#252: Don’t Offer a Free Consultation Without THIS…

don't offer a free consultation without this - Michelle Leotta smiling

If you’ve been offering prospective clients a free consultation or “discovery call” that’s great. But you need one important step BEFORE someone books your time. Michelle shares what it is and exactly why you need it in this episode. Looking to sign more clients in the next 90 days? Email “90 Days” to support@healthcoachpower.com.

Don’t Offer a Free Consultation Without THIS…

Lots of coaches use a free consultation (or discovery call, or whatever you call it!) to bring in potential clients. These can be time-consuming and, for many coaches, don’t result in paying clients more than half the time. Sound familiar?

Here are some smart strategies to help you waste less time – and sign more clients.

Who books a free call?

Maybe you’ve got a button on your website that says “book a call.” It’s a general, broad call to action: you’re asking everyone and their mom to get on your calendar.

My take? This approach misses the mark. Here’s why. 

Who books free calls?

  • People who really want help and have the means to hire you. Score! These are your ideal clients.
  • People who just want to pick your brain. They’re not that invested in solving a problem, but if it’s free, hey, why not? Spoiler alert: these people will never hire you (or any other coach).
  • Lovely, kind people who you’d love to work with.
  • Rude, strange, or entitled people who you’d never, ever work with.

When you put out a blanket call to book a consultation with you, you’ll get all of the above. That means your closing rate won’t be great – maybe two or three for every ten calls you book. 

How to tell who’s serious

If a prospective client has to jump through a few hoops before they get on your calendar, your closing rate will skyrocket. You might book fewer total calls, but each call will be a true prospective client.

Try this: instead of asking the general public to book a call with you, use your public-facing materials to get the right people on your mailing list. You’re building a relationship with them, and they’re showing you that they’re engaged.

Now, you can offer those consultations to your list of interested, motivated people, rather than the internet at large. 

You can even ask them to do some homework before they meet with you, like watch a short video or read a case study. If they’ve invested even a little time and effort before they get access to you, you know they’re serious.

Ask the right questions

The single most important thing you can do is ask people a few key questions before they get to your calendar. 

Now, some coaches use language like “apply to work with me”– and that can work, depending on your target market. But the key is to get enough information to make sure they’re truly interested and able to work with you before you invest the time in a consultation.

You can even use this process to coach them into investing in themselves. Questions like “why is now the right time?” get them thinking. They might just talk themselves into hiring you! By the time they’re on a call with you, they’re ready to sign up.

(By the way, I teach this strategy in detail inside Healthy Profit University’s Core Curriculum, complete with step-by-step tutorials and tech setup.)

Sign more clients

Asking a few good questions before granting access to you will eliminate the no-shows, the people who aren’t serious, and the people who aren’t ready right now. 

The ones who are left will include your ideal clients (yay!) and perhaps a few people who you know aren’t a good fit. But that’s ok – you can decide this based on their application and before you’ve spent time on a call with them. (That’s one of the perks of running your own business – you can just say “no thanks” and decline their calendar booking.)

So stop filling your calendar with low-value free calls, and start signing more clients. 

Want more hot tips? Add more clients to your practice in the next 90 days with the Healthy Profit University 90-day blueprint for free. Email “90 days” to support@healthcoachpower.com and we’ll send it over.

Full transcript:

All right. Hello there, health coaches. Listen, I know you're out there offering your free consultation, your free call, your free discovery session. If you're here with me live, tell me in the chat, what do you call it in your business? There's like a hundred different names for that free thing that we do when someone is interested in potentially working with us, and sometimes coaches are confused because they see it called different things, but honestly, you can call it whatever you want today. How whatever you're calling your session, I want to help you do it smarter with the strategy that will help you sign more clients in the end and waste less time. How's that sound? I mean, overall sounds like a big win-win to me. First, I have got a shout out and a big virtual hug going to DL Wellness, who wrote this five star review on Apple podcasts.

She wrote or he wrote, "This is content every health coach should listen to new or seasoned. I started following Michelle's podcast when I first became a health coach years ago through different stages of my business. I always find it incredibly beneficial to come back and revisit episodes plus of course, listen to new episodes. Michelle provides so much value in her content, she keeps it real and is super relatable. I love her no frills approach and her ability to inspire. Add this to your show's list. You won't regret it." Now, I'm trying to think who is DL Wellness? Trying to think of everybody who's got those initials, I'm not sure, but thank you so much for that, DL Wellness. Your reviews are what help us reach more health coaches who need this kind of support and it's why I can stand here every single week and bring you this free content.

