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The Art of Asking For and Getting Testimonials and References

By taking advantage of LinkedIn, asking at the right time, knowing your clients and taking a cue from Nike, you can establish social proof that you're good at what you do.
A customer service survey.

The world is getting smaller and much more impersonal than in days past. Chances are you’ve connected with your Virtual Assistant clients on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and more. You may even trade cards during the holidays and a few personal conversations over the course of the business you conduct together.

For most VAs, though, the most difficult thing in the world to do is ask for endorsements or recommendations from clients, even when you know they adore you. It’s time to change all that and put your efforts to build your business bigger, better, and bolder ahead of your timidity about asking clients for testimonials. To get testimonials & references keep the following tips in mind.

Just Do It – Just Ask

Perhaps the most brilliant advertisement ever was the Nike campaign that made the "Just Do It" slogan a household phrase. Sometimes, you simply have to bite the bullet and do it. But it doesn’t have to come out of the blue though and it doesn’t need to be an awkward moment. There are actually two ways you can go about it:

  1. Whenever clients send notes about how great you are and how they are amazed at what you've accomplished for them, ask if you can include their comments on your business website. Offer to link it back to their website. Most of the time they will not only glad to do it, but will also appreciate the link back to their own site.
  2. Send a personal note to your client explaining that you’re revamping your website to focus on whatever specific skill you’d like the recommendation for, and are wondering if they would be willing to offer a testimonial of your service. Most of the time, clients are flattered that you ask and are willing to do so. In return for your efforts, you get an endorsement for a specific skill you’re trying to market.

Obviously, it’s easier to ask for references and testimonials if you’ve focused on building relationships with your clients prior to asking. Of course, if they decline it may sometimes sting. Just remember that some people who hire you are bound by confidentiality clauses and some, specifically those who work for larger enterprises, simply do not have the authority to endorse you or your services. In cases such as these don’t take it personally if a client declines. More importantly, don’t allow it to jeopardize an otherwise outstanding (not to mention mutually beneficial) business relationship.

Take Advantage of LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social network for business professionals. Chances are you’ve already received on the network various recommendations and endorsements of your work, talent, and abilities. There’s no rule that says you can’t use those same testimonials on your own website and link back to your client’s website or the LinkedIn reference. You don’t technically need permission to do this since they’ve already recommended you, but you might want to drop a note thanking them for the recommendation and asking if they mind if you include it on your web page with a link back to their site (and which site they prefer if they have multiple websites).

Ask at the Right Time

The best time to ask for a testimonial or reference is at the point where your client is most satisfied with your work. Right after turning in your first assignment and right after finishing a huge project, ask for feedback. You can use different methods for asking for feedback such as a Google Form, or even your billing software such as Freshbooks, which allows you to ask your client how you did when you invoice them. Asking at the right time--and making it a habit to ask--will ensure that you get many more testimonials and references than you might otherwise.

Know Your Clients

Perhaps the biggest part of the art of asking for and receiving testimonials and references is knowing your client. Know how to make your client feel appreciated. Lead with that appreciation when asking for a favor. You’ll be amazed at how well it works for your virtual assistant business and in life in general. Always thank your client and follow up with them, and they’ll generally be happy to recommend you to others.

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