Is A Free Consultations A Must For Winning Business These Days?

This is a question that was asked by a coach who wanted to know how other people view consultations. Coaches and businesses in other industries.

My question is, Do you give free consultations? If so, how is that working for you?

It feels like there are some things that you simply can’t do for free.  

As a coach, it can be difficult to find the balance between being helpful and reserved. 

There’s a limit to how much you can solve on a consultation but it doesn’t stop some from trying to get all the answers in a 15-minute call. Decreasing the value of the consultation based on their not so hidden agenda.



Is A Free Consultations A Must?

The short answer is no. The more insightful response has a few follow-up questions.

  1. What are the industry standards? Would you be going against the grain by charging for the consultation?
  2. What is your product and or service? You’re not going to set a consultation to sell a pack of gum or a greeting card. Consultations are reserved for higher-ticketed offerings. It has to be worth the time that you’re taking away from other revenue-generating opportunities.
  3. What is your sales process? If it’s a short process and a quick turnaround. You may not need a free consultation. In this situation, you would fair better putting your time and effort into upfront marketing.
  4. Do you have a website or a space online where you answer FAQs & can have a form completed? If so great you can always point people to your website or another space online.

Without consultations or educating the prospect on what they need to know. You’re leaving yourself open to answer more questions before closing deals.

At the end of the day, people want to work with people. If you’re removing the human part out of the decision-making process. You’re limiting the decision to differentiators that may or may not work in your favor.

I’m a believer in narrating your own story. I want to limit what I leave open to interpretation.

What do you consider a free consultation?

I don’t necessarily believe that there is such a thing as a free consultation. As my economics teacher told the class “There Is No Such Things As A Free Lunch.” A statement that resonated with me because at that point I had already had a few side hustle businesses under my belt.

Your time and insights are not free. They have value. The time that the lead takes to hear you out is not free either.

In life, there’s one thing that you can’t get back and that’s time. That’s something that I keep in mind with all of my interactions. Seeking to value their time and my own.

So while there may not be an exchange in physical currency there is an exchange in time and effort. Which, means there is a cost attached to the encounter.

When you apply that mindset to consultations it changes things.

A consultation is an opportunity for both the business and lead(s) to feel out a potential partnership. It’s an opportunity to set and reset expectations. Expectations on what a successful project and process will look like.

The Real Cost And Payment Attached to Consultations

The real cost of a consultation is the exchange of time and effort. It works when you have someone equally invested. In cases where they aren’t, it may not be the best use of your time. This is why a lot of businesses require a questionnaire to be filled out before the call. The form is ensuring that they’re invested in the results.

The payment attached to consultations is the takeaways. What are you ensuring that you gain from the interaction? Are you setting goals for what you’d like to find out and gather feedback on? It is important to be goal orientated and purposeful.


What’s in it for the business?

While a lot of businesses measure a successful consultation as winning the business. I like to look at what did I gained from the interaction beyond the project. That’s the marketer in me…

Did I gain any new insights on my target audience and ideal customer? Any new pain points, trials, and tribulations that I was unaware of that I can address? Do I want to address them or is it something to avoid?

I’m listening for an overlap of questions from one prospect to the next. Monitoring responses to pricing and timelines. When I walked them through my process did they understand it or were there follow-up questions.

The insights and feedback are my payment for my time and effort. It’s a fair exchange of information. This may be a prospect that isn’t ready now but may be ready in the future. It could be someone that isn’t a good fit but knows someone else who is.

By setting up that consultation you’re gathering contact information that you can use to follow up and add to marketing campaigns. Building up your list and nurturing relationships.

Consultations are an opportunity to hone your skills. It’s why I’m not necessarily against booking a consultation for a project that I’m not exactly keen on taking. I’ll ask more questions about their journey and expectations. Comb through red flags and warning signs.

What’s in it for the prospect?

Businesses are answering questions about their capability to solve the problem and why their solution is the best fit.  How many projects they may have done that are similar. The expertise on specific key skills that are deemed necessary to complete the project.

The consumer benefits from identifying things that weren’t on their radar. Setting and resetting expectations for their goals and definition of a successful project.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken with prospects that were not being asked the questions that would get them to their goals. Instead, they were being asked questions that require a level of expertise and experience.

The reality is people don’t know what they don’t know until they’re put into a situation that requires said skills or experience. There is an expectation of insights and education that comes with consultations.

Conclusion Are Free Consultations A Must For Winning Projects?

This will depend on the industry standards, audience expectations, and the product/service being offered. More than not your industry and local market will dictate what’s expected.

If you approach it strategically and with purpose. It’s a win all the way around to have the consultation. Whether you win the project or not. Making it a necessity but for more strategical purposes.

There are a lot of advantages to mindfully scheduling your consultations.

A bad fit is a bad fit. It’s not a matter of trying to make it work. It’s a matter of being able to identify existing and new red flags to avoid. Things that move you away from your goal and endgame.

Walking away from a consultation with new learnings, insights, and things that you can act on. Should be the goal for both parties. Leave the prospect better than you found them by educating them during the consultation. That’s what will make you memorable and put you in a position to win that business.