How can aviation businesses earn more business by offering free consultations?

If you are an aviation consultant, insurance professional, broker, or attorney, or really offer ANY service in the aviation industry, you know there’s a lot of competition.

And often the best way for potential customers to understand that you’re the best option for them is to ask for a consultation.

As an aviation marketing company, we’re in the same boat.  It’s the best way for us to evaluate potential clients, and for them to evaluate us!

The problem is, most people have had at least one bad experience with a free consultation.

As a customer, you worry that a “free consultation” is code for  “high pressure sales pitch.”

As a professional, you worry that if you offer a free consultation, customers will simply “pick your brain” and get the answers they need without hiring you.

We’ll help you give high-value consultations that are good for you and for your prospects.

First, we have to talk about what a free consultation is NOT!

Yes, free consultations are a part of our sales strategy. But initial consultations are not sales pitches!

Nobody wants to sit through a sales pitch, especially before you’ve had a chance to get to know one another.

A free consultation should be almost entirely about your prospect.  His problems, what he’s tried before, what he’s currently doing.

We try very hard NOT to talk about ourselves, our company, or even our products during a free consultation, except in answer to a direct question.

We also don’t allow a free-for-all of brain-picking.  That’s just not sanitary!

Seriously, we have lots of clients whose product is their knowledge- they can’t afford to allow would-be customers unfettered access to all their years of hard-won education and experience for free.

Luckily, the solution to both problems is the same.

A systematic process, and good boundaries, will prevent you or your team from launching into an unwelcome sales pitch, and will prevent your prospect from having unlimited access to your time and expertise.

Mindset and Process

Having a good process and mindset help you take consultations seriously, offer more value to serious prospects, keep everything in check, and provide a great first step in a relationship.

Our tips:

  • Take every consultation seriously, no matter what your “first impression” of the prospect might  be.
  • Stick to the time limit
  • Use a worksheet, outline or process
  • Arrive on time and be prepared
  • Confirm the appointment the night before so that the prospect is also prepared
  • Use teleconferencing and record the session
  • Dress appropriately
  • Follow up scrupulously

And, here are our three key elements to successful consultations.

  • Attract the right people
  • Provide value, whether they hire or buy from you or not
  • Let the “consultee” choose the next step

Attract the Right People

The best way to attract the right people is to be very specific about what you’re offering. A “free consultation” sounds very different from an “Aviation Insurance Coverage Review.”

The latter would not attract anyone but an ideal prospect for an aviation insurance professional.

Since everyone is offering a “free consultation” these days, it’s very important to differentiate with a great title, an outline, and an idea of what’s included and what’s NOT included. Let people know what they will leave the session with, and how it will benefit them.

You might even create a short video or brochure explaining the consultation process.  Here’s ours:

Provide Value, Whether They Hire You Or Not

Assuming you’re attracting the right people, make sure everyone who receives a review walks away with actionable information they can use.

Frankly, there’s not much you can give away in 30 minutes, so don’t sweat too much about holding things back.

If there are specific pieces of information that are ONLY available to paid clients, make sure you establish those boundaries as you set the appointment.

You can add to the perceived value of your consultations by including

  • A customized review or report
  • Your notes and the recording from the session so they can share it with colleagues
  • Relevant industry data related to their question or problem
  • A survey after the consultation
  • A thank you card or small gift

Let the “Consultee” Choose the Next Step

Take the pressure off by letting your prospect know he’s in charge of what happens next.

You can ask questions throughout the consultation like

  • Was this helpful?
  • Was this what you were expecting to hear?
  • So, what’s next?
  • Would you like to get together again to hear more about  << this service, which seems a good fit for the problem you’re having?>>
  • If you’d like to meet again, who else should we include in that meeting?
  • If you aren’t interested or in a position to buy right now, that’s fine.  How else can we help?

Your objective is one of two things:

  • To set a second appointment with a qualified, enthusiastic prospect for a specific product or service.
  • Or to disqualify this person as a prospect but make a new friend or friendly acquaintance while sending him on his way with a great feeling about you, even if they’re not a good fit for him right now.

Aviation is a very small world.  Many of our free consultation prospects from months or years ago call us again when circumstances change, or when they meet someone who IS a great prospect for us!