The Best Reference

Regardless of whether you’re a speaker, coach, consultant or business person: what works better than explaining on your website just how good you are? Exactly: letting your clients do the talking.

But do you recognize the situation in which a hugely enthusiastic client – after your presentation, consultation or other contribution – faithfully swears they will write a reference for you, only for it to be quiet… for a very long time? And then when you, very carefully and with the greatest diplomacy, remind them by mail or phone about it, that you receive a very ‘glossless’ and formal reference?

I would like to share a really simple solution that will help you get the best references. Your client will not feel like they are doing you a favor, but thank you for the extra service…

First off, it’s really important that I explain the difference between a friendly reference and a good reference. Normally we’re delighted with this sort of thing:

  • “Esther is a great speaker”
  • “Peter is a highly professional coach”
  • “It was most enjoyable doing business with Joanne”

Are these good references? No, they are friendly references. They are about YOU and the PROCESS, and not about the customer and the RESULT of your contribution.

A good reference talks about the result that your interaction with the client brought about. Something like this:

  • “After Esther’s lecture, our sales and research teams are working together better than ever. They are now thinking in terms of solutions instead of problems.”
  • “With his three-step-plan, Peter helped bring about an 8% reduction in absenteeism in the office.”
  • “Joanne pointed out that we are missing opportunities in the debt collection process. Thanks to her tip we managed to cash in on 20% of our outstandings.”

So make sure your website mentions not only the process, but specifically the results you expect your clients to have. Be as practical as possible. After all, this is what it’s all about.

How do you make sure your client writes exactly what you need? Easy. You turn the roles around. You do the preparation and make it easy for them.

Your client does not know what type of references you need. If he or she is ‘forced’ to write a reference, they will do what they THINK is expected from them. So you’ll get “Esther is a great speaker”… And of course your client is really busy. Even though they mean it when they promise they’ll write you a great review, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life that intention is going to slip to the bottom of the priority list and will be seen as an obligation. You don’t want to bother your clients, but hey, they said they would write something and you need their testimonial. And your client feels guilty when you bring it up again. In short: this is a lose-lose situation.

How do you convert it into a win-win situation? Imagine the following. A few weeks after the project, you call your client. You have a chat about the event and ask how the project / participants are doing. You can probably give a few more tips to retain/implement what they’ve learned. During this talk you should specifically ask about practical results following the event. Have they noticed or felt any differences? During the call, your clients is going to give some examples that would be perfect as a reference. Like: “The great thing is that, our receptionist who normally complains, learned from your ‘no excuses!’ talk that she has a choice as to how she reacts to external circumstances. She’s all friendly now, trying to come up with creative solutions to her challenges and is inspiring others to do so, too. We’ve really noticed that the ‘complaint culture’ is disappearing and that people are taking on responsibilities.” Now at this point you say: “That’s great to hear! I am currently updating my website and would love to mention what you just said as a reference. Is that okay with you? You know what, if I put his in an email to you, would you mind checking whether I get the facts right and approve it? If you want, I could include a link to your website so that it’s also a bit of advertising for your company.” Nice and easy.

Next you ask whether there is anything else you can do to facilitate whatever process it is that they are dealing with and/or to ensure the change is permanent and you offer a few more tips (Note: this is not meant as a sales discussion, but rather to genuinely offer more help). At the end of the discussion you send an email with the quote and once it’s approved you’re high and dry. The great thing is: if you do this right, your client will see it as an extra service, not as you asking for a favor. You make it easy for them, which they will be grateful for, and you have demonstrated involvement and responsibility. Plus you get the best reference!

Don’t use this example literally, or see it as a ‘trick’. But if you feel it suits your way of working and you feel comfortable with it, feel free to give it a try. In your own way, in your own words. It’s important that you find your own methodology so that it perfectly dovetails who YOU are.

Another great way to get good testimonials is to shoot a short video of your client just after the event/session you did with them, when they are energized and inspired. Just ask them ‘what did you get out of this session? What is this going to change for you?’ and tape their response. You can either use the video of transcribe the good parts into a written testimonial. This takes you and your client even less time and also captures the spirit of the moment.

So: no more excuses! Make sure you deliver added value to your clients AND that afterwards you can use their experiences to let others know the results you achieved for them.