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Selling Your Services

Get and Use References from Customers

From Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor of
Posted in November, 2009.

References are an important part of getting new business. However, there are some techniques that work better than others, as well as some pitfalls to avoid.

Through the years I've worked with several dozen clients, either coaching them in getting their own references or contacting their clients for them to obtain objective references. Here's my advice on the topic.

First, figure out how you are going to use the references once you receive them: in print, on your website, and/or as someone prospects can call for a verbal reference. Ideally, the answer is "all of the above."

The latest: With the availability of voice recorders, iPod microphones and the like so prevalent today, it's not that difficult to add MP3 reference recordings to your website. These can either be just what they have to say or conversations between you and your clients. Either way, you make them audio links on your website. You might hire someone to conduct the recordings for you, which makes for a much more objective result.

Audio recordings come across as authentic and strike listeners on a different level from reading something in print. If you'd like a quote for having this done for you from, let us know. We can also, of course, provide services to obtain written references for your website and handouts.

Extra credit: You can also conduct video recordings with clients. If you do, ideally film your brief reference video so that their company logo is in the background.

A caution before you use references: Be sure to confirm in writing that it's okay to use reference material you get from your clients. A good way to do this is when you write your thank you note for their courtesy in providing the reference quote(s). In your note, whether send via mail or as an email, briefly cover whatever the agreed-upon terms were for use of their reference. Here's an example:

Your company logo might go here.

Dear First Name of Customer,

Thank you for your kind words about the level of service (name of your company) provides to (name of their company). I very much appreciate you letting us use your quotes on our website and printed material. As agreed, it's also okay if we occasionally provide your info for someone to contact you by telephone, as well.

Our commitment is to do a great job for you, each and every time. If there's ever a time you feel that has not occurred, please contact me directly at (phone and email address). Thanks again!

(Signature goes here if written; not necessary if emailed)
Your full name and title
Company name

You might consider writing your thank you note for this purpose and others using the postcard section. Your clients will find it distinctive and unusual to have your thank you not accompanied by the picture of an old time sweeper.

Now, let's move on to getting the references you want and need. First, consider what you'd like your reference customers to say (based on what they might say on their own anyway) because most of the time when you ask them they'll say "Just write something up and send it to me, I'm sure it'll be okay." So, be ready to suggest what you'd like them to say.

Choose from among your possible reference clients the different topics you want covered. For example, you probably want to cover:

  • great response/customer service
  • there when I need them
  • don't have to worry about the job getting done right
  • good job each and every time
  • no problem with noise or bothering neighbors
  • etc. with someone saying whatever your main competitors seem NOT to be doing right

You will want a copy of the logo of each reference company. Although you can probably get on from their company website, these are typically low resolution images unsuitable for use in print. Ideally you will get each reference client to put their reference information onto their letterhead, which may then be scanned by you for use. Alternatively, ask them if they can send you a high-resolution electronic logo file via email.

Easiest of all is if they send you a Word or PDF document with their final reference info. Then, you can 'grab' their logo and quotes for use in making up your handouts and website info. And, you can just print out copies of the file for use as a handout.

Otherwise, scan each reference letter (or get it scanned here or elsewhere; don't fold the paper because the creases will show up on the scan!) and then print out the scanned image as needed on your own color printer. These may then be handed out as needed. You will also want to make up a one-page handout that has each reference company's name, logo and selected reference quote on it, along with your own logo/name/contact info.

On your website, have a page that corresponds to your one-page handout, with names/logos/quotes. I recommend that you do not link that page in your website. When you do, it is much easier for your competitors to get an 'easy shot' at those good customers. Rather, you memorize the location ( so you can provide the link to anyone who asks.

For the same reason, you do not want to put any references onto your brochures. If you lose one of your references to a competitor, you don't want to be stuck with 500 full color brochures you can no longer use.

That is an overview on how to get references, something every business should be doing. Make requesting references a part of your contact routine with your current customers. Even your worst case scenario is a good one: You may find your current customer is unhappy with your level of service, which will give you time to correct the problem before you lose them to a competitor!

In the long term, you will find that having a strong reference list is a great help in turning prospects into customers.

Ranger Kidwell-Ross is a graduate economist, business consultant, award-winning author and editor of

If you have comments on this article, or new information to provide on this topic, let us know and we can add it in as an addendum to this article. (Be sure to note the web URL address for the article you're referencing.)

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© 2009
Ranger Kidwell-Ross, Contractor Power and World Sweeper
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