like to help other executives (fill in the blanks here) overcome the challenges you have while working with me? Would you like to do that? We can position this also to reflect positively on your organization to make them look great. If you like the idea, listen to the short edited sound bite I have included, and if you like it, we can post it to my website. You might even want to post it to yours.”

    I know, I know. “How do I get them to say “Yes!” Why would they ever want to post on their own website. Well, there is only so much I can answer for you here for free. Want some more help? You can book just some consulting time at the link below and I can help you further! 🙂


  4. Hank Shaw says:

    very good advice.