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Should you offer free consultations?

5 May, 2023 · 5 min read·Business
Should you offer free consultations?
Discover the potential benefits and drawbacks of offering free consultations as a business, and how it can affect your bottom line. Find out if offering free consultations is the right strategy for your business.

Free consultations are becoming increasingly popular among businesses today. Unsurprisingly, consultations can provide an attractive incentive for potential clients to engage with your business. For instance, in a recent study, almost half of respondents stated that free consultations are important when choosing a lawyer. 

In this blog post, we'll explore why offering free consultations can be a smart move for your business, how to structure your offer, how to set boundaries, and how to qualify leads during consultations. We'll also address common concerns businesses may have about offering free consultations and discuss how offering consultations can generate leads, build trust, and ultimately grow your business.

Why offer free consultations?

Offering free consultations is a strategy that has been employed by businesses of all sizes and across different industries. It’s a way to attract potential customers and provide them with valuable information. Businesses that have just started out can use this method to introduce their services to the public.

The benefits of offering free consultations

Offering free consultations is a powerful way to grow your business. Some business owners may fear offering free consultations because they assume it will cost them time and money without any guaranteed return. However, in reality, free consultations are an excellent way to invest your resources by building a relationship with clients and showcasing your expertise.

Building relationships with clients

A significant benefit of free consultations is building a personal relationship with potential clients. It's much easier for a client to engage with your business when they see you’re investing your time in them. Moreover, by dedicating your expertise and time, you create a sense of trust and mutual respect. And this can prove valuable in the long term. Sometimes clients may not be sure if they need your services. So a free consultation allows them to determine if it's right for them.

Engage clients fast

Showcasing your expertise

Another benefit of offering free consultations is the ability to showcase your expertise and establish credibility. This is particularly important for new businesses. Through a consultation, you can demonstrate knowledge and provide a taste of the value you bring to your clients.

Unlike a marketing campaign, offering a consultation enables you to customize your approach to suit the specific needs of your potential clients. This allows you to create a unique and valuable experience for clients. It's also your chance to shine and show you have the skills to solve someone's problem. When you demonstrate an understanding of complex issues and provide possible solutions you can establish a reputation for yourself, even without a track record of successful deals.

Standing out from competitors

With many businesses offering similar services, a free consultation may be a distinct advantage. It shows you're willing to invest time and effort in your clients and that you’re not afraid to go the extra mile. A free consultation is a way of going beyond what is expected, which can help your potential clients remember your brand or business. This can increase your customer base and retain existing customers. Ultimately, this leads to increased revenue for your business.

Addressing common concerns about offering free consultations

Giving away free advice 

One of the biggest concerns business owners have when considering offering free consultations is that it will attract people who are not serious and just want free advice. This fear is understandable but it can be easily addressed by setting up an application process that helps you weed out people who are not a good fit.

Ask potential clients to fill out a short client intake form detailing their biggest business problem, their goals, and their budget. This ensures you're talking to people who are serious about working with you. Plus, it helps you prepare for the consultation ahead of time.

Giving away too much information

If you're worried that you're just going to be acting as a free consultant, consider structuring your consultation in a way that provides value but leaves room for further work together. For example, you could offer a diagnostic session in which you analyze a potential client's website/article/social media presence/etc. You then provide a report on what you found and a list of recommendations for how they can improve. 

Attracting people not ready to commit

Some business owners worry that offering free consultations will attract people just looking for a deal, which is a valid concern. But remember that many people go through their decision-making process in stages. Offering a free consultation can be a great way to attract people in the early stages of considering hiring someone like you.

These people may not be ready to commit to hiring you. But by offering a free consultation, you can provide value and build trust. When they are ready to make a decision, you'll be on their shortlist.

Hurting the bottom line

Some business owners also worry that offering free consultations will hurt their bottom line. However, if done correctly? Offering free consultations can actually help you make more money in the long run. By providing value, building trust, and establishing yourself as an expert in your field, you're more likely to convert potential clients into paying ones. Additionally, free consultations can help you identify areas where potential clients need help, which can inform the services and products you offer. In other words, offering free consultations can help you create a more targeted and effective marketing strategy.

