Just how much does a ‘free trial’ cost?

From a ‘Sales and Selling’ perspective, ‘Free’ has been one of the most increasingly brandished words of 2020. We don’t need to cover old ground by talking about just how challenging 2020 has been, we’re already well versed with that.

One of the worst things from a business point-of-view is that prospects and customers are now seemingly only too happy to request a free-trial of whatever it is that you’re selling on the basis of either making their mind up once it’s demonstrated its worth or deciding to pay full price for the ‘full version’ later.

Offering ‘freebies’ is nothing new and if your business does it and you get a 100% conversion-rate i.e., everyone that tries the free version, buys: then you’re on to a winner and well done! If you aren’t, then it’s costing you a lot of money.

However, there is a simple rule to follow when working with anyone, whether that’s your prospect with you or vice versa, and that is; people value things with a value.

If you’re selling and you initiate the ‘free trial’ conversation, the chances are that your prospect will happily take you up on it, and subsequently use it to their advantage by leveraging a cheaper price later on (after all, if it’s a physical asset and it’s already in their possession it’ll cost you some more money to retrieve it) or they’ll simply hand it back suggesting something like ‘it doesn’t really work for me’ or ‘it’s nice, but it’s too expensive at the moment’. In this instance, you only have yourself to blame.

If your customer requests a ‘free trial’ there is still a chance that you’re to blame. You either haven’t instilled a value to your offering, or worse and most likely, you haven’t qualified your prospect well enough to find out whether they’re window-shopping, or if they actually have a requirement to be served right now.

I used to work in the motor trade a long time ago and the most brazen example of this that I have ever seen was a lady who called up and booked a test-drive in two 4×4’s and a big estate car, all back-to-back, all on a Friday morning and all through Reception i.e. no salesperson involved. When she departed on her third test-drive, a passing colleague asked her how she was getting on. Her response; ‘oh, I’m just moving house and I needed a bigger car to move some bits around. I had this idea that doing it this way would be cheap and easy!’. She wasn’t wrong, the car company in question famously advertised themselves as having ‘sales executives that only appeared when you wanted them to’. That car company doesn’t exist any more.

There are of course the odd exceptions like promotional giveaways such as pens and mugs, and these are routinely regarded as a marketing expense. But if you’re delivering expensive product or service-led, free trials and handouts, make sure that you’re getting some level of agreed commitment from your prospect first!