There’s SO much to figure out when it comes to selling your services:
With a list like that, no wonder why selling your offers and filling your roster feels so dang confusing and totally overwhelming!
Everyone has different opinions about what really works.
And here’s one of the most controversial topics of them all…
Free consultations. Or discovery calls. Or strategy sessions. Or…. you see? Confusing!
Well, this is exactly what I’m tackling today, because I, too have an opinion on this (and it’s backed by at least $3 million in sales, probably more!).
Let’s get the semantics out of the way first
First up, let’s clarify the language around this topic.
Here’s how I define all of these options, so we’re on the same page. (You may call them something different, and that’s fine, but for the sake of this article, we need to put a stake in the ground.)
A Free Consult (or consultation call, or consult call)
A consult is a conversation between a prospect and a business owner to discuss whether or not the prospect is going to hire the business owner.
I like to call these “deliberate sales conversions.”
Here’s the key differentiator between this type of call and the others we’ll talk about in a moment:
The prospect has chosen to schedule this meeting to talk with the business owner specifically about hiring that business owner for her services.
During this call, the business owner doesn’t try to fix a problem for the prospect or give free advice. The purpose is exclusively for to determine if working together is a good fit for both parties.
Strategy Session or Discovery Call
A strategy session is a free coaching call that ends with a “cold pitch” for your services.
In this case, your prospect has chosen to schedule a call with you because she wants your help with a specific problem. During this 60 to 90-minute call, the business owner gives free, helpful advice.
At the end of the call, the business owner dives right into talking about their services and invites the prospect to “take the next step” by hiring the business owner for her paid services, assuming the business owner believes this prospect is a good fit for her services.
Mini Session or Taster Session
Similar to a strategy session, a mini session is a call where a business owner gives free advice to a prospect. But this is quick and focused on solving one teeny, tiny problem. These calls are usually 15-30 minutes long.
Unlike a strategy session, the business owner doesn’t pitch at the end of the call.
Instead, the business owner sends follow-up emails to build trust and turn their prospect into a paying client if they’re the right fit for her services.
Although I’ve never done mini or taster sessions, Kendrick Shope started her entire business on these “let’s hop on the phone” sessions. They can work wonders for your business if you know how to do them right.Click to TweetShould you offer free consultations? Discovery calls? Strategy sessions? Or something else? This is how I love to speak with prospects, and why ….
Why I love Free Consults
Now that we’ve laid out the options, let me tell you this: I LOVE FREE CONSULTS!!
These 20-minute, laser-focused calls are a deliberate conversation between you and your hungry prospect about one specific thing: hiring you.
This person has seen your services and put themselves on your scheduler to learn more, and you won’t find a lead that’s hotter than this!
Compare that to a strategy session or discovery call. Those require you to skillfully transition into a pitch—a COLD one, no less!
I don’t know about you, but for me that’s so much pressure! Plus, I’ve been on the receiving end of those awkward cold pitches, and it was painful (and I sure as heck never hired anyone from them)!
And compare that to mini sessions. Yes, when done exactly like Kendrick teaches, they are magical and highly effective. But you’ve got to follow all of the steps, including NOT calling them mini sessions and remember to send those critical follow-ups, and most folks drop the ball here.
So at the end of the day, I’m a huge fan of the tried and true consult process.
Now you might be asking how these actually work, because maybe you’ve tried them without much success. I’m excited to help you out today so you can nail more consults and book more clients.
How to use free consults in your business
First, let’s be clear: consults work best when you have all your packages and prices on your site (this is exactly what I did to build my business to six figures and beyond), and clearly list “zero-obligation consult” as a part of your instructions on how to get started.
This is what I call transparent pricing, and it ensures there are zero (awkward) surprises for your prospect when you hop on the phone. This also makes her more likely to say YES to hiring you!
Clear instructions on what your process looks like not only makes you look like a pro, it also makes your prospect feel taken care of.
If you need some guidance on the process, check out this post…My Personal Recommendation for YouSteal This! My Business System Secrets for Booking New Clients
Once you have the pricing and steps posted, your job is to follow through on those steps and deliver your consult like the professional you are, which is what I want to cover next.
Now, if there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be this:
Never ever just “wing it” when it comes to your free consult!Click to TweetNever just wing it when it comes to your free consult!
To create a 80-90% conversion rate on your consults (like my most successful clients do), you must have a well-thought out process for your consults. Flying by the seat of your pants on this one—even if you’ve been doing your work for awhile—will never create the success you want.
Here’s what I recommend your consult looks like.
Before the call, center yourself
It’s okay to feel a little nervous before your call—it’s normal. But you show up at your best when you aren’t rushing, panicked, nervous, or ungrounded, so you must give yourself some time to find your center and become present for your client.
The moment you begin, follow your script
When I was first starting out with consult calls, I followed a script every single time. To. The. Word!
Why? So many reasons!!
- It helps keep your nerves in check.
- It ensures you don’t ramble or follow unrelated tangents.
