How to use testimonials in a proposal

Customer testimonials bring your proposal to life. They show how you have approached a similar contract or project in the past, and the results you achieved. And because they come from a third party, they also provide independent verification of the value of what you’re offering.

A customer testimonial is simply a statement in the client's own words, describing how you helped them.  This is valuable, because a customer can boast of your successes in a way that is simply not possible when making the same claims yourself.

Consider this example. An organisation was tendering for a contract to run a large event. They had recently acquired a trade show previously operated by the governing body in the same industry, and their success in running this show was a key selling point in the proposal. 

In this extract from their proposal, notice how the tenderer’s more modest description of the success of the event is magnified by the client’s enthusiastic praise:

Two years ago, Total Events acquired the (Industry) Expo previously owned by (Industry Governing Body). Expo 2015 was the first show run by Total Events and record numbers of delegates, visitors and exhibitors were achieved.

“Total Events has taken an already–successful show and improved it beyond what we dreamed possible. Expo 2015 broke all previous records for delegates, visitors and exhibitors by almost 20%.  We couldn’t be happier.” Simon Schraeder, CEO, (Industry Governing Body)

We have always trusted the recommendation of people who are like us over anything that a company might want to sell to us, and now it seems we are willing to extend this trust to total strangers too. 

A study by Socialnomics showed that 90% of people using social media trust peer recommendations, but only 14% trust advertisements. Another study, by Social Media Week, showed that we trust the recommendations of website reviews (54%) almost as much as the opinion of professionals (58%) – both of whom are likely to be total strangers.

The ideal way to use testimonials in a proposal is to seed them throughout, wherever they will best support your claims.  A page of general testimonial letters at the back is far less effective.

For an important pitch, it is a good idea to go back to your clients or referees for new testimonials that are tailored to your Purchaser Value Topics (win themes). If you are using the client as a referee, make sure you include their testimonial alongside the referee’s contact details in your proposal. This will give the buyer some context and background when they call the referee, and be more likely to result in a positive first impression.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business that is won through competitive bids and tenders. Her clients have won and retained hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business with many of Australia’s largest corporate and government buyers.

Re-Engage is my training and coaching program for organisations with multiple major accounts. It will give your people the framework, skills, and confidence to lead contract renewals with your existing customers. Email info@robynhaydon.com or call 03 9557 4585 to find out more.