So thank you and I would love to send a little gift your way. So please email support@healthcoachpower.com with your mailing address, DL Wellness and reference this episode. And for everybody, head over to Apple Podcasts, leave a review and maybe I will read yours live on the air next week. Thank you so much for that in advance. Now listen, we all want more clients. Tell me in the chat, I want more clients. How many are you looking for in your practice right now? We want to whatever it is for you. Some of us are working part-time, some health coaches are full-time. But whatever it means for you. I know you want to knock this health coaching thing out of the park, right? You really want to make an impact on the world. That's why we got into this business. So I'm going to share how to make those free consultation calls way, way, way more effective. But first I got to tell you about something really cool that happened last night because I'm still excited about it. I guess I am. I still excited about it and there's a lesson in it for all of us. So here's what happened. I was out in New York City last night. I live about an hour away from New York City. So we went in for date night and we just got these $10 tickets, to The Comedy Cellar, no big deal, Monday night, which is their new joke night for comics that are trying out new material. So we weren't expecting too much, but we're sitting through the various comics that are all doing their thing. It's pretty good. We're having fun, we're getting some laughs and we're actually sitting right in the front, like those little stages when you go to a comedy show and then there are the seats that are right up against the stage. So my feet are touching the stage. I was really happy that none of the comics were picking on me because when you're right up front, you do risk that. Anyway, all of a sudden they announced Dave Chappelle and in walks Dave Chappelle himself to this dinky little stage on new joke night. He's so close, I could just reach out and touch his arm and he is smoking cigarettes because I guess when you're that famous, you can just do whatever the heck you want.

I did not love the cigarette smoke. But anyway, he proceeds to do a one hour off the cuff set and it was just wild. It was crazy to see this up close and personal. Now, I don't know if you love Dave Chappelle. If you hate Dave Chappelle, I'm not the biggest Dave Chappelle fan. Maybe you don't even know who he is, but I'll tell you this, he's a master in what he does. There's no doubt in that, right? And when I'm watching this guy, whenever you're watching someone up close and personal, do their thing, it's fascinating. No matter what the thing is, even if it's off color comedy, and I'm noticing his jokes were not polished and he knew it. He kept fumbling around looking for another cigarette, sometimes lighting a cigarette that was already definitely pretty drunk. But the point is, and the reason that I'm sharing this with you is he's just a guy.

That's what I'm thinking. He's standing right in front of me. I can feel his energy. He's right there. He's a human being. He's just a guy who got known for something and then he kept at it and he kept at it for several decades. And that's how you become great at whatever you do, including health coaching. See how I brought it back around to health coaching? You become good at one thing. That's all you need and you just keep doing it until you are great. So if you're in that place right now where you're good, where you're getting good and you want to grow, you want to be great as a coach, you want to impact the world, hopefully not with secondhand cigarette smoke. We're going to do it a little bit differently than Dave Chappelle.

But in any case, if you're looking to get great, I would love to help you add more clients to your practice in the next 90 days. So you can do that. In fact, I would love to send you our Healthy Profit University 90 Day Blueprint completely free. Just email 90 days to support@healthcoachpower.com and we will get that to you. So there you have it. Who knew? Lessons from Dave Chappelle for health coaches around the world. But today I did promise to share with you all about free consultations and what they need to be effective. And this topic actually came from Haruka, so thank you, Haruka. She posted this inside the Help Coach Power Community Facebook group, and she said, "I noticed some coaches have applied to work with me, which leads to an application form. And on the other hand, some coaches have book a free call and I'm wondering which is better or more effective." And I thought this was a really good question. We just had to talk about it.

So what do you have now on your website perhaps? Do you have a button? Does it say book a call? Does it take people to a calendar? Do you have a button that says apply? Does it take people to some sort of application? Curious where you're all at? So throw a note in the chat if you're here with me live, but for everyone who's wondering, what the hell is Michelle talking about? We're talking about that. There's usually that button that a health coach has that's usually on their homepage. I don't even recommend that you do this, but it's typically what health coaches do or what we're taught to do when we go to school. It says book a call, book a free call. Hey, and then you're on about me page. Let me tell you all about me and then book a free call. It's that call to action that we're trying to get everyone and their mother to just get on our calendar.

