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Getting Testimonials

Dottie Burman

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Here are the answers I received to my query: What has worked for you in getting a testimonial letter from a meeting planner when (a) you know your presentation was successful and (b) it was stated in your letter of agreement that he/she would write such a letter, but a month has gone by and you have not received it?

-- Larry Winget

Your question hit me as coming from someone who really needed and wanted an answer -- so here it is.

Forget it. If you are great and they want to send you a letter they will. If you have to beg for it or put it in your contract that you require one, then you appear needy and/or the letter won't be that great.

PLUS, and this is the biggy -- meeting planners don't hire people because of recommendation letters. They know what it takes to get one and that no one ever writes a bad one. Meeting planners hire from video footage or word of mouth. Period.

-- Joe Tye

One thing that has worked for me is to offer to write something for them incorporating what I think they would probably write themselves based upon our conversation after the event and input from other participants -- giving them full right to edit or tell me to start all over again.

Another possible approach is to write 2 or 3 drafts and send them along with a note explaining that you know how busy they are, but this is really important to you and your business, so you have taken the liberty of drafting several possible letters, and then asking them to choose the one they like best and put it on their letterhead. You could even include a disc so they can avoid retyping (or do it by email to the same end).

-- Michael Podolinsky

It is easy.
1) Do a great job. After, listen to their comments.
2) Ask as soon as the talk is done if they will send you those comments in a letter you can share with others. They say sure...but will not send it.
3) Say,"You are so busy and have already allowed me to share with your group. How about I take the time to type your comments up into a letter and I'll post it to you? If it meets your approval, just have your secretary photocopy it on to your letterhead, authorize it with your signature and send it back to me. I'll even include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Is that good for you?"

We have almost 200 testimonial letters on our Web site. The BEST ones are the ones I've written using this method.

-- Lorri Allen

The best success I have had in getting letters has happened recently. I emailed the clients and told them I needed a letter for a speaking certification I was working on (CSP candidacy), and would be happy to compose a rough draft for them. Two-thirds took me up on the draft; a couple composed their own. Only one person did not reply at all to the original request.

-- Mark McGregor

Here are two proven systems I use to get testimonials in a timely fashion. For full-fee speaking engagements:

In our contract we mention that testimonial letters are part of the speaker's compensation. After a successful speaking engagement we are to receive 10 testimonial Letters mailed to us within 14 days after the speaking event. They are to be signed by either the president and/or meeting planner and printed on your organization's letterhead. Failure to send our testimonial letter will result in a $200 additional fee.

For speaking engagements that do not pay full cash fee: We send the same letter as above with this change in the last sentence. Failure to send our testimonial letter will result in full cash payment for the speaking program.

We always get a testimonial letter. In fact, one meeting planner paid the additional $200 additional fee upfront because they were not sure if they would have the testimonial letter in time! If you don't get your testimonial letter in 14 days, a gentle reminder call identifying that your testimonial letter is still outstanding works well.

-- Susan Van Hooser

Twice this week I used the following email and got 100% participation with 2 fabulous quotes! The email serves as a friendly reminder of their promise to provide a letter without demanding their response. I also offer to include their quote (sometimes with a link) on our website or in Phil's monthly e-newsletter.

Subject Line: may I quote you?

(I include a couple introductory sentences like "hope you're still hearing positive feedback," or "how did Johnny's soccer game turn out?" depending on the relationship we have with the client.)

Now about quoting you. I am preparing to mail a letter with Phil's presentation info to the various (specify the industry) contacts I have. Normally I would include a couple letters from similiar clients, but I don't have the right one to include. Would you be willing to provide a brief quote (one really descriptive sentence will do) that I can include in the body of my letter? If you would, please speak to any of the following:

1) The practicality of Phil's message for the (specify the industry)
2) His ability to connect with the audience
3) His presentation style, delivery, storytelling ability
4) The impact of Phil's ideas on you or your people
5) With your permission, I would also like to include your comments in Phil's monthly e-newsletter.

Thanks for your help!

-- Jean Gatz

A month is not a long time to wait for a letter. Clients are very busy, and often are volunteer committee members. My HR conference clients often use students of the association to tally the evaluations, and that sometimes takes a while. I usually wait about 6 weeks and send a gentle email reminder, mentioning that it helped that person so much to read what others had to say about hiring me, and removed the risk for them. I appreciate their willingness to write a letter for me and do the same for their colleagues -- and my potential clients. If it drags on for too long, I offer to put something together for them. Or I will ask if it's OK to quote some of the evaluation comments from attendees. Sometimes they send me a rough draft and ask for my input. Just remember they are all very busy and you don't want to bug them -- or you may never get your letter. When it comes later rather than sooner, it's usually well worth the wait because they have time to write a fabulous letter -- at their convenience.

-- Resli Costabell

I start off with a friendly phone call, in which I offer them a face-saving out, then describe how to write a testimonial with ease. I might press for a deadline with, "It should just take 10 minutes. When could you find 10 minutes?"

I've asked someone, "What is the main thing you remember from it?" "What did you like best?" "How would you complete the sentence the most powerful aspect was..." With their permission, I'm typing away as they talk. I use their exact words to pull together a testimonial that is an accurate reflection of what they said. I email it to them.

Another way is to write down whatever they say immediately after the session, when it's still on their mind and still has an emotional punch to it. I'm very upfront about doing this. When they race up afterwards and burst out with something positive, I'll openly say, "Wow, what a great compliment! How about if we use that as the testimonial? I could jot it down right now and send it to your secretary to type up on the fancy paper. Would that be ok?"

-- Laura Benjamin

I ask the individual if it would be helpful if I drafted a letter and they could edit/supplement as they see fit. Most of the time I make this offer, the tremendous look of relief on their face is enough evidence that it is a huge benefit for them. Then I get to write it the way I'd like and they save time.

I send a thank-you note after the engagement reminding them of the request, stressing that it is so valued and appreciated for my business development efforts, and thanking them in advance. This sometimes does the trick.

I'll send another note if the letter is not forthcoming, again, thanking them in advance for writing the letter and this time I may include a sample letter from another client that they can use as a model.

For one very good client, but very busy lady, I called her up and said, "Okay, you talk, I"ll type," and together we knocked it out together. Then I sent her what we had composed and she put it on their letterhead and sent it back. (She is a very long-standing client, so this direct approach worked quite well for her...perhaps not the approach you'd use with a new client who lacks a sense of humor!)

-- Rachel Green

Write down the feedback you get on the day of the presentation. Whatever the organizer says, the participants say, the chairperson says -- and then ask if you can quote them. Put it in a letter for them if you wish and ask them to sign it. Take away the workload for people and do it as soon as possible while they are still enthusiastic and can remember exactly how brilliant you were.

-- Sharon Ferrier

I eventually wrote the testimonial letter myself (quoting information from the feedback sheets) emailed it to him with a cover letter saying if he was comfortable with the content would he mind printing it on a letterhead with his name and posting it back! He did so with in the week.

A more subtle approach is to email a letter with a summary of the feedback with a statement like: " I thought you might find this helpful in putting together a testimonial letter... please let me know if you would like more information..."

-- Bridget Hogg

Why not assume they have forgotten and just ring and ask them -- reminding them how important testimonials are to you to inform future customers about your work.? If you have some others you could send them via email to five examples of the sorts of things that go in a testimonial -- they may not know what to write so offer to assist.

-- Jeannine Marzella

Some people are not proficient at writing testimonial letters. Help them out, send examples of ones you have on file, or create ones for them to use as reference. This helps them get moving, and helps you by touching on the important points.

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