When was the last time someone said something nice about you or your business? It felt good, right? Now, think about how influential those complimentary comments could be if they were part of developing your business persona through the eyes of your biggest supporters.
“The psychology of testimonials is that we, humans, are always looking for positive affirmation to our future choices,” writes Carolina Guzik in her post for HoneyBook’s Rising Tide series.
That’s such a powerful statement, because it resets the perspective of testimonials back to the prospect who reads them. A personal recommendation isn’t just about you selling something—or yourself—to a potential client. It’s about the emotional response to the idea of promise; of a hopefulness that results when we can incorporate our instincts or emotions with hard, cold facts.
As Inc.com contributor Andrew Griffiths puts it, “We certainly don't believe everything we are told, especially when it comes to advertising. But we do believe other people.”
All Recommendations are not Created Equal
You’re urging them to stake their reputation on your value.
Let’s take LinkedIn endorsements versus recommendations. We have all received those algorithm-triggered LinkedIn suggestions, proposing we endorse someone for a core skill set. Whether you’ve observed that skill set personally, or made some logical assumptions based on a LinkedIn profile, it’s not hard to do and it doesn’t eat up much of your precious time. But, you know what they say about time, effort, and value—the more you put in, the more you get back.
A personal recommendation is a richer endorsement, but asking for one means exposing a bit of your vulnerable side. You’re asking for someone’s time. You’re urging them to stake their reputation on your value. And, you’re depending on their memory of all your hard work and the contribution you made.
It’s safe to say you’re not going to ask for a recommendation unless you trust he or she will accurately convey your worth. Even those you do trust, who are eager and willing, occasionally need a helping hand.
After polling a few colleagues, here’s how responders tend to cluster when they’re asked to support people with a written recommendation.
5 Praising Personas
The Nice Guy
He wants to do good and help you out, but just won’t get around to it. You know this from your work together. It’s okay, there’s no law against you writing it for him.
Ms. I Can’t Wait!
You know her well, and you expect she'll shower you with praise. The challenge will be to get her to tighten up her accolades so they fit within the LinkedIn parameters. You just have to edit a bit, gently.
He Who Cannot Say “No”
Even the most eager and willing occasionally need a helping hand.
He’s famous and well known. A testimonial from this person would be a game changer. But, in your heart you know he just doesn’t care. He presumes you know how busy he is, and that you will forgive him when he fails to fulfill his commitment. You do.
The recommendation from this persona comes along with a subtext, a tone that suggests, “You are an idiot if you do not hire this person. Take it from me. I’ve been around, and I know.” You gotta love it, even if it sounds snarky and arrogant to your prospective new boss.
This person says yes, writes a specific, digestible, high-impact recommendation that captures everything you’d want in the elevator pitch that is you. And, he also posts it by himself. There aren’t too many of these dreamboats around, so make sure you thank him--and then thank him again.
A Holistic Depiction
Regardless of persona, the hope is to form a holistic depiction of your capabilities and contributions—not in your own voice, but in the expression of your peers.
Now that we’ve sorted out the psychology of testimonials, stay tuned for a future discussion where I’ll take a more logistical look at recommendations (e.g. best practices, testimonial etiquette, and the various places recommendations can live, such as your website, social media, printed promotional materials, and even within your proposals ). We’ll also examine the potential symbiotic relationship between case studies and testimonials, which if utilized correctly, can overcome its frenemy reputation and instead be highly advantageous.