Revoke The Term ‘Free’ From Your Vocabulary

Value perception is everything in sales, and it is for this reason that we should never offer anything for free even if it is!



Now everyone has things that they can offer for free, and by no means am I saying you should charge for them. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t divulge that they’re free, instead we should first justify their value and offer them as included in a means not to tarnish their perceived value.




So why should we do this? Well we’re funny creatures at times, our psychology is heavily influenced by perceived value as opposed to actual value, and there are countless studies which justify this.



For instance Cal Tech conducted a study back in 2007 for a blind taste test whereby twenty recipients had to test five wines. They knew nothing about the wines they were sampling, the testers merely outlined the bottles retail prices of $5, $10, $35, $45 and $90 per bottle. Subjects consistently reported liking the $90 bottle more than the $5 one and the $45 bottle more than the $35 one. The astounding finding was with value perception. The most expensive wine at $90 was used in the test on two occasions, but labelled once as a $90 bottle of wine and then again as a $10 bottle of wine. Now despite the wine being the same, subjects consistently rated the $90 wine higher than the $10 wine, unbeknown to them it was the same, but their perception of value influenced their choice.


Apple Inc are one of the best examples of value perception. Yes they’ve got some great products and some people love how they operate but with many apple products how distinctly different is the product compared to its competitors products? Typically the distinctions are marginal at most, yet apple charge a much higher ticket price for their products and people buy them. They have branded and advertised in such a way that their value perception to consumers is higher and therefore more desirable, hence why they can attain sales for a higher price.



So you get the point about value perception.



Now we need to think about the term free. If we explain anything as being free then straight away we attain no value perception at all.



Value is all about perception and it’s in the eyes of the beholder.


So what are the things that you offer for free at the moment? Maybe it’s freebie bits of software, maybe it’s initial consultancy that you offer for free?



Let me use an example. I was recently working with a sales person whom works for a large printing and projector manufacturer. He was pitching a new projector, but on numerous occasions he fell into the trap of offering things for free. His solution included lots of software which was free to the customer, however pitching it as free drastically effected it value proposition. Had he merely positioned the software in a different way by stating that he’s going to include it in the deal, then the perception of this free software would be completely different.



I was also working with a services consultancy where this cropped up too. The start of their sales process was often to offer a free piece of consultancy to assess the businesses systems. Typically their pitch was “we’re going to do this initial assessment for free.” This was until I informed them of value perception, to which they changed their approach and it was a simple as this. Instead of them stating it was free they would:


  • Discuss how much time an initial assessment usually takes and the standard cost for that amount of consultancy
  • Pitch that on this occasion they are going to include the assessment and absorb the costs themselves as a good will gesture to show their intent to work with the customer


From simply changing their wording and approach they created value perception. As the customer was now thinking they’re getting the consultancy included which is normal worth X amount.


Hopefully you get the point about value perception now and that you should revoke the term free from your vocabulary.


If I’m in your position what I would do is this:


  • List all of the things I can offer for free
  • Use them as incentives – reference the commodity theory


I won’t go into the commodity theory in too much depth as you can find further info on this in the article below:



But this is what I’d use, I’d be offering the things that I can for free as commodities, as an incentive to commit. Have a brainstorm of what you could use, if you have any trouble or need a sounding board for ideas then do message me on LinkedIn.



Take away

When a person associates something as being free then they think it’s of little to no value. If they think it’s included or even if you can associate a normal cost for it then you create value perception.



For more sales insights such as this do follow the blog and look out for my soon to be released book Sales Icon: Selling in the Shadows.

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