How to Leverage a Free Consultation to Get New Clients
A free consultation or a free audit are great ways to get new clients. Firstly, they allow your prospective client to get to know you, without the pressure of paying for that. That creates a sense of trust and credibility, that can make it easier for them to hire you further down the line. Secondly, a free consultation or audit gives you the chance to best present and explain your services and they value you can provide to that client. But what do you need to ensure that prospective clients become paying ones after a free consultation? Here are the tips you need to know:
1. Listen to your client and understand their needs
It might be tempting to go into lengthy speeches about your business, your services and why your client should pick you. But it’s not the smart thing to do. The first thing you need to start with is just listening. Clients need to feel like you really understand their specific problems and challenges – and only then can you offer a solution.
So prepare in advance a set of questions about the client, that would allow you to get to know them. Listen patiently and take notes, so you can use this information to tailor an offering for this specific client. It’s OK to somewhat point them in the right direction, by also asking questions about the specific services they require. But above all, let them feel like you’re there to listen first and that you care.
2. Do your research
Listening to your client is important, but so is coming prepared to the meeting with them. To be able to pitch your services in the way most likely to lead to a deal, you need to arm yourself with as much information as possible about your client. Why? Because some important things won’t come up when they answer your questions. Another reason is to save the client’s time. You don’t want to wear down a prospective client with questions the answers to which you can easily find online, such as their number of employees (if it’s a business), job title (Linkedin is a great resource for that), area of business, etc.
Another reason for doing your research is to save your time. Maybe the client has a business you don’t specialise in and cannot take on as a client. Maybe they don’t have the budget to afford your services (they’re a startup, and your pricing targets well-established companies), etc. Research will allow you to filter through prospective clients who aren’t a good fit and focus on those who are most likely to become a profitable client.
3.Anticipate questions and objections
The research you do before the call shouldn’t only be about the client, it should also focus on your business. This means that you need to prepare in advance answers to all the questions you expect to be asked.
Try and think about the questions you’ve heard in previous consultations: were they about your pricing? The nature of your services? The size of your staff? Ongoing communication between you and client? Make a list of all those questions and of the answers you’d like to give. You can also think about potential questions that can arise from the consultation.
You need to prepare for objections as well. Maybe a client would feel your business is too small or too big to address their needs. Some clients might have reservations about your pricing. Others will need to know you have experience with similar clients. The research you’ve done about your client will help you prepare your answers in advance, as well as your experience from previous clients.
However, be careful not to be too artificial by reading answers from a page. To ensure that, you can practice with one of your colleagues or employees on how to deliver your answers in a confident manner, that will convince the client and help you close a deal.
4.Emphasize your value, not your services
After you’ve listened to your prospective client, now is the time to give them professional advice – and also to pitch your services. The important thing to remember is highlight what matters most to the client: the value.
You might be tempted to explain in detail how you provide your services, your accreditations, etc. All these are important. But it’s essential to focus on the bottom line: how the client would benefit from hiring you.
For example, if you’re an accountant and advise on profit improvement strategy, you can highlight how your services were able to grow a company’s profitability and by how many percentage points. Those kind of numbers and results are what customers are looking to hear, in order to make the decision whether to hire you or not. How much research you do before coming up with a profitability improvement strategy is a point worthy of mentioning, but it shouldn’t be the core of your pitch. Instead, try and figure out what kind of results your client is interested in – and demonstrate to them how you were able to deliver similar results in the past.
5. Always follow up
This might sound alarming but it’s true: your pitch is only as good as your follow up call.
This is the golden rule of sales: always follow up after the initial call or meeting. No matter how good your pitch was, it might get forgotten in the sea of other tasks your prospective client probably has on their plate.
Prepare a “script” in advance, where you reiterate that you understand the client’s needs and challenges by quickly recapping them in the call. After that, you need to demonstrate that you have the solution to those challenges, by mapping out the services your can offer, with an emphasis on their value for the client. Be clear and concise – but try to listen to what the customer has to say. Have they any new or lingering reservations about hiring your business? If that’s the case, you can try and offer answers to any questions that might still be preventing them sealing the deal.
Don’t despair if this process takes more than one call. It is possible that you will need to follow up more than once to hear the “yes” you’re looking for. Just make sure you’re able to handle any questions and objections that might come up in these calls, so you’re able to make progress from one call to the next.