How outsourcing testimonial collection to a specialist strengthens your position

Outsourcing interviews reduces resistance
I did a quick shop for groceries over the weekend and while there decided to save another trip and get everything we would need for the week. 

So I did my best to remember the menu we had already prepared and added a few extra things to my basket.  And you know what happened next don’t you?  I got home and was unpacking everything when I realised I had forgotten a key ingredient.  It wasn’t just a spice or nice to have but it was the chicken needed for our chicken stir-fry!  Such a hassle because now another trip was required to the shops to get this one thing and I hate being wasteful.  If I had prepared a shopping list beforehand this problem could have been avoided.  Don’t you sometimes wish that these sorts of things could just be taken care of by someone else? Even outsourced?

Forgetting the critical ingredient

Testimonials are a critical ingredient for your marketing strategy.

The importance of testimonials from fans of your service, products and brand can never be overstated. Yet some businesses are not even doing the bare minimum.  For those that are there are still big mistakes being made.  For instance the practice of collecting testimonials yourself.  Today we are going to cover the reasons why you should outsource the collection of testimonials. 

These are:
1) The social intimidation factor.  Something is getting in the way of frank and honest answers when you collect testimonials yourself no matter how good an interviewer you think you are.
2) Getting into the mind of the prospective customer.  The beginner's mind perspective is easiest for someone who is not down in the weeds of your business every day.  
3) Positioning.  Your brand is important so we will look at how getting someone else to collect your testimonials strengthens your positioning.

Asking for help

Collecting a testimonial about your business yourself can feel awkward.

Have you ever asked for a testimonial from someone in your network? 

If you have asked for a personal reference from someone you’ll know the feeling can be a little awkward.  Now imagine asking this person to tell you about yourself to your face.  In all of my experience in work life people generally don’t like to offend you, especially when you are requesting a favour.  They will generally withhold the most frank comments that might actually help you.  But why would they do that even if you ask them to hold nothing back?  The simple answer is fear.  They might fear hurting a relationship they value, they may actually be intimidated by you or they may fear a confrontation.  This is far more prevalent than you might think.  This tension will exist whenever you attempt to collect a testimonial about yourself and there is little you can do to prevent it.

Outsourcing interviews reduces resistance

Conducting an interview can be intimidating for your customer and you if you're not used to it.

Even if you create a form to fill out people will still know that they may be identified.  And before you think about using a low touch survey to collect this information consider the other drawbacks of not being able to follow the thread of a conversation.  When an issue is identified face to face you can ask followup questions to dig deeper.   Face to face interviews are the gold standard and with each additional barrier between human interaction the quality diminishes.  You might still be thinking that "this is nonsense, my customers are not intimidated by me and besides I need to collect feedback."  Feedback is definitely not the same as a testimonial.  Feedback is just that.  Feeding back the results you got from a product.  A testimonial is moving into the realm of a recommendation.  Someone who agrees to give you a testimonial is putting their own credibility on the line.  And if you collect it yourself the social pressure can lead to less than candid responses.

The flip side may also be that you are the person who feels most intimidated about collecting a testimonial.  It just feels awkward and you hate the idea.  If this is you then you don’t need much convincing about how outsourcing can reduce this factor of intimidation do you?  So that's intimidation, let’s now dive into the mind of the prospect for a minute or two.

Getting into the mind of the prospective customer is one of the major benefits of a testimonial. 

In a great testimonial your existing customers will explain things in a way that answers questions that a prospect may have in their mind.  Yet if you collect the testimonial yourself you may not dig deep enough during an interview when an issue is brought up because of your assumptions.  Unless you have developed the skill of removing yourself from your own bubble and can view yourself from the outside perspective of a prospect it is unlikely that you’ll be able to go as deeply into an issue as a skilled interviewer who is not an expert on your services or product.  It is the beginners mind that you need to adopt when collecting a testimonial because the answers you are collecting are for a prospect, not someone who already knows the way you talk, your tone and language.  

Your clients were prospects once

Your past and existing clients will do a better job of explaining things from the point of view of your prospects.

Tone of voice is another aspect of collecting testimonials yourself.  You can’t help yourself.  You speak the way you do and this can then be reflected in the responses you receive from the customer during an interview.  You’ve seen the extreme examples of this when you look at couples who have been married for 40 years.  They even start to look and dress in a similar way.  You can bet that a prospect is not familiar with your tone of voice when they first speak to you.  So while it is important that a testimonial be consistent with your brand in the way it is collected you can remove a lot of the bias you will get if you are not priming your respondent with your particular style of language.  We’ve covered how the intimidation factor and the need for a beginners mind are good reasons to outsource your testimonials and the last one is  positioning.

Is it a mistake to collect your own testimonials?

When you ask for a testimonial and collect it yourself you are reducing your status with respect to your client.  You are presenting yourself as someone in need.  You are asking for help.  Most people will be flattered to be asked for a testimonial but who then has the power?  You?  You might not be interested in playing power games but what about your customer?  Do you want to feel like you owe your client something when you next go into a tough negotiation about a future project? Once a testimonial is given to you in person it creates a certain dependancy in your relationship with this client.  It may be subtle but is exists all the same.  But this is unavoidable isn’t it? 

Instead of collecting the testimonial yourself if you arrange for someone who is working for you to conduct the interview for you the dynamics change immediately don’t you think?  Do you notice the change in status?  Now you are indicating to your customer that your time is valuable, that your are organised and that you also value their input.  Then if problems are encountered during the interview you are in a stronger position.  Rather than potentially being caught off guard and becoming defensive during the interview you have time to reflect and plan.  Then you can take the role of a white knight who comes into the scene to address the issue. 

Outsource your testimonial collection

Imagine Donald Trump interviewing his own supporters as part of his re-election bid?

But what if part of your brand is to be available and approachable to your customers? 

Won’t getting the testimonial collection done by someone else put more distance between you both?  Not if you spell out you reasons for having someone else do it beforehand.  It shows you care about their input and are also in charge of your time.   This will also reduce the factor of intimidation, to have an interviewer who can more readily put themselves into the mind of a prospect and to position yourself as a professional who cares enough about their business to have a system in place.  

An extreme example of why to consider outsourcing the collection of your testimonials is to pretend that you are the the president of the United States.  Can you imagine the president collecting testimonials from their constituents themselves for their re-election?  It just would not happen.  So why should you?  But hang on.  Aren't there some cases where you should collect your own testimonials?  Well maybe if you have a very well developed skill in the collection of testimonials, have the spare time and inclination and have a very deep level of mutual trust with your customers then go ahead.  Otherwise it is probably better to outsource it to a pro.

By now I’m sure you’re probably wondering about my chicken dinner?  I didn’t end up outsourcing it to someone else in case you’re wondering but I will make sure I prepare a little better in the future.

Next steps

If you are interested in outsourcing your testimonials you might be interested in the new service I'll be launching in November. 

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