Archive for the ‘Testimonials’ Category

Dear Danielle: Should Prospects Be Allowed to Contact Clients Who Have Provided Testimonials?

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Dear Danielle:

Do you think I should allow a prospective client to contact my “testimonials” to get information about me.  They call them references, but they’re not references, they’re testimonials from folks I’ve known and/or worked with over the years who have spoken highly of me and my work. I told the prospective client that I do not want them to contact my testimonials directly without their permission. I provide testimonials and they can view recommendations on my LinkedIn profile to further my credibility, but that’s it. If I allowed every prospective client to contact my testimonials or recommendations, they would be inundated with calls and emails and I do not want to burden them with that. I told the prospective client that I operate as a professional business provider and that I wasn’t applying for a job or work as an employee, but rather offering my services to them. If they wanted to do business with me, then they should take the testimonials and recommendations for their face value and trust that they are authentic. Otherwise we are not the right fit to work together. I may have lost this opportunity to work with the client….I haven’t heard back from her yet. But I feel strongly about this. Do you think I did the right thing? I don’t want them to think I’m hiding something by telling them I don’t want them to contact people directly. I’m confused…I know. Any advice would be greatly appreciated thanks much!  —Anonymous by request

Thanks for the great question! And as usual, I have lots of feedback for ya. :)

I feel the same as you about it:  Much as I know they love me, I don’t want my past or current clients pestered by every Tom, Dick or Harry who comes along. That’s one of the reasons I gathered their testimonials in the first place:  to have that information already prepared for prospective clients and save and be respectful of my clients’ time and energy.

Plus, there are lots of reasons why many service professionals prefer their client lists be confidential, this being one of them.

What I do in my practice is reserve that information only for serious prospects. In my practice, that means only those who I’ve prequalifed as good client candidates, met in consultation already and determined there is enough of a fit to move further in the process.

If I’m asked, I let prospective clients know that I am happy to provide contact information of those clients who have given me permission to give it out and are happy to speak with others about my work once we have met in consultation.

However, I have to say that I’ve never been asked! And I firmly believe it’s because of the way I have presented testimonials on my website.

When your prospective clients and site visitors get all the competence and credibility they’re looking for demonstrated on your website, they don’t feel the need to go to elaborate lengths. You’ve gained their trust enough that they put faith in what you’ve presented because all evidence (your demonstration of skill and competence) tells them to take things at the face value you’re wanting them to.

When it comes to testimonials, the more transparency you provide, the better. What I mean is when you put a real face to an actual name, people put more trust and credibility in the testomonial.

You don’t have to have testimonials from every single client you’ve ever had, nor do you have to put your entire client list, past and present, on display. Even just a couple well-written and nicely presented testimonials will accomplish everything you need them to.

So how I’ve done that is by including with the testimonial:

  • A headshot of the client
  • The client’s full name
  • The URL of their website

With that information you are making it clear this is a real person and real testimonial. When you make it real, people feel far more trusting of the information, which is what you’re trying to accomplish.

And then try to get testimonials that give useful, substantive information. Simple statements like “She is great to work with!” may be well-intentioned and genuine, but they are pretty boring and useless as testimonials. I’ve developed the ACA Client Feedback Form (FRM-04) and the Client Info Sheet (FRM-06) to be used together to both elicit great testimonials and develop before and after case studies. I highly recommend you check them out.

Another thought occurred to me that I’m going to throw out here as well. You mention that this person referred to “references.” The concern I have is they are not understanding the nature of the relationship, which leads me to ask, why not?

Examine the content on your website.

Your website should be pre-educating clients in a way that they correctly understand the nature of the relationship, and that they aren’t interviewing you for a position, they are seeking collaborative support and guidance from an administrative expert.

Big difference in definitions and big difference in how they will approach you in their demeanor and understanding as well. So that’s really important.

If you are talking about yourself like an assistant, they are naturally going to go about things as if you were. They don’t know any better. So it’s your place and in your best interests and priority to educate, inform and instruct them as to how to go about things with you.

On the flip side of that is to look at where clients like this are coming from.

There are lots of channels where clients are being completely miseducated about what we do and what our relationship to them is. Indeed, so many are getting the impression that we are basically under-the-table employees. So, if you are getting prospects from avenues where they are being miseducated, those are not good client pipelines for you.

Improve your message and educational information on your website so that prospects are properly informed before they ever contact you, then focus on developing your own target market pipelines, and you’ll get far fewer (if any) of those kind of inquiries in the future.

