It’s very common to see service professions offering free sessions or services as a sales tactic in order to get clients. Does it work? Sometimes. Should you do it? Depends on who you ask. Some swear by it. Others have sworn off it. And yet, others still, swear every time they do it. Generally, I don’t recommend it. Think about it. How does it look to a potential client that you’re offering free sessions to anybody that happens to stumble across your website–in demand, successful and valuable or, sitting around with lots of time on your hands just trying to give your stuff away for free in hopes that someone will hire you? In my humble opinion, the latter.
Credibility is part perception. And, anyway, what happened to your Red Velvet Rope Policy? Sure, get on the phone with someone to see if they’d get passed your red velvet rope and give them an opportunity to fall in love with you at the same time but don’t set up a situation where a) they perceive that they’re supposed to get some big result from that one free session and if they don’t, they’re disappointed and don’t hire you and b) they see you as a low status service provider. With all due respect, do you think you can call my office and say, “I’d like to schedule a free hour-long session with Michael”? I would think not. So, why should I be able to call your office and get your time for free? I shouldn’t. Before you get your knickers in a knot, hold on, because it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to use this strategy—there is.
Here’s how I used free sessions to “close” 65% of new business during my first year in business. I included an offer for a 20-minute laser coaching session into my sales cycle–but only after someone had demonstrated that they were serious about learning from me. If someone downloaded my 7-part email mini-course (see why information products are important to the lead generation and conversion process?) I would send them the first two lessons during week one. Each lesson included two paragraphs of education followed by a detailed written exercise. Then, instead of starting off week two with lesson three, I would send a “congratulations and reward” email, offering praise and appreciation for the work they put into the first two lessons (all of this was automated). As a reward, I offered them a complimentary 20-minute telephone coaching session to address any questions they had about the material in the first two lessons. I called these phone sessions, Laser Coaching Sessions. However, in order to book the session, a number of criteria needed to be followed, which I spelled out in the “congratulations and reward” email:
- They had to schedule the session using my public calender. I made only a few spots available on Friday afternoons so that a waiting list developed quickly. This way I didn’t look like I was sitting around twiddling my thumbs, hoping someone would show up.
- If they missed the session or didn’t reschedule with 24 hours notice, they missed the opportunity and could not reschedule (again, all of this was automated).
- If they were more than a few minutes late to the phone session, I wouldn’t pick up.
- And, finally, within one week of the scheduled sessions, they had to send me an email with their responses to the exercises from the first two lessons. This helped because:
- If they had not already, it got them to do the exercises. Getting clients to consume your work is as important as getting them to hire you.
- By reviewing their written exercises, I knew what they needed before they dialed my number. It showed me what they were struggling with and how to help them. So, in just 20-minutes I could solve their problems and create an impressive result.
You might think that all these rules would put potential clients off. You’re trying to get clients not force them to jump through flaming hoops. But, you know what? Over 65% of the people who signed up for the free 20-minute session became clients. The other 35%, for the most part, truly couldn’t afford it. But I’ll tell you what, that other 35% generated even more business for me because they went out to their community and talked about me and the work I “gifted” them. Figure out a way to use this strategy in your sales cycle and you’ll get the opportunity to do something valuable, and free of charge, for your potential clients. You’ll enhance your reputation, build credibility, and book more business.