Online Review Sales

How Sales Teams Can Use Online Reviews to Convert Prospects

Customer reviews, on their own, aren't enough to close the sale. But negative reviews are more than enough to push prospective customers away. Read More...
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Salespeople are compulsive liars.

Thanks to the post-truth age, it seems trust is in short supply. That’s the general attitude consumers have towards sales teams as well. The view that anything and everything out of a salesperson’s mouth is a lie. That they’re looking to swindle you, to take your money.

But it’s not true.

They’re not all liars. We’ve heard the stories about companies who behave honestly. Who do what’s best for their customers, even when that means acting against their own best interests.

Take Zappos for example.

A Zappos employee physically went to a competing shoe store to get a customer the product they wanted.

Send customers to a competitor? Who does that? Zappos does, because they’re earning trust.

Sales teams are still viewed as dishonest

When it comes to honesty and ethics, salespeople are almost universally distrusted. A Gallup poll on Honesty/Ethics in Professions found that salespeople received some of the lowest marks for honesty.

Graph of perception of ethics of different professions

Salespeople and advertisers were near the bottom of the list.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

What an uphill battle. You start your relationship with customers at a trust deficit, yet you’re still expected to attract, convert and close customers.

In the past, salespeople relied primarily on cold calls to hit quotas, but with inbound marketing, brands are starting to earn consumers trust before they even make contact with a sales person. In many industries, consumers would prefer to make a purchase without ever talking to a sales person. But the ones that still need to talk through the product and get clarification on the product or services capabilities, still need to trust the employee they’re touching base with.

It’s a problem many sales teams struggle to solve.

Sales teams won’t struggle when they have what they need

For prospects that want to talk to someone, Salespeople are an early touch point with potential customers so they’re a wealth of information for customer research. You know customers are coming in with large levels of distrust. So we should be working with the all-stars of our sales team. Focus their attention on boosting their inherent trustworthiness.

Sounds great. But how?

Get them to create helpful educational content – a blog post, video, webinar or Q&A session.


But content about what?

Content that builds trust and confidence in the product you’re selling to the customer. This is the part where anxiety, discouragement and doubt sets in. Where sales and marketing teams fall apart. They’re not sure how to go about building trust.

How are we supposed to do that, they wonder?

Strategy #1: Focus on Complementary Online Reviews

Customers, as we’ve seen, have a lot of distrust for sales teams. They believe they’re fundamentally dishonest, willing to say or do anything to make the sale.

But there’s one thing customers trust in quite a bit more.

Other customers.

It’s easier to trust someone’s objective opinion when they don’t have a horse in the race. Customers view other customers as less biased and more trustworthy.

Customers use reviews to make their purchasing decisions. Sales teams want customers to purchase their products. It feels like there’s a win/win situation in there somewhere.

How do we make this work?

With complementary sources. A complementary source is a business or organization who serves the same exact customer you do, in a different, yet complementary way.

Let’s say you’re buying a house.

There’s a good chance you’ll need help. You’ll probably need help from a realtor, lender, appraiser and home inspector. Each of these professionals are complementary sources. They serve the same customer in a different, yet complementary way.

Here’s how you do it.

  1. Find complementary sources. Every industry has complementary sources. Make a list of businesses serving the same customers in a complementary way.
  2. Get reviews from complementary sources. If you’re an established business, you probably already have a customer list filled with complementary sources. Reach out to them for a review. If you already have the reviews, add them to the list.
  3. Post the reviews on 3rd party sites. You’ll want to make sure reviews from your complementary sources are posted on both mainstream and niche sites. Ask them to share their reviews on both, if they’re willing.
  4. Point prospects to these reviews. When you reach an appropriate point in your sales cycle, point customers to these 3rd party reviews. Then, use these complementary sources as vendor or product references that customers can call (don’t forget to ask for permission first).

This strategy works like gangbusters, but it depends on a few, very important considerations.

  1. Honesty and transparency. All salespeople are liars remember? When you set this up, you’ll want to provide full disclosure, keeping things above board.
  2. Get real reviews. You’ll need to do legitimate work with real complementary sources. Do your best to avoid even the appearance of sleaze.
  3. Share good and bad news. This strategy depends on two things: having enough reviews and having a mix of both positive and negative details in your review. Did someone on your team make a mistake? Ask complementary sources to add it to the review. Missed a deadline that one time? Add it to the review.
  4. Make it win/win/win. Your customers want to work with trustworthy all-stars (that’s you). Your sales team wants more customers, and so does your complementary source. When appropriate, do what you can to create an introduction between your new customer and your complementary source.

How on earth are you supposed to create an “introduction” between a new customer and your complementary source?

It’s easy, you do it with…

  • Affiliate products from your complementary source
  • A joint venture partnership + formal introduction
  • Co-host a webinar that’s a good fit for both
  • Send out an email to customers who contacted your source

There’s so many ways to approach this.

Just one problem. What if you don’t have a complementary source you can contact?

You find a source on your own.

Working with your sales team, you identify complementary sources who are (a) a good fit for your product (b) willing to use a free version of your product or service in exchange for a legitimate and trustworthy review (which requires transparency) and (c) a great fit for your employer’s audience.


