Complimentary Consultation or Fee-Based–Which Is Best?

complimentary consultation
Make everything you do memorable.

For many service businesses, there’s always much discussion around the initial meet and greet–should it be a complimentary consultation or have a fee associated with it?  If you don’t charge for it, do people show a lack of value for your time?  This is a great topic for discussion and there are a good number of ways to handle it.

Like any other encounter, this initial consultation should be part of the client experience and it should set the stage for what it’s like to work with you and your company.  This consult can take many formats and there are a number of factors to consider as you develop what this part of the experience looks like.

As a business owner, you have to be willing to give some time to get to know the prospect and determine whether or not this is a good opportunity for you.  A business owner, it is your responsibility to qualify prospects and determine if they are ideal clients for your organization.

The first consideration should be where and how you would deliver this consultation.  If the consult can be performed over the telephone, then consider doing it free of charge.  There are some businesses in which it makes more sense to do the consult in person and on-site.  For example, interior designers, contractors and landscape designers might be better served doing an on-site consultation.  If the consult should be performed on-site, you’ll require additional time for travel, so in this case, it may be appropriate to charge a fee.  When you do charge a fee, however, it’s extremely important to consider applying that fee as a credit to the project should the prospect sign on with you.

With a fee-based consultation, the meeting needs to have a wow element built in to make certain that you provide something worth a payment.  Your consult sets the stage for what a client should expect when they engage with you, so there has to be an element of value and something memorable to ensure an impressive experience.

I think the most important component to remember is that your role is to educate your prospects to become better consumers in your industry.  Regardless of what your consult really looks like, it needs to educate the prospect about working with you and teach them how to buy from your industry.  If you do that, you will, no doubt, build trust with that individual.  And if you can do that better than any of your competitors and keep you and your business top of mind with that prospect, you have a very good opportunity to win the business when they are ready to buy.

There are several items you want to consider as you build your consultative process. Think about how you will address the following questions:

1. How much time will you spend with them?

2. What information about your business should the prospect learn–i.e. what makes you different from competition?

3. What information about your industry should the prospect learn?

4. What did they get in return for their time and/or money?

5. Are there items you can leave behind to create an element of tangibility?

6. Convey your next steps.

What else did you consider as you built your pre-engagement experience?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to add them in the comment section below.

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