Written by Kevin DelGaudio, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

Nothing compares to the absolute marketing power of the testimonial—nothing! Because the general public still doesn’t understand how a reverse mortgage works, why not have a happy borrower tell them all about it? In fact, have as many happy borrowers as possible tell them about it. Ask them to talk about why they took one out, how it changed their lives, what they did with the extra funds—anything, so long as it comes from the mouth of an actual borrower and not from you.

If you are not currently using testimonials in every single piece of marketing you produce, you’d better get started today. Let’s face it, you can tell someone how great you are until you’re blue in the face, and they still probably won’t believe half of what you claim. What other people say about you is infinitely more powerful and believable than anything you can say about yourself. That’s how influential testimonials are. You need to use testimonials anywhere and everywhere you can. In my humble opinion, a testimonial cannot be overused; the power of social proof cannot be overstated.

So why aren’t you using testimonials, or why are you not using them as often as you should? Testimonials are a lot like referrals in that most loan officers are hesitant to ask for one. Some resist because they’re shy, others because they’re lazy, and still others because of both. If you want to be successful, you need to step out of your comfort zone and ask your clients for a testimonial.

WHO do you ask for a testimonial? Everyone. Not every client is going to give you a glowing review, so if you ask everyone, you’ll be sure to get a few good ones. The client is an obvious choice, but perhaps you should consider thinking beyond that. What about the son or daughter of a client who was closely involved in the process? Perhaps the borrower’s children encouraged their parents to take out a reverse mortgage; in that case, they may give you a better, more insightful review of their experience with the loan. You need to be aggressive and think out of the box. How about a testimonial from a senior who decided against using the product? This isn’t exactly what you’re aiming for, but I assure you, I’m not nuts. How powerful would the following testimonial be if it appeared in your literature or on your website?

“Jim was very polite and patient with us since we really didn’t know much about how a reverse mortgage worked. After almost two hours of explanation, and then a lot of questions and answers from my husband, Jim told us that he really didn’t think that a reverse mortgage was in our best interest, based on our current financial situation. I think that was the first time in 79 years that a salesman ever told me his product was not for me. Jim is one of the most honest salespeople I have ever met and I cannot say enough about this man’s integrity.”

Now that is a testimonial I would be proud to display, regardless of the fact that the senior opted against taking out the loan. How believable is that? Do you think a potential client would hesitate taking a meeting with you after reading that quote? Of course you don’t want to fill your marketing with testimonials from clients who did not pursue a reverse mortgage, but one or two of them could be extremely powerful. You need to have as many positive testimonials as you can gather. You should reach out to clients, clients’ children and family members, referral partners, etc. A testimonial from a financial planner, attorney or another referral source can go a long way to building your credibility.

WHAT should be written in the testimonial? This should be as varied as possible, but always try to use this opportunity to tell a story. People, especially seniors, relate to stories. Much more information can be relayed through a story than a simple statement of the facts. Include an account of why a reverse mortgage was sought and how it impacted the borrower’s life. You don’t need to be specific with figures, but you had better be specific with how it has helped the borrower.

WHEN should you ask for a testimonial? In my opinion, you should ask until you get one or until the client has refused to give one. I always ask for a referral on forward mortgages at the closing, around the time that the keys were handed to the buyer—there is no more emotional moment for buyers than when those keys are placed in their hands. The same goes for a reverse mortgage: The best time to ask for a referral or testimonial is immediately after the check hits their hand, and for the same reason: maximum emotional impact. The second that check is cut, the client’s first thoughts are more likely than not to be extreme gratitude and relief.

Although I advise you to act sooner rather than later, asking after the loan has closed for some time might have its benefits too. Imagine your client a few months from closing after they have actually had a chance to enjoy the benefits of their decision. They already took that monthlong trip to Paris, they paid off all their credit cards and loans, they paid the first semester’s tuition for their grandchild’s college. If you keep in touch with your clients, as you should, you will know when another opportunity to ask for a testimonial will present itself.

Loan officers always ask, “How do you get them to give you a good testimonial?” Here’s the answer: If they seem reluctant to give you one or beg off with the excuse, “I can’t write well,” you can offer them two choices. You can offer to write it for them, based on what took place, or you can offer to interview them and put their words down on paper for them. Either way, you’ll need to send it to them for their approval, and ask them to return it to you in their handwriting, typewritten by them, or email it to you, so what you have was truly written by them.

Another option is to ask your client to videotape a testimonial. This is exponentially more powerful than a written testimonial since we all believe what we see, even more than what we read. It’s also an excellent element to add to your website. Another idea is to hold a contest and offer a prize to anyone who submits a testimonial that is good enough to use in your marketing material. You can offer a free dinner for two or a $100 gift certificate. The cost is insignificant when compared to the power of a fantastic testimonial. Remember to be creative, think out of the box and always, always ask for a testimonial. Good luck and good marketing!

Have a marketing question or a product you’d like us to investigate? Please email your comments and suggestions to Kevin at marketing@reversereview.com.