One of the most frequent questions dietitians ask for our perspective on is whether they should offer free consultations to prospective clients. The rationale, we often hear, is that it’s a great way to walk through your services, your philosophy, and approach to care. On the other hand, it can be time consuming and not always end up in a new client. In this post, we walk through several of the reasons we think it can be beneficial for RDs to offer initial appointments to prospective clients, though with a couple of caveats and recommendations to make the most of your time.
Alright, here we go, the case in favor of a free consultation:
You have a unique opportunity to explain your approach to care and promote your practice.
Outside of consultations, there are very few opportunities available for dietitians, or any professional for that matter, to extensively communicate with potential clients. Having the time to outline your methodology, experience, and interest in their needs is the best chance you have to sell your practice as the one a client wants.
You can begin building that critical connection with your client.
First impressions are everything. If you demonstrate your dedication to a client’s needs and present yourself in a friendly, positive way in a short consultation, that first impression will start a great relationship between you and the client. Having that connection and seeing you at your best will make the client more receptive to working with you.
You can answer any sensitive questions or concerns your client has.
For clients who have health issues or are new to specialized healthcare, working with a dietitian can be intimidating. The consultation is your chance to talk about their health, answer any questions they may have about what your work and future appointments together will be like, and discuss some potential meal and exercise plans.
That being said, here are some tips and tricks for offering your consultations:
- Keep it short and professional: A consultation should only be twenty to thirty minutes long. If it’s any longer, the free consultation can quickly turn into a free appointment. Limiting your time helps you give the client an introduction to your practice and a concise rundown of what you can offer. We recommend setting the expectation of what will be covered during this appointment during the beginning, and say that it’s the prelude to a longer-term engagement.
- Be prepared: This is your first impression to a potential client, so make sure your pitch, the extent of your services, and any forms or paperwork you have are all ready before the consultation begins.
Of course, we completely understand that it doesn’t make sense for all RDs to offer consultations, and you may well fall into that camp! We just wanted to provide one perspective in favor of a consultation, particularly if you’re just starting to build out your base of clients!
What are your opinions on free consultations? Have they helped you in the past? Leave us a comment!