should you offer free consultations

Q + A: How to Use Free Consultations as Part of Your Sales Process

Using free consultations as part of the sales process came up for discussion in one of the Facebook Groups I’m part of. I’m sharing part of the conversation here.

Q: I am on the fence about free consults and really giving this whole process some thought.

I recently did some sales calls where I was putting my focus on connecting and giving a small tidbit of how I could serve them. Well, a couple of them posted a shout out to another “coach” who also had a “free” call with them. Honestly it left me bummed and angry and feeling tricked. They were clearly “freebie seekers” who took up every free call any coach offered and tried to piece their business together through this scattered advice and hiring no one.

I then discovered that another connection I have charges 250.00 for her “discovery” sessions that are 45 minutes!!

What do you think of this? I guess I am just looking for discussion about these calls and how you approach them.

-K.S.

A: The way you incorporate sales calls into your business depends on your audience, how they find you, and your services and prices.

Your Audience…

If you are dealing with entrepreneurs who know they need your solution to grow their business they are easily presold. If you are looking to work with individuals who need life coaching because things are unravelled in their life – they are going to need some trust building and help to invest in themselves.

How they find you…

  • If you meet someone at a networking event and you want to build the relationship – offer them a free 20-30 minute consult.
  • For people that you connect to on Facebook or any social networking site – use a form and ask questions to weed out those who are not serious.
  • If people find you online, it might make sense to have them pay for an initial “discovery” session at a lower rate rather than offer a free consultation. Why? It weeds out the freebie seekers and sets the standard that your time and expertise is highly valuable. But this can also depends on your pricing and the services you offer.

Your services and prices…

  • If you are offering higher priced services or programs, build the time of “free consultations” into your pricing model. Someone willing and able to invest $10,000 working with you is looking for high-touch connection, not to be nickeled and dimed for trust building that comes at the beginning of the relationship.
  • If the initial consult requires up front work from you, charge for the initial consult and then credit it to their account if they hire you for the full job. For example if your initial consult involves an audit, design options, or reviewing their work, it makes sense to charge for that time, since they may not choose to work with you, but you will have definitely made an investment of time and provided value.

Ask Yourself…

You have to ask yourself what you are really trying to accomplish with your initial consultation and if you are willing to learn how to use a consultative sales process. If you absolutely hate making sales calls , I recommend adding someone to your team that can help you create and implement a standard sales process. One of the biggest ways we shoot ourselves in the foot is by not learning how to sell. Even if you you plan on having a team member dedicated to sales, you still need to understand how it works and how to employ at least the most basic sales tactics.  No matter how intuitive we are, we still need to learn the sales process if we want to build a sustainable business.

Should you stop doing free consultations?

Don’t let a few bad apples spoil your sales process. In other words, don’t give up on using free consultations as part of your sales process because of a few people who wanted to take advantage of your opportunity. Choose how you are going to handle things, do it consistently for three months and track what happens. Keep track of:

  • who shows up/applies
  • who kicks the tires
  • who seems genuinely interested, and
  • how many consultations it takes to get to a sale

For the calls where you have a successful conversion, note what worked – about the person and your approach – and then replicate that to get more conversions.

I wrote an article on a different way to think about free consultations, that has additional information: SHIFT Work – Rethinking Your Free Consultations.

What’s been your experience?

Do you offer free consultations? What are the pros and cons to doing so? How has it worked for your business?

 

Tai Goodwin

Tai Goodwin is a Business Growth Strategist and creator of the Brilliant Zone Assessment. She is on a mission to help service-based entrepreneurs tap into their brilliance and create profitable business models and revenue streams. Author of Girlfriend, It's Your Time, her articles can be found on Forbes.com, Careerealsim, and the Huffington Post.

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