And this is slightly misguided. I am going to say little tiny bit. Let's just talk about it. Who books calls in your experience? Who are the people? So I've had a lot of years practicing as a health coach. So from my memory over the past 14 years, let's see who books them well, we have the good ones, the ones we really want. We have the ones who are serious about getting help with whatever it is that you offer and possibly hiring you. Like they're in it for the right reasons. They have the right intention and they have the means to hire somebody. They want to talk to you. Awesome. That's them. Then we got the kind who are not so serious. Maybe they don't really think they have that big of a problem, but hey, if it's a free call, why not pick your brain? They have no intention of hiring you. They probably don't even have the means, the necessary income or time or whatever to hire a health coach. They're not going to, they're just taking you up on this free call because it's free. Now, of course, within that mix, we have kind lovely people. Maybe they're not interested in hiring you, but still lovely personalities, just warm human beings that you would want to work with. There's those types of people in the world and rude, offensive, strange, and sometimes we get downright crazy people who you don't want to work with. You get both types and both categories of people who are serious, people who are not. Susie's saying, the only people who respond to my contact me page are people who want to sell me something. And then there's that. And so we're really getting a mixed bag. And with that, your closing rate or the number of clients that you're going to sign as a result of your book, a call with me is like 20%, 30%, right? Two or three people out of every 10 calls that get booked results in a paying client. If you're lucky, when you consider, especially you get a lot of no-show because if somebody's not that interested, has this happened to you?

Someone puts themselves on your calendar, maybe you even have to work your day around it. Maybe you have to get a babysitter for your kids so you can be there ready to talk to this supposedly interested prospective client and then they don't show up. I can't tell you how many times that has happened. So when you're out there just saying, free call, free call, get a free call, you're going to get people who sign up for it, it's free. They probably don't even write it down. They forget about it, they don't care. They've got no skin in the game. This is not good business. I think we can all agree and it is a huge bummer just energetically when somebody doesn't show up for a call. So here's what I recommend, and this goes back to Haruka's question. I highly recommend that you insert a couple hoops for somebody to jump through before they ever can access your calendar.

And actually, I wasn't even planning to say this, but I think I will. I don't even like the idea of making a free call available to the general public, meaning anybody who lands on your website or your social media or something can click a link and boom, they're on your calendar. Do you have time for any Joe Schmo? No, you do not. So I suggest a first level of vetting is that you gate access to who gets to book a call. So I prefer that you use your public facing marketing materials website, your social media, whatever, to get people on your mailing list. That's strategically much more sound. Now you have them, you can build a relationship with them versus the 1% of people that would book a call anyway. And then once they're on your mailing list, then okay, they're at least serious enough to do this.

Now maybe you're asking them to book a call within the emails that you send or you're sending them like a freebie. They downloaded a lead magnet from you that can invite them to book a call, but at least they took that small step on their own. So, okay, this person already has qualified themselves as being more likely to be worth the time if they were going to go on my calendar. And I don't mean that some people are, I don't mean to imply that people are not inherently valuable, but are they valuable to your business? Would a conversation with them be valuable to your business or would it be a big waste of both of your time? That's what we want to avoid. So there's that. Who are you actually offering the call to? That's stage one. And then you want to insert, like I mentioned, some hoops that they have to jump through.

So they're interested in talking with you. Oh, that's nice. Only get on a call with someone who is absolutely serious about hiring you and has the means to do so, right? Again, we don't want to waste anyone's time. So it is as simple as asking a few questions before someone is taken to your calendar, and this is why you see that language. Apply for a call or apply here. You don't necessarily need to use that language, although think about your target market. If you target high achieving women who went to Harvard, then they might love the idea of applying that's very in their wheelhouse, but depending who you're working with, that could be scary language, so whatever. But you could still say book a call, but they're going to be asked a few questions before they're able to do so. Totally fair, totally fair. And by the way, I teach this very, very specifically inside HP's core curriculum, but I will share with you right now, one of those very important questions are, we have quite a few very important questions that we want to ask because we want to not only vet this potential client, but we want to start to coach them along in their own mind into thinking, oh yeah, I do need this.

