You’ve heard it too? Giving things away for free is supposed to help you sell more. But, add that to the number of prospective clients who think they can cadge bits of free advice from you. Suddenly free maybe costing lots, leaving you feeling frustrated, maybe even angry?

Sell more using the FREE model – in theory.

7 years ago when I started my business I was told about the tactic of “throwing in a sprat to catch a mackerel”,  if you do something for somebody, they’re more likely to buy from you.

The concept seems to be growing nowadays, in software there’s the “freemium” model; the growing idea in social networking seems to be helping people (isn’t that just giving your advice for free?). Then there’s the economic downturn and the fact that many people are so desperate to sell they give away more and more – making it harder for you to do business profitably?

The theory is great – but do you find it’s getting out of hand?

How to not give too much for free.

Be clear with yourself and prospects, what you will and won’t do for free. Some consultants have a number of models that they will help people to use/ explain when doing key note speeches (I certainly do); some lawyers may set a fixed time limit, some accountants do a tax saving audit and no more.

The point is identifying what lines you won’t cross.

Why might you give things for free

Risk reduction – the biggest thing anybody fears when buying something is making a mistake. If they’ve already experienced your professional service, there is less risk of that. Although there are other ways to reduce buyers risk.

So giving something for free is to increase your conversion rate and perhaps get you more leads (if you market the free offering)?

The sales process and “Free”?

Two answers to this one:

  1. Think about where it is in your process and don’t give it away until you’re at the right stage and the prospect has made some sort of commitment. The sales process is about many things, but one is about a series of exchanges of commitment rather than “the big close”. So you define what commitment they should give first. I discuss the sales process more in my article about “always follow your own rules”
  2. Where is the prospect in the buying process? A typical buyer will first need to recognise that they have a problem and define the economic consequences of it, then they’ll think about finding in some way, before they start to think about a possible solution and then evaluate alternatives and then decide. You giving them something a freebie before they need it is not going to help! Have you read – what is the buying process and how can it help me to increase sales (click to read it now)

If you don't really enjoy selling, or you want to be better at converting prospects into clients - why not download "6 steps to sales success". It's a great free guide that we will send you Click here (email address required) for this report.

What about “tyre-kickers”

Have you suffered with people that seem to go round simply trying different things out for free? They either have no intention of buying, or you wouldn’t want to work with them. This seems common with many low value accounting clients who trawl round asking for free consultations then return to doing their own work!

You can solve this one using a sales process. Exchanges of commitment will help, make the commitment you want from them enough that only interested parties, in your target market, would do it and others would not.

So should you “give a freebie?”

If it has a controlled place in your process and you’ve seen (that’s tested and measured) the results and costs, and they make sense – yes. Have you read about the bikini principle? It’s related to this subject and worth a look

What’s your experience, do you get more sales by giving things for free?

Photo used under creative commons license.
Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access