Testimonials -- 3 Key Steps to Getting Great Testimonials That Sell

What happens when you're looking for a widget and a friend recommends a particular kind?  You buy that one, don't you?  Referrals from friends work like a charm.  Wish you could bottle that?  You can.  Read on to find out how exactly to get more clients from recommendations.
Once you move beyond your immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, getting business through personal referrals may be more difficult to find.  But there is something else you can do that works almost as well as personal referrals:  Testimonials.
Essentially, testimonials ARE like referrals - they're social proof.  And research has shown that people trust testimonials a lot more than anything you could possibly write yourself in your sales letter, or on your website or blog.  It also shows that people are more than twice as likely to buy from an ad with testimonials than from ads without them.
Andrew Angus recently tested two versions of a web page. One page had a list of testimonials, the other one did not have any testimonials. The testimonials led to a 158% increase in conversion. 
Intelliseek's "2005 Consumer-Generated Media (CGM) and Engagement Study" survey found that consumers trust other consumers (including those they don't know personally) 50% more than any other form of advertising media. 
So don't let your ads, website or marketing brochures sit there without testimonials for another day! Get some from your clients and put them on all your sales materials to increase your sales.
You may be thinking that this is easier said than done and well, you're right. It has to be done correctly, and it will take some work.  But once you see the pay-off, you'll find that it is worth much more than the work it took to get it. 
Keep reading to discover what kinds of testimonials get the best result.
In order to work in your favor, testimonials have to have certain qualities -- they have to be believable and specific, and they have to remove obstacles.
1. Believable 
Remember that testimonials work like referrals.  If they were so outlandish that you wouldn't believe they were true, they obviously won't work, and can even work against you. Testimonials work the same way.  Yes, they have to be positive, but stay within the realm of the reasonable.
2. Specific 
The more generic a testimonial, the less convincing.  So be specific.  Give details that answer the kinds of questions that your prospective customers or clients might have. Where possible quantify the client's result - or as I like to say dollarize or numerize the result to add more credibility.  
Testimonials just won't work as well if the comment is something like... "Bob does good work, I'd use his services again." They sound encouraging but don't really give enough information to convince a prospect to pick up the phone or click the order button. 
Instead, specific comments like... "my sales increased by 38% in just three months..."  or "the widgets I ordered were delivered in 24 hrs - faster than I expected" will add more value. 
3. Remove obstacles 
Imagine the concerns and doubts your prospective customers might have then try to have them addressed in your testimonials.   The more questions you can answer, and the more you can reassure your clients-to-be, the more likely they'll be to pick up the phone, click on that button, or sign on the dotted line.
Some questions prospects may be thinking are: "Does this product/service really work?" "Can they deliver what they say they will?"  Use testimonials that answer questions like these to remove doubt and gain your prospect's confidence.