Just like in a movie – where we get “social cues” from others who laugh – so everyone laughs more – the same is true in all aspects of business.
When your prospects are facing the decision to work with you (or not work with you), seeing that others have made that same decision can be very helpful. Sometimes that evidence that comes in the form of social proof is all they need to decide to move forward to work with you.
Psychologists call this consistency theory or congruency theory. Another term you see used in relationship to social proof is confirmation bias. While a purist could argue that these are all slightly different concepts, there’s no mistaking that they are at least kissing cousins.
Social Proof is a Form of Evidence
If you sell services, you are probably emphasizing the relationships you build with your clients. And you should. You’re selling an intangible; therefore, you are in the evidence business. Knowing that others are doing what we’re considering, can be compelling evidence for most. If you have prospects, or clients, or centers of influence with a neutral view toward you (if that’s even possible), then the right social proof or piece of evidence can move them into a positive view of you. If they already view you in a positive light, then social proof will strengthen their positive perceptions.
Types of Social Proof / Evidence You Might Use
Referrals & Introductions
You know I had to start here – right? After all, I’ve dedicated a quarter century (wow that sounds like a very long time) to helping businesses acquire more ideal clients through referrals and introductions.
This is probably the highest form of evidence because someone who knows your value and likes you has taken the time and energy to introduce others that they care about, to you.
Of course, the stronger the level of trust between the referral source and the prospect and the higher the quality of introduction, the more effective this piece of evidence becomes.
Someone has experienced your value and recommends you. Sometimes that’s all the social proof or evidence you need. The rest becomes a fait de complet (that’s French for “done deal”).
Testimonials are closely related to referrals and introductions because you have someone that your prospects can relate to (the more like them the better) saying something good about you and your value proposition.
Many financial professionals are not permitted to use most types of testimonials (even including endorsements on social media platforms). The financial services sector of our economy is heavily regulated and since some bad actors have made false claims over the years, the industry has been compelled to keep things on the “safe side.”
If you are able to use testimonials, then please do so often. Here are a few tips:
- Video testimonials are the most powerful, because of the energy that comes across in a video. But make these short (like 20-30 seconds in most cases).
- No video? Use the person’s photo. The more real and personal you make these, the more impact they will have.
- If at all possible, use the person’s name, title, and location. Again, the more real and personal the more effective.
- Do your best to make testimonials speak to specific attributes about working with you and/or results you helped produce. If you can’t promote financial results, you can promote your ability to help your clients get more clear and confident.
- Take a proactive approach toward collecting testimonials. Just like referrals and introductions, you can take a passive approach or be appropriately proactive. Which do you think will serve you better?
A case study can be a very compelling piece of evidence because it can go into the kind of depth now possible with a simple testimonial.
If you must, you can keep your case studies anonymous, but if you’re able to use the names of all the players, the business name, and even photos – that’s the strongest way to go.
A good case study will have these four cornerstones upon which to build:
- The problem that needs fixing or the opportunity that wants to be achieved.
- Other related challenges or opportunities that come into play in reaching the desired outcome.
- The actions that are taken by you, your clients, and other characters in this “play.”
- The results produced.
Case studies can also be particularly effective in your courtship of centers of influence – those who have the ability to introduce you to ideal clients, but may not have experienced your value first hand. Problems solved. Opportunities achieved. These bring your value proposition to light in a powerful way.
What You Write
It is my contention that “experts speak and experts write.” YOU are an expert: “A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.”
Writing blogs, white papers, books – you name it – will help you build a body of evidence that demonstrates your expertise.
But don’t just write these things hoping that people will see them. Promote what you write to prospects and clients – as a way to provide tangible value, establish credibility, AND provide your referral sources with tools that can use when introducing you.
For example, when I learn of someone who wants to introduce me to a colleague, I frequently ask, “Would you like me to send a copy of one of my books to you to give to them?” If they are introducing me to a committee, I’ll send as many books as needed.
No book? No worries. I know one team of financial advisors who had an article published in a prestigious magazine. They leverage that piece in as many ways as possible.