How to avoid giving away free consulting.
If you are a consultant, a consultative sales person or a coach, when you meet a prospect for the first time if you are like many people you are desperately trying to bring value.
You want to show that you know your stuff .
You fall into “consulting mode” and start doing the project for free.
You notice that the client is frantically making notes.
They are asking for the things you are showing to be sent by soft copy.
Then you wake up and realise that you are giving away your precious time by delivering unpaid consulting.
You may have just stepped over the line.
The line between doing what you need to do to sell your services and giving free consulting.
Here are a few tips to bear in mind when your keeness to impress takes over.
They may keep you on the right side of the line, allow to deliver value to your prospects and help you win the projects you want.
Tip #1 : Watch out for the client open questions …
“What would you do if you were me?”
“What specific steps would you take in what sequence?”
“How would you suggest we overcome this?”
If you start answering those questions with details, you can find yourself in free consulting land.
Be ready with an answer to those kind of questions … Try
“Right now I don’t know enough about your situation to answer that question…
However the first step we’d take after you decide to employ us is…”
Tip #2: Resist the urge to solve problems early
No one forces consultants to lay out solutions to a client’s problem.
However we all occasionally feel an urge to solve them.
We really enjoy it. It’s who we are and what we do.
However if we do it now …
We just lost track of the real reason for this conversation and that’s clear and simple.
Is there a here project to work on?
We think our willingness to consult will help win the deal.
We also know that whatever we say it’s premature and probably of little value.
Tip #3 Frame and Reframe the problem but don’t solve
Your client brings a tough problem to you. You have to
1. Understand the issue(s)
2. Define the scope of the effort
3. Frame and Re-frame the project to suit your approach
4. Work out with the client the value of resolving the issue.
Discuss these and you’ll demonstrate your fitness to do the work.
Plus, you’ll uncover everything you need to move the project forward to a proposal.
Do this type of project “Re-framing” at no cost.
If clients presses you for alternatives, say something like,
“I want to work with you on this issue, and I have ideas on how we can proceed.
However I don’t know enough yet to give you answers that you and I would be comfortable are the right ones.”
Frame and Re-frame a project for free.
Offer consulting services for a fee.
Tip #4 Define Boundaries and then Stick to them
Watch out for those clients who call (repeatedly) to get additional, unpaid help with a project.
Flattering isn’t it? You take it as a sign of trust and a strong relationship?
Easy to want to pitch in and help?
But you can easily cross that line again.
We suggest that you let your clients know they can contact you any time.
Be ready to take their calls or respond to emails.
Think about putting a time limit on “free help” ..
“30 days after we complete the project you can ask us questions for free”
Resist taking on unpaid work that requires extended effort.
You know the kind of work, editing a report or creating a new document, no matter who asks.
Let your clients know politely but firmly that you’re not able to take on such tasks without starting a paid project.
Most will understand the validity of boundaries.
Those who don’t are probably best left to someone else.
We think you can probably never really eliminate all unpaid consulting from your business.
However a good first step is to recognise what you are doing to create the situations where it thrives.