Should You Offer Free Consults?
It’s a subject of debate in the practitioner community: Should you offer free consults?
Some people will tell you never to do them (“Don’t give away your time for free!”) and others swear by them as an integral part of their enrollment process.
Here’s my take. I’ve talked with hundreds of holistic, functional and integrative practitioners in the past year and the consensus seems to be that free consults can and do work well, with the caveat that they must be done the right way. This means following a few simple rules:
1. Don’t confuse a free consult with a free session
This is a big mistake that a lot of practitioners make. They treat a consult as a coaching or treatment session and try to solve their client’s health challenges right then and there.
Yet this is a surefire way to virtually ensure that a prospect walks away without signing up for your services. You see, when you conduct a consult this way, here’s what’s going on in your mind:
“I’m going to wow this person with my deep knowledge and understanding of [health, nutrition, functional medicine, etc]. If I demonstrate how much I know, they’ll be so impressed that they’ll jump at the opportunity to work with me. It’ll be a no-brainer!”
And here’s what happening in your prospect’s mind while you’re sharing all this wisdom:
“Oh, wow, this is great information. Hey, thanks for answering my questions! It’s so generous of you. I think I’ve got what I need. Thanks again. I’ll be in touch when I’m ready to get started. See ya!”
Then the person hangs up the phone or walks out and you never hear from them again. Problem is, they think they’ve got all the information they need to fix their problems and they’re excited to have gotten it for free!
But the reality is different. YOU know — with your deep understanding of the body’s systems and your knowledge of the extensive investigative work it takes to get to the root of complex issues — that there’s little chance a brief interchange is going to actually transform their health and change their life.
Even if you had a crystal ball and could tell them exactly what they need to do and laid out all the steps for them, as clear as day, it probably wouldn’t matter — because real, lasting change almost never happens this way. If it did, no one would need our help because the world is overflowing with free information.
Plus, people don’t put a high value on free. When they don’t value something, they don’t take it seriously.
Here’s the truth: Someone can be told what they need to do, but knowing rarely translates to the kind of long term, consistent actions that result in transformation.
So, if you shouldn’t coach or treat the person during the free consult, what do you do instead?
2. Uncover their goals and motivation for seeking your help
Here’s a secret every practitioner should know: People don’t buy services. They don’t buy techniques, treatments, supplements or even your time. What people actually buy are the results, or outcomes, that they believe they will get by working from you.
In other words, they aren’t buying an intake session or chiropractic adjustment. They’re buying weight loss, relief from pain, and better energy. They’re buying self-confidence and a return to a normal life.
They’re buying the picture in their head of what their life will be like when you help them solve their health challenges.
This is something practitioners understandably get confused about. Because we’re immersed in and fascinated by what we DO every day, we think our potential clients and patients are too.
But for the most part, they aren’t.
They just want to feel better.
When you understand this, you’ll start to infuse every conversation with results-oriented language, connecting what you do to the results your clients and patients get by working with you.
You’ll say things like:
“I understand what you’re going through. Many of our patients come with exhaustion and difficulty losing weight too. The problem is, no one has taken the time to identify their underlying thyroid and hormone imbalances, or to investigate whether there may be hidden food sensitivities, which is often an issue too.
We do all of that testing and leave no stone unturned. That’s why our patients quickly start to feel a lot better, have more energy and shed pounds too — even when the weight has been stubbornly hanging on for a long time. Not to mention an immediate reduction or even elimination of headaches, like you said you’ve been experiencing.”
Notice how this language gives your prospect hope that they can experience similar results. It’s this hope or belief that ultimately motivates them to make a commitment to get started.
Now on to the third rule of free consults, which is…
3. Take the lead and keep control of the conversation
When a potential client or patients comes to a free consult frustrated with their current health situation, it’s easy to let them take charge of the conversation. After all, they have a lot to vent and you want to be respectful.
It can go something like this:
You ask them what’s going on and they launch into a non-stop verbal flow outlining their entire health history. Then they proceed to ask a series of specific questions like:
“What do you think about gluten? I’ve heard it could be causing my symptoms. Should I try going gluten-free?”
“I’ve been having headaches a lot. I read that it could be a food sensitivity. Do you think I could be sensitive to caffeine or chocolate?”
And so on.
The problem with this scenario is that it puts you in reactive mode and you’ve fallen into the trap of answering the person’s questions and wearing your coaching hat. This serves neither of you at this stage of the game.
Here’s what you need to remember:
YOU are the expert and your time is valuable. If you let someone consume too much of your time for free, you are sending a clear message that your time is not very valuable.
Certainly you want to allow the person to share a bit about what’s going on with them, but it’s important that you take charge right off the bat by saying something like:
“It’s nice to meet you. We’ll get into specifics in a minute, but can you tell me briefly what made you decide to invest the time to speak with me today?”
(Note the specific phrasing highlighted in bold — you are planting the seed that this is an investment in their health.)
Let them answer, but interject (softly, respectfully) if they go on too long:
“I understand. I hear that you’re [feeling, experiencing, etc; reflect back what they told you]. Can you tell me a little bit more about ______? When did it start?”
You must keep the conversation moving forward to its inevitable conclusion:
Is this a good fit or not?
If it’s a good fit, wonderful. Sign them up for a program or package.
And if it’s not, no worries. You’ve created goodwill and you can happily refer them out to someone who would be a better fit.