SHIFT Work: Rethinking Your Free Consultation

Offering your VIPs (Very Interested Prospects) a free consultation is one of the best ways to convert leads into loyal clients.

Rationally, this makes sense: the more people we talk to and give them a sample of what it’s like to work with us, the more we’ll find clients that we really want to work with. And many of us do find some great opportunities – but we also miss some because we stumble through the offer phase of the consultation.

When I first started offering business coaching, I used to get so excited about new prospect signing up for a free consultation. I worked really hard to give them a sample of what it was like to work with me. I was energetic, passionate, and helpful. And I was confident in coaching them: they would leave the session inspired and ready to take on the world with the practical action steps we came up with during the call. At the end of our time, which often ran over the scheduled time, I would be excited, they would be excited and we worked our way towards the parting goodbye, it would dawn on me that I never made them an offer. Or if I did remember to extend an offer to work together, it felt awkward to “pitch” them about my coaching programs after such a warm and friendly chat.

The result: Lots of free consultations and inspired conversations, but not many conversions to new clients.

Moment of Brilliance: My inability to grow my client base had nothing to do with my services and everything to do with my marketing intention and my resistance to ask for the business.

Is this where you are stuck? One of the ways I help my clients go from bright to brilliant is by helping them SHIFT from resistance to results.

Here are a few foundational truths that I use to help them set better marketing intentions for their free consultation:

  • You have the right to earn a living from the work that you do.
  • You cannot earn a living as an entrepreneur if you cannot grow your client base.
  • Growing your client base means that you will have to ASK people to be clients.
  • The best context for inviting people to become clients is a free consultation.

Once you can agree to those truths, it’s time to SHIFT your thinking about your free consultation.

#1: Your free consultation is not for people seeking freebies- it’s for people looking to hire someone, your VIPs.

#2: Your ideal VIPs expect you to make an offer. They are prospects, not freeloaders.

#3: Understand that people getting offended by your offer is about them not you or the value you place on your work. They:

  • Don’t know how to say no – so they don’t like to be put into a situation where they might have to. Being decisive and learning to say no is something mature and profitable solopreneurs know how to do. It’s not personal. If you have a problem saying no, I guarantee that you are resisting situations where you may hear no.
  • Are not real investors, they only want what is cheap or free. People that are unwilling to invest in themselves are not ideal clients because they will doubt their investment and line up their actions to prove that it wasn’t worth it, like not doing the work and constantly coming up with excuses for why your advice won’t work for them.
  • They are not ready to buy…yet. Sometimes people are gathering information so they can plan or budget for the help and support they need. Sometimes they need more “courting.” This is where having a system in place to nurture leads is invaluable. Follow up and follow up consistently.

Serious leads sign up for your free consultations with an understanding that they are approaching a business. Why wouldn’t they expect you to make an offer and invite them to work with you – if it’s a good fit? And that’s what the consultation is all about: would both of you benefit from working together.

What are you doing?

Are you trying to build a practice by getting something for nothing? You reap what you sow: If you are not investing in your business, you will attract people that are not willing to invest in theirs. When you shift, so will your practice.

If you are interested in working with a coach that can help you move from resistance to results, schedule a complimentary SHIFT session. In my free consultation, we’ll talk about where you are, where you want to be and determine if I’m the right person to help you get there.

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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Debra A. Jason

Too often I think people who have contacted me for a complimentary call have been seeking “freebies.” I’m shifting my perspective and thinking about making it clear, upfront, that this call is about helping them achieve a breakthrough from where they are, then help them with clarity about where they want to be and determining if we’re a mutual fit to help them get there.

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    Debra, I hold an invite only event and I let people know up front that there will be no hard sell during the event, but I will let them know how I can help them and invite them to invest in working with me – if it’s a good fit.

    Reply
Patrice K. Cokley, MBA

Love this! Thanks for sharing. I think those who seek free consultations should read this as well so that they’ll know that they’re approaching a business that charges for services. Great post!