Oh yeah, I definitely think I might want to hire this person. Oh yeah. So we ask, here's one of the questions, why is now the right time? Now, do I as the health coach have to necessarily know why now is the right time for them? It's helpful, but this really is more of a question for them. Like I said, we're kind of vetting them, but we're also having them start thinking about why they want to hire you. So they're like, you know what? I just we're tired and now it's me time. This is exactly what I want to do. Now that I'm in my retirement, now is the best time or whatever something else is going on in my life, and I promised myself this year was going to be the year that I fixed my X, Y, Z health problem. Now is the time.

So they tell you that this way, by the time they're on the call with you, they're already halfway there. The whole closing the deal thing becomes much, much easier. Of course, when somebody has already convinced themself that they're very likely to hire you, they really want to do this. And so what happens is first of all, we eliminate the no-shows. We eliminate the people that aren't serious. We eliminate the people who maybe right now is not the right time. Because if you got that question, and let's say right now you're going through some craziness, the roof on your house just collapsed, whatever, and someone asks you why is now the right time to work with a health coach? You would be like, Hmm, no, it's not. And you probably wouldn't finish the application, and that's a good thing. Again, going back to not wasting your time, not wasting their time on a phone call, that ultimately they're just going to say, you know what?

Now's not the right time. So let's just cut to the chase and ask the question in the beginning. Anita is saying, this is great advice. It is great advice, Anita. And the only reason I can say that to you with the utmost of certainty is because I've been doing this a long time, it's really, really helpful to ask these important questions upfront. Your closing rates are going to skyrocket. When I took my business, my health coaching business to this model, I went from about a 25, 35% closing rate to a 95% closing rate because everyone who got on the phone was the right person and they were primed to become a client. Whereas if I was just like, oh, free call this, free call that take my time for free, even the most qualified client might get on the phone and they're not quite as serious.

They're just like, oh, Michelle just does these for free. Whatever. No inherent value. So I do think there's huge value in having people not necessarily apply unless you do want to use that word, but go through a vetting process of some kind, because it even says in their own mind like, oh, okay, this isn't for everyone. Oh, okay, if I'm going to do this, I'd better be serious. And then they are. Now, if you're wondering how to set this up, it's not too complicated. I mean, it's just a couple questions and then a calendar booking link, and I do have step-by-step tech tutorials inside our core curriculum. But basically you just need a form. It asks a few questions, like five to 10 questions. You're not like a hundred questions or anything like that. And then at the end, they're taken to your calendar and here's what's going to happen.

Some people are going to drop off. Like I said, they're going to get to that question about why is now the right time or they're going to get to that all important question about do they have the means to hire a health coach? And there's some different ways of wording that question, so it doesn't come across too crass, but we do want to know, are we talking to someone who's actually ready, willing, and able? So some people are just going to drop off when they get to those, and that's, that's really good. Others, they're going to go through all the questions with flying colors. They're going to book a time, love it, they're a perfect fit, and then this will happen and this is good. They will book. And when you look at their answers, you're going to go, ah, no thanks. Maybe this person wants to achieve something that is way out of your scope of practice.

Or maybe this person just comes across like a bigoted jerk and you don't want to work with them. One time I had somebody insult me in the application. They were so rude in a number of the questions. So it wasn't even like I just misread a couple words. It was like over and over within the application, they were insulting me. I was like, why did you even complete this? Obviously, I'm not going to work with you. I don't need that energy in my world. So what you can do for any reason that you decide because it is your business, you can decline their booking, you can say, no thank you, and just let them know that this will not be happening again, this is in service of everybody. You would just be wasting their time and they would be wasting yours. So that's my big tip for today.

You guys please insert an application process. Sometimes coaches go even further. You could ask that somebody watches a short video before you actually get on the call with them. You could ask them to read through several client case studies before you get on the call with them. You know, just want to make sure that they are primed and they are willing to do some work. Now, I'm not talking about a two hour video or 500 case studies. I'm talking about, hey, watch this five minute video and read these three pages before we hop on the call together so we can make the most of that time, right? That's totally reasonable. And this is going to result in people who are more serious, more likely to hire you and much less time blocked off on your calendar for no good reason. Oh my gosh. That's it for today, everyone. And remember, if you are looking to add more clients to your health coaching practice in the next 90 days, email 90 days, you can just put it in the subject line, 90 days to support@healthcoachpower.com, and we will send you our Healthy Profit University Blueprint completely free. And I'll see you next week. Everybody. Take care.