Free Consultations Don’t Work

Sean D’Souza, in his PsychoTactics blog, writes about the Myth of Free:

I’m not convinced FREE works. So I decided to put my money where my mouth was.

And I dedicated 16 weeks of educating customers free to find that the only ones that signed up were those that had already paid.

Free is fine. It works.

But paying customers buy more. And it’s mainly because free customers don’t understand value. I’ve tested free extensively at workshops by giving away gifts free. I’ve tested it by giving away teleclasses free. I’ve tested by giving away complimentary articles and reports. And free speeches at the corner coffee house. And we tested in the US as well as New Zealand…And everytime we made customers pay, the results were better.

The more I’ve restricted the terms, the more people are eager to sign up. To give you an example: We closed our membership to 5000BC (our membership site). As a result we’ve had more people write to us directly, wanting to get in at any cost. These very people are hungry for more and they post more on the forum, they ask more questions and they’re more keen to buy products. I’m not convinced about free.

The customer is right. But doesn’t always understand the value when it’s free. Value between two parties is what makes a relationship a relationship.

I can’t agree more.  Once I stopped giving free consultations to prospective clients, I found that the potential clients were more likely to show up on time, be prepared for our meeting, and retain me as their lawyer far more often then before.

8 Responses to Free Consultations Don’t Work
  1. The Newest Industry
    January 27, 2005 | 9:05 am

    Free == Worth Less

    The non-billable hour is back again with a great comment via PschoTactics on the true value of FREE. [here and here] As a consultant in a product organization, I often see my services thrown in for free to close a

  2. robhyndman.com
    January 27, 2005 | 12:02 pm

    Free Consultations Don’t Work

    Matt Homann has a piece on his blog today about the difficulty many consumers have dealing with the value of “free”, and his conclusion is that free often doesn’t work – cost helps people identify value.

  3. Legal Blog Watch
    January 27, 2005 | 7:29 pm

    FREE LESSON: WHY CLIENTS DO BETTER IF THEY PAY TO PLAY

  4. David Giacalone
    January 27, 2005 | 8:21 pm

    I had a divorce mediation practice for more than six years, and every initial consultation was free. I never had a couple fail to appear on time — even though one spouse almost always was far more interested in getting divorced and being there than the other. A very large percentage of those who heard my presentation decided to use my mediation services (at times, I told them that one of the spouses did not seem ready and they should call me at a later time, if circumstances changed).

    There is no one answer to the issue of offering free consultations. Giving away trinkets to attract an audience to a seminar is far different than a professional offering to help potential clients learn at no charge about a new service, and about whether they feel comfortable with the service provider, before making an important commitment.

    Matt, knee-jerk applause whenever some “expert” in fields other than law talks about “value” and charging more for a service is not a persuasive way to convert those who are skeptical of your approach to clients and fees and the lawyering “business”.

  5. Jim Logan
    January 28, 2005 | 9:28 pm

    If you give your services away for free, you’re customer is sure to place a low value on them. But we’re not talking about giving services away for free…we talking about consultations.

    Consultation is a different way of saying sales meeting. You shouldn’t charge for sales time.

    Sean D’Souza’s example of 16 weeks of educating prospective customers only to find that those that were already customers purchased from him again…just proves Sean is a poor salesperson. He didn’t convert one prospect in 16 weeks!

    There are only three ways to grow revenue – get more customers, increase the vale of your average sale, and get more repeat business. That’s it. Consultations get more new customers; it’s the professional’s time to explore the opportunity with their prospective client and earn their business.

  6. Jim Logan
    January 29, 2005 | 8:51 am

    Reading your post several more times, there’s another comment I’d like to make.

    I’ve had similar customer experiences as the ones cited, not is the profession of law – in business consulting. I’ve “given” too many details in a go market strategy, advertising campaign, sales plan, etc., allowing my prospect to believe they now “get it” and can implement on their own. It’s a delicate balance, exploring an engagement and convincing your prospect of the value you offer, without unintentionally leaving them with the perspective you’ve already solved their problem.

    Your post raises the thought provoking issue of how much is too much and how little is not enough. Add in a little controversy and it’s a great post! Thanks!

  7. Sean D'Souza
    February 6, 2005 | 10:00 pm

    It’s always interesting to read what’s being said about you on the Internet. Jim’s comment is interesting when he says: “Sean D’Souza’s example of 16 weeks of educating prospective customers only to find that those that were already customers purchased from him again…just proves Sean is a poor salesperson. He didn’t convert one prospect in 16 weeks!”

    Obviously, you’ve missed the point Jim. The point was that FREE is highly overrated. The point was that you’re likely to get customers with higher value when you don’t offer something free. Even a small ticket item is often better than free.

    Does Free not work? I’ve said quite clearly that it does. And if you go to my website at http://www.psychotactics.com , you’ll find FREE information. In fact, you’ll be inundated with a lot of free stuff. But there’s a point where you draw the line.

    I’m obviously a poor salesman. We sold only 33 seats at $2000-$3500 each (from our existing clientele). Damn! I guess we should have made more.

  8. Neuvo
    February 8, 2005 | 1:22 am

    The [non]billable hour

    I just came across this really cool blog. It is called “the [non]billable hour” and is run by a lawyer in Illinois named Matthew W. Homann.

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