The Spiritual Challenge of Asking for Testimonials (and How to Rise to It)

by | Mar 12, 2010

Ugh. Does anyone actually like asking for a testimonial?
Even today I find asking for testimonials daunting. But I do it, and I do it religiously.
That’s because there’s more to this testimonial business than cornering folks and asking for their approval.
Why Testimonials
Testimonials help you sell, which is why many Accidental Entrepreneurs are embarrassed to ask for them. If selling is sleazy, then asking for testimonials is — do I really have to explain this?
But hey, do you know why testimonials help you sell?
Because a meaningful, relevant testimonial holds a mirror up to the buyer. If the buyer sees themselves in that mirror, they are probably in the right place.
What Makes a Testimonial Meaningful?
We’ve all seen (and some of us have given) gushy testimonials that don’t mean much.
That kind of testimonial rarely convinces anyone to buy. In fact, over-the-top testimonials are more likely to trigger doubt than confidence.
Then there are testimonials that grab our attention because they speak to our concerns, including our concerns about the value of the product, the integrity of the seller, and the relevance of the information.
These meaningful testimonials talk about the downside as well as the upside of a product or service.
How to Get a Meaningful Testimonial
The way to get a meaningful testimonial is to ask scary questions.
Like what the buyer thought of your work before they invested, including any doubts they may have had. And what, if anything, made using the product or service challenging.
Like what specific results the buyer got from working with you or using your program or product.
We tend to avoid these questions for fear that the answers won’t be positive.
And that’s an even better reason for asking them.
When you get accurate, relevant feedback from clients, you get better at marketing to the ones that fit just-right, and you can let go of the ones that aren’t a fit at all.
Of Course, It’s Still Scary
The fact that asking scary questions is good for your business doesn’t make it less scary.
If anything, knowing that your profitability depends on asking just makes it harder.
And that’s where the Three Instructions come in.
The Three Instructions
The Three Instructions are the core of The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur, and they are:
* Be Yourself
* Question Stressful Thoughts
* Keep the Channel Open
There isn’t a single business/self-employment challenge that you can’t rise to when you follow the Three Instructions, including asking for meaningful testimonials.
It takes a fair amount of mental, emotional, and spiritual heavy lifting required to follow the Three Instructions. They are simple, not easy.
But look at it this way.
When you follow the Three Instructions, the heavy lifting is all of the integrity- building kind. You grow in wisdom, vision, and grace, whether you’re asking for testimonials, asking for the sale, or setting fees.
That’s a good thing.
A Sample (Real) Testimonial
Usually, I edit testimonials for brevity and relevance. In this case, I’m sharing the whole conversation (which can take place in person, by phone, or–as in this case, by email) so you can see the structure.
Below are the questions I asked and answers I received from one of the readers of The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur.
Feel free to adapt the questions for your own use. I adapted them from questions used by Sean D’Souza of

1) What were your perceptions before you bought the product?
Assumed you were pretty touchy-feely, “think positive” kind of coach, not much real world application stuff.  Bought the book mostly because I liked your writing style.
2) How has that perception changed?
You have really amazing insights into the issues that I personally have as a single-person business, and I’ve been doing this off and on for over 30 years. It’s an unusual business book that I have to put down for a while because my head is bursting and I have to let it all absorb before I continue.
3) What did you think was the biggest benefit of The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur?
I am motivated to make changes in the way that I think about my relationship with customers – that I can’t help everyone, and it’s ok for me to “put myself first” and be proud of the fact that I charge a high price for superior service and skills.
4) Where did you apply the The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur?
I’m developing a new business model – haven’t applied it yet, but I wouldn’t even be willing to consider it without having read the book and changing my perspective.
5) Would you recommend the The Way of the Accidental Entrepreneur? And why?
I’d recommend it to anyone who went into business because they loved what they do and now don’t even like what they do. 
Selling yourself and your skills is exhausting, demeaning, and often sucks the passion out of what used to feed your creativity and happiness.  I’m thinking about my work in a completely different way and am excited to tell people my story once again.
Dick Carlson Columbia, SC USA