“It’s impossible! I know my customers; I have been selling to them for 20 years. It can’t be done.”

“It may work elsewhere, but my customers are unique.”

In one workshop, there were 25 salespeople from a hotel chain. Twenty-four salespeople embraced the program, but the 25th said, “You don’t understand; my hotel is different than the others. This sales program won’t work here.”

Often, we don’t achieve change goals because we don’t even try. We fail before we begin. Sometimes, we really can’t achieve our selling goals. However, we can’t know if a new initiative will work until we try it.

This problem is a mindset issue. Carol Dweck points out in her book “Mindset” that we encounter two mindsets – fixed and growth. Someone with a fixed mindset believes our abilities and traits are given to us. If a task seems difficult, it isn’t meant for us to do. Someone with a growth, or learning, mindset believes in self-development. What really counts is learning and trying new methods, ideas and experiences.

Here’s another critical question: Is there a way to reinforce the learning mindset and transform team members with a fixed mindset in advance of a sales training and development program?

When a company hasn’t emphasized securing proper testimonials, the testimonial project can accomplish this goal.

Too many companies have no testimonials. Among companies with testimonials, many have milquetoast testimonials like “Great service, great quality, great pricing.” Unless it’s from a brand-name company, this type of testimonial usually carries little weight in the selling process.

Strong testimonials are often essential today, because prospects are very skeptical and almost jaded before we approach them – largely because of ineffective salespeople who preceded us, who didn’t adequately deal with skepticism and risk aversion.

The “feel, felt, found” approach (“I know how you feel; many of my prospects felt that way before they selected us; here’s what they found.”) of the 1970s is less effective and often ineffective today. It’s hard for us to give ourselves credibility.

Proper testimonials have two essential features:

  • They tell the “before and after” story: How was the customer’s situation before you helped, and how was it afterward?
  • They relate the objection the prospect had to overcome in selecting you and how he or she overcame the objection. For example, if you are a boutique firm, your testimonial might say, “We stay away from boutique firms.” If this is a common objection, testimonials should share how the prospect entered into a conversation with you and why he or she selected you.

Bear in mind that sales team members may need help in writing the testimonials. You should also expect some resistance to securing testimonials: “I don’t feel comfortable asking for testimonials. I would welcome them if offered, but I do things for my customers; I don’t ask them to do things for me.”

There is always a team player who overcomes the resistance. When confronted with the concept of a testimonial project, the 10-, 15- and 20-year veterans of an off-spec product company agreed it was impossible: “Our customers don’t want to admit they do business with us. They would never write a testimonial.” A 24-year-old new hire didn’t know it was impossible and was able to obtain a testimonial within two weeks. The veterans then had their first testimonials within one month. Now, they have over 50 written testimonials and a short video testimonial.

Implementing a project like the testimonial letter project catalyzes the sales training change process. When it’s conducted successfully before starting sales training, it provides the sales team with valuable selling tools to use in the training. The project also establishes an achievement baseline for the learning mindset. The sales team has done something they never did and perhaps didn’t think was possible. This result supports further change and allows the facilitator to present this framing: “We didn’t think testimonials were possible. Perhaps there are other things we can do that we thought weren’t possible.”