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How to Ask Past Clients for a Recommendation

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A sincere and enthusiastic recommendation from a former client can encourage potential customers to give you both their trust and their business. The key to obtaining an effective testimonial lies largely in your approach. When contacting previous clients, remember that they might be busy or might be surprised at your request, especially if significant time has passed since your last interaction.

Re-establish Your Relationship

Don’t immediately ask for a recommendation, especially if you haven’t worked with or spoken to the client in several months or years. Instead, take time to re-establish your relationship. Ask the client how his business is faring and about developments or changes since the last time you spoke. Share news about your company as well, especially positive information such as awards you’ve won or new products or services. You might need to remind the client what kind of project you completed for him, especially if you only worked with him a few times.

Select the Right Clients

Determine which clients are most willing to agree to provide a recommendation and most likely to offer a glowing testimonial. If you’re targeting a specific audience, such as small business owners or technology companies, start with clients from these categories. Choose clients who previously expressed enthusiasm about the quality of your work, because you have a good idea of what they’ll say. It’s also a good idea to focus on clients you worked with extensively, because they have a better understanding of your abilities and professionalism. However, even a client you only worked with once or twice can offer a genuine and appreciative reference.

Offer Disclosure

Tell clients why you’re asking for a recommendation and why you chose them. For example, you might explain you’re putting together a website or marketing materials or bidding on a project. Mention that you remembered the client saying how happy he was or how your product or service saved him time or money or improved productivity or efficiency. Describe how you plan to use the recommendation and how much information you’ll include about the client, such as just his name or also his job title and company. Ask clients to sign a release form and mail them a copy.

Use a Questionnaire

Some clients don’t have time to write a recommendation or don’t know how to articulate their thoughts. Help them by asking questions designed to solicit the kind of information you need. After they agree to provide a recommendation, send them a short survey consisting of three to five questions. Stress that the form is only a guideline to assist them and that you welcome any additional thoughts they have. You can either tailor the questionnaire to each client or create a template to make it easier to contact multiple clients.

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David De Lossy/Digital Vision/Getty Images