In Sales FREE Devalues the Value of Your Expertise

Recently at a business to business networking luncheon, another business coach included within his elevator pitch “a FREE 60 minute business strategy session.”  The goal was obvious to get a meeting with a decision maker and hopefully increase sales.


Call Rick Gosser at 219.808.9888 to buy this T-Shirt

I must admit I used to say this as well.  Over time I changed the word from FREE to complimentary, but the end result was the same. Yes I did increase sales, but that goal was undermining something else far more serious.

The far more serious was this FEHM (flat head experience moment) when I realized how FREE truly devalued the value of my expertise. Also, I heard many other business coaches to executive coaches offering the same FREE strategy session and realized not only had I devalued my own expertise, I was just another gray suit in a sea of gray suits.

(NOTE: A FEHM is when you take your hand and hit your forehead, much like the V-8 commercials.)

For the last 10 years, I no longer offer any FREE business strategy sessions.  Instead, I just schedule appointments (face to face or over the phone) to learn more about potential sales leads. This soft buy marketing approach focuses more on the sales lead than on me because marketing is all about the customer or client and selling is all about me, the salesperson.

Additionally depending upon the initial sales conversation, my goal is to gain clarity from the incoming call.  What is the purpose of the call?  This does require for me not to make any presumptions. However if I am unsure, I will be direct and ask “would you mind sharing why you want this meeting?”  or “would you mind sharing what prompted this phone call?”

When people hear FREE, they now begin to think what other services will I get for FREE? Additionally, they may be just tire kickers who buy only on price and rarely on value. You are now in their FREE mental box with everyone else who provides FREE stuff.

Is there you want to be with everyone else?

Instead of offering FREE business strategy sessions, during the initial phone call based on what I have heard, I will often volunteer to send one of the electronic tools I have created.  By sending this “tool” without any mention of the word FREE reveals I have been active listening and truly do care about building a relationship.

Sometimes I will even send this book Fail-Safe Leadership with a caveat. The sales lead must read the book (just 100 pages) within 2 weeks and schedule a phone call or a meeting to discuss his or her thoughts about the book.  Again yes the book is free, but I never, ever use the word free.  My conversation around the book reflects what I heard within the sales conversation with the sales lead.

President Teddy Roosevelt said “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” His words of wisdom are continually in the forefront of my brain.

After this recent business to business networking event luncheon, in appreciation to my host and the facilitator of this group, I sent this tool of How-To-Refer-Me-Tool-LHS. This action allows me to stay congruent with my positive core values and my overriding brand of “just be valuable.”

Shortly after sending this PDF file, I received two outreaches.  One was more of a collaboration call and the other may be a qualified sales lead.

Another colleague, Rick Gosser, has often said “No one else does what I do.”  He is quite right. I would amend his statement to “No one else does what I do nor knows what I know.”  People buy from people they know and trust.  From knowing you they begin to trust you.  That trust evolves from how you share your expertise and more importantly what value you place on your own expertise.

* * * * *

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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