Who hates working for free? Raise your hand, don’t be shy!

Pretty much everybody, then? Fair enough.

And what if we showed you how to use free work – more specifically, free consultations – to land more high-paying customers? That’s right!

See, the problem with most free services is… they are mediocre at best. So they fail to convert when you need them to. So you lose customers. So you become fed up with giving people value for free. So…

You get the idea. In today’s article, we’ll give you a quick step-by-step blueprint to making free sessions work for your business. By the end of it, you will know how to deliver free consultations that are:

  • Short enough that you don’t have to waste too much time on them.
  • Laser-focused on what your prospects want, and insanely impressive.
  • Designed with your paid offer in mind, so they convert like gangbusters!

Now, let’s dig into how exactly to create a high-converting free consultation, or revamp your existing one – in 3 simple steps.

Step 1. Pick an irresistible, painkiller-style offer

Most free consultations are built with the intention of educating a prospect. And that’s why they fail to convert most of the time.

You see, educating a potential customer is nice… but ultimately unappealing. Providing a benefit that will make their life better is much more attractive. But the most irresistible offer you can make for a free consultation is solving a problem.

In other words, you should offer people a painkiller, not a vitamin. Prove that you can alleviate a pain that keeps your prospect up at night – and they will happily pay for the privilege.

For example:

Let’s say you work with ecommerce brands, and you want to land more clients in that space. What do you think will make them beat down your door more?

A: A promise to come up with 3 marketing strategies they can apply to grow their store?

B: …or a conversion rate optimization audit that will stop them from losing potential buyers?

Both of these are good options for a free consultation. But only the second one zeroes in on the burning problem, and promises an immediate solution. And that’s why it will be more effective.

Now, let’s look at how you can craft your own “painkiller” offer for your free session…

Action steps:

  • Think about your ideal customer. If you don’t know who that might be, read this post about your unique value proposition. It will help.
  • Write down 3-5 problems, pains, or challenges your customer is struggling with. Big things that keep them up at night. Ideally, you want to use actual input from your target market for this.
  • Look at the list, and ask yourself, “Can I help them remove or significantly alleviate any of these challenges in 15-30 minutes?”
  • Pick one option that fits the bill the most, and position your free consultation offer around that.

Tip: If you want your free offer to succeed, don’t call it a consultation. Clarity call, breakthrough session, strategy session, valuation – these are all fine. “Consultation” isn’t. We know it’s a bit of a pet peeve, but the word has been trampled into meaninglessness a long time ago, much like “ebook” or “content marketing.” Choose a different term that conveys more value to your target market, and name your free session after that.

Step 2. Map your free session to hit home and persuade

It’s impossible to put together a high-converting free consultation if you don’t plan ahead. Then you might as well get on the phone with someone and discuss Seinfeld reruns – it would be just as productive (which is to say, not at all)!

For this step, we want to give you a proven step-by-step template for structuring any free session – whether it’s a consultation, an audit, a discovery session, or anything else.

Here’s what it looks like in practice…

Action steps:

1. Introduce yourself and put the prospect at ease. This is a crucial part most people neglect. We think the instinct here is, “This person paid me for my time. I’d better make it worthwhile!” It’s well-intentioned, but a bit misguided. A genuinely warm introduction, followed by a bit of small talk, goes a long way to build rapport and get your prospect to open up.

2. Set expectations from your session together. You want the prospect to be excited about the outcome of your free session. And at the same time, you want them to have realistic expectations of what is – and is not – possible to achieve in 15-30 minutes. When you’re on the call, you should cover:

    • The #1 purpose of the consultation.
    • The specific result your prospect will get by the end.
    • What they can do afterwards to maximize said result.

3. Dig into solving the #1 problem your call is about. This part is the meat and potatoes of the session. How you map it will depend on your area of expertise and what the consultation is about, so we won’t delve into that.

Needless to say, this is not the time to hold back. So whatever you can do to wow your prospect and alleviate their pain, you should use. In our experience, 80% of it is about listening closely and asking smart questions – and only 20% or so is about giving them the solution. If you don’t do the former, there will be nothing to give.

