How to Get Even More Out of an Initial Consult

As a brief therapist, her style of counseling was super focused and highly disciplined. Most of her sessions were 45 minutes long, and structured in a specific way.

So when I suggested that she offer longer consult as an initial visit, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with that.

“I know where I’m going in 45 minutes. There’s a goal, and a process, and we move through it in a way that I know just what to do. How would this be any different than that?”

Turns out there were lots of ways.

No matter what kind of service you offer, your first visit with a potential client is prime real estate. It allows you a chance to establish a relationship, and sets the stage for the work you can do together.

That’s why I encourage you to design a special package specifically around your first visit with a potential client.

No matter what kind of business you have.

In my psychotherapy practice, I began doing this years ago.

Rather than the standard “50 minute hour” for a first visit, I created a special package, a unique consult, where I’d block off a full two hours for that first meeting – what is commonly called an intake.

I told potential clients that we would use that time to take a closer look at what they needed, and decide together whether or not I was the right one for them to see.

Clients LOVED it.

Over and over, after hearing the details, they’d say, “Oh wow – I love that! I wish everyone did that! Can we go ahead and set that up?”

It didn’t matter that the fee was higher for that visit. It didn’t matter that I required a substantial non-refundable deposit to even schedule it.

It didn’t even matter that I may, in fact, refer them out afterwards if that’s what I thought was best.

It served them.

It gave them a chance to check me out too – with no obligation for anything else.

It gave them a chance to get the kind of time and attention they longed for.

And they felt cared for. They knew I had their best interests at heart, because if I didn’t think I was the right one for them, I would say so.

It served me.

From a marketing perspective, it told potential clients that I do things a little differently than most. That set my work – and my style – apart.

It meant that I spent less time on the phone – for free – and more real time, providing actual help, while getting paid.

And it meant I got to work more with what I felt were ideal clients for my skill set.

It served our relationship.

Setting up an initial consult as a stand alone service provided an opportunity to do four things that made a huge difference in how things went from there.

1. Evaluation: It gave me an opportunity to do a more complete assessment of what was needed so I could accurately judge whether or not I could provide it.

2. Connection: It gave us both time to get to know each other, to establish a relationship and began building trust.

3. Education: It gave me a chance to educate them about what to expect, about how I worked, and what they might – and might not – like about working with me.

4. Inspiration: It gave me a chance to offer hope. Whether we continued together or not, I was always able to provide some kind of immediate guidance or resources that could help.

You can adapt this idea to your business too.

One of my clients provides high level, custom designed, woodwork for both residential and commercial projects. An initial assessment there could consist of a site visit, a series of measurements, a Designer consult, and a preliminary sketch: all for a set package fee.

Recently, I worked with a physical therapist on this same idea. She came up with a 3-visit series that provided a very specific set of services, including a consult, an assessment, a report and recommendations for next steps: all for a set package fee.

I’ve seen the same idea used by attorneys, event planners, energy healers, and yoga instructors.

All you have to do is figure out an initial package.

What do you need to know to be able to adequately serve a potential client? What would help you decide whether or not you want to offer additional services to them?

What would that look like? What would be included? And how would you price it?

The details of what to include is another conversation entirely. For now, just allow yourself to play with the possibility.

How could you offer an initial service that would serve potential clients, serve you, AND serve your relationship?


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