Free consultations are a powerful marketing tool — if you use them correctly.
They’ve been used profitably for a variety of goals, including:
- Selling online training and mentoring that prepares individuals for a new, in-demand career
- Selling in-person or online training for activities like fitness coaching, self-improvement, and learning how to trade stocks.
- Closing sales, as the last stage of the pipeline and presenting up-sells and cross-sells.
- Selling to existing customers.
So how do you make sure that your consultations drive sales rather than becoming a frustrating waste of time?
It starts with being clear on your goals from the beginning. Before scheduling your first call, know what you hope to accomplish with the free consultation.
- Do you want to increase sign ups to your membership site?
- Sign up more retainer clients?
- Drive sales to one-on-one coaching sessions?
Once you get clear on your goal, you can start creating a free consultation process that pays.
Make Sure Prospects Fit Your Ideal Audience
Your time is valuable. Free consultations that are poorly planned will attract tire kickers who aren’t invested in your offering or don’t actually know what they need. To avoid wasting your time, create a pre-qualification process to weed out people who aren’t committed or who aren’t in your ideal audience.
Creating a pre-qualification questionnaire is the simplest way to filter out those that aren’t a good fit. Ask questions about their challenges, what size business they have, and any other questions that will help you help them.
Here are a few other ways to make sure your prospects are a good fit for your business:
- Use language that attracts the right audience. For example, if you target small businesses, talk about how you specifically help small businesses. If your target audience tends to be more casual, don’t use stuffy language.
- Add a FAQ page: Answer the most common questions prospects have on your website so you can send the link when people ask those questions. This will allow you to engage prospective customers and protect your time.
- Be clear about what your consultation will include: Explain what your consultation covers and what it doesn’t. For example, a business coach isn’t going to give away their full process, but they might offer a tip or two.
A strong pre-qualification process is crucial to protecting your time and ensuring your consultations lead to conversions.
Set Clear Expectations for the Consultation
What does your consultation cover? How long will the call be? Make sure prospects understand how much of your time they will have and what they will gain from it before you schedule a call. Having clear expectations helps scare away freebie-seekers and ensures the invested prospects are satisfied..
For example, a dietary consultant might use language like “In this 15-minute free consultation, we’ll discuss your goals and how creating a customized meal plan can help you take control of your health.”
This makes it clear that the client gets just 15 minutes and that they won’t walk away with a customized meal plan — that is for paying customers.
Setting expectations deters people who aren’t a good fit for your brand, while reassuring relevant leads that you have the tools and resources to help them succeed.
Automate the Consultation Sign-Up Process
If you do it right, you will be offering dozens of free consultations — who will then turn into paying customers. Streamlining the process will ensure you aren’t wasting your time and make you look professional and prepared.
You can even automate parts of this process so all you have to do is show up for the consultation. For example, what happens when a prospective customer signs up for a consultation? Do you spend two days debating the right time to meet? Consider using an automated tool like Calendly, which lets the prospect choose a meeting time and allows either party to reschedule or cancel.
Be sure to set up your appointment software so that it automatically sends out reminders once a call has been booked.
What do you need before the call? Rather than manually sending a questionnaire, consider creating an automated email sequence that sends the form right away.
What happens after the consultation is over? You can automate that part of the process too by sending out a pricing sheet, brochure or delivering a contract.
Automating the consultation process instills confidence in your brand and helps protect your valuable time. It can also make the process easier to scale as your business grows.
Make the Next Steps Clear
After the consultation is over, what comes next? The goal of a free consultation is to gather leads and — hopefully — make sales. So your post-consultation process is just as important as the pre-consultation process.
After the consultation, send a follow up email with the next steps. Should the prospect download an ebook, sign up for a class, or pay for a monthly service? Make it easy for your prospect to become a paying customer by being clear what the next step is and having a call to action.
With the right planning, free consultations can be a powerful tool for growing your business. Make sure to target your offer carefully, and don’t forget to follow up and ask for the sale!
Streamlining the process is a critical step to ensuring you have time to focus on customers rather than wasting too much time on prospects that may or may not convert.