How to use testimonials to provide a pressure relief valve for your business and customers (without feeling salesy)

For 10 weeks in the summer of 1993-94 I worked at the Mobil Oil refinery in Adelaide, Australia as a vacation engineering student.

Refinery

Refinery's are made safer with the use of pressure relief valves.

Oil refineries have lots of pipes. Some contain explosive gases and others contain high pressure steam. I remember walking around this plant with another engineer and she pointed out to me a blow-down area. This was an area I needed to stay away from because there could be a sudden burst of steam. This seemed rather alarming to me but in fact is was part of the safety systems designed in the plant. When the petroleum industry was first getting started in the days of J.D Rockefeller oil refinery fires and explosions were commonplace.  These accidents resulted in the loss of many lives in the pursuit of kerosene to provide light for people’s homes. One of the key innovations in the petroleum industry was then the invention of the pressure relief valve. This is a valve that opens up when a certain pressure is reached in the pipe. The key step in getting an effective pressure relief valve is to select one that opens up below the burst pressure of the pipeline with an acceptable degree a safety. That way you can still use the pressure to do useful work and decide where this extra energy can be released in a controlled fashion. Yet despite all of these systems accidents still do happen.

What we're going to cover in this article is:

  1. The safety factor required for all sales pages and offers
  2. The types of pressure that can put your potential sales at risk and
  3. How testimonials can act as a sort of pressure relief valve your your sales efforts.

First let’s start with safety shall we?

The sales safety factor

When considering a sales page or offer we will generally have a fair degree of skepticism. We are cautious and want to protect ourselves from making a mistake. We fear losing our money toward something that turns out to be lacking or even useless or we are afraid of being made to feel foolish in front of others. So safety is important to consider when constructing your sales page and making your offer. But how to create safety for your customers? There are indicators of trust like credentials, work history, lists of former clients and membership of professional association. These are all worth your consideration but none have the same effect as an effectively constructed testimonial. Just like a pressure relief valve in a refinery, testimonials on your website help create a factor of safety around you, your product and your brand.

Types of sales pressure

Pressure is a form of stored energy that can be put to useful work in many different physical processes. A simple example is the air pressure in your bike tyres. It has a purpose there, but should we apply pressure to our customers? And here you are probably thinking about the pushy type of salesperson who is just trying to make the sale regardless of whether it is the right thing for the client. This is stereotypical example of the pushy used car salesman. Yet, what if this pressure could be applied for good? Everyone is in need of something and if you can find out what your customer really wants and help them get it then can it be so bad? Even if you have a product that is what your customer really wants they might still have some objections.

So what do I mean by applying pressure if it is not the ugly, yucky pushy salesy type of pressure? What I mean here is the way to remove the objections your customer has to buying what they really want in the first place. There may be some resistance to the price of your product, or there may be a similar looking but inferior product they are comparing yours with. Your customers can have a whole bunch of objections and you can start to remove these objections by talking about the stories of other customers. When your prospect hears a story from a satisfied customer who also had the same doubts and objections to buying the product beforehand you begin to relieve this pressure.  Let’s talk about how testimonials relieve this pressure in the mind of your prospect.

Pressure relief valve

Pressure relief valves are designed to open before the pipe fails due to over pressurisation.

How testimonials work to relieve the pressure

If the prospect felt no pressure at all this would be no good at all. They would not even bother to talk with you at all. If they are not interested in your product there is no pressure. So why would you want to relieve it? You see it gets back to the pressure relief valve. If the pressure is allowed to build up too high then you get an uncontrolled explosion and stuff goes everywhere and no-one is happy. So we are not talking about completely removing this pressure but simply relieving it so that nothing breaks. And testimonials provide this relief in 3 ways. 

The first way testimonials help relieve the pressure is they provide stories for your prospect to tell other people. This is social proof they can give to the significant people in their lives to justify buying the product that helps the get the thing they really want or need. The second is removing objections in their own head. They may have previous experience with other products and expectations on price that don’t match your product. Listening or reading similar objections from satisfied customers helps provide the reasoning why this objection can be lifted. Finally testimonials opens up space in your prospects mind. Your prospects can start to fixate on lists of features and benefits and a testimonial can help connect these features to the positive emotions of owning and using the product that someone else has experienced.

Objections

We’ve already spoken about how testimonials can help relieve the pressure of the objections they feel in their heads but what about the pressure you might be feeling right now about using testimonials. Let’s consider some possible objections to getting testimonials for your business shall we?

There is no better time to start collecting testimonials than right now

No time to collect testimonials? There is no better time to start collecting testimonials than right now

But I don't have time to collect testimonials Testimonials do take some time to organise, conduct and edit. It is time consuming stuff and if you are already busy with clients all day long this really can just be put into the too hard basket. Instead of doing this and losing prospects that become to feel over pressurised on your site and leave you can outsource your testimonial collection. Outsourcing the collection of your testimonials to a dedicated specialist is certainly an option. Another benefit of doing this is that there is less pressure on your customer and less pressure on you.   Asking for someone to comment openly about you and your products is not something most people really enjoy doing.

I feel uncomfortable collecting testimonials from my customers Many people feel like asking for a testimonial is tantamount to asking “do you like me?”. It feels uncomfortable because it is not a normal social conversation that we have with people. No-one wants to feel needy or uncomfortable about being asked for a testimonial if they are not happy with the product. And yes, feedback is different to a testimonial. You really want your biggest fans when you request a testimonial. It is these people who are most likely to be happy to help you.

Testimonials feel smarmy or salesy Testimonials often feel salesy because they are just positive. A simple example might sound like “Product X is just wonderful! I love it!”. And it is this type of testimonial that just sounds a little too positive. Instead you can collect a testimonials that starts with a questions about the obstacles and sources of hesitation your customer felt before buying the product from you. Obviously, this customer did by so immediately you want to know what changed in their mind that overcame this initial hesitation. You can achieve this simply by asking a systematic list of questions. The key is to link your product to a bigger context that is important for your customers. Instead of thinking how can you sell more of your product think how can you help your customer get more of what they want.

Example

To illustrate this effect you can see in the the video testimonial below how it begins with the pain experienced by the client before using the service.

The system for controlling pressure

We have covered the idea that our sales pages and offers require an element of safety for our prospects. Passive indicators like associations, work history and credentials can help but we found that is it is testimonials that can relieve the most common source of pressure which are objections. And we learnt how testimonials help to overcome objections by including the drama and stories of former customers who were hesitating and did have to overcome some obstacles before buying and getting what they really wanted as a result. An important concept that we didn’t touch on today is that your product or service actually have to deliver on the promise. This is expected by your customers by default but just to be sure I wanted to mention this too. Walking around the oil refinery was not so scary after I knew about these blow-down areas and what they were for. The sudden release of pressure was no longer alarming but an indicator that the system was working and the pressure was under control.

Next Step

If you haven’t collected testimonials because you haven’t launched a product yet what can you do? This is the topic of the next article in this series on testimonials.

Get More Help With Testimonials for Your Business

Find out how to position your business and increase sales conversions and customer engagement using testimonials.
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