How to offer a chargeable consultation that your potential customers can’t refuse

If you’re running a service-based business, you may be offering free consultations to generate enquiries.

One problem with free enquiries is that some people have no intention of ever buying from you – they just want to get as much free advice as they can and then shop with your cheaper competitors.

books
FreeImages.com/Márcia Rodrigues

It’s like going into a bookstore, asking the advice of the shopkeeper as to which book is best for your needs, and then buying it on Amazon.

But there is a way to charge for initial consultations whilst making the offer a no-brainer for potential customers, as long as you can offer real value in the consultation process.

Let’s say that your consultations last an hour on average, but you hold off on giving too much advice because you only want people to pay for your services.

You could offer a chargeable one-hour ‘Strategy Session’ (or something like a ‘Wealth Consultation’ if you’re in financial services), which is charged at your usual hourly rate.

You promise that, after the hour session, you will write up a short report (for which you can use a template for the bulk of it to save time) giving them a plan of action tailored to their needs.

It’s important that the plan should be high-level.  It shouldn’t tell them exactly how to implement the plan on their own. They would either need your help, or the help of a skilled competitor.

When offering the consultation, you promise that, once you have provided them with their tailored plan, they can choose one of three options:

  1. They can purchase your services, to help them implement the plan. The price of the initial consultation will then be discounted from the cost of your service package.
  2. They can try to implement the plan with the help of one of your competitors (there could be some risk involved for them with this approach, especially if your report relates to strategies that you have created yourself, but not fully defined in the report).
  3. Or, if they don’t think they’ve received any benefit from the session or the report, you will offer them their money back (though you can say that this has never happened in the past). You might be concerned that freeloaders will take advantage of you, but most people are genuine and if you have strived to give them the best advice, they won’t request their money back even if they don’t want to proceed with your services.

These options present the prospective client with a ‘no-brainer’ offer, giving you the time to understand their goals, present them with your tailored solution to meet or exceed those goals, and persuade them to use your services.

We’d love to know your thoughts on this process, and how you get on if you decide to implement it, so feel free to leave a comment below.

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