Let me know if this is helpful. And as always, we can continue the conversation in the comments.

All my best!

Dear Danielle: What If I’m New and Don’t Have Any Testimonials Yet?

Dear Danielle:

What if you are brand new and only have one testimonial for your site? Should I wait until I have more and add that component later? –EB

Heck no! Get ‘er up on your site today. :)

You’ve heard the expression “you gotta use what you’ve got.” Well, if you only have one testimonial so far, work it, girl!

So how do you do that? By making it a feature on your site instead of an afterthought. That means using the client’s full name and link to their site. Bonus points if you can add a headshot (people like to see faces with names). Give it a dedicated page, perhaps, and even list the client’s contact information.

(Caveat: Make sure you ask and that the client gives you permission to do this first. Inbound links are always great for SEO so it doesn’t hurt to point that out as well.)

People are skeptical about anonymous testimonials so you never want to use initials or only first names. Prospective clients put more stock in testimonials they can see are from actual, real people.

You also don’t need millions of testimonials, just a handful of quality ones. So the other thing I recommend you do immediately is institute a feedback process in your business. For example, in my business, I solicit feedback from my monthly retained clients every 3 or 6 months and immediately upon project completion from any project clients I work with.

The very best way to get your feedback process going is with my Client Feedback Form which you can get from the Success Store. My Client Feedback Form is designed especially to help you elicit meaningful testimonials and start building great before/after case studies.

Now, what if you don’t have any testimonials yet? There are a couple things you can do.

  1. Use comments/reviews of past employers.
  2. Use comments/reviews from volunteer work you’ve done.

Again, get permission or ask them if they’d be willing to write something fresh for you.

Anyone who can speak to the quality of your skills and professional qualities and how great it is to work with you can provide you with a testimonial. It doesn’t necessarily need to be clients. It’s just better coming from paying clients so work toward replacing those employer/volunteer testimonials as you get established.

Here’s another great little trick you can do that has lots of credibility and “social proof” (which, again, is ultimately what clients are seeking in testimonials)…

If you are using social media like Twitter and Facebook, you can use those positive comments you get as testimonials. Post them on your website. Compile them in a PDF. You can even use widgets to your advantage such as the Twitter Faves widget (really simple: whenever someone says something nice about you, favorite it and it will show up in the widget, which you can place on your website).

Let me know if that helps you, and if anyone else has tips, please do share in the comments!

Video: Testimonial from Annette Pedersen

I was so thrilled to receive a video testimonial from Annette Pedersen. I had put a video challenge out to my members on Facebook and Annette stepped right up to the plate.

I can’t thank you enough, Annette, for your heartfelt words. This really means a lot to me, and I am so happy to have played a part in helping your business be the best it can be. xoxo

Dear Danielle: What About References?

Dear Danielle:

What do you think of prospective clients asking Virtual Assistants for references? –DE

I think when clients ask Virtual Assistants for references, they:

a) aren’t understanding the nature of the relationship, and/or

b) aren’t feeling the trust/competence/credibility that good demonstration of those things would give them.

Yes, we get irritated with some clients. Some clients are just looking for a free ride or intentionally trying to get what amounts to an under-the-table employee. I have no love for those types.

But other clients (I think probably the majority) are only misinformed because the Virtual Assistant world itself is the one misinforming them and setting the wrong expectations.

I know we’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. The VA industry is still stuck in employee-mindset.

Virtual Assistants have got to stop with all the references and comparisons to employees. All that is accomplishing is making clients think that you are some new kind of employee. Your job as a Virtual Assistant isn’t to replace employees. Some businesses and some workloads simply require an employee.

Virtual Assistants, on the other hand, are more administrative consultants. They should be representing a higher, more professional level of skill sets for clients who want greater expertise and who have administrative workloads that don’t require an employee.

You have to show and tell clients how to properly seek out a professional (not an employee). They don’t necessarily know how to do that. When the Virtual Assistant world stops marketing and comparing itself to employees, those requests for references will go down considerably.

But here’s the other part of the issue… when clients ask for references, a lot of times it’s because they just aren’t getting what they need to trust that they’re hiring a pro, an administrative expert. Where they get that is through your presentation of yourself and your business. That means, you have to demonstrate skill, competence, legitimacy, credibility and qualification in all that you do… in the visual design and display of your website, in your marketing message, in your speaking and writing, everything. Because when you do that, you are instilling in them the sense of those things. They don’t feel the need then to look or ask for additional “proof.”