- It helps you say exactly what you need to say and not over-explain what you do. (Remember, people don’t buy your process, they buy your results!)
- It helps you effortlessly set up the next steps with your prospect, so you come across like a pro
- It helps prevent the call from running too long (which makes you look unprofessional and eats away at your day)
Beyond all of those reasons, a script also gives you a clear plan for whatever scenario comes up from beginning to end throughout the consult call.
For example, if you and your prospect have hearts coming out of your eyes and you can’t wait to work together, you’ll know exactly what to say to get her on officially booked.
Or, if your prospect is nervous about investing, you’ll know exactly what to say to ease her mind and build trust so she can make the best decision for herself.
Or, if your prospect isn’t a good fit and you need to turn her down, having a script prepared in advance will ensure you gracefully say you’re not the right service provider for her, without making it awkward or uncomfortable for either of you.
In short, a script helps close the right sales, nurtures ones those who need some time to think about it, and gently releases those who aren’t a fit so they can continue on their search.Click to TweetA consults script helps you close the right sales, nurture prospects who need time to think, and gently release those who aren’t a fit.
Set expectations and dive right in
The first thing to do on any consult is to thank your client for taking the time to speak with you. It can be as simple as this:
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I’m so excited to be speaking with you because [use a real reason].
Once you’ve thanked them, your next step is to set the expectations so they know how this call will proceed. Again, it can be really simple:
Here’s what we’re going to do today. First, I’m going to ask you some questions to make sure I know exactly what your challenges are right now and what you want to get out of working with me. There will be plenty of time for you to ask me questions. I want to make sure you have everything you need to make the right decision for yourself. Then, if it seems like we’re a good fit and you’d like to work with me, I’ll tell you how we’ll get started. Does that sound okay?
Once you’ve done that, you dive into the conversation, learning everything you can about your prospect and using reflective listening to make sure they feel heard and understood.
Want to work with her? Tell her!
Once you have asked your prospect everything you need to know to ensure you can serve her, and if you’re convinced she’d be a great fit for your services, you have to do one thing that too many people get squirrely about:
You have to tell her, directly!
Here’s the line right out of my proven consult script:
Thank you so much for sharing. That’s exactly why I’m so excited to talk with you. Would you like to hear how I work? OR would you like to hear what we’re going to do together?
Guess what? Prospects will always say yes!
Share the specifics of your offer, focusing on the results
Now that you received the go-ahead to talk about your offer, tell her! Don’t ever assume she remembers what she read on your website.
Walk them through what it’s like to work with you, with a focus on the emotions and the results—not the process.
Hint: This is easy to do when you have a well-written offer!
Check for questions and directly ask about her interest
If you’ve made it this far, don’t stop now! Keep the same clear, deliberate tone going.
Ask your prospect what questions she has, and answer them.
Once she’s out of questions, ask her if this package is what she’s looking for. Then shut up and wait for an answer!
When you ask clear questions, you’ll get (mostly) clear answers. Likely you’ll hear a “yes” or a “I need to think about it.” (Most people are not comfortable saying “no” on the phone.)
Whatever she says, go back to your script and proceed as planned.
Respect your prospect’s time (and your own!)
The last note I want to make about consults is that you must respect your prospect’s time and your own.
I’ve had clients tell me that they spent up to 90 minutes on the phone with a prospect!
What the what?!
Remember, the goal isn’t to solve any of your prospect’s problems during this call. Your job is simply to have a clear, focused conversation about whether or not this prospect is a good fit to work with you.
Keep the call to 20 minutes, and know that if you’re habitually going longer, you probably need a tighter script or better boundaries. Check out this post on setting and keeping boundaries.
Wrap up and follow up
End the call with clear next steps, so she knows what to expect.
Maybe you’ll be sending her an invoice and a link to your online scheduler, or maybe you’ll be sending her a quick email now and then checking in on Friday after she’s spoken with her spouse about investing in you.
As my friend and sales genius Kendrick Shope says, “The fortune is in the follow-up.”
From following up with a thank you for the chat to answering questions until the prospect has made a clear decision, follow-up emails are key!
If you’re feeling anxious about sending a follow-up email, know that it’s completely normal! Keep in mind that you’re not hounding them—you’re doing your due diligence as a business owner.
There’s so much more to consults…
Phew! Was that a marathon or what?
The truth is, getting consults just right takes several things: a proven script to get you started, time and thought to make that script true and authentic to you and your services, and practice!
But the awesome thing is that when you combine these three things, magic happens!
I went from a 30-50% conversion rate on consults to 90% when I made some of these fine-tuned adjustments. Getting each part of my script right helped make the calls go more quickly and easily and ensured I got more perfect prospects saying YES.
Now, as you implement a proven consult script into your sales process, be sure to pair it up with a consult tracking sheet, so you can keep track of all of your leads and where they are in the process. This ensures you are closing all of the right sales at the right times.My Personal Recommendation for YouGet my proven, real-world tested consult script that works every time for all kinds of services!