One perk of my business is that clients often teach me a thing or two during training sessions. On one occasion I gave a session on the correct use of product knowledge in consultative sales discussions. The group spent the first 15 minutes independently listing some pretty compelling reasons not to give away free advice to prospects until after they become clients.
Anyone who knows how to sell will tell you the same thing about unpaid consulting… Don’t do it. Of course it’s OK to give some valuable info away to a mass audience. That’s marketing, not selling. Unpaid consulting is the deadly virus that creeps into one-on-one meetings with prospective clients. Even if you’re not concerned with the lost time and expertise you donate to a prospect that never buys, there are more important reasons not to do unpaid consulting. Here’s the list my clients generated (it’s a great list!):
- Can make a prospect feel inadequate, embarrassed or upset.
- May be wrong. You might be giving bad advice based on inaccurate info.
- Teaches the prospect how to fix the problem so they can
- successfully implement it on their own, or
- improperly implement it on their own and blame your advice.
- Eventually gets shared with your competition.
- Sets a dangerous precedent with new clients about how and when you charge.
- Reduces the urgency of the prospect to fix their problems.
- Diminishes the perceived value of what you deliver.
Yes, product knowledge is very important. But expert consultants use their knowledge to diagnose problems in a sales call - not to “throw out an idea” to see how the prospect reacts. Use your product knowledge to develop insightful questions to ask your prospects. Remember, brilliant consultants and creative geniuses set themselves apart by the questions they ask, not the answers they give.
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