Complimentary (Free) Consultations from Qualified Service Providers

It amazes me that early stage companies frequently pass up the opportunity to consult with attorneys, accountants, marketing experts, and other consultants who provide assessment and pre-service consultations at no charge.  While some providers may use these as hard sell opportunities, most service providers are interested in determining whether or not the potential relationship (client to provider, provider to client) will be a good match of needs, skill sets, and, of course, fees.

Service provider-client relationships aren’t all created equal.  A service provider who works well for a small technology start-up, may not be the best option for a Fortune 500 company.  A family-owned business, no matter how small or large, may not listen to a Fortune 500 consultant (or any other consultant).

Time IS money for both the service provider and the prospective client.  Both sides should be selective in making and accepting the offer for a complimentary session.  If you are not in the market (no pun intended) for developing a strategic marketing plan, then decline the offer.  If your revenues and profits and cash flow are everything you could ask for in your business, decline the offer for a complimentary assessment.  If you aren’t interested in changing attorneys, then say a polite “thanks but no thanks”.

There are several things you don’t do:

1.    Schedule a session, then cancel at the last minute or just not come
2.    Say “call me” when you have no intention of scheduling a time to meet
3.    Feel obligated to accept

It is preferable to most service providers not to invest time in prospects who aren’t “qualified” – meaning interested, capable of investing in the service, AND the right industry or size client.  Be honest and upfront when you aren’t going to be accepting the offer.  Be polite.  Be clear.  Be honest.  Don’t waste time and energy trying to avoid saying “no” – if no is what you mean.

On the other hand, be sure you don’t pass up opportunities which could improve how well your business is performing or to learn things you may not know you don’t know.  Every service provider has different knowledge, experience, and perspectives.  Keeping that in mind, a complimentary session may enable you to re-evaluate how you have been looking at your business and identify new opportunities and potential.  You may find that you and your existing support team have grown too familiar with how things are to see how things could be.

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