The coronavirus is straining small businesses but it’s not all bad news.
Some online businesses — such as communication technologies, counseling, and business and finance sites — are booming. Online trading is enjoying a resurgence, as millions open new accounts. And thousands are adapting to serve growing sectors by repurposing their products to sell to new clients.
In this environment, small business owners are looking for simple, DIY marketing options that deliver results.
When done well, a free consultation can be the key to boosting revenue. But wait, you’ve probably been told not to give your time away for free, right?
This is valuable advice when it comes to doing work for free. However, a free consultation isn’t about giving away all your knowledge — it’s about building a relationship with a future customer so they feel confident hitting that “add to cart” button or hiring you.
There is one catch, though. If you don’t optimize your consult, you might waste time with prospects that never intended to purchase what you have to offer.
Here’s how to avoid this mistake and make sure your prospects are qualified and that a good percentage of them become your customers.
Get Clear on Your Goals
Before you schedule your first free consult, take the time to outline what you hope to achieve by offering it.
- Are you trying to highlight your experience?
- Show how you can make your client’s life easier?
- Help them understand which of your products will work best for their company or situation?
For example, a business coach might want to get to know a prospective client to determine whether group coaching or one-on-one coaching will be more effective for their needs.
Getting clear on the goal and desired outcome of the call will help you stick to your purpose and avoid getting sucked into those dreaded “brain picking” sessions.
Highlight Your Benefits
Many business owners offer a free consultation to educate their prospects — which is a huge mistake. You shouldn’t have to convince the prospect they need your products or service. Rather, you should show how you can solve a problem they have.
Education should happen through your marketing materials such as blog posts, podcasts, video content and ebooks. Your consultation should then serve as the first step in solving a problem they already know they have.
You can emphasize the value and purpose of your consultation by adjusting your landing page language. For example:
- Ready to save more on groceries? Set up a free consultation to get started.
- Our free consultation is the first step to a debt-free business!
- Stop wasting time. Set up a free consultation and learn how we can help you be more productive at work.
On the call, you’ll want to deliver a small solution that they benefit from immediately. For example, a business coach might suggest that using the Pomodoro Technique to work in blocks will increase productivity. Or that limiting work-in-progress will make the team more productive. Or the coach might walk through the “brain dump” technique outlined in David Allen’s productivity best-seller, Getting Things Done. The brain dump often has the impact of immediate relief and improved clarity.
Small wins and valued insights get the client excited about what else you have to offer.
Filter Out Bad Prospects
We like the word “free.” It makes us feel like we are getting something for nothing, which is great from a psychological standpoint, but bad from a business perspective. The best way to optimize your free consultation is to filter out the “tire kickers” and focus on prospects who are committed and willing to make a change.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Craft a strong headline that speaks directly to your target audience. Don’t worry about scaring away some people — you only want to invest time in people who are a good fit for your business.
- Create barriers to entry that will keep freebie seekers away. People who have invested time in filling out a longer application or appointment form, for example, are more likely to convert.
- Provide an FAQ section that answers those common questions many prospective customers have. This will save you from wasting time on phone consults that might not convert.
Gather Information From Your Prospects
A short application or survey serves two purposes — it helps you filter out those who aren’t ready to commit, and it gives you the information you need to adjust your offering to meet the needs of those prospects who are
Depending on your industry, you might ask:
- What is your average annual revenue?
- What is your marketing strategy?
- How many employees do you have?
- What solutions have you tried?
- What outcome do you hope to achieve?
For example, if you have an enterprise marketing software company, you might ask what marketing tools they are currently using and the challenges they face. Their answers will allow you to adjust your strategy to solve these challenges and weed out any prospects that aren’t a good fit.
Use a Calendar Scheduling Tool
How often have you wasted time going back and forth trying to schedule a meeting? “Okay, well, I can do 2 pm on Tuesday, but I have a hard stop at 3.” “Oh, is that central or eastern time?” “I am in central; you are in eastern, so that won’t work.”
Using a tool like Calendly will eliminate this issue and save you so much time and frustration. Simply open slots when you are available, and the prospect can choose when they are free. You both get an email confirming, and you’re done!
In the perfect scenario, a consultation will end with the client eager to buy there and then. In reality, they may need a few days to think over what you offer and discuss the purchase with other decision-makers.
Make sure to follow up with an email that offers value (such as a list or guide) and a brief review of the points you discussed. If they haven’t converted after two to three days, reach out again and remind them of the value you have to offer.
For example, a social media marketing consultant might send a Facebook strategy checklist and follow up with prospects after two to three days to see if they have any additional questions.
When used well, free consultations are a powerful tool that can help you build a thriving business. However, they can also be a waste of time if you don’t strategically plan how to optimize them.
The tips above will help you stay laser-focused on the prospect most likely to convert and spend less time with those who have no intention of buying.
Guest Post: This guest post has been contributed by Joel and the team at commodity.com.