So if you are getting lots of requests for references, it’s a signal that your presentation, your image, your message, etc., may not be up to snuff. That’s a good time to go through all your collateral and see where you might be losing them. You might even want to get the help of a pro to give you feedback on where you might be falling short and help beef things up.

Now as far as marketing goes, it’s always a great idea to have testimonials from current or former clients. Provide full names, pictures, urls and contact info if the client agrees to that. Be sure and intentionally use and reinforce the term “testimonials” by the way. Very important. You want to steer clients away from confusing you in any way with an employee. So if a client asks for references, you could say, “Oh, you mean testimonials? Of course!” and you can then steer them in the direction of the testimonials on your website.

The other thing you can do is have a more elaborate or in-depth sheet that you can provide to clients who are further along in your consultation process. And if they still want to talk to someone in person, all you need is one or two clients who are agreeable to giving out their contact info and then save that info only for the most serious of prospects. Remember, the last thing you want to do is inconvenience any of your past or current clients with constant phone calls and emails from your would-be clients so dole that info out judiciously.

But at the same time, I will tell you that if you are meeting all the other tests of credibility and demonstration of skill and competence in everything else you do, requests for further references and “proof” are going to be little to none. In over 12 years of business, I cannot remember a time that I have ever been asked for references.

Dear Danielle: Should I Use Testimonials from Volunteer Work?

Dear Danielle:

I’ve been volunteering for some time now at a local hospital doing office work. Should I ask them for a testimonial even though they are not exactly a client, and I am not an official employee? –MM

By all means–get it and use it!

The best testimonials you can have are from those who know you and your work quite well.

Anyone who has experienced and has knowledge of your work and skill is a “client” and their testimonials are just as valid.

Feedback from a Client Perspective

Recently, I worked with a newer Virtual Assistant from our community on a special project. She did the work okay, but there were some aspects of her service and manner that were a little offputting from a client perspective.

I gave her some honest, constructive feedback that I think will help her improve, and felt this was information that all Virtual Assistants could benefit from as well. Read on…

  • When consulting with new clients, be sure to let them finish their sentences. Allow them to finish their complete thoughts before interrupting with your own questions or input. You want to do more listening than speaking in the first part of the consultation when you are doing your information gathering. It’s very offputting and annoying to not be able to finish a sentence.
  • It’s okay to ask lots of clarifying questions. If you don’t feel you understand completely what the client is asking, be sure to ask. Paraphrasing back to the client is a great way to make sure you are on the same page with regard to instructions and preferences.
  • It’s also okay to ask questions as they arise. Sometimes you don’t realize you have a question until it comes up in the process of working on a project, so by all means ask for clarification or further instructions along the way. That will go a long way in helping meet client expectations and satisfaction.
  • If you get stuck on something or find out that you can’t do something after all, don’t waste a client’s time by proceeding without permission. It’s okay if you don’t know something, or need to do further research. But do check in with the client. Let them know there’s something you are stuck on, or don’t know how to do or whatever the case may be. Find out what is important to them and ask them to advise you as to how they’d like you to proceed.
  • Make sure you are under-promising and over-delivering rather than over-promising and falling short. This includes timeframes. If you say you can get something done by a certain date, and then continuously ask for more time, that is very off-putting to clients regardless of whether they can extend the deadline or not. What that tells them is that you haven’t given yourself enough space to get the work done and more importantly, that they can’t really depend on your word. They won’t be confident in the future of any delivery dates you give them based on an experience like that. Expectations are far easier to manage if you set them properly at the beginning. If you fail to deliver according to whatever you’ve stated, that will reflect poorly on you and clients won’t be as happy or satisfied.
  • It’s important to get client testimonials. You should be asking project clients and retained clients for both feedback and testimonials (if they are happy) after the successful completion of projects and at least every six months for retainer clients. But there is some etiquette involved when asking for testimonials also. You want to ask for testimonials, but you don’t want to ask prematurely. It’s very inappropriate to ask in the middle of a project. Don’t ask the second you complete a project either, as that comes across as being a little too pushy and indelicate, as if you’re more interested in getting the testimonial and forcing the request than making sure the customer is happy. You want to give the client time to make sure they are satisfied with the work first and that everything works properly. My rule of thumb is one week after successful completion of the project and client sign-off. And make sure you don’t ask for a testimonial until you’ve first asked whether the client is even happy or not.