This strategy is used, all around you, every single day.

  • Theaters post relevant trailers, ahead of movies. This helps the studios that produce those movies and the theaters that distribute them.
  • SaaS apps like IFTTT and Zapier integrate their app with thousands of other products and services.
  • General contractors, plumbers, remodelers and electricians all work together to build a house

Sophisticated sales teams make deals like these on a daily basis.

Strategy #2: Passionate Dogfooding

Dogfooding means your business uses its own product to test and promote… Its product. It’s a powerful way to attract customer attention and create trust simultaneously.

You get the point.

There’s something missing isn’t there? These examples… They seem kind of weak, don’t they?

They are weak.

Because these examples are the results themselves. There’s nothing spectacular about these examples. These dogfooding examples are the bare minimum. You’re supposed to show confidence in your own product.

There’s a better example of dogfooding.

Jack LaLanne.

For almost a hundred years, Jack LaLanne pushed the benefits of regular exercise and a good diet. He swore off sugar, processed foods and additives, stating that juicing and a natural diet was best.

Here’s what makes his story so incredible.

“People thought I was a charlatan and a nut. The doctors were against me‍—‌they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.”

No one believed him. So he used dogfooding to sell his products to customers. He became the review. He practiced what he preached. He showed the world the results of his lifestyle.

The results were legendary.

Alcatraz prison was supposed to be inescapable because of the treacherous swim to the mainland. But Jack did it, handcuffed, shackled and tied to a 1,000 pound boat.

A young 21 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger challenged a 54 year old LaLanne to a push up and pull up contest. Arnold, the youngest Mr. Universe at the time lost, badly.

At 61, he swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater, towing a 1,000 pound boat with his hands and feet bound.

Here he is at age 70 towing a flotilla of 70 rowboats during a mile-long swim from Long Beach Harbor to the Queensway Bridge. He did it with his hands and feet bound.

Customer trust skyrocketed.

All because he became the review. You don’t have to accomplish amazing feats to attract customers with reviews. Just become the review.

It’s no different with your sales team.

Know your product is amazing? Create a demo or complementary product. Give customers the chance to see your product in action. Give your product away to a few of the types of customers you’re looking to attract.

Get them to be a live case study.

Be open, transparent and bold. Take risks, get your sales team to push past customer objections showing them what’s possible.

  •       Customers afraid their food will get stuck in your blender? Blend rocks and iPads to demonstrate your product’s ability

Does this negate the value of the average customer review? Not at all, in fact the strategies I’ve mentioned make the average reviews stronger.

Imagine you’re BlendTec. You want customers to buy your blenders. They want an extremely tough, versatile blender. So you become the review.

Customers are impressed. How do I know? BlendTec sales increased 5x.

Then, you see review after review from customers stating, the videos are true! “I blended rocks, and my blender didn’t break! It’s so amazing.”

Now your sales team is ready to share online reviews.

Once these strategies are in place, you’re ready to share reviews. Shotgunning reviews out to each and every potential customer may work, but the results can be hit or miss.

There’s a better way.

With mix and match. Here’s how it works. Let’s say a prospective customer comes to you. Your product is a contender, and they’re in the process of evaluating. They have some objections though. So you use mix and match to address their concerns.

You share a mix of relevant and not-so-relevant reviews with your customer.

Collect the relevant reviews you’ve created via your complementary sources. Make sure each of the reviews you have at this point are ultra relevant to your customer’s concerns.

Next, send customers to 3rd party sites. Share your most relevant reviews first, consistently sharing the most relevant reviews you have.

Finally, once you’re out of relevant reviews, sprinkle in a mix of not-so-relevant reviews. If customers forget and ask about a customer that’s more relevant to them, re-share a few of the relevant 3rd party reviews you offered in the beginning.

How are customers likely to feel after all this?

Sold. They’re amazed and impressed. Their objections have been answered.

This works until you introduce new objections.

Once you’ve introduced an objection customers weren’t prepared for, it’s over, right? If customers are seeing the same objections over and over, it’s going to hurt sales.

It’s true, because it should hurt sales.

If people are introducing the same unresolved objections over and over, there’s a bigger problem at play. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 exploded. Customers had the same objection. Is the objection the problem or is it the phone?

See what I mean?

Customer reviews, on their own, aren’t enough to close the sale. But negative reviews are more than enough to push prospective customers away.

Prospects are Hungry for Online Reviews

Salespeople are compulsive liars. That’s the attitude most customers bring with them. But it’s not true. We’ve heard the stories about companies who do what’s best for their customers, even when that means acting against their own interests.

Research shows customers are actively searching for amazing reviews. They want to hear from your best customers and from your worst.

They’re looking for an amazing company to work with. Get customers to vouch for you, and you’ll find a simple and straightforward way to attract and win new customers. Become the review, and your sales team has everything it needs to achieve amazing results, trustworthiness guaranteed.

About the Author

Andrew McDermott

Andrew McDermott is the co-founder of HooktoWin. He shows entrepreneurs how to attract and win new customers.