The power of a letter or reference

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You know how EBay users can rate each other?  Folks can post notes about their experience doing business with you.  As a buyer when I see that 300 people have posted back feedback 99% of which was positive it greatly lowers my perceived risk in making a purchase.  I have never seen the equivalent in a barter situation, but I have started doing something that is almost as good:  Letters of Reference

In past years I’ve had a tough time bartering within a specific industry.  People just weren’t used to the concept and it made them nervous.  I finally broke in and made a couple good trades with some businesses within that industry but didn’t have luck with some specific players that I was originally interested in working with.  A year later I went back to my successful trade partners and asked for letters of reference.  Armed with those letters I went back to the original businesses that turned me down and low-and-behold….it worked!!  With one business in particular that turned me down flat a year earlier, with the help of my new letters I got a enthusiastic “yes” to my request to barter.

Helpful hints for letters of reference:

  1. You need to help your happy customers write letters of reference.   As happy as they are and as much as you believe them when they say they’ll write a letter for you, very few of them will actually follow through.  It’s nothing personal; they are busy running their own business.  So when I say that you will need to “help” them, what I really mean is that you will have to write it for them.  What I’ve done in the past is contact the happy client and ask them if it would be OK for me to write a rough draft of a reference letter for them, that they can then check and edit however they want.  They have always agreed and have pretty much always approved what I write w/o change.
  2. Within the letter, try to get across the message that the client was happy with the transaction and that it was a pleasant and profitable experience.   Put yourself in the shoes of a nervous prospective barter partner and include what you think they would want to hear to calm their fears.  Of course it goes without saying that anything in your letters should be 100% truthful.

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