May 27, 2021 • Podcast

What’s wrong with using the word “free”?

On this episode, Paul spells out why F-R-E-E is the worst four-letter F-word in business.

Show Notes 

Whatever follows the word “free” is cheapened.

Free focuses the conversation on price which is what you should avoid.

Free is too costly a burden.”

There are better words to use such as….


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What’s wrong with using the word “free”?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Today, we are going to talk about a word. It’s a word that you’ve heard your entire career. It’s a word you’ve heard throughout your entire life. It’s a bad word. I’ll give you a hint. It’s four letters and it starts with the letter F. You know what I’m talking about? You know which word I’m referring to? This, by far, is the worst four-letter F-word you can say in business. And that word of course is…free. So what’s wrong with using the word “free”? Well, we’re going to get into that on today’s episode. I got into quite a debate with one seller in this in a recent training seminar. So it’s worth mentioning. It’s worth discussing it because I know many of you are guilty of using this cursed word out there. So we are going to get started with that question, “What’s wrong with using the word ‘free’?”

Before we get into that, a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. The podcast is now I think in almost 71 countries. We’re like right at 70. So we’re teetering right on the edge there. [It}] continues to grow. It’s growing globally. I can’t believe all the questions that we’re getting throughout the world on how to sell in the current environment in their country. It’s really great. And you know, a lot of the credit goes to Andrea and her team. And a big part of it is making the podcast available throughout the world. Andrea and her team over at The Creative Impostor Studios, they know how to do all of this stuff. They know how to get it ready. They know how to share the information and make it available. So, if you’re thinking of starting a podcast. If you would like to connect with your audience, reach out to Andrea and her team. They do an absolutely wonderful, wonderful job.

Also, pick up your free copy of Value-Added Selling. I’m just kidding. It’s not free. You know that, and you’re going to figure out why it’s not free after this episode, because free is the worst four-letter F-word. But it’s not for free, but it is available on Amazon—the fourth edition. In this book, it’s your go-to guide on how to sell value. So if you’re struggling with price objections, if you’re struggling with being in a commoditized industry, this book can help you. It will help you. So pick up a copy. It’s available on Amazon or wherever you get your books.

So let’s get back to that question: What’s wrong with using the word “free”? Okay now, but before we get into that, remember that it’s like buyers today are addicted to free. Buyers want free delivery, free installation, free samples, free warranties. Free, free, free. They all want this “free.” In fact, you know, it’s common for some of the software-type products and services that I’ll use, they offer a “freemium” service where they let you use it for a while. They give you a taste of it. That’s what the free piece is. They give you a taste of the product or service. So all of this “free.” Stop using the word free. If you’re a salesperson using the word “free,” I want you to put a jar in your vehicle, in your office. Every time you use the word “free,” I want you to put a dollar in the jar. Free is the worst four-letter F-word that you can say in sales. And I’m going to explain why that is.

The first reason is that whatever follows the word “free” cheapens it. It’s cheapened when you use the word free to describe it. And if it’s cheapened, it doesn’t create any value. So we don’t want to use the word “free,” whether it’s, “Oh, we offer free training.” “Oh, you do offer free training? Okay, great.” You know, that might sound great to the customer, but they’ve got to remember that that free training, it’s not free to you. It might be free to them, but there’s a cost that goes along with it. So, there’s better words we can use. And I’m going to share those with you at the end. But just keep in mind that whatever follows the word “free,” it cheapens it.

In fact, I remember, I was talking to a fellow speaker, and they just launched a brand new program and they wanted to do kind of a practice run. They wanted to do a trial run of this new program. And so here’s what he was going to do. He offered free attendance for his existing clients. So he sent out to his newsletter. He said, “Hey, we’ve got 20 spots available. We’re going to give you a free admittance to this training.” And he said nobody signed up. He’s like, “I couldn’t believe it.” He goes, “I offered this free training, and I couldn’t get anyone to sign up.”

And I said, “You know the problem is when you hear the word free, it cheapens it.” I said, “And instead of offering it for free, why don’t you just offer it at your normal price, what you would normally charge for this, and don’t use the word free?”

So he went back, he remarketed it, and soon as he put a price tag on it, he got more people to sign up. The reason why is simple. The dollar amount proves value. When you tie a dollar amount to something, it creates more value around it. Someone’s going to see that and say, “Okay. Wow. $1,500 to attend a seminar. You know what? This must be worth something.” Price is an indicator of value. It builds that perceived value. So, price, again, that’s an important piece. That’s why we don’t use the word “free.”

The second reason we do not want to offer something for free, it will focus the conversation on price. When we offer free products or free services, it will hijack the buyer’s mind and focus their attention on the short-term sacrifice. They’re going to look at this and say, “Okay. Wow, it’s free. I don’t sacrifice anything today.” But now that they’re a little short-sighted, it means they are going to focus more on what they’re sacrificing in other products and services. They’re going to focus more on the price.

Like, for example, let’s say you’re offering free delivery, free installation. They’re thinking, “Wow, free this, free that. I’m not sacrificing much today.” But they’re also going to be thinking about the price they have to pay now instead of the long-term value. So free, it shortens the buyer’s timeframe, which is not what we want to do. Instead, we want to elongate. We want to get the buyer thinking in the future where they experience more outcomes. So free will, paradoxically, focus the conversation more towards price. So that’s another reason we don’t want to use “free.”

And then, finally, free is too costly of a burden. It is too costly of a burden. Have you ever done this before? Think about this. You’ve given a customer a free product sample. They tell you, “Oh yeah. Put it over here by my desk.” You follow up with them a couple of weeks later. You go there. That free sample is still sitting there by their desk. The reason it’s sitting there is because they have nothing invested in actually trying it. That’s one of the challenges we face with free samples or free demos, or free this, or free that, is if nobody puts any skin in the game, they’re less likely to use it.

You know, one of the things I remember, one group of salespeople I was training. I was talking to their sales leader. The sales leader actually did this. He said, “When my people come to me and they want to go through some additional training or anything like that, I will make them pay for half of the training.” And the reason why he did this was simple. He said, “If they pay for half of it, I know they’re going to get more value from it. I know they’re actually going to apply what they learn.” And I’ve noticed this within my own career. When I want to go to a conference or I want to go to like a big convention to improve, and develop, and build some business savvy, all that good stuff, to become a better businessperson. When I pay a higher price to go to that conference, I get more value from it. And the reason why is I have to justify it. If I tell myself, “Hey, if I’m going to spend 5 grand going to a convention, I better get at least 5 grand worth of value. Or I better get 20 or 30 grand that’s going to help me in my business.” The key is, when you put more into something, you’re going to get more out of it.

So the greater investment you’re going to make, the greater return you’re going to get on the backend. You rob your clients of that and your customers of that if you give them something for free. So again, “free” is—it’s the worst four-letter F-word that you can use in business. There are better words that you can use.

So let’s say you are offering additional services that you do not charge the customers for. Use the words, no charge or complimentary. Use those two words or two phrases instead. When you do that, it’s going to take on a whole new meaning. Better yet, use the word value-added in substitute for free. So, instead of offering free training, you offer value-added training. Instead of offering a free sample, “Let me give you a value-added demo of this product.” Use the word value-added instead. It takes on a whole different meaning. And if you need to clarify further that they’re not going to pay for it, use the words, no charge or complimentary. They sound better; they invoke a different emotion. So keep that in mind when you’re out there and you’re communicating with your customers. Stop using the word “free.”

Make it a big day.

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