4. “Open the gap” and ask for the sale. Once your prospect knows what exactly they need to do to solve their problem… they won’t need you any longer. Unless, that is, you can show them why they might want to work with you. Sometimes this is known as “opening the gap.” Here’s the #1 thing you want to communicate when you do this:

“You have everything you need to achieve [their goal]. I would love to help you get there much easier and faster – here’s how… [that’s when you introduce your paid offer].”

Note: Before you go through these action steps, please make sure that your free consultation ties into your paid offer perfectly. You might want to revisit Step One and double-check if your free consultation makes sense as a precursor to a paid product or service. Ask yourself: does this make sense? Can the prospect logically follow from the freebie to the paid offer?

For example, let’s say that you provide copywriting services. Your main offer is a complete revamp of all the mission-critical pages on someone’s website. Then, by working backwards from that, your free offer could be a short, actionable copy review of one webpage.

Step 3. Plan a simple, powerful funnel that sells

Finally, you should never treat your free consultations as standalone, all-or-nothing interactions with prospects. Doing that will guarantee that your conversions will remain low, and you’ll need to work extra hard for every customer.

Instead, you will want to plan everything that happens before and after the free session – meticulously! In other words, you will want to construct a marketing funnel that helps you to close the sale, even if the initial consultation was a bust.

There are roughly three steps to your free consultation funnel:

  1. Lead-up – consider how you will generate and qualify leads, how they will be offered the consultation, and what steps they will need to complete before it actually happens.
  2. Follow-up – think about how you will interact after the free session, if you prospect says no. How many follow-ups will you send? Will you have another call? What will you do to persuade them to invest in your product or service?
  3. Onboarding – when the prospect says yes, what happens then? You will want to move quickly and take them through a simple, frictionless process that will make them a long-term customer.

There are many different ways to go about constructing a funnel like that. And because there are so many, we want to share with you just one simple template that will work perfectly fine as your first funnel. Here’s what you need:

Action steps:

  • Target one source of traffic. Preferably, you want to use “warm” traffic, such as your existing email list. Alternatively, you can always set up a source of paid traffic, and qualify people with a lead magnet, or a very inexpensive entry-level product.
  • Write 1-2 pitch emails for your consultation. These emails will present your free consultation as a free, actionable solution to a very specific problem your prospects are having. We do recommend having 2 of them: one as your primary offer, and another one as a follow-up.
  • Build an opt-in page for people to book you. You can use anything for it, from Google Forms to a scheduling service like Calendly, to a specialized website like Clarity. Or you can whip something up in a landing page builder of your choice. The important thing is that it should be easy to use, cheap, and dirty.
  • (optional) Draft a sales call script. A lot of entrepreneurs prefer not to sell anything during their free consultation, and book a separate sales call to pitch a prospect. This approach comes with its own advantages and disadvantages – like people not preparing for a sales call! If you decide to sell something with a follow-up call, please write a rough script for it. Use this post for some useful guidelines.
  • Create 3-5 follow-up emails. When you rely on your personal touch to make sales, one critical step always gets overlooked – the follow-up. And that’s when a lot of conversions happen! We strongly recommend that you create a short follow-up sequence of 3-5 emails to send to your prospects. Substantial enough that they will give your offer a serious consideration… but short enough that they won’t mark you as spam, or file a restraining order.

Now generate leads and “always be closing”!

Once you have put together your free consultation, and built a basic funnel around it, there’s only one thing left to do… test it in the field!

Drive traffic to it in any way you see fit:

  • Through paid traffic that leads people into the funnel…
  • With content marketing and seductive lead magnets…
  • By sending emails directly to your list…
  • Borrowing an audience from joint venture partners…
  • Pitching potential customers on social media or third-party websites…

And more.

Once you have traffic and leads, collect whatever data you can. Talk to people during free sessions and follow-up calls. Measure your conversion rates and revenue. This will give you tons of valuable feedback. Feedback that will help you improve your free consultation offer and funnel – and help you make even more money in the long run!