Offering free samples increases the Know-Like-and-Trust Factor that makes people buy. When you are selling a service, or a product with a high service component, potential customers have no way to see, feel, or taste what you will actually deliver. Providing a sample makes your service offering tangible, and builds your customer’s trust.
But if you’re not careful, you can give away too much. Why should customers pay for what they can get for free? And if you give those freebies to unqualified buyers, you may find yourself spending too much time and money on prospects who will never become paying customers.
The answer lies in crafting a get-acquainted offer that gives customers a taste without giving away the store. Here are some guidelines for maintaining that balance:
1. Pre-qualify your prospects. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands, it’s not a good idea to make a standing offer of a free consultation or sample session to all comers. You may attract far too many ‘looky-loos.’ That’s what realtors call people who attend open houses every weekend with no intent to buy.
Until you know more about who you are talking to, phrase your offer as, ‘Find out if you qualify for a free consultation’ or ‘Take this quiz — you may win a sample session.’ Once you are in contact with a prospective client, ask two or three questions about the client’s situation before making your free offer. Queries like, ‘How soon are you planning to make this change?’ or ‘Do you have a budget in mind?’ will let you know how much of your time this prospect is worth.
2. Make an offer that leverages your time. One reason that realtors offer open houses is because it doesn’t take that much longer to show the house to 30 buyers than it does to show it to one. As a consultant or professional, you can maximize a free offer by making it available to as many prospects as possible at the same time.
An excellent example of this model is a free newsletter or ezine that showcases your expertise. You write it once, send it to hundreds or thousands of potential buyers, then reprint the articles on your web site and in other publications. Another way to give a sample to many people at once is offering a free workshop. You can keep your costs down by finding a co-sponsor to provide space, or by giving your workshop as a teleclass (phone conference) or webinar (live presentation on the web).
3. Give away a sample, not the real thing. Follow the example of workshop leaders who use what’s called two-step promotion. Invite people to a free teaser program, then enroll them in the full workshop. In the teaser, you give prospects a taste of what they will get when they buy. The taste itself is valuable — it’s not just a sales presentation — but you hold back the best part for the paid program.
Any consultant or professional can craft an offer like this. Instead of providing consultation or your regular service for free, offer a free initial assessment, evaluation, or diagnosis. A coach or healer who offers sample sessions can position them as assessments, or call them ‘strategy’ or ‘balancing’ sessions. This way you draw a clear boundary between what is free and what costs money.
4. Place limits on your offer. No free offer should be open-ended. If you are clear at the outset about the limitations on your free sample, you will find it much easier to ask for the sale when the offer expires. Providing a ‘one-hour consultation,’ ’30-day trial,’ or ’10-page assessment’ will establish a boundary between free and paid service.
5. Be helpful, but remember to ask for the business. One of the dangers of being in a helpful profession like consulting, training, coaching, etc., is that your natural tendency to offer advice and support can sometimes interfere with closing the sale. Try using phrases like, ‘Now that you know what I can do for you, let’s talk about how we can keep working together,’ ‘I have an excellent solution for that; let’s discuss what it would cost,’ or even ‘I think it’s time to turn on the meter, don’t you?’