If you’re a consultant or run a service-based business, then it’s more than likely that you’ve been down the rabbit hole of providing a free consultation. You know the scenario; a new client or prospect calls you up asking for help and before you know it you’ve given 30 minutes of your time, and it’s not even billable!
Free consultations are inevitable, but they can also be a useful marketing tool by giving you a chance to demonstrate your value and connect with new clients. But how can you turn these situations into a sure thing?
Here are a few tips for winning new business through these consultation calls:
Ask questions in advance
Prospecting calls aren’t easy – they can be vague and get straight to the inevitable money question: “what would you charge to do this?” A good way to take control of the call and turn it into a true consultation is to ask questions in advance. Send your prospect an email before the call so that you can get a clear sense of their pain points and challenges.
Position yourself as a proven problem solver
If someone reaches out to you looking to talk about your services, it’s likely they’ll want to hear your ideas. But how do you demonstrate that you can address their pain points without giving all your secrets away? Instead draw on your successes with similar clients/challenges and explain how you were able to help them, and the results gained. While the parallels may not be spot on, it demonstrates your competency and track record of success.
Don’t be afraid to talk price
Don’t be shy about mentioning how much you’d normally charge for a consultation. Especially if the call or meeting is going beyond set time limits or a scope of “brainstorming” that you are comfortable with. Casually explain that you’d usually charge $X for this type of consultation – it demonstrates your value and good will.
Treat the session like a consultation, not a sales pitch. Be conversational and give counsel. Sure, you want a sale to follow, but that’s not the point of this call. Instead, use the concluding minutes to gauge whether your prospect found the session useful. Hopefully, this will lead to a request for a proposal or an estimate to implement some or all of your recommendations.
Make a decision about pursuing things further
Another big advantage of these types of calls is that they can help you decide whether the client is the right fit for you. Unstructured calls, lack of clarity about needs, and an over-emphasis on price are all indicators that the prospect may be problematic to work with or just scoping out the market for the cheapest option.
Turn your know-how into lead generating assets
If you find you’re good at this consultation business, look for ways to replicate your know-how and make it work as a lead generating tool. Consider hosting a webinar or writing an eBook or white paper – offer them as a download on your website in exchange for contact info.
Don’t wait for opportunities – seek them out
Lots of businesses offer free consultations as a way to get a foot in the door. Why not package your consultation as a special offer? Add a sign-up option on your website, for example: “Give us 15 minutes of your time, and we’ll show you what you can save.”
Boost your consultation with case studies
Put together a professional case study to give a snapshot of what you do and how it’s benefited others. It needn’t be lengthy, even just a few paragraphs explaining how you quantifiably helped a client, with a quote from them reinforcing your services. Present the case studies on your website alongside your offer, in your marketing campaigns, and link to it from your email signature.
Do you give “free” consultations as part of your prospecting strategy? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter or Facebook.