How to structure your free consultation offer

It's important to structure your offer to entice potential clients to take advantage of it.

Highlight your value proposition

One effective strategy is to clearly communicate the value of the consultation by highlighting the specific services or information that will be provided. Let’s say you're a financial advisor. You then might offer a free consultation that includes a personalized investment analysis. You can also include recommendations based on the client's financial goals.

Make scheduling easy

Another consideration when structuring your free consultation offer is to make it easy for potential clients to schedule an appointment. This might mean offering online scheduling options, such as a booking form on your website or a scheduling link in your email signature. You can also use automated scheduling tools to streamline the process. These tools can also ensure that all necessary information is collected upfront.

Qualify leads 

One potential downside of offering free consultations is that you may attract many unqualified leads who are not ready to purchase or commit to your services. To avoid wasting your time and resources, qualify leads up front by asking questions about their needs and goals. Consider implementing a questionnaire or intake form that helps you assess whether a potential client is a good fit for your business before scheduling a consultation.

Set boundaries

Set clear boundaries during the free consultation to ensure that the discussion stays focused and productive. This might mean setting a specific time limit for the consultation or outlining the specific topics that will be covered. You should also be prepared to handle objections or questions about pricing or other concerns so that the discussion doesn't devolve into a sales pitch. By setting these boundaries upfront, you can ensure that both you and the potential client get the most value out of the consultation.

Qualifying leads and setting boundaries during free consultations

During free consultations, it's essential to have a set of criteria. This will help you determine if the potential client is a good fit for your business. Establishing clear guidelines before the consultation can prevent wasting time on clients who are not a good match for your services. Qualifying leads is not about disqualifying individuals but about determining if they need and can afford your services.

Setting boundaries is crucial during consultations. Many potential clients might perceive the free consultation as a chance to extract as much information as possible without the intent to hire you. Thus, it's vital to set concrete boundaries during consultations, such as a time limit or the scope of your services. Free consultations should not mean free unlimited time or services.

During the consultation, focus on how your services can help potential clients solve their problem. Listening and asking open-ended questions are essential in understanding the client's needs and how you can assist them. It's also essential to summarize the objectives and outcomes of the consultation and outline the next steps they may take to work with you.

Following up with potential clients is essential after the consultation as it shows that you are attentive and professional. It would be best if you had a system to keep track of the consultations and follow-ups to prevent losing potential clients due to procrastination or forgetfulness. A quick follow-up email or phone call can confirm your interest in their case. This gives them the option to move forward with the next steps.

The value of free consultations for your business

As we wrap up this blog post, it's worth reiterating the immense value that offering free consultations can bring to your business. For one, it's a powerful trust-building tool. By offering your time and expertise for free, you're showing potential customers that you're invested in their success even before they've made a financial investment in your services.

You also learn more about your target audience through free consultations. By listening to their pain points and concerns during these sessions, you can get a better sense of what types of services and solutions they're looking for. This information can be invaluable as you refine your marketing message and your overall business strategy.

Perhaps most importantly, offering free consultations can be a major sales driver. Through free consultations, you build a rapport with potential customers and really understand their needs. Consequently, you increase the chances they'll ultimately choose to work with you. And even if someone you consult with ultimately decides not to purchase your services, they may refer you to others who will—meaning that investment of time can continue to pay off in the long run.

Make it easy for clients to book free consultations 

Free consultations are a win-win for both businesses and customers. They help build trust, gather valuable information, and close more sales. So if you're not already offering them, it's worth considering how you might incorporate them into your business strategy.

Make online scheduling and booking appointments easy for your clients. With B12’s online scheduling software, potential customers can book appointments directly from your website. No need for coding or navigating through complex interfaces. Our scheduling solution enables you to seamlessly handle scheduling and bookings in one platform. Try B12 today!

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