Some contractors include a half-dozen letters of endorsement from satisfied clients in their pitch book. That's nothing to Gary Schoengold, president of National Energy Conservation Corp. in Olney, Md. He includes about 140 letters and notes, culled from the several thousand he's received during the 21 years his siding and window company has been in business.

“I've gone into homes where they say they've read the entire portfolio,” Schoengold says, “and I know I've got the job.”

Testimonials from satisfied customers help build trust in your company. “It's a form of recommendation,” says Joe Ronzino, manager of Four Seasons Sunrooms company stores on Long Island, N.Y., where showrooms and salespeople are equipped with photo albums featuring project pictures and customer quotes. “It squelches the fear of starting a project in the home,” Ronzino says. “When people are willing to speak on our behalf, it builds credibility for us as a company.”

Testimonials can be included in the pitch book, featured in print advertising, filmed as part of a company video or DVD, or placed on Web sites. They can also be recorded and made available via toll-free numbers for prospects to hear.

Burr Roofing & Siding in Darien, Conn., uses testimonials both on its Web site and in the company video. The four past customers who appear in the 14-minute video were selected to represent a cross section of Burr Roofing's customer demographic. “People want to see someone they can bond with,” owner Bob Priest says.

Burr Roofing gave those customers a copy of the video and a gift certificate to a local nursery, though Priest says this was strictly a courtesy, not a tit for tat.

Some companies, however, give customers discounts for supplying testimonials, a practice that David Cerami, owner of Let's Face It, a cabinet refacing company in Lansdale, Pa., finds pointless, if not self-defeating. “It's not necessary,” says Cerami, whose Web site features testimonial quotes, along with a toll-free number where, for reference purposes, prospects can obtain the name of customers in their area who have had jobs done by Let's Face It or a sister bath-refinishing company. “We want them to be so happy that they want to talk about our company and their experience. This isn't about bribing them for something. Schoengold or his salesperson ask for letters but give no discounts to customers who supply them.

Instead, National Energy Conservation Corp. earns this written appreciation by servicing jobs, without charge, well past the warranty period. Last Christmas, Four Seasons Sunrooms sent its sales team out with poinsettias for every 2005 customer. “That's how you get testimonials,” Ronzino says. “By offering a high level of customer service.”