I hadn’t clicked so fast since Ocado released their Christmas delivery slots.
The email that dropped into my inbox last week was irresistible.
From a well-known clothes store, its title was simply:
‘See what other people are buying.’
I tore open the email, dying to know what other people were hoovering up (I feel so cut off from the outside world right now, for I know everyone might be wearing silver shoulder-padded space suits like Buck Rogers circa 1980).
Now you might be thinking: ‘Ha, I wouldn’t fall for that email! I’m not so easily swayed by people’s opinions and decisions!’
But you’d be surprised.
We’re all influenced by ‘social proof’ i.e. the perceived stamp of credibility from others’ endorsements. It’s deeply rooted in our subconscious, and marketers know this well.
Remember the cat food adverts with the tagline ‘8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas’? They were so successful they ran for 15 years here in the UK.
Social proof even pops up in films.
Remember that restaurant scene in the 1989 film ‘When Harry Met Sally’? At the end, a diner beckons the waiter over and says ‘I’ll have what she’s having!’ Social proof in action.
And it’s not just in La-La-Land that endorsements work – they are a real-life miracle worker too. The right testimonial from the right person can persuade people in an instant to buy from us, hire us or promote us. They can make the difference between an instant green light for your project and a solid ‘NO!’
And yet – 90% of testimonials out there are a big fat waste of time.
Well, most of them are too generic to change minds. Here’s what I mean:
‘Sarah was a great coach and easy to work with’. (Meh.)
‘Hamid was an excellent colleague who brought a professional attitude to everything he did.’ (Whatever.)
‘Carina’s style of presenting was a great fit for us and the team enjoyed their training.’ (Nice but so what?)
Bland, bland, bland.
Testimonials that really persuade and influence, however…
Focus on outcomes – i.e. what happened next. For example, ‘Niall’s leadership coaching helped me motivate my team to win a £500k contract.’ To get these kind of testimonials, ask questions like ‘What did I help you do that you couldn’t have done alone?’, NOT ‘What was it like working with me?’
Include detail and colour e.g. ‘I never start a meeting without thinking about Imran’s spot-on advice. It’s freed up around 5 hours each week previously spent in meeting purgatory!’ To get these type of testimonials, ask: ‘What was the best bit about the results you got?’
Are conversational, not formal, so they sound like a real person said them – e.g. ‘Hire Katy now before you kick yourself’ not ‘I do not hesitate to recommend Katy’. Get these testimonials by asking ‘What would you say to someone thinking of hiring/promoting/buying from me?’
So get yourself some persuasive testimonials to use in presentations, proposals, profiles, your LinkedIn ‘About’ and recommendations sections – wherever and whenever you can!
If you do, 8 out of 10 clients, colleagues and managers might just prefer you.
Originally published in Coaching At Work magazine, Volume 15