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    Good point Patrice! It’s up to us to reset their expectation. Feel free to share this post with your network. The more people that shift their thinking about free consultations, the easier it becomes for us to focus on the real work of helping people that are willing and able to invest.

    Reply
Vatsala

2012 was my year of inspired coaching, lots of social service and fewer conversions! It was not that I did not ask for the business or make a pitch; I did and even sent out agreed engagement letters with full details but never got a response to the follow up. It dawned on me that in my enthusiasm and passion, I was not identifying the serious prospects who were ready to experience a transformation from the ‘freebie’ seekers. My resolution for 2013 was to take back my time and figure out where I was going wrong and then put into place the required system. The results have been better. Like Debra, there has been a shift in perspective and I ensure that everyone is clear that this is a consultation and not a free session. I slip in the investment’, not cost, at an appropriate moment. Establishing the right fit is more important. The serious person who calls or writes may not sign up immediately but they do return soon to make that investment in themselves.

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    Thanks for stopping by Vatsala! When I realized that the problem was with me – not having a better filter in place and not setting the expectation, it got a lot easier to set the tone of my sessions and ease my anxiety.

    Reply
Stephanie LH Calahan

Great post. I used to offer free consultations, but the terminology did not work for
me. I was devaluing my time by saying it was free and my initial call is
targeted.

I have breakthrough strategy sessions where we uncover what is holding you back,
one step you can put in place right now and if it makes sense, how we might
work together. I do not make offers to everyone. I am determining congruence as
much as the person on the other line.

Prior to a call, the person “pays” with their time and thought. I have a
pretty hefty intake form that I send. When people fill it out they have
breakthroughs even before we talk. If they don’t fill it out, we don’t talk.
Since I work with people who are really ready for a change and are action
takers, this is my way of pre-qualifying them.

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    I love that approach Stephanie. I will be beefing up my free consult process too. Especially as my practice is growing and I the time available for free consults is limited. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Reply
Julie Zommers

Interesting Tai. This year I made the decision to do no more free sessions. I put up my fees (I’m an EFT practitioner and coach). I have never been busier- it’s like I finally ‘owned’ my value, and the Universe said, ‘finally’ and then sent me heaps of clients. There’s definitely something magical that happens when you stop giving away your time for free. Having said that, there’s still other ways to be generous!

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing Julie! Don’t you just love how our internal alignment manifests external abundance. What a brilliant model you are for other practitioners.

    Reply
Karo

This is what I’m still trying to figure out right now for myself. On the one hand, I totally understand and agree with your philosophy. On the other hand, I recently had a chance to be in a position where I took advantage of the free consultation, and what turned out was that I actually did not feel like working with the person after we were done. So before the consultation I was thinking that no matter what, I should be working with the consultant, so I can grow my business. I really liked her message and approach (I saw a live, five-minute talk she did). And yet, I was so relieved to get off the phone and just move on. 🙂

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    Karo, I feel the same way. Just because someone wants to hire me – that doesn’t mean I want to work with them. In free consultations I’ve been able to tell that the person was not a good fit. When I take on new clients, I sowing into them and their vision – so for me, it’s got to “feel” right. I am glad you trusted your gut – and glad that the free consult gave you the opportunity to do so. Thanks for stopping by!

    Reply
Jennifer Ann Sanders

Hi Tai I think the free consultations are a valuable way to get to know prospects and show them the value of working with you. It took me a while to refine the process of the free consultation so I hope this article helps others do the same and be successful xxx

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    I agree Jennifer that refining the process is key to making free consultations work. It doesn’t have to be scripted, but it helps to have a framework that keeps the intention of the call in focus. Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply
Deanna Heiliger

Tai, what great advice here! I am working on my 2014, and I love the idea of having a free consultation. It is a lovely way to get to know someone and to see if we are a “match” to work together. Thank you for the kick! 🙂

Reply
    Tai Goodwin

    Thanks for joining the conversation Deanna. What kind of service-based business do you have?

    Reply
Louise Priestess Tarot

Tai, some great advise and comments here, thank you! 🙂

Reply
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