The Right Way To Ask For Testimonials

I still remember the best (unsolicited) testimonial I ever got. The CEO was positively giddy with relief after my team and I had pulled her out of a bet-the-business problem that had consumed us all for months. She turned to me and said “If I ever go into battle again, I want you right next to me.”

I wrote that down and carried it around with me for years, pulling it out whenever my confidence needed a little bolstering.

See, here’s the thing: testimonials aren’t just a come-hither promise to hawk your services.

They’re also a reminder of the challenging, sometimes gut-wrenching work you do with your clients. And that ultimate shared high—the we-made-it-to-the-top-of-the-mountain feeling when you reach your ultimate goal. Together.

So don’t kid yourself—great testimonials matter.

They help you put the cherry on top of a successful project—and figure out how to do it even better next time.

And when they’re well shared, they give your future clients an authentic, visceral “this is what I can deliver for you” glimpse into your work.

They’ll be the opposite of boring.

To ask for—and rock—your client testimonials, start by making a habit of naturally ending your projects with a feedback loop (If you’re more product-oriented, bake it into the sales process).

When your work is done—or at the right pause point if it’s ongoing—send your client an email explaining that you’d like his feedback (email gives him the opportunity to think about it a bit—you can always call him up later to discuss his comments). Include these five questions:

  1. What was your biggest fear/worry/concern before you hired me/bought my product? Tip: Don’t be afraid to make it highly specific: “What was your biggest concern when you hired me to evaluate your marketing strategy?” This allows you to get inside the head of your client as she makes the pivotal decision to hire you. It gives you a window into her emotional state—get enough of these and you’ll know EXACTLY how to speak to your sweet-spot clients and buyers.
  1. What did you value most about our work together? This gives you clarity about the value you bring to your engagements and your products. Think of it as a way to understand that “secret sauce” that only you bring to the table.
  1. What if anything surprised you? This gets you under the hood of client expectations. Knowing what surprised him allows you to do it more consistently (or nip it in the bud).
  1. What would you have liked to be different? (Note: this is an important part of the feedback loop so you can keep getting better.) Put any lingering client/buyer concerns out in the open to be addressed. Being vulnerable enough to ask and listen closely without being defensive will cement her bond with you. It’s called building trust.
  1. Would you recommend me—and why? This either gives you valuable new information or—more likely—allows you to add a happy client to your webpage who is predisposed to recommend you to his peers.

Once you have dealt with any open issues, you’ll know for certain if you have the elements of a public testimonial: Is this the client you want crowing to the rooftops about you?

Let’s say the answer is yes. It’s time to whip his words into a form you can use on your website or promotional materials.

Start by editing her feedback down to a meaningful SHORT piece that fits with the space you have allotted but is still in her voice (not yours). You’re not writing, you’re EDITING. Big difference.

Send him your proposed testimonial, explaining how you’d like to use it. Don’t worry, most will appreciate that you’ve encapsulated their verbiage and precious few start wordsmithing.

And ask for her photo—testimonials carry more weight when attached to a full (real) name and image. So if your profession and your clients permit, go with photos. There’s nothing like seeing a page with your best clients smiling back at you.

Finally, after all this you have your gold: a set of heartfelt testaments to your unique talents, passions, results and personality. Emotionally resonant tributes from the clients you’d happily clone if only you could.

Catnip to your perfect future clients and buyers…

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  • Hi Rochelle,
    Awesome post!!! I’m going to be sharing this post because I find that so many people are terrified of ‘asking’ for a testimonial. But as you said — it can be a great confidence booster! Thanks again!

  • All-time fave remains not the client but the leading proponent of a bad policy I fought against calling me out about a year later when I was at a demonstration with a new client – a public transit union – opposing transit service cuts. Then NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg blamed me in the Q&A following his press conference for defeating a misguided, falsely premised tax scheme that involved tolling free bridges.
    Another time — about 13 months ago, the ow president of the aforementioned transit union talked me up to a fellow president with whom I proposed a contract. Been advising that union local for about a year now.

  • Dear Rochelle,

    I love your articles! I am seasoned business person in the arts and crafts community.
    Some of my clients a very famous people some asked me not to use the name but for those that do I have a little trick that I use I send them a FedEx envelope with another prepaid FedEx envelope inside back to me asking them for a letter of endorsement or testimonial It gets attention it’s worked every time and it’s hasslefree for them but I loved your five questions that I’m going to include next time Looking forward to your next article thank you

  • On the mark and right on time. Thanks